This rundown of Thai dishes popular with children (and plenty of adults too) proves that Thai cuisine is more varied than the powerful, chilli-fuelled curries and salads that grab all the headlines and clutter Instagram feeds. The popular Thai meals listed here are widely available in most restaurants in Bangkok and are mostly free from bold levels of spice. To be on the safe side, remember the phrase “mai phed” (which translates directly as ‘no spice’) to save your little ones from throbbing lips and tongues.
From famous noodle dishes to some typical Thai recipes that are less well known abroad, take a look at what we feel is the best Thai food for children in Bangkok.
Shrimp Cakes (Tort Mun Kung)
Think of a chicken nugget, but filled with succulent prawns and shrimps and deep-fried in a crispy batter. It is usually served with a sweet plum dipping sauce. Make sure to cut the shrimp cakes to let the steam out before eating because they retain heat for quite a while.
Thailand’s classic noodle dish, cooked in a smoking hot wok with a combination of beansprouts, onions, shrimp, tofu, and tamarind paste, then garnished with condiments like sugar, lime, chilli, spring onion and crushed peanuts. It’s a rite of passage to eat a Pad Thai while in Bangkok
Grilled Chicken and Sticky Rice
This classic dish is found throughout Thailand, from street stalls to fancy restaurants: a grilled quarter of chicken, usually over coals for that smoky barbeque flavour. It’s instantly recognisable to children, so they should be happy to tuck into the thigh and leg of chicken with a sweet chilli dip and served with a handful of glutinous rice.
Spring Rolls (Bo Bia)
Loved by children all over the world, this pan-Asian dish is found in two varieties in Thailand: freshly rolled with soft rice noodle or deep fried for a satisfyingly crispy texture. The ingredients inside consist of shredded carrot, cabbage, beansprouts, leafy vegetables, chicken, egg, shrimp – most places will have vegetarian or meat fillings available. Again, ensure you let the steam out before giving to small children.
Steamed Chicken on Rice (Khao Mun Gai)
This dish is as simple as it sounds. Steamed chicken breast, sliced and laid on top of a mound of oily rice. Thai people often like it with the soft skin left on the meat whereas foreigners usually find the gelatine texture a little off-putting. If that’s the case, be sure to ask for no skin (if language is a problem, your best mime skills should convey the message).
Mango and Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Ma Meung)
This dish ranks top among many frequent visitors to Thailand, either as a dessert or a lunchtime snack. Thick slices of golden mango alongside glutinous rice and topped with fresh coconut cream and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Eat it at breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between; who cares?
Fried Rice (Khao Pad)
Fried rice is the fall back option for when you or your children find yourselves in an unusual situation and just don’t know what to eat. But that is not to say it’s not incredibly tasty, spruced up with whatever you like. Common ingredients include crab meat, chicken, spring onion, carrot with a side of tomato, cucumber and segments of lime. For something even fancier, go for pineapple fried rice (khao pad sapparot), which is basically the same but served in a pineapple shell – be sure to stress “mai phed” when ordering.
Rice Porridge (Khao Tom/Jok)
Rice porridge is probably the most popular breakfast dish in Thailand and a ‘go to’ when you have an upset stomach and want something clean, simple and nourishing. The boiled rice is prepared in a stock, originally made from pork bones but these days more likely a vegetable stock cube, with additions of minced pork balls or shrimp, and a garnish of scallions, shallots and coriander. The difference between ‘khao tom’ and ‘jok’ is how long the rice is left to simmer, as jok has a smooth consistency, whereas it’s possible to still see each grain of rice in khao tom. It’s a mainstay on hotel breakfast buffets and in the houses of millions of Thai people.
Noodle Soup (Gwai Tieow)
Cheap, tasty and easy to find, noodle soup dishes make an excellent children’s lunch. There are many kinds of noodle stalls available: chicken noodles, duck noodles, egg noodles with wonton and 'moo daeng' (red barbequed pork), beef and meatball noodles, 'yen ta fou' (noodles in red soy bean paste with fish ball, squid and morning glory) - the list is endless. The noodles themselves come in different sizes and shapes too.
- Sen Yai (rice river noodle): a wide flat noodle made from white rice flour
- Sen Mii (rice vermicelli): a small wiry looking rice flour noodle
- Sen Lek: a medium flat rice flour noodle (the same kind used in pad thai)
- Bah Mii: an egg and wheat flour noodle (yellow in colour)
- Woon Sen (glass noodle): a thin, wiry, transparent soya bean flour noodle
Omelette (Kai Jiow)
Another dish that children will instantly recognise and provides something safe and tasty to eat. Omelettes in Thailand are often served over rice and can contain vegetables if requested.