Food is extremely important in Thai culture. The Thais have a saying which is ‘foreigners eat to live whereas Thais live to eat’ and their love of food, combined with Bangkok’s vibrancy ensures that there are a plethora of restaurants from which to choose. These restaurants range from street stalls with plastic chairs and tables to five star fine dining establishments. The risk of contracting food poisoning is no greater in restaurants in Bangkok than it is anywhere in the world. In fact, street food served from the countless food stalls around Bangkok is always cooked with fresh ingredients and you are very unlikely to get sick from eating here (not counting the occasional chili induced bad stomach!).
Thai food has become very popular around the world, but there is nothing better than Thai food made with the freshest local ingredients. The way local Thais usually dine is by having a selection of dishes which cover the five main tastes: hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. These dishes are shared among the family/party with helpings of rice. Common ingredients found in Thai cooking include lime juice, fish sauce, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, fresh coriander, basil, garlic, chillies, coconut milk and dried shrimps.
There is an immense choice when it comes to Thai food in Bangkok. Some of the best food can be found in the smaller, family run restaurants and even from the streets stalls. As with local restaurants throughout the world, the best food is usually served at the places full of Thais. Every major street in Bangkok has an enormous selection of eateries to choose from, although if you prefer to dine in style, head to Sukhumvit and its sois, where you will find classy restaurants serving up local cuisine in style. Many of the hotels also have Thai food at their restaurants and lunchtime buffets are very popular and good value. There are food halls in every shopping mall and supermarket where Thai food can be enjoyed while shopping.
Thai restaurants come in many forms, from the plastic table street stalls to upscale rooftop restaurants. These are some of the different restaurants you will find in Bangkok:
Basic food stalls are everywhere in Bangkok. For a foreigner they may seem a little intimidating at first glance as such a thing has all but disappeared from most first world countries because of strict and maybe overzealous food regulations. In Bangkok, however, you will never have to walk far for a freshly cooked meal. Food stalls are usually just a cart with a wok or a noodle stand that sets up a number of plastic tables and chairs. They get very busy during lunch hours and after work is finished. They are great for eating lunch or grabbing a bite with your coworkers after work. Some street restaurants set up shop late in the evening to serve people on their way home from bars, pubs or clubs.
Food Courts are great places to sample different cuisine in one place. Food Courts are usually found in shopping malls and merge two of the Thais favorite past times: Shopping and Eating. In these places you will find a wide range of Thai and Asian cuisine.
Bangkok has a number of great seafood restaurants and the price is usually much lower than you would expect. The giant tiger prawns are very popular with both Thais and foreigners. Seafood restaurants are many time outdoors establishments where you can see the fish and seafood on display.
With regards to western dining, there is almost as much choice of international restaurants as there is of Thai ones. Cuisine from all around the world can be enjoyed at a wide range of prices. Fine dining establishments can be found along Sukhumvit as well as in the top hotels. Many of the five star hotels have a range of cuisine available in scenic surroundings and boasting exceptional service.
For everyday dining, there are traditional western pubs offering pub grub, BBQ restaurants and steakhouses, fish and chip shops, pasta cafés and the ubiquitous fast food outlets. Every type of cuisine imaginable is available so that whatever you crave, you will not have to go without. As with entertainment, shopping and nightlife, Sukhumvit boasts the most choice when it comes to eating western food. There are also many nice restaurants close to many of the tourist attractions in the Phra Nakorn region of the city (home to the Grand Palace and Wat Po) as well as in Dusit. Chinatown and Pahurat (Little India) are the best places to head for authentic Chinese and Indian food while the river is the place to head for the best seafood restaurants in town.
When it comes to favourite restaurants, this is a very personal choice and will depend on individual taste and preferences, however some of the more frequented establishments include:
- Aubergine Restaurant, http://www.aubergine.in.th
- British Club Bangkok, http://www.britishclubbangkok.org
- Farm ChokChai Steakhouse, http://www.farmchokchai.com
- Le Beaulieu, http://www.le-beaulieu.com
- Le Cafe Siam, Restaurant and Gallery http://www.bestrestaurantsbangkok.com/LE_CAFE_SIAM.html
- Duilio’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria http://www.duilios.com
All of the above restaurants are open all day; however, some restaurants catering to expats only open in the evening. For daily specials and menu information as well as contact information, visit the websites.
Reservations and Opening Hours
There is always good food to be had in Bangkok. From early morning to late at night, there’s always a food stall or restaurant open to cater to hungry patrons.
Thai restaurants usually do not require reservations and usually have more than enough tables for customers. The exception, of course, being popular and high class restaurants where it’s wise to make a reservation in advance. Restaurants in Thailand generally stay open late and many serve as both restaurants and bars. It’s perfectly normal to start an evening out with good food and then continue with drinks and live music – all while seated at the same table.
If you are looking for restaurant guides and reviews, there is only really one worth reading on a regular basis; Thailand Tatler. The magazine is available at most bookshops, or you can visit the website at:http://www.thailandsbestrestaurants.com.
Other websites that offer extensive information on dining include: http://www.bangkok.com/restaurants/index, http://www.thaiwebsites.com/restaurants.asp and expat forums, such as http://www.thaivisa.com/forum where there are honest reviews by expats.
There are a number of delivery services which will deliver food from restaurants throughout the city right to your door so you don’t have to leave the comfort of your front room. The most popular service is Food by Phone http://www.foodbyphone.com.