For the best pad thai
If there’s one dish you just have to eat while you’re in Bangkok, it’s pad thai. Sure, you’ve probably tried this thrown-together meal of noodles, shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu and egg, dozens of times at home. But the Bangkok version is so much better. And Thip Samai’s is the best of the lot. Cooked over a charcoal fire, sprinkled with crushed peanuts and served with a wedge of lime, the pad thais at this unpretentious little place on Maha Chai Road have been keeping the hungry residents of Bangkok’s Old City satisfied for over half a century. Get here early (it opens at 5pm) and order their egg pad thai – sweet and sour, bitter and salty, it ticks all the boxes needed to tantalise your taste buds and comes encased in a protective (and delicious) omelette wrap.
Pad thai © wing f chen/Shutterstock
For street-food theatre
Pad thai polished off, you don’t have too far to go to find Bangkok’s next culinary must do. Right next door to Thip Samai, the queue that permanently snakes out of the door at number 327 is a good indication that you’ve found Raan Jay Fai. Then there’s the unmistakable form of Jay Fai herself, the seventy-year-old so-called 'Queen of Thai Street Food', who mans her flaming pans in a ski hat and goggles.
'Aunty Fai' is the only street-food vendor in Bangkok to have been awarded a Michelin star. Her signature dish is khai jeaw poo, a (very expensive) rolled omelette stuffed with chunks of white crabmeat so big you could easily mistake them for chicken, but you might prefer the poo pad pong karee, a mild curry that also uses crab as its feature ingredient. Don’t worry about that queue, though – it just gives you more time to enjoy the elaborate cooking demonstration, as Aunty Fai weaves between the woks.
For thai food with a conscience
You’ll feel good eating at Bo.lan. Not only is the food unlike anything else you’ll probably try in Thailand, but the whole restaurant is run with the aim of reducing its environmental impact at every turn. The name comes from the celebrity chef couple behind the concept – Duangporn 'Bo' Songvisava and Dylan Jones – who have turned their farmhouse-style restaurant on a narrow alleyway off Sukhumvit Road into a fine-dining phenomenon.
Treat yourself to the Bo.Lan Balance, a mouth-watering journey through Thailand’s culinary heritage that mixes long-forgotten recipes with refined home-cooking classics. Like everything else on the menu, it’s all organic and seasonal, meticulously sourced from local producers and independent farmers or handpicked from their own garden. What’s more, water is filtered in house, they generate a lot of their own energy, and any organic waste goes back into the food chain as fertilizer for their herb garden – simple steps but still fairly revolutionary in a city like Bangkok.