More so than other cities around the world, dining out in Bangkok is a local pastime enjoyed by millions every day. Eating out at a restaurant in Thailand is deeply rooted in the Thai culture, and Bangkok boasts perhaps the largest concentration of restaurants per capita in the world. These range from epicurean masterpieces put on for millionaires, to scores of large seafood buffets enjoyed by the locals every night.
Restaurants in Bangkok are not just for the wealthy but to be enjoyed by all sectors of society. Visitors to the capital are spoilt for choice as not only is there something to suit every taste and budget, but you’ll discover most menus are reasonably-priced so you can tuck into exceptional international and famous spicy Thai cuisine without breaking the bank.
The whole of Thailand is famous for food and Bangkok is no exception, in fact it is where most visitors enjoy their first taste of authetic Thai cuisine. Central Thailand has plenty of signature dishes, and Bangkok arguably the best food selection in Southeast Asia. See a list of recommended Bangkok restaurants.
Wining and dining in Bangkok
Bangkok is certainly not a newcomer to the tourist scene and has an extensively developed restaurant market that can cater for all.
First class restaurants can be found all over Bangkok, both in hotels and independently, but there are also some interesting and intriguing places which are unique to the city. Riverside dining, open air eateries as well as sky high cuisine at the highest restaurant in Asia. Even if you’re too lazy to seek these out, just wandering around the tourist areas present you with all sorts of options so that food becomes a highlight of many visits here.
One thing well worth doing is leaving your hotel restaurant behind, as they are often very overpriced, and exploring the authentic Bangkok restaurants frequented by city-dwellers. These can range from simple home-style dining rooms where you can find tasty dishes such as papaya salad, green curry and tom yam soup, to international quality cuisine prepared by award winning international chefs.
As eating is so popular with the Thais, Bangkok restaurants are generally exceptional value with some dishes in local restaurants costing under 50 baht. In more typical midrange restaurants prices will generally range from 150 to 500 baht; the deciding factor being whether it is Thai or international food. Thai food is usually cooked fresh when ordered so service can sometimes be slow, but always worth waiting for. For those who are concerned about hygiene look out for the green and blue health inspection signs: ‘Good Taste Clean Food’.
Another bonus is the many other Asian restuarants found in Bangkok. A large ethnic Chinese community means plenty of options from all regions of China, particularly the south, but Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Indian menus are also popular and usually prepared very well. When in Thailand take the time to introduce your palate to some of these variations.
Be sure to make food and dining one of the highlights of your stay in Bangkok as there are very few other places in the world where you can enjoy such a high standard of cuisine at an affordable price.
Thai cuisine in Bangkok
Fast replacing the Irish Pub phenomenon, Thai restaurants are becoming ubiquitous the world over. But only here in Thailand do you truly get to taste truly authentic dishes. They’re likely to be spicier than you’ve experienced back home, as restaurants abroad tend to ‘Westernise the flavour’ but waitresses are used to requests for ‘not too spicy’ (mai pet).
Thai food is found in hundreds of Bangkok restaurants, usually the menu includes favourites like tom yum goong (spicy and sour prawn broth), green curry, poached fresh fish (tilapia) and regional dishes such as massaman chicken curry, or mild choices like stir fried chicken with cashew nuts.
At lunch millions of Bangkokians share the popular somtam (spicy papaya salad), or easy-to-make phad thai (stir fried noodles). In the top notch restaurants, however, you are now more likely to encounter creative Asian-fusion dishes, the likes of which your average Thai has never experienced.
Most Thai food consists either of rich curries with coconut milk, brothy soups with noodles, or stir fried dishes with freshly prepared ingredients. Chicken, fresh fish and seafood or pork are most common, but beef is also found in dishes. There is frog, deep fried insects and spicy sausage. Tofu is widely used and rice is the staple that complements all dishes. Noodles are a popular quick lunch choice but less popular with foreigners. Unusual spices such as galangal and lemongrass are used alongside ginger, garlic, basil, green pepper corns and, of course, lots of chillies – which were actually introduced by the Portuguese three centuries ago.
In Thailand people typically share a meal together by ordering multiple dishes (which come at regular intervals throughout the evening) and picking at them. This way everyone gets to enjoy several different flavours at the table. Spoon and fork are the eating utensils usually used. Afterwards fruit is served, and the abundance and range of exotic varieties previously unseen will certainly amaze you.
Thais also love to snack and a large preportion of what they eat is never seen on a menu. Take the time to visit local markets or stop at streetside stalls where you’ll have difficulty deciding just which of the many sweet and savoury delicacies to try. Some are preserved, others dried, while freshly baked sweets and breads are also tasty.
For more information on Thai food and regional dishes visit our comprehensive Thai food section.