Thailand is famous for street food, it’s one of the main reasons for the large number of tourists that flock to the county each year. We know, however, that it can be a daunting task trying to order food in Thailand when you don’t speak the language so we’ve put together a list of useful Thai words to get you started on your Thai street food adventure.
Let’s start with ‘I want’ as this will be your most used word – ow, as in ‘ow, that hurt!’. Don’t forget to add khap/ka on the end (khap for a man, ka for a woman) to make it polite.
The next word which you should know is mai – no. Add this to ow if you don’t want something:
Mai ow khap/ka – I don’t want it thank you. This can also be used to great effect when someone is trying to sell you something!
The third word you need to know is nee – this. You can use it at the end of ow or mai ow:
Ow nee khap/ka – I want this please.
Mai ow nee khap/ka – I don’t want this.
These three words will get you through 90% of your street food ordering when you’re starting out. Just point and say ‘I want this’, ‘I don’t want that!’
When you’re ready to move on and up your Thai ordering game, you can refer to our list of popular Thai dishes below:
When it comes to noodle soup, you can structure it to suit your own taste. You pick your meat then your noodle thickness.
Kuay teow – Noodle soup
Nam sai – clear soup
Tom yum – Sour and spicy soup with peanuts
Nam Tok – Soup with blood
Moo – Pork
Gai – Chicken
Beef – Nuea
Sen yai – wide rice noodles.
Sen lek – thin rice noodles
Sem mee – Vermicelli rice noodles.
Sen bamee – egg noodles.
Nam – Soup.
Haeng – Dry.
Look chin: Processed meat balls (this is where I use the mai ow the most!)
Here’s an example of ordering a standard noodle soup:
Ow kuay teow moo, sen lek khap – I want pork noodle soup with thin rice noodles please.
All noodle soup shops will have chopsticks (ta-geeab) and spoons (chaawn) but if you can use chopsticks, you can ask for a fork by saying ow sorm (pronounced a bit like some).
Popular stir fried dishes:
Pad Kapow moo/gai/nuea – Stir fried pork/chicken/beef with holy basil.
Pad Thai – Thai style fried noodles.
Pad see ew – Fried wide rice noodles in soy sauce.
Pad cha talay/gai/moo – Stir fried seafood/chicken/pork with Thai herbs.
Khao pad gai/moo – Fried rice with chicken/pork.
Gai pad med mamuang – Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts.
Kuay teow kua gai – Fried wide rice noodles with chicken
Pad prik gaeng gai/moo: Stir fried chicken/pork in curry paste.
They’re going to want to know if you can eat spicy food here so you’ll need to know these two phrases:
Gin ped dai – I can eat spicy food.
Gin ped mai dai – I can’t eat spicy food.
Gin ped nit noi – I can eat a little bit of spice!
Grilled meat dishes:
Gai yang – Grilled chicken
Moo ping – Grilled pork skewers
Kor Moo Yang – Grilled marinated pork neck (shoulder).
So now you’ve ordered and eaten your food, you’ll want to wrap up proceedings:
Kep tang khap/ka – can I have the bill please (formal)
Check bin khap/ka – can I have the bill please (informal)
Aroi mak (a-loy in Bangkok) – very delicious (this always goes down well!)
Imm mak – I’m very full!