The city of Bangkok is a world-renowned destination known for its temples, nightlife, culture, and food. There is no shortage of food in the streets of Bangkok, and the main item on my agenda during my second trip to the city was to delve into the local food scene.
Since I only had two days to rediscover the city before traveling around the rest of the country, I needed a quick way to get to know the local food scene. I decided to take a tour with Bangkok Food Tours in a unique way: by tuk-tuk.
A tuk-tuk is a three-wheeled engine-operated vehicle that can be found all over Thailand. This classic Thai-style mode of transportation was perfect for zooming through the streets of the city seeking out the city’s best foods.
The first stop on the tour brought us to a restaurant called ร้านเจ้อร in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi neighborhood.
Once inside of the restaurant, we sampled Laab (ลาบหมู), sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียว), grilled chicken (ไก่ย่าง), papaya salad (ส้มตำไทย), and Tom Sapp Soup.
Laab is a dish traditionally prepared with chicken that originated in Laos. This ‘unofficial dish of Laos’ is a popular dish that can often be found in northeastern Thailand and it is usually accompanied by papaya salad and sticky rice.
Papaya salad (Som Tum) is another dish that is thought to have originated in Laos and is eaten throughout Southeast Asia. This cute little salad packs a spicy punch with a little bit of crunch from the peanuts and a little bit of sourness from the lime juice.
One of my favorite parts of the meal was grilled chicken known as Gai Yang (ไก่ย่าง), which also has roots in Laos. Gai Yang literally means ‘grilled chicken’ and the chicken at this restaurant was grilled to perfection. Gai Yang is typically marinated in lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, and fish sauce before being grilled, and then it is served with dipping sauces.
The meal at ร้านเจ้อร was extremely filling and I had no idea how on earth I was going to continue eating my way around the city.
Despite a lack of hunger, our journey had only begun, so we hopped back in our tuk-tuks and took off.
Our second stop brought us to the award-winning restaurant Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai in Chinatown. It has been consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the city and one of the top 20 restaurants in Thailand.
Ann Guay is well-known in Bangkok for their Guay Tiew Kua Gai ( ก๋วยเตี๋ยวคั่วไก่). Guay Tiew Kua Gai is wok-fried chicken served with rice noodles. The dish’s name is derived from Guay Tiew (noodles), Kua (deep stir-fry) and Gai (chicken).
Being on the tour allowed us to get ‘behind the scenes access to how our dish was prepared. We went into the alleyway in the back of the restaurant to witness how our food was cooked in the ‘kitchen’.
Our guide explained to us that creating the dish was very simple. The chicken was fried in a pan over an open flame and then an egg was either cooked directly with the dish or placed on top of the dish after it was prepared. Afterward, simple garnishments were added, and the meal was finished. The resulting dish was a simple yet delicious meal.
While eating my Guay Tiew Kua Gai, I chatted with the tour guide about the reasoning behind why Thai people eat most dishes with only a fork and spoon. He informed me that a little over 100 years ago, Thai people used to eat food using their hands. The king at the time felt that it was more civilized for people to eat using a fork and spoon, and so that is how Thai’s current eating culture was created.
When visiting a Thai restaurant outside of Thailand, you will often see that the restaurant only offers chopsticks to eat your meal. In Thailand, people generally eat with only a fork and a spoon and reserve chopsticks for noodle dishes only.
Feeling quite full after the first two meals, we took a little break from eating and we headed over to the Pak Khlong Talat flower market.
The Pak Khlong Talat (มลัยดอกไม้สด) is the third-largest flower market in the world. Located near a canal near the Chao Praya River, The market derives its name with the meaning ‘market at the entrance of the canal’ due to its location near a canal that meets the Chao Praya River. 99% of the flowers you will see in Bangkok come from this market.
Flowers are a very important part of Thai culture and Thai people use the flowers to pay honor to multiple gods. Many Thais go to the flower market to get the various kinds of flowers that they need for various ceremonies and rituals.
At the market, we noticed that there was an abundance of yellow ratchaphruek flowers. In addition to the ratchaphruek flower being the national flower of Thailand, we also learned that many of the yellow flowers in the market were often used to pay honor to the King.
While wandering around the market, we stopped and watched in awe as a local florist created a beautiful arrangement out of lotus flowers. She delicately and carefully folded the leaves of the flower one over the other and created a masterpiece.
After watching floral arrangement being prepared, we were each given one lotus flower and taught about the importance of the flower in Buddhism. Next, we were taught how to fold the flowers like the florist magically did. We each tried our hand at folding the flower in the same manner that the florist did; there were some people that were very successful at folding the flower, and there were others, like myself, that just could not get it right.
After a failed attempt at making a floral masterpiece, our guide told us that we would bring our flowers to our next stop, Wat Pho, to offer up while paying respect to the deities.
We hopped back into our tuk-tuks and took a short ride over to Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan (more well-known as Wat Pho).
Wat Pho is one of the most visited temples in the city of Bangkok and is home to the famous Reclining Buddha. I had visited the temple two times before on my trips to Bangkok, but it has never been at night. One of the privileges of taking a night tour was being granted access to Wat Pho after dusk, which can only be done on a group tour.
After leaving Wat Pho, we hopped back into the tuk-tuks and headed to Sala Arun for drinks. The rooftop bar at the hotel is nestled between Wat Pho & Wat Arun with amazing views of the Grand Palace. The views from up here were amazing – definitely worth visiting, especially at night.
When we finished admiring the beautiful views of Bangkok, it was time to head back into our tuk-tuks for the final time bound for our last food stop of the night: Thipsamai.
Thipsamai Padthai Pratoopee (aka Thipsamai) is the oldest and most famous pad thai restaurant in Thailand.
At Thipsamai, I tried both the modern style pad thai, which is made from shrimp oil and prawns and wrapped with an egg and the traditional pad thai, which is cooked solely with vinegar oil. The interesting thing about this restaurant is that although their location has modernized since opening, they still cook in the traditional way, over a charcoal stove. The resulting dishes are wonderful and full of flavor.
As the night drew to a close and my belly was full, I hopped back into the tuk-tuk bound for a night out on the town.
Riding around the city exploring the food scene by tuk-tuk is an experience I will never forget and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Have you ever explored Thailand’s food scene? What were some of your favorite places?
Thank you to Bangkok Food Tours for making this experience possible. Interested in taking a food tour while you are in the city? Check out their available tours here!