Bangkok’s byways and waterways are always humming. The air is thick with the sound of tuk tuks sputtering and street food sizzling. Beyond the historic architecture and the chic scenes that make Bangkok an international jet-set destination, the city is heralded across the globe as one of the best places to eat. From basic back alleys to dining rooms decked in white linen, Bangkok is serving up tastes for all palates.
Dining in Thailand is more a feast for the senses, combining bold flavours with brightly coloured ingredients, tantalizing aromas and exotic textures. Thai food is based on a balance of flavours (think spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter). The blending of fresh herbs and spices, as well as the inclusion of fermented fish sauce in almost every dish is what gives Thai food its signature, and world renowned, flavour. This, combined with local, fresh and healthy ingredients, makes Thai food both delicious and figure-friendly. When in Bangkok on a short stay, here are a few suggestions on where to get the best the city has to offer.
9 a.m. Breakfast at Plearnwan Panich Opened in January, this is a breakfast spot for the urban Bangkok hipster (think steel and reclaimed wood). Distinctly Thai, but with a modern twist, this is a go-to spot for all things breakfast. Be sure to order the khai luak (half boiled egg) or the roast duck in a bun. Thonglor Soi 13 Bangkok
12 p.m. Lunch in Boat Noodle Alley Victory Monument in Bangkok is a frenetic urban tourist scene with a secret. Beyond the roundabout circling, Victory Monument is a smorgasbord of street snacks, the best of which are the iconic Thai boat noodles. Originally served off boats in the canals, which is how they got their name, the noodles can be found at most any street-side restaurant in Thailand, but the most famous bowls can be found at the restaurants in Boat Noodle Alley. After a morning of touring the city sites, travellers will find respite in the piping hot broth, rice noodles and choice of meat. Near Victory Monument at the intersection of Phahonyothin Road, Phaya Thai Road and Ratchawithi Road.
5 p.m. Cocktails at Sky Bar Perched high above the streets of Bangkok (249 metres, to be exact) in the lebua at State Tower hotel is the Sky Bar. Made famous for its appearance in The Hangover II, Sky Bar has earned its fame for a reason: 360-degree views over the Chao Phraya river and the sparkling Bangkok skyline.
The bar is also known for its iconic gold dome that glows brilliantly when the sun goes down. Mixologist Ron Ramirez (who has honed his skills at resorts in Dubai and the Maldives) has raised the bar on Bangkok cocktail culture. Don’t forget to order the Hangovertini, which was a cocktail crafted specifically for the cast of the movie while they were filming on location in Bangkok. 1055/42 Silom Road
8 p.m. Dinner at nahm Inside the Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok, traveling gourmands will find nahm, heralded as one of the best restaurants in Asia. A trip to Bangkok is incomplete without a chef’s tasting menu at this truly VIP hotspot. Chef David Thompson cooks up traditional Thai dishes with ultimate flare, marrying the flavors and textures that people have come to know and love about Thai cooking.
Highlights include the blue crab, tomato and avocado salad pictured here or the stir-fried soft shell crab with chili, salt and coriander; peanut relish with grilled river prawns served with okra and baby corn; and lobster and mangosteen salad. 27 South Sathorn Road
1 a.m. Late-night snack at 55 Pochana. The nightlife in Bangkok is electric…and legendary. Parties often continue into the wee hours of the morning. If you find yourself indulging in all that the city has to offer after hours, you will probably need sustenance sometime after midnight. For this there is a clear choice: 55 Pochana has been doling out Chinese food to late-night revelers for years. One of the signature dishes at 55 Pochana is the dok kajon pad kai, which are edible flowers fried with egg and served with vermicelli noodles. The restaurant is open until 4 a.m. You can find the restaurant near the Thong Lo BTS Skytrain station. 1087–1093 Sukhumvit Rd
Night owls will want to sleep in a little, so catch a few Z’s and then make your way over to the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, which serves up a decadent Moët & Chandon Sunday Brunch at Voilà! on Sundays. From noon to 3 p.m. diners kick back and relax while enjoying a choice of French, Asian and international fare. The highlights from the buffet include Fine de Claire oysters, Alaskan king crab, prawns and rock lobster. Be sure to splurge on the free-flow package for unlimited Champagne throughout your meal.189 Sukhumvit Road
4 p.m. Snack, Street food
If you aren’t stuffed to the gills following brunch, 4 p.m. seems like a fine time to stop for a snack. Street food isn’t just convenient for Thais – it is a necessity. This is the best way to immerse oneself in the local culture and eat how Thais eat. From rice with curries to noodles and green papaya salad, food stalls have something to satisfy every palate.
Stroll among Bangkok’s street stalls in Chinatown, Khao San Road and Silom Road. Another great spot for street food is Wang Lang Market, which is a stop off of the Chao Phraya Express ferry service. Wind your way through the maze of stalls for a true sampling of local Thai food, from hot noodle soup to fried chicken and stir-fried dishes.
9 p.m. Dinner at Bo.lan
Close out your visit to Bangkok with an epic and authentic Thai meal. This modern Thai restaurant is the brainchild of chefs Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones. Both chefs pride themselves on working with local farmers in order to promote social responsibility. In fact, the restaurant is aiming to have a zero carbon footprint by 2018.
The menu is constantly changing, but diners should select the Bo.lan Balance menu, which is a degustation menu from the chef and pays homage to traditional Thai cooking. A smaller menu is available, as well as a purely vegetarian menu. Highlights from the most recent menu include stir-fried native ferns with Prajuab squid, green curry with beef and hot and sour soup with smoked fish and Ban San-Fan chicken. Soi Sukhumivt 53
A Snapshot of Traditional Thai Each region of Thailand differs from one another and has developed its own culinary style and technique. The Northeast shares many similarities with Laos and offers more red meat and vegetable dishes. Southern curries are less spicy with more of a Malaysian influence. The Thai beaches are the prime destinations for fresh seafood, naturally.
Thai meals are typically served family style, typically with entrees consisting of stir-fried or grilled meats, and a Thai curry or soup. Curries are coconut milk-based and range from mild, such as the Gaeng Massaman, a mild, peanut and potato curry, to Gaeng Pet, a thinner and spicier option. Heat junkies may want to opt for the traditional Tom Yam Kung, a popular, and fiery, Thai soup. Thai salad is also not for the faint of heart, generally made of raw vegetables mixed with chili, lime and fish sauce. The most popular Thai salad is Som Tam, technically a dish of Lao origin, and foreigners should proceed with caution, as it is brutally spicy. Milder options include Yam som-o, made with a grapefruit-type fruit and served with shredded chicken.
Try your hand at Thai cooking by visiting one of the numerous cooking schools across the country. The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is the most famous of all cooking schools in Thailand. Programs run on a week-long schedule. Students will master typical Thai dishes like Phanaeng curry beef, pan-fried mackerel and tamarind sauce.