Thai Street food
The language can be a bit of a barrier when ordering street food in Thailand – there are not usually english menus and the sellers speak little english if any. It’s not a problem though, a lot of them can still speak very basic english to help you out. Street food in Thailand is so cheap and tasty that I highly recommend giving it a try – especially if you love to try real, authentic food.
I have given some useful phrases for ordering Thai street food below, but when attempting to speak Thai, make sure to add krap for men, or ka for women, on the end of sentences to make it more polite.
‘Issan style’ tray restaurants
Occasionally you may come across street food stalls in Thailand that have their food already made and laid out in a selection of trays. They usually sell curry and sauce dishes to go with plain rice. It’s often easier to judge if you will like Thai street food by seeing it first anyway. The best way to order Thai food at the tray places is to just point, it’s pretty easy. You could also say the Thai phrases…
an ni – this one an nan – that one
You could also say ao – I’d like: ao an ni krap/ka – I’d like this one please
Tray Style! Foods a bit cold, but hey I’m still alive
They will simply dish your chosen Thai meal onto a plate and you will pay upfront, usually around 30 baht ($1). They also have polystyrene boxes for takeaway if it looks a little cramped for you to sit down.
gin tii nii – To eat in sai glawng/ sai toong – To take away (box/ bag)
tan nii – To eat in glap baan – To take away (lit. back home)
The first Thai phrase that street food vendors will often ask you is tan nii rue glap baan, or tan nii rue sai glawng – are you eating in or taking away?
laew… (duay) – and… (as well) kai – egg
moo – pork gai – chicken
Cook on the spot
Sometimes you might come across a Thai street vendor cooking at a small, mobile trolley with a glass cabinet full of different ingredients. These vendors prepare dishes in front of you – usually noodle soup dishes or som tam (papaya salad).
They can be the most awkward places to order Thai street food because they often don’t have english menus, or anything written anywhere for that matter, and don’t have anything you can get away with just pointing to. These are probably the healthiest places to eat though (glass noodles are the healthiest option, being made of mung beans: woonsen) and food costs from 25 baht a serving. Some useful Thai phrases for when you don’t know what the hell the street vendor is selling are:
ao neung tuuay/jahn – I’d like one bowl/ plate
arai aroi tiisut – What is most delicious?
mee maynoo mai – Do you have a menu?
mee maynoo arai – What food do you have?
mee maynoo nehnam arai – What dish do you recommend?
Ao – I’ll have it
Arai gor dai – Whatever will do
Baep nai gor dai – Which ever will do
Moo – Pork Gai – Chicken
Bah mee – Egg noodle Sen nai – What kind of noodle
(Sen) lek – Small (noodle) (Sen) yai – Big (noodle)
Pet – Spicy Mai pet – Not spicy
Take a seat, and they will bring your food to you when it’s ready. At these places, you can help yourself to drinks from the fridge. When you have finished, they will add up the total from your table, you can just grab their attention with your money out and they’ll get the idea. Or a casual gep dtang ka/krap (Can I get the bill please)
Thai Street Meat
Some of the tastiest and most popular street meat in Thailand is Moo ping, also known as Moo yang – grilled pork. These are sticks of pork grilled with a barbeque sauce marinade and usually cost 10 baht a stick. There are also street vendors which sell various meatballs and cubes on skewers – reconstituted types of meat served in a plastic bag with chilli sauce. You can sometimes get sticky rice (pronounced ‘Cow Neo’) to compliment it.
Other Thai street food vendors sell deepfried chicken and sausages – again you can buy this with sticky rice and chilli sauce. A piece of chicken will typically cost around 20 baht depending on the size and type. With these guys you can just point and nod but it’s always better to speak Thai. With the skewers, you can just pick out the ones you want and put them in a pile to the side and they’ll heat them up for you.
Ao neun/sawng/sam mai krap/ka – I’d like one/two/three skewers please
Ao neung/sawng/sam chin krap/ka – I’d like one/two/three pieces please
ao cow neo duay krap/ka– Can I have sticky rice too
ao cow neo neung toong duay krap/ka – can I have one bag of sticky rice too
Another kind of street vendor to look out for are the fruit men. I love Fruit men. These guys wheel around a glass cabinet full of mangoes, pineapples, melon and sometimes rose apples and other fruits. Then, like a freakin ninja, they’ll chop your chosen fruit up for you and whack it in a carrier bag.
You can have a bag of sugar to go with it – a kind of salty tasting, sweet sugar. A little too much sweetness for my liking. An ordinary sized bag of fruit costs 10 baht.
Sa-ba-rot – pineapple Daeng-mo – melon Ma-muang – Mango
Ao (sa-ba-rot) neung/song chin krap/ka – I’d like one/two pieces of (pineapple)
Ao (ma-muang) neung/song luuk krap/ka – I’d like one/two whole (mangoes)
You use the word chin when asking for a piece of fruit or food, and luuk for any whole, round food item such as a whole mango or a steamed bun
I think she likes me
Mall canteens, usually on the top floor of all the malls and department stores, should not be forgotten as an authentic, cheap source of food in Thailand. If you’re on a budget, they are useful as most meals only cost around 30 – 50 baht and they have practically every meal you can possibly order in Thailand under one roof. The canteen at the top of Terminal 21 in Bangkok is particularly good.
Head up to the coupon kiosk, hand over 100 baht and then they will give you a card, use the card to pay at whichever food kiosk you fancy, take the card back to the kiosk and the person will give you back the balance. Easy.
You can just point to the pictures or a lot of the staff speak basic english anyway. Or, you can just say ‘tii +number krap/ka‘ to specify which number meal you want. (See the Thai numbers below)
1 neung 4 See 7 Jet
2 sawng 5 Hah 8 Bpaet
3 Saam 6 Hok 9 Gao
Eating cheap in Thailand
As food is one of my biggest weaknesses and ends up burning the biggest hole in my pocket of all living in Thailand, I figured it was the most controllable of my outgoings and so I made it my mission for the last month to eat on as small a budget as possible. Without starving myself to death however and whilst eating reasonably healthily.
Anyway, I managed to squeeze my budget down to 120 baht a day simply by eating mainly Thai street food. In fact, I’ve managed to live in Thailand off of just 15000 baht a month lately. Thats about £330 or $500 – 5000 baht for my rent and 10000 on everything else.
So there you have it – it is indeed very possible to live in Thailand Bangkok on only 15000 baht a month. But eat lots of street food.
Still not satisfied? Eager to learn more useful phrases for ordering Thai food? Curious to know more about Thai street food? You might be interested in the Eating Thai Food Guide below – 100 pages of Thai food tastiness…
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