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Good food is a way of life in Bangkok. The almost unbelievable variety of mouthwatering local specialties, paired with the presence of hundreds of excellent restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, can make eating out here somewhat of an overwhelming experience. We could easily list 50 recommended food experiences in Bangkok, but for starters our Forbes Travel Guide editors feel you shouldn’t leave without tasting these five dishes:
1. Isaan. This flavorful and often very spicy type of Thai food hails from the northeastern part of the country. There are many Isaan-style specialties worth tasting, but larb, a spicy salad made with roasted rice powder, mint, onions, chiles and either pork, beef or squid, and kai yang, which is essentially grilled chicken marinated in spices, are two of our favorites. Both go well with a side of sticky rice.
2. Som tum. We could eat this spicy green papaya salad made with peanuts, fresh tomatoes, lime juice, baby shrimp, sugar and fish sauce every day — and many locals do just that. Look for vendors on the street mixing it all up with a mortar and pestle, or it’s available at almost every Thai restaurant in the city.
3. Tom yum goong. This classic sweet and sour (and spicy) soup made with shrimp, lemongrass, galangal and a variety of Thai herbs is another everyday staple for many Bangkokians — and it’s great for easing a queasy stomach or taking the edge off a hangover.
4. Curry. Available in red, green and yellow varieties, Thai curries are prepared with any number of different herbs, spices, vegetables and proteins. Spice levels vary, but in general red and green curries are the hottest.
5. Seafood. Fresh seafood is brought to Bangkok daily directly from the Gulf of Thailand, and you’ll see it all over town. Whole fish stuffed with lemongrass, coated in salt and grilling on open flames, bubbling cauldrons for fried fish, grilled squid on sticks served with a spicy dipping sauce — the options are endless for Thai-style seafood. It’s also worth noting that Bangkok has a number of excellent sushi restaurants: dreamy In the Mood for Love, located just off the Thong Lo BTS Skytrain station, as well as upscale Zen Cucina at CentralWorld Plaza, are two recommended spots to get it at.