A guide to Bangkok's best street food guidebooks

A guide to Bangkok's best street food guidebooks

Navigate the city's eating scene with these English-language maps, cards and books

As anybody who’s recently had to dodge a food cart, circumvent a sidewalk noodle stall or been asphyxiated in a cloud of chili smoke can attest, food quite simply dominates the streets of Bangkok.

Yet despite all this quantity, it can be a challenge to locate the quality. And while there are volumes of Thai-language books that lead locals to the best noodle stall, shophouse restaurant or snack vendor, there is only a handful of English-language guidebooks to Bangkok’s best restaurants and street eats.

With this in mind, we’ve done our homework to help you find the right one. 

Ideal Map: Good Eats

Bangkok street food guidesAlthough the English-language version is currently out of print and some of the recommendations are pretty outdated, this series of food-centric maps is one of the better guides to Bangkok’s eating scene.  

"Good Eats" takes the form of large laminated maps of three Bangkok neighbourhoods (Rattanakosin, Sukhumvit and Yaowarat).

As the English-language maps are translated directly from their Thai language counterparts, there’s an emphasis on the crusty, longstanding places that serve what is arguably Bangkok’s best food.

Reviews are brief and objective, and list a couple recommended dishes, but without any background information, you’ll need to be at least somewhat familiar with Thai food.  

A lack of any Thai script (handy for pointing to in moments of linguistic uncertainty) is a big downside here.  

This is the guide for you if: You need to brush up on Bangkok’s classic eateries. 

Price: 89 baht. Available at Kinokuniya (Emporium branch, BTS: Phrom Phong) 

Famuluous Eateries Bangkok

Bangkok street food guidesIf you don’t want to be marked as a guidebook-clutching rookie while out noodle hunting, consider "Famuluous Eateries Bangkok," a box of 52 discreet cards profiling street stalls and restaurants.  

There’s Thai script, accurate maps and transport information, and the authors seemingly made a conscious effort to go past the usual tourist-frequented suspects to include eateries in Bangkok’s ‘burbs. 

On the downside, the descriptions were clearly not written by native speakers of English, leading to some bizarre examples of writing. And lack of any background information means you’ll need know your Thai food basics to really take advantage of these cards.  

This is the guide for you if: You’ve lived in Bangkok for a while and want to expand your culinary horizons without looking like a tourist.  

Price: 345 baht, available at all Kinokuniya branches in Bangkok

Thai Hawker Food 

Bangkok street food guidesAuthors: Kenny Yee and Catherine Gordon

This book, originally published in 1993, is probably more quaint and entertaining than it is authoritative, but if urban street food spotting were a hobby, this would most likely be its field guide.  

Rather than focus on specific stalls (although there is a recommendations section that is now hopelessly out of date), the bulk of Thai Hawker Food divides Thai street dishes into categories depending on how they’re cooked, with endearing cartoons and sketches to depict them.

These are accompanied by brief descriptions in English and the Thai-language names. Style seems to take precedence over content in this book, and the descriptions of the dishes can sometimes be unhelpful or vague. 

This is the guide for you if:  You still don’t know your khao phat from your kuay tiaw. 

Price: 200 baht. Available at Asia Books, city-wide

Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls

Bangkok street food guidesAuthor: Chawadee Nualkhair

If you’re willing to accept the word "Top" subjectively and don’t mind that more than half the places mentioned aren’t stalls, but rather shophouse-bound restaurants, this recently-published book is a good crash-course in informal Thai dining. 

In addition to helpful background info on the various Thai street dishes, "Bangkok's Top 50 Street Food Stalls" includes lots of pics and illustrations, detailed contact info and illustrated maps spanning 50 different restaurants, shophouse restaurants and street stalls.

Dainty diners will be pleased to learn that the reviews also include detailed information on each eatery’s bathroom situation. A lack of Thai script for dishes coupled with inaccurate transliteration might be obstacles for those who can’t speak Thai. 

This is the guide for you if: You’re a first-time visitor to Bangkok and are wary about eating off the beaten track.  

Price: 390 baht. Available at Asia Books, Kinokuniya and Orchid Books

Austin Bush is an American writer/photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. His photos have been published in variety of magazines, books and newspapers including DestinAsian, Food & Travel, Olive, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, as well as numerous Lonely Planet publications. For an online portfolio and samples of his work, check out www.austinbushphotography.com.

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