Try some staples
The variety of Thai cuisine is staggering. But if you’re just passing through and have to pick a few quintessential bites, here’s what not to miss. What tacos are to Mexico and paella is to Spain, pad Thai is to Thailand. Many say the noodle, bean sprout, egg, shrimp, tofu, and green onion wok-fry, seasoned with fish sauce, chili, sugar, and peanuts, is the country’s national dish.
One of the best ways to experience the potency of Thai spicing is digging into a soupy green curry. It’s a palate-provoking blend of coconut milk, fish sauce, bamboo shoots, meat, eggplant, coriander, cumin, ginger, Thai basil, lemongrass, lime leaves, and chili. Poisien (Soi Ratchawithi 6, Boonme Building, Phaya Thai) is a reliable stop for any curry.
Feast on exotic fruits
The favorite in the Big Mango is, of course, the mango. The Thai variety is distinctive for its pale yellow skin; smooth, non-fibrous flesh; and deep, juicy sweetness. Locals love to sprinkle it with salt, sugar, and chili. Marian plums look like mini mangos. Their flavor: sweet and sour with the texture of a peach. Durian gets a bad rap for its disagreeable aroma (or as some would call it, stench). While it is an acquired taste, its creamy texture lends the spiny fruit to a lush ice cream. Pomelo is like a grapefruit without that bitter aftertaste. It pairs well with savory flavors like fish. Dragon fruit’s shard-like skin and bright pink color surrounds a lovely white flesh with tiny black seeds that many liken to the kiwi. A local obsession from March to June is the rose apple, a red, pear-shaped beauty with a crisp and delicate flavor that particularly comes alive when sprinkled with that Thai seasoning trifecta: salt, sugar, and chili.
Scour the sois for street food
For beginners, Sukhumvit Soi 38 is a popular destination. It’s crammed with vendors proffering noodles, rice bowls with pork or chicken, and skewered meats, and now there are even food trucks in the fray. There’s an outcropping of vendors just off of Lumpini Park, many of which have English menus. This area gets good marks for its seafood and grilled fish—if you see crab, go for it. Chinatown is street food central, with woks sizzling with cashew chicken, stir-fried taro, and kuay jab. There are so many vendors in the maze-like streets that they are known to be highly competitive, something that solidifies the neighborhood as one of the best street food bets.