Despite being one of the world’s best street food destinations, Bangkok authorities are intent on ‘cleaning up’ its sois by removing all open-air stalls. But fret not, foodies, there are still plenty of shophouses that provide real-deal, street-style Thai flaves worthy of a Bourdain show. And much like the curbside carts of Chinatown and Silom, these stripped-back joints offer a remarkably democratic dining encounter, where society ladies slurp alongside tuk-tuk drivers.
As well as scoping out stylish material for the LUXE Bangkok guide, cuisine queen Chawadee Nualkhair is the author of blog Bangkok Glutton and ‘Thailand’s Best Street Food’. Here are her top picks – aroy mak!
Possibly the most famous street vendor in the country, Thip Samai has morphed from tiny stall to bustly diner, feeding hundreds of hungry patrons nightly. Six chefs fire up gigantic woks, cooking as many as 20 portions of their signature ‘egg-wrapped’ pad Thai in one go (the noodles are fried then lightly encased in an omelette-esque sheath of egg). No reservations, so go early to avoid queuing.
Aisa Rot Dee
Through the hole in the wall you go for this surprising indoor food court filled with Thai-Muslim stalls, serving aromatic southern and Middle-Eastern dishes like beef satay, chicken biryani and mataba (a kind of flat bread stuffed with potato or meat, and served with a cooling cucumber relish). Best experienced at lunchtime, when it’s busier than the Grand Bazaar, but great for people watching.
Well-established on the traveller’s to-do list, Krua Apsorn is still loved by the local fooderati for its finely tuned renditions of central Thai classics. Founded by a former cook to the royal family, its decor might veer school cafeteria, but it’s always packed to the max come lunchtime. Must-try dishes include the crab omelette and stir-fried crab with long beans. Although there are now several branches around the city, the original in Dusit is the best.
Guaythiew Pik Gai Sainampung
This retro, pastel-blue-n-yellow shophouse has been quietly dazzling Bangkokians with its flavourful chicken noodle soup, topped with julienned beans and peanuts, for years now. Slurp elbow-to-elbow as you admire the walls plastered with photos of the royal family, Buddhist monks, and reviews of its fare in several languages. The yen ta fo (pink noodles in fermented tofu sauce) is the bomb.
Nuttaporn Ice Cream
Blink and you’ll miss this unassuming shophouse in Bangkok’s old town. Nuttaporn has been scooping made-from-scratch Thai-style ice cream for more than 60 years, with yumsome flavours ranging from coconut milk and mango to coffee and Thai tea. Just add a variety of toppings like roasted peanuts, lotus seeds, and sweet corn – but beware – if eagle-eyed Nuttaporn is watching she’ll only let you choose certain combos!
Thip Samai / 313-315 Mahachai Rd / +66 2226 6666 / 5pm-3am daily
Aisa Rot Dee / 178 Tani Rd / +66 2282 6378 / 9am-4pm & 5-9pm daily
Krua Apsorn / 503-505 Samsen Rd / +66 2241 8528 / 10am-8.30pm Mon-Sat
Guaythiew Pik Gai Sainampung / 392/20 Sukhumvit Rd / +66 2258 1958 / 9am-3pm Mon-Fri
Nuttaporn Ice Cream / 94 Phraeng Phuton Sq / +66 2222 2686 / 8am-4pm Mon-Sat