Street food is the foundation of many modern dishes we have today. If you’re a food junkie like me, street food is the perfect place to truly experience the identity and culture of a country. Street food is everywhere! In countries like Thailand, you can literally find street food in every corner of the street. Especially in Phuket, street food is fun, cheap and exotic (if you’re up for it). It is the best way to experience real and traditional Thai food. In my opinion, the street food experience in Phuket beats any experience a Thai restaurant can give you.
In this Explore Series, I will show you 7 must eat street food in the street of Phuket, Thailand.
1) Pad Thai (Stir-fried glass noodles)
This dish doesn’t need any introduction. Possibly one of the most recognized Thai food all over the world and one of my favourite Thai dishes. Ironically, this dish originated in China and was mostly loved by tourists but not so much by the locals in Thailand back then. As years went on, the Thais grew to love this dish and started cooking it with local ingredients such as dried shrimps, tofu and even prawns. Eventually making it one of their staple dishes. Just like how Singapore has Char Kway Teow, Thailand has Pad Thai!
You can spot many of such vendors in the streets of Phuket. They can be in a pushcart, tri-cycles or even a temporary set-up with tables and chairs. You simply can’t visit Thailand without trying their Pad Thai.
2) Som Tam (Papaya salad)
Papaya Salad is best eaten with sticky rice or grilled chicken!
Just second to Pad Thai, Som Tam is another popular dish in Thailand. Som Tam is a simple dish that provides an explosion of flavour in your mouth. This dish consists of papaya, tomatoes, carrots, peanuts, dried shrimps, bean sprouts, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and plenty of chillies (if you are up for the heat). In default, this dish is meant to be spicy. So, if you don’t specify your level of spiciness, the cook will judge based on your looks and guess your spice tolerance (literally).
Fret not, Thai language is easy to learn. You can simply say “Mai Pet” if you want non-spicy or “Pet Mak” if you’re feeling adventurous. If you’re up for a more exotic experience, you can also opt for a fermented crab to be added in (it can get a little pungent). Personally, I like the crunch and it gives another flavour to the entire dish! Simply a timeless dish in Thailand that can be found almost everywhere.
3) Roti (Pancake)
Another dish that did not originate in Thailand, but has managed to become a staple dish in the street food scene. Similar to the Roti Prata we have in Singapore, Roti in the street of Phuket is mostly filled with sweet toppings – mangos, strawberries, bananas, condensed milk, chocolate sauce and many more! It’s a sight to watch the skilled vendors stretching the dough extremely thin and frying it on a large hotplate. The end result? Crispy on the outside and fluffy as you get to the centre.
It is usually shaped into a square and chopped into bite-sizes for easy consumption. It is one of my favourite dishes on the streets of Phuket! I had about 10 Rotis in the 4 days I was in Phuket ( I’m not kidding!).
Look at the generous amount of mangos!
They have different varieties as well, this is a more eggy version.
Wasn’t kidding when I said I had at least 10 Roti’s during my trip to Phuket.
In Singapore, we have satays. But in Phuket, they have an array of meats on a pushcart readily available to be barbequed. BBQ pushcarts are easy to spot with its vertical column of smoke rushing into the sky. Can’t see the smoke? You will definitely be able to smell the delicious aroma of BBQ-ed meat from a distance!
What makes BBQ’s in Phuket special is the different type of meats they offer and their unique marinate packs flavour. Of course, they have the usual beef, pork and chicken, just like what we typically have in Singapore. But guess what? They have deer, crocodile and alligator meat as well! And of course I tried all of them, surprisingly delicious especially the crocodile meat. Definitely, a must try if you are in Phuket!
Something you will never find in Singapore is BBQ-ed chicken intestines! It’s chewy and marinated beautiful, definitely worth the try!
5) Mango sticky rice
I’m sure most of us have tried or at least heard of Mango Sticky Rice. It can be found in many Pasar Malam (Night Market) here in Singapore. It is another traditional Thai dish that consists of glutinous rice, coconut cream and of course fresh mango. And if you want some extra crunch you can top it up with some toasted sesame seeds or mung beans.
Having tried the Mango Sticky Rice in Singapore and Thailand, I would have to say that they are different simply because the mango’s used in Thailand is much sweeter and fresher. Everyone will surely love this dish!
Are you craving for cheap seafood? Then Phuket will definitely satisfy those cravings. From crabs, squids, baby octopuses and different types of fishes. You will struggle to choose whether you want them fried, grilled or BBQ-ed.
Grilled baby octopus. If you’re a fan of sushi, this is the one for you!
Phuket offers one of the freshest seafood in Thailand. Being surrounded by the sea, most of their seafood is locally fished, resulting in the freshest quality of seafood daily!
I was lucky enough to be in Phuket during the weekends as they have night markets similar to Chatuchak that is only open during the weekends. As you can see on the photo above the stalls are merely being covered by tarps as it is only a temporary set-up.
Are you an adventurer like me? Muster your courage and try out these exotic foods that you will never be able to find in Singapore. The largest crowds can often be found gathered around the fried-insect stalls like this! It is very popular among tourists and especially the locals.
Some of these insects are caught in the wild but some are raised in insects farms.
There are crickets, grasshoppers, silkworms and even maggots. I tried all of them!
My favourite would be the crickets, it is crunchy and totally edible. Almost taste just like a potato chip but with a little more crunch.
My least favourite I would say were the maggots, I was surprised with its burst of flavour (literally, after biting into it burst and some liquid will ooze out). However, totally zero regrets!
Singaporeans are no strangers to Thailand, many of us plan trips there for retail therapy. But don’t forget, Thailand offers a whole slew of great dishes. So the next time you head to Thailand, brave the unfamiliar and unknown to experience the most authentic and traditional dishes in the streets!
“Street food is the true testimony to the identity of the people”. It is without a doubt the root of many traditional food cultures. So what is your favourite Thai street foods?
This article was brought to you by Erwin Pili Saysay who is currently interning in SNCF, Marketing team. He is in his 3rd year in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and is pursuing Business & Social Enterprise motivated by his passion to help others.