Not all the best Thai food is found on the streets. While we’re huge fans of Thai street food – as a simple peruse of this blog will affirm – we also have to admit that many of Bangkok’s famous food courts turn out some outstanding nosh too.
But with food courts on offer everywhere from shopping centres to office buildings and hospitals, they are created far from equal. If you’re looking to chow down on affordable, authentic and delicious Thai food during your stay in Bangkok, and want something beyond the street yet not quite at restaurant level, these are the best food courts in Bangkok to hunt out.
Often overshadowed by its colossal but arguably slowly fading neighbour Siam Paragon, Siam Center is a sleek and trendy high-end shopping mall set in a central location right between Siam and National Stadium BTS Skytrain stations. Siam Center pleasingly has more of a small and intimate vibe than its competitors, something that really adds to the appeal of the place.
Packed into the space are numerous chain restaurants at various price points, but what Siam Center really does well is its Food Republic food court up on the fourth floor. The attractive decor is much, much more modern than what passes for contemporary at other Bangkok shopping malls’ food courts, and there’s a pleasing range of not only standard Thai dishes but also enticing international dishes. Prices are slightly higher than elsewhere, but Siam Center’s Food Republic is nevertheless firmly among our favourite food courts in Bangkok.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Rama 1 Road (BTS Siam); www.siamcenter.co.th
The twist at Eathai at Central Embassy, a kind of posh-feeling food court that’s certainly pricier than your average option, is that the cooks have supposedly been plucked from some of Bangkok’s most famous street stalls and charged with recreating their celebrated dishes in the plush surrounds of one of the Thai capital’s most ultra-luxury shopping centres.
However, that marketing gimmick isn’t especially obvious at first, and we admit that we weren’t aware of it for quite some time. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is some great Thai food on offer at Eathai, with a particularly wide spread of regional Thai cuisine that includes countless dishes that are otherwise hard to find these days. Stalls are arranged by region, and we have a particular soft spot for their northern dishes like khao soi curried chicken noodle soup and gaeng hunglay pork curry.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Phloen Chit Road (BTS Phloen Chit); www.centralembassy.com
Set close to the famously always-gridlocked Asok junction beside the BTS Skytrain station of the same name, Sukhumvit station on the MRT subway, and Sukhumvit Soi 21 (from which the mall takes its name – although it’s actually technically on Soi 19), this popular shopping centre – a new arrival in the past few years – adopts an airport theme, with each floor decked out to resemble a famous world capital, and the escalators up and down marked up as ‘departures’ and ‘arrivals’.
Terminal 21 itself pulls off a pleasing combination of brand-name stores and small, independent boutiques, and the fifth-floor Pier 21 food court isn’t shoddy, either. Here you’ll find the standard setup and the usual array of Thai street-food-style dishes, and this is a food court with a reputation for serving up good-quality, especially affordable fare – just note that it’s often busy.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Sukhumvit Road (BTS Asok/MRT Sukhumvit); www.terminal21.co.th
EmQuartier – across the road from Emporium, and owned by the same group – is Bangkok’s newest, glitziest and most ultra-luxury shopping mall. That means prices at some of the mall’s shops will make your eyes water, and that’s no different at its restaurants. While dishes at EmQuartier’s Quartier Food Hall also come in more expensive than those at other food courts across Bangkok, it’s here that things do nevertheless start to become rather more affordable.
As well as a whole selection of standard Thai street-food-style dishes – everything from moo ping grilled pork skewers to fried bananas – EmQuartier’s food court offering somewhat stands out from the competition in that it presents more of a seamless combination of these everyday low-cost food court options with relatively affordable snacks, desserts and light meals from branded kiosks right in the same food court zone.
These include the likes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cha Tra Mue, the famous Thai tea brand that not long ago set Bangkok’s foodie scene alight with its game-changing soft-serve, Mr-Whippy-style Thai tea ice cream.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Sukhumvit Road (BTS Phrom Phong); www.emquartier.co.th
Budget mall MBK’s sixth-floor food court – variously known as MBK Food Island or MBK Food Centre – is probably among the first that most visitors to Bangkok experience, and it’s a good one to start with. This no-frills food court is packed with delicious, accessible and affordable Thai street food dishes – there’s everything from pad thai to various curries, and from khao man gai Hainanese-style chicken rice to pad krapao holy basil stir-fry. We have a soft spot for MBK’s southern Thai-style chicken biryani, or khao mok gai.
At this standard food court on the sixth floor, you buy coupons in advance and exchange them for dishes as you go. However, at MBK’s second, higher-end international food court the Fifth Food Avenue on the fifth floor, you receive a card as you enter; this is swiped by vendors as you order and receive dishes, and then you settle up on the way out. This second food court is pricier than the regular MBK Food Island, but there’s an extensive array of cuisines from around the world.
Daily, 10am-10pm; Phaya Thai Road (BTS National Stadium); www.mbk-center.co.th
While the food here won’t win any awards – it’s certainly good enough, but not out of this world – Suvarnabhumi Airport’s bustling 24/7 Magic Food Point food court is worth a mention for the fact that it allows you to get a decent Thai meal (one that actually tastes like the stuff you’ve been scoffing during your trip, rather than some artificial-tasting concoction fabricated in an attempt to placate tourist tastebuds) before your flight without breaking the bank.
The regular prices and authentic dishes mean that Suvarnabhumi’s food court is popular with staff working at the airport – always a good sign in itself. Buy a booklet of coupons for your desired amount at the cashier’s desk close to the entrance (if you’re eating alone, 100 baht or so should suffice), then peruse the offerings at the different kitchen windows and exchange your coupons for the dishes of your choice.
Most dishes run around the 40- to 60-baht range, and you’ll find the full spread of Thai dishes from stir-fries and curries to noodles and salads. Drinks and desserts are available, too – just be warned that the food court as a whole often gets very busy, and be sure to give yourself enough time to eat after you’ve checked in for your flight but before you go through security (and immigration for international flights). The food court is located landside on the airport’s first floor.
Open 24 hours; Suvarnabhumi Airport
Which is your favourite food court in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by RoyHectorKabanlit; Nonth!!!; Nomad YC; lin Judy; Paul Sullivan; bwaters23