A beginner’s guide to Thai street food


By Oliver Jones

One of the greatest parts of travel is discovering new foods! Hope you’re hungry because we’re going to learn a bit about Thai street food today.

Onthai-food-02 arriving at a Thai street hawker’s stall you might ask yourself:

  • Is that a fried cockroach? What do you mean it tastes good with garlic sauce?
  • Why is that rice purple? (Don’t worry, it’s a sweet dessert).


The local’s rule of four S’s: Spicy, Sour, Sweet and Strange.

Be warned than any number of S’s can be combined, often for the better. Trust me!


If you lovthai-food-03e spicy food then you’re in for an absolute treat in Thailand. Be warned – “Thai spicy” is an entirely different level of HOT! I’m not going to lie – I have shed tears eating some of the most delicious and spicy curries ever in Thailand!

Recommendations if you like it hot:

  • Som Tam – spicy papaya salad – fiercely spicy and sour flavours. Recipe.
  • Tom Yum Gai – spicy chicken soup – a clear chicken soup seasoned with a blend of chilli, lime and fish sauce. Recipe.
  • Tom Yum Goong – spicy shrimp soup – a one of a kind dish with its fierce spiciness and sourness. Recipe.


I will always remember Sthai-foodawang, our Thai In-Country Agent, telling me that the best thing about Thai food is that it’s all about customisation. In Bangkok he gave me a quick run down of the usual condiments/sauces you can find on the tables of street vendors:

  • Sugar – sweet
  • Fish sauce – sour
  • Chilli sauce – spicy
  • Garlic sauce – sour and/or spicy
  • Vinegar – sour and/or spicy
  • Dried chilli flakes – spicy
    Oh, and let’s not forget our forth “S”…strange:
  • Nam Pla Prik – fish sauce with chillies, garlic, lime and a “special”ingredient which i’m still not entirely sure about what it is. Never mind though, it’s delicious!


You’re in good company here as the locals love a sweet treat! What can you expect?

  • Desserts in every imaginable size, shape and colour.
  • Thai marzipan covered delights.
  • Sticky rice covered in coconut milk and served with fresh slices of mango – I admit to having a problem with this and cannot stop eating it when in Thailand!
  • Rice topped with a sweet custard and served inside a banana leaf.


There are a few key points to know if you want to really eat like a local whilst on your expedition:

  • No chopsticks.
  • No knives. Fork, spoon and fingers only.
  • Don’t put the fork in your mouth, use it to scoop the food into the spoon and eat from the spoon.
  • Locals will eat rice by rolling it into small balls with the fingers of the right hand only.

If you’re heading on expedition to Thailand, make sure you try some delicious street stall food. To make sure you’re eating safely, read our ‘Guide to food on expedition’.

Right, time for a snack!