These Thai street food recipes to cook at home that are not pad Thai will make you some of the most popular Thai street food dishes with locals. We’ve got recipes for pad kra pao and rad na, som tam and yam khai dao, kai jiew and khao mok gai, and more to transport you right back to Bangkok.
I was motivated to compile this collection of Thai street food recipes that you can make at home that aren’t pad Thai, simply by the fact that we have been desperately missing tucking into street food in on the roadside, at markets and in old-school eateries. So we’re guessing some of you might be, too.
And the kind of Thai street food we most miss are the dishes that Thai locals love, from Thailand’s national dish, pad kra pao, stir fried pork and holy basil with fried egg, to rad na gai recipe, charred rice noodles with chicken and gravy, a dish that we serendipitously discovered at a stall outside a 7-Eleven many years ago – after decades cooking and eating Thai food.
We can’t get good Thai street food or even good Thai restaurant food in Siem Reap – nor would we expect to – so when we’re craving kai jiew or khao mok gai or khao soi gai we cook these Thai street food recipes at home. As Terence has three nights in the last week.
Another reason I wanted to share these was because all too-often I see Thai street food recipes on popular recipe sites and food blogs that are dumbed down for foreign tastes. Many don’t even include Thai fish sauce or shrimp paste, two ingredients which help give Thai food its distinctive taste.
One recipe I spotted for pad Thai yesterday used vermicelli noodles (not rice stick) and didn’t include tamarind – an essential ingredient – but used vinegar instead. Pickled chillies in vinegar is a fab condiment to douse on before eating, but tamarind and vinegar are not the same.
The recipe should have been called ‘Thai-inspired noodles’ or ‘Thai-American pad Thai noodles’. Because names matter. The poor people who cook that pale resemblance of pad Thai will be travelling to Thailand with the wrong expectations.
So why haven’t I included a pad Thai recipe? Thais do eat pad Thai, even if they perhaps don’t eat it as often as they tuck into pad kra pao. Because we wanted you to try some Thai street food specialties you may not have cooked before. Plus, I’ll soon be sharing a pad Thai recipe from one of Bangkok’s best chefs. You can cook pad Thai then.
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Thai Street Food Recipes to Cook at Home That Are Not Pad Thai
Our favourite Thai street food recipes to cook at home.
Thai Pad Kra Pao Recipe for Stir Fried Ground Pork and Holy Basil with Fried Egg
This Thai pad kra pao recipe for stir fried pork and holy basil with fried egg is a breakfast staple of street food stalls all over Thailand and it’s one of our favourite Thai street food recipes.
A garlic and chilli paste is mixed with pork mince and a rich sauce before being served with fragrant and refreshing Thai holy basil and a fried egg. To top it off, a classic Thai condiment, prik nam pla, further enhances the flavour of this popular Thai street food dish when served with steamed jasmine rice.
This Thai pad kra pao recipe is very versatile. Thai holy basil is essential – that’s the ‘kra pao’ in the title, also written as ‘kra pow’ and ‘gaphrao’, while ‘pad’ or ‘phat’ is ‘stir-fried’ – however, you could easily use ground beef or chicken mince, and you can crank up the heat if you like things hot or serve a more gently spiced stir-fry if you prefer.
A Thai food favourite with locals and foreigners alike, our Thai pad kra pao recipe for stir fried pork and holy basil with fried egg is part of our Weekend Eggs series on recipes for quintessential eggs dishes from around the world,
Thai Rad Na Gai Recipe for Charred Rice Noodles with Chicken and Gravy
This Thai rad na gai recipe is another of my favourite Thai street food recipes. It makes charred rice noodles with chicken and gravy makes a Thai-Chinese street food dish that, like pad kra pao, is another dish more popular with Thais than the more famous pad Thai, especially in Bangkok.
This recipe for Thai rad na gai – also spelt raat nar gai, laat nar gai, and lad na gai – makes smoky stir-fried rice noodles that are topped with stir-fried chicken and gravy; ‘rad na’ means ‘on top’ and ‘gai’ means ‘chicken’ – and while we’re using chicken in this case, this dish can also be made with pork or beef.
Make sure to use a seasoned carbon steel wok for charring the noodles. If the noodles start to stick, do splash a little cooking oil into the wok. I find that fresh rice noodles stick more to the wok than reconstituted dried noodles.
It’s often easier to just throw the separated fresh noodles into the wok and give them a quick stir-fry than charring them, but please try the way the recipe calls for first, especially if using dried noodles.
Classic Thai Omelette Recipe for Kai Jiew, a Crispy Puffy Golden-Brown Omelette
This Thai omelette recipe makes kai jiew, a crispy, puffy golden-brown Thai omelette cooked in plenty of vegetable oil in a very hot wok. It’s one of the best Thai street food recipes if you want to be transported back to the streets of Bangkok.
Spelt as kai jiaw, kai jiew, kai jeow, khai jiow, and khai jiao, these puffy Thai omelettes are different to the other style of omelette you’ll spot on your travels in Thailand and Cambodia, which are flat, thin, solid, and also golden-brown.
To make kai jiew, the eggs are fortified by a good dash of fish sauce and the omelette is served on steamed jasmine rice with some Thai Sriracha sauce to spice things up.
It’s a spectacular dish to make. When poured into the hot oil, the whisked eggs with fish sauce form bubbles that grow and the omelette puffs right up like a crazy magic trick, before settling down as it cooks into a thick, soft, fluffy golden-brown omelette.
It takes real confidence in your kitchen skills to stay calm while flipping this omelette over! To that point, please wear closed footwear and wear a kitchen apron. A round bottomed wok is best for making this dish as you need to get under the omelette with a wide mesh skimmer.
Thai Fried Egg Salad Recipe for Yam Khai Dao, a Deliciously Addictive Crispy Fried Egg Salad
This Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao makes one of my all-time favourite Thai street food recipes. It makes a filling salad of crispy fried eggs with sweet tomatoes, purple shallots, crunchy peanuts, fragrant coriander, Chinese celery, and chillies, with a salad dressing that’s all at once sweet, sour, tangy, and funky.
Sweet juicy tomatoes, aromatic coriander, crunchiness coming from the purple shallots, roasted peanuts and Chinese celery stems, a hit of heat from the chillies, crispy fried eggs that soak up a salad dressing that’s sour, sweet, tangy, and funky… this Thai fried egg salad is so simple yet so delicious and it’s absolutely addictive.
A Thai ‘yam’ – also written as ‘yum’ – is a kind of salad that is comparable to a tossed salad. The Thai word ‘yam’ in fact doesn’t mean salad as such, but means to mix, toss or combine together. In contrast to a salad such as som tam, which is pounded, the salad ingredients are combined in a mixing bowl and plated.
‘Khai dao’ in Thai means ‘fried egg’, but quite literally ‘star egg’, and it’s a Thai style of fried egg, which means its deep-fried or fried in a lot of oil so that the egg has a crispy texture and is brown coloured.
As with salads in Cambodia and Vietnam, this style of Thai salad is all about the combination of textures and flavour, as much as vibrancy and aroma. The salad ingredients need to be super fresh, fragrant and vibrant and the dressing needs to be intensely flavoured, like a good dipping sauce.
Thai Miang Kham Recipe for The Bite Sized Wraps That Are Thailand in a Mouthful
This Thai miang kham recipe makes the bite-sized wraps that are Thailand in a mouthful, an explosion of quintessential Southeast Asian flavours – sour lime, zingy ginger, crunchy peanuts, crispy shallots, smoky roasted coconut, savoury dried prawns, a kick of chilli, and a sweet yet funky caramelised sauce – wrapped in a wild piper or wild betel leaf.
This easy Thai miang kham recipe will make you the kind of miang kham that you can buy from a vendor at a local market – miang kham is a street food snack after all – pre-packaged from a gourmet supermarket or as an appetiser at a casual Thai restaurant or upmarket café.
It won’t make you the luxurious takes on miang kham topped with sweet lobster or plump prawns, salmon roe that bursts in your mouth, or even velvety foie gras, which you’ll find at fancy fine dining restaurants in Bangkok, but it is very versatile.
You’ll need a granite mortar and pestle to pound some of the ingredients to form a paste, and then need to add that to the dissolved palm sugar in the sauce pot, then add the toasted coconut, Thai fish sauce and tamarind water/juice.
Don’t simmer the sauce for too long, as it will thicken too much and harden when it’s cool. While the sauce is cooling, you can prep your ‘salad’ ingredients, ensuring everything is evenly diced into fine cubes – except the chillies, which should be de-seeded and finely chopped. Wear gloves when handling the chillies.
Classic Thai Som Tam Recipe for a Thai Green Papaya Salad
This classic Thai som tam recipe makes the popular Thai green papaya salad that you’ll eat on the streets of Thailand and this is easily another of my favourite Thai street food recipes, and it’s one that I’ve adapted from David Thompson’s Thai Street Food.
The spicy salad originated in Thailand’s Isaan region – Isaan and Isan mean ‘northeast’ in Thai and Khmer – a region that was historically part of the Khmer Empire. But now you’ll find this Thai street food favourite all over Thailand, and right across northern Southeast Asia.
Here in Cambodia, green papaya salad is called bok lahong, and there are all manner of pounded salads here which are very old, such as bok svay, a pounded mango salad. They’re called ‘boks’ in Khmer. ‘Bok’ and ‘pok’ are ancient Khmer words that mean to smash or beat against something.
You will need an enormous mortar and pestle to do your pounding, smashing and beating in. I’ve seen som tam cooks use both wooden mortar and pestles and terracotta or clay mortar and pestles. We use a wooden mortar and pestle as we haven’t found a clay mortar and pestle that is large enough.
As this is a Thai som tam recipe, we suggest using a good quality Thai fish sauce. We recommend Thailand’s Megachef for the quality as much as the consistency, especially when it comes to sodium levels. You can buy palm sugar online, or use brown sugar, coconut sugar, raw or white sugar.
Tasty Thai Larb Gai Recipe for a Spicy Minced Chicken Salad from Thailand
This is another of our favourite Thai street food recipes and it’s an easy recipe for a classic Thai larb gai or ground chicken salad – gai or kai is chicken in Thai and laab, also written as laab, laap, larp, lap, and lab are the Thai, Lao and Khmer names for this type of minced meat salad that’s found right across northern Southeast Asia.
Made with minced chicken breast that’s quickly stir-fried in chicken stock, fish sauce, lime juice, salt, sugar, garlic, and shallots, this light Thai ground chicken salad is combined with loads of fresh fragrant herbs and sprinkled with chilli flakes.
Served with crunchy vegetables such as cabbage, cucumbers, and snake beans, and eaten with steamed jasmine rice or sticky rice, it’s super easy to cook, comes together in minutes, is very versatile, and is incredibly delicious.
Make sure to sprinkle on some toasted rice, either toasted rice powder or ground roasted rice called khao khua in Thai. Be generous with the fresh fragrant herbs and serve plenty of crunchy vegetables on the side, such as cucumbers, green beans, and cabbage, which can be used as a vehicle for eating the salad.
Southern Thai Chicken and Rice Recipe for Khao Mok Gai, a Thai Style ‘Biryani’
Our easy Southern Thai chicken and rice recipe makes the incredibly delicious khao mok gai – ‘khao’ means rice, ‘gai’ is chicken, and ‘mok’ means to bury underneath or within in modern Thai – for braised chicken cooked in a spicy curry-like gravy and served with turmeric rice and crispy fried shallots.
Interestingly, ‘khmok’ is also an old Khmer word that means to cook within banana leaves, which is how this dish was probably once cooked, and to find out more about that you’ll have to wait for our Cambodian cookbook.
Depending on where you eat this addictive Thai-Malay street food favourite, it might come garnished with crunchy cucumber slices or spears, and fresh mint, coriander and chillies, or might be served with a fragrant relish or sauce of pounded herbs and cucumber – and/or sweet chilli sauce.
As a Thai Muslim dish, it’s typically referred to as a Thai biryani or Thai style biryani, but it’s important to note that this is not the style of biryani you might be familiar with from the Indian Sub-Continent or Middle East, where we ate biryanis weekly for seven years and they were never like this. Hence “Thai-style”.
Khao Soi Gai Recipe for Chiang Mai Curry Noodle Chicken Soup
This khao soi gai recipe makes the delicious Chiang Mai curry noodle chicken soup that must be as beloved by foreign visitors as locals in the Northern Thailand city.
It’s the most popular noodle soup in Chiang Mai, the old capital of the Lanna kingdom in Northern Thailand, that’s as famous for its fantastic Northern Thai-style Lanna food as much as its gilded pagodas, gorgeous handicrafts and glorious mountains nearby.
Khao soi gai is a one-bowl meal of egg noodles, a rich, oily coconut cream-infused stock, and a leg or thigh of bone-in chicken (‘gai’ is Thai for chicken) topped with more crunchy noodles.
The spicy curry noodle chicken soup is a lunchtime favourite across Chiang Mai, slurped at market stalls, simple eateries and fancy restaurants. It’s one of those dishes that culinary travellers are eager to try, and then can’t stop eating. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself carving out a khao soi itinerary for yourself.
Thai Mango Sticky Rice Recipe
Despite the detailed recipe notes it’s nowhere near as intimidating as it looks and this jasmine scented sweet will take you back to eating on the streets of Thailand.
Making this became my mission after the mango rains started a couple of years ago and I had been ogling the green mangoes that hung from the towering mango trees in our Siem Reap neighbourhood.
One of the reasons I delayed making this recipe for so many years was because I couldn’t find yellow mung beans (essential to the recipe to add a little crunch), nor fresh jasmine flowers to perfume the rice (desirable).
When I eventually found the beans, they didn’t brown and were a little crisp rather than crunchy. But this mango sticky rice still transported me back to the streets of Thailand, as it does every time I make it. Don’t you love that about food?
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make any of these Thai street food recipes as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.