Bangkok’s famous street food stalls have garnered well-deserved attention over the years, drawing lengthy queues of visitors from around the globe. Seventy-three-year-old Supinya Junsuta (commonly known as Jay Fai) even became the first Thai street hawker to receive a Michelin star in 2017 (and again in 2018), and now the septuagenarian chef of crab omelet fame is developing menus for first-class Thai Airways passengers.
At one point, the Thai capital was known as the epicenter of street food. This wide spectrum of accessible homestyle dishes was unanimously revered by both locals and visitors alike. But in 2018, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration passed a city-wide clearance campaign intended to prioritize pedestrian traffic and emulate Singapore’s sterilized streets.
While the new laws have been met with resistance in certain parts of the sprawling city, hawker evictions have also noticeably affected more touristic neighborhoods, like Sukhumvit. As a result, some of Bangkok’s upscale hotels, restaurants and even malls are developing creative food and beverage programs to showcase these beloved Thai dishes and the people who make them. Here are some of our tastiest finds:
This plush, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star stay’s aptly named Spice Market serves as a nod to the spice markets of old town Bangkok. Far from trendy, the storied address celebrated its 36th anniversary this year with an interior refresh and revamped menu.
Here, chef Warinthorn Sumrithphon sources fruits and vegetables from local farms and uses the highest quality spices to create housemade curry pastes and chili sauces.
The dining room is lined with rustic crates, jars of ingredients and bags of sticky rice, but dishes take on a decidedly upscale presentation. Thai snacks like spicy fish cakes, shrimp satay and spring rolls arrive on burnished copper trays while crispy soft-shell crab, wok-fried noodles and Thai omelets are delivered on handcrafted ceramic dishes.
Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit
Before the city’s first Hyatt hotel opened its doors in December 2018, executive chef Frederik Farina hired and trained street food hawkers and cooks from local restaurants to help develop the offerings for Market Café, the property’s signature eatery.
The menu includes handheld delights like pandan chicken and satay, spicy-sweet and fresh som tam (papaya salad), yum som-o (pomelo salad) and sai ua, the flavorful grilled pork sausages found at Northern Thailand’s street stalls. At the ever-changing breakfast spread, find daily specials like pa thong ko (Chinese-style crullers dipped in soy milk) or khao tom (Thai breakfast rice soup).
The sleek space’s carefully curated design also pays homage to street vendors with touches like traditional copper pans and rabbit-shaped coconut graters serving as décor and Thai drawings of floating markets lining the walls.
Even if you’re not much of a shopper, it’s imperative to make time to visit a couple next-level Bangkok malls while in town. The breathtaking Terminal 21 is an airport-themed adventure featuring eight levels, each one representing a different destination with mouthwatering eateries to match.
Modeled after San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, fifth-floor food court Pier 21 offers just about any street food your heart might desire, from Chinese-style roasted duck and mango sticky rice to lesser known dishes like khanom chin (fermented rice noodles) and rad na moo (crispy noodles in gravy).
Another lower-level food court doles out treats from upscale bakeries and local producers — not to be missed is the Thai tea soft serve from tea institution Cha Tra Mue.
Bangkok is known for its rooftop bars and clubs, each one attempting to outdo the other with incredible views of the sparkling skyline. But it’s not every day you get to enjoy street food from such an elevation.
At Bangkok Heightz atop this boutique hotel, begin your experience with a cocktail or mocktail made with local herbs and spices before ordering from a hawker-inspired menu, all while taking in the unending cityscape from the 39th floor.
Offerings include favorites like tom yum soup and pad Thai, bite-sized snacks perfect for sharing, and entrées such as sweet and tangy massaman curry and green lamb curry served in Instagram-friendly plates. For a special date night, reserve the drink-paired tasting menu option and plan it for sunset on an evening featuring live music.
The entire basement floor of this plush mall is dedicated to a food court highlighting classic Thai dishes from all over the country.
Appropriately dubbed Eathai, the collection of eateries features cooking stations separated into northern, southern, Isaan (northeastern), vegetarian and seafood, plus an entire section dedicated to street food like Thai fried rice and grilled fish balls.
Thai prayer flags and string lights give the effect of eating in an outdoor night market even though you’re inside, also making it a cool option for Bangkok’s most humid months (August to October).