Every time I visit Bangkok, it’s a must for me and my pals to drop by one of its carnival-like night markets. Colourful, vibrant and littered with good eats and cheap shopping deals, what’s not to like?
Rot Fai Market is one of Bangkok’s most well-known weekend night markets, famous for its antique knick-knacks, a wide variety of delicious finger-licking street food (including steaming buckets of seafood) and its rowdy and crowded atmosphere.
Located in Ratchada, right beside Esplanade Shopping Mall, this lively night market was so large that my travelling companions and I took two whole evenings to trawl the entire site!
From piping hot bowls of chicken noodles to grilled river prawns that have been torched to perfection, here are 10 yummy foods you must try when you’re at Rot Fai Ratchada in Bangkok.
1. Chicken Noodles Soup
The minute you enter Rot Fai Market, you’ll see a stall selling chicken noodles soup. Don’t miss out on this stall because it serves one of the best bowls of chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had.
A regular bowl will cost you THB40 while a larger bowl is THB50. There’s always a snaking queue and limited seats, so be sure to chope a seat before queuing or risk having to finish your meal standing up!
We ordered our bowl of chicken noodles with bee hoon and topped it up with plenty of chilli flakes and coriander.
The bowl of noodles came with a generous amount of chicken meat and drumstick ends.
What I absolutely enjoyed about this bowl of chicken noodles was how simple and hearty it was.
The soup was slightly salty and peppery, and I could taste hints of fish sauce (so if you’re expecting a light and clear chicken broth, this isn’t it). It was super nourishing and warmed my entire belly, just like Mum’s homemade chicken broth that had been simmering over the stove for hours.
The noodles were thin and had a nice bite to them, though the generous portions of drumstick ends added a challenge to the meal because I ended up gnawing on bones half the time. Though I prefer boneless chicken meat, I enjoyed sitting there slowly chewing on each drumstick end trying to get all the meat out.
There are a couple of stalls in Rot Fai selling chicken noodles soup, but this was by far the most crowded and popular stall.
2. Seafood Bucket
Fancy having your seafood served to you straight out of a huge bucket? Kung Tep offers Seafood buckets of three sizes — M (THB389), L (THB489) and XL (THB689) — all of which is poured right onto your table, ready for you to dig into.
While the seafood bucket comes with prawn, squid, mussels and clams, the XL version comes with a free blue crab. It’s cooked in a “special sauce”, which comes in mildly spicy, medium spicy and hot spicy versions.
We got the medium-sized bucket (which is recommended for one to two pax) in a mildly spicy sauce.
To our delight, the medium-sized bucket’s portion was pretty huge, with at least 10 prawns, squid, clams, mussels and crabs.
You’re also given plastic gloves and each table has a metal bucket for you to throw your shells away.
While I expected the sauce to be piquant and savoury like sriracha, it was sweet and reminded me of marinara sauce. My dining companion and I quickly felt jelak after our 10th piece of seafood or so.
However, I’ve got to say, the seafood portion was huge and fresh, and I thoroughly enjoyed peeling with my hands and eating it off the table. As a whole, the dining experience was more satisfying than the food itself and it’s something you should definitely tick off your bucket (pun intended) list while at Rot Fai.
3. Coconut Milk Custard
Craving a sweet treat? Try handmade Coconut Milk Custard, a traditional Thai dessert called khanom thuai.
It’s made from rice flour, coconut milk and palm sugar. Often, pandan essence is also added for a more aromatic touch. The mixture is then placed in a small ceramic cup and steamed.
The stall we approached sold it at a box of six for THB35, and three boxes for THB100.
While you can pick a ready-made box of coconut milk custard from the tray, we suggest asking the vendor for a newly made box. This way, your coconut milk custard is warm and freshly steamed, making it extra fragrant and delicious!
The simple dessert comprised a top layer, which was a salty creamy topping that was a little frothy but firm, and the lower layer which resembled glutinous rice and was sweet and sticky.
I loved the way this dessert took on different flavours depending on which side landed on my tongue first. Plus, the more I chewed on the two distinct layers, the more I learnt that every bite was different — it was sweet, salty, tropical, and then creamy. What a unique experience!
Do finish this dessert quickly as the salty creamy top layer melts pretty quickly.
4. Rice Noodle Seafood Salad
Satisfy your carb craving while leaving space in your tummy for more street food with this refreshing Rice Noodle Seafood Salad (THB60).
It comprises rice vermicelli noodles, seafood such as shrimp and prawns, and a ton of vegetables such as long beans, chopped celery, chives, chilli padi and cucumber. It’s tossed with fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and soy sauce.
The portion of rice noodle salad served to us was huge and came with two sticks of cucumber and a large cabbage leaf.
Do also note that the salad is served cold.
This bowl of rice noodle salad was incredibly fresh. It was zesty thanks to the lime, packed a bit of heat from the chilli, savoury because of the fish sauce, and the different kinds of vegetables were crunchy, cool and refreshing.
While the bits of seafood were nondescript, the heroes of this dish were definitely the fresh vegetables and the tangy sauce it was tossed in. I slurped the piquant noodles up and it whetted my appetite, making me ready for more!
5. Grilled River Prawns With Torched Cheese
This stall in Rod Fai Market is simple but a real classic — they only serve grilled prawns, scallops and mussels. The dish is then topped off with a generous pile of cheese, butter and herbs, and blowtorched till it’s ready to be served.
The Grilled Scallops (THB50 for three) were quite worth the price considering they were topped off with cheese and blowtorched. They were juicy and savoury, thanks to the melted cheese.
We polished our entire plate of scallops but if you’re feeling adventurous, they also have different sets that you can order. For example, you can order seven scallops for THB100 or eight scallops and four mussels for THB200.
The definite star of our entire trip to Rot Fai was the Grilled River Prawns (THB300 for four).
While the river prawns were larger than your regular prawns, there wasn’t thaaat much flesh and we ended up eating more melted cheese than meat. We aren’t complaining, though!
The melted cheese and butter combination was indulgent and creamy, and it had a hint of smokiness because it had been topped off with fresh herbs before being blowtorched.
6. Rainbow Cheese Toast
Rainbow Cheese Toast is a definite must-try, especially for your little ones. This sweet treat costs THB89 and comes with sprinkles and marshmallows.
This is a great dish for the ‘gram too!
Once I ordered, the stall vendor placed a ready-assembled rainbow cheese toast on the stove to heat up.
Then, she lathered the outside of the toast with condensed milk and topped it off with sprinkles and marshmallows. Finally, she cut the cheese toast in the centre so you can get that gorgeous stretchy rainbow goodness when you pull the bread apart.
Ours didn’t quite work, unfortunately — the cheese ended up breaking in the middle so we didn’t get a complete rainbow. Seems like another case of expectations versus reality…
Taste-wise, the toast was incredibly sweet because of the condensed milk. Biting into the toast gave a good, solid crunch, though sadly the taste of the cheese was pretty normal and nondescript. It was like regular processed sliced cheese, just with colour.
While the taste of the toast itself was a tad disappointing, it was no doubt quite pretty to look at and photograph. We got plenty of oohs and aahs from onlookers as we pulled our toast apart.
7. Rainbow Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice is undoubtedly one of the most famous Thai desserts and it’s something you should definitely try while you’re in the Land of Smiles.
What you might not know is that local street vendors are now using rainbow rice to make mango sticky rice, thus turning this authentic tropical dessert into a colourful, Instagrammable and trendy dish.
While there are plenty of mango sticky rice stalls in Rot Fai, look for those with whole mangoes sitting at the front of their stall. These mean that the mangoes used in your dessert are freshly peeled and cut.
Plus, you can also gauge on how juicy and sweet the mango will be based on its size and colour — ripe mangos will smell sweet and typically turn an orange-ish shade.
The stall we approached sold Rainbow Mango Sticky Rice in a cup for THB60.
Ours came with a small pouch of coconut milk and crispy yellow mung beans. Tip: ask the vendor for an extra serving of coconut milk. We found that one packet wasn’t enough while two was just nice, and gave our mango sticky rice a moist and fragrant finish.
The mangos themselves were really sweet and I loved how naturally soft they were. Creamy and fruity, with a slightly tropical and floral aftertaste, this was a huge hit with my group of travelling companions and we ended up going back for seconds. Yum!
8. Giant Grilled Pork Sausage On A Stick
The minute I walked by this stall, I stopped in my tracks. I’ve never seen such huge grilled sausages before, let alone on a stick and presented in a big pile!
Each stick was THB40 and the stall sold different flavours, such as pork with black pepper, pork with crab stick, and seaweed pork.
We went with the classic Pork With Black Pepper. While you can ask for the giant sausage to be served exactly as it is on a stick, the stall vendor will also slice it up upon request so it’s easier to share amongst friends. It came with a sweet chilli sauce dip as well.
While I expected the pork sausage to be firm and slightly crispy (as if it was deep fried or grilled on a pan), it was tender and soft. The black pepper was delightfully piquant and I absolutely loved dipping it in the sweet chilli sauce.
This was great finger food and definitely something I’d love to eat first thing in the morning for breakfast. Simple but oh so good, mmm.
9. Watermelon Slushie In An Actual Watermelon
After a long day of walking through the crowded Rot Fai Market street, I was dying to have something to quench my thirst. Then, I came across this stall selling a watermelon slushie in an actual watermelon for THB60 and I knew I had to have it.
Cool, icy and refreshing, this beverage was super popular with my travelling group and we downed it in a couple of minutes.
Other than the slushie itself, it also came topped with carved watermelon balls. I loved it that it came with both straw and spoon so you can slurp or scoop your slushie, depending on your preference.
The slushie was finely blended and almost resembled bingsu, which I really loved. However, we all quickly got a brain freeze, so share this cool treat with a large group of friends or take your time to down it.
10. Thai Crispy Pancake
Khanom bueang, also known as Thai Crispy Pancake, is a traditional Thai dessert comprising a crispy crepe, rich meringue and either a sweet or savoury candied topping. Typically, this would be either shrimp or coconut and egg yolk.
The stall we approached sold a box of eight for THB49, and you can pick between the savoury (shrimp) or sweet (egg yolk) choices. The crispy pancakes were stacked along the stall front in a neat pyramid, and the vendor was actively making fresh crepes while serving customers at the same time.
We chose the sweet version, which was the Thai crispy pancake with egg yolk. This was a real delight! The crepe was thin and crispy, while the meringue was a soft pillow of creamy goodness.
When I first ate it, I immediately tasted the sweetness of the meringue, which almost resembled a marshmallow. Then the rich sweetness of the egg yolk hit me and it left a slightly salty aftertaste, just like eating a fried egg yolk whole.
I expected the meringue to be filling after the first or second bite, but the thin and light pancake balanced the heaviness from the cream and I downed three or four Thai crispy pancakes easily.
After a long day of walking through Rot Fai Night Market, my legs and feet were super sore. I was dying to go home and have a long shower, but my tummy was full and satisfied.
In fact, I had so much fun that I ended up going there with another travelling companion after I was done compiling this list so I could eat some more. Consider me sold!