Street food in Bangkok is so prevalent that locals often don’t use or even have their own kitchens at home. But not all street food is created equal. Thankfully, even if you have the misfortune of stumbling onto a mediocre meal, it isn’t really going to set you back much. Rather than gamble though, take a good recommendation: Sukhumvit Soi 38, a side street just beneath the Thong Lor SkyTrain station known for its street food.
Sometime around 6 p.m. the little street stands start coming to life, but there are three main attractions at this curbside culinary institute. All are congregated in the first entryway on the right as you leave the main road where you will find some limited but quickly vacating tables. The first cart is arguably the best mango and sticky rice that ever was. No one seems to escape the street without ordering some. The second is a noodle cart serving up perfect bamee kiew moo daeng (yellow noodles, dumplings with red pork). And finally, there’s “the phat thai guy.” This fellow is a bit of a, um, wok star? His assistants show up with the food and cart long before he arrives, and they wait — along with a small crowd of hungry people who periodically check their watches — until he rolls in about an hour after the rest of the vendors. The guy’s food is tremendous and a couple of clips from Bangkok publications taped to his cart acknowledge that his reputation goes far beyond Soi 38.
There are, of course, many other good places to dine from assorted carts. The Suan Lum Night Bazaar is one. Shop, see a traditional puppet show, and then when you’re hungry find an open table and mix and match your vendors. This is not a bad place for a cold beer either. Chinatown is wicked good too. Vendors line the sidewalks and set out small tables with plastic stools. Khao San Road is another popular street food hotspot, but detractors will argue many of the dishes here are tweaked for the western palette. A good place that doesn’t pull its peppery punch is actually a restaurant that spills onto the sidewalk. Suda does get quite the Western crowd, but doesn’t seem to show any mercy when applying some Thai heat to the recipes. Prices aren’t much more than the street carts and the menu is quite varied. Much like Soi 38 it is easily reached by SkyTrain. Get off at Asoke Station and look for Soi 14 right under the station.