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Top 7 Reasons Why Isaan Food is Famous in Thailand

Top 7 Reasons Why Isaan Food is Famous in Thailand

Isaan is one of Thailand’s four regions, the other three being Central, Southern, and Northern Thailand. The region has some of the best dishes in the country for you to try out and experience, thanks to their cuisine’s Laos and Khmer influences from Cambodia.

With Isaan dishes, you’ll experience a plethora of flavours and aromas that you won’t get anywhere else. So without further ado, allow us to break down for you the top 8 reasons why Isaan food is famous in Thailand– along with some popular restaurants that serve them!

The meats in Isaan cuisine are perfectly grilled  

Isaan cuisine is known for its perfectly grilled meats and it’s not just because of the flavour but also due to the texture once they’re cooked. You’ll know this once you take a bite of their grilled cuisine and experience how tender and flavourful their meats are!

Try It Here: Happy Beef

Website: N/A

Address: 398 Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Contact details:  N/A

Operating hours:  

  •  Monday to Sunday, 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM

One restaurant in Bangkok that serves up some of these delicious grilled meats is Happy Beef. You can order some of their tender meat dishes (specifically their beef menu), along with some traditional Thai dishes such as soups and side dishes.

What we liked about Happy Beef is that most of their meat dishes may be cooked the Isaan way but you can combine these with other locals. Some of these unique local sides that we’re sure you’ll like include spring rolls, stir-fried vegetables, and green salad.

Pro tip:

  • Happy Beef offers some set menu items but don’t forget to ask the wait staff if you can customise some of these sets. We recommend that you choose a combination of meats and veggies as these are filling and perfectly go together in terms of flavour!

Laab is so flavourful 

You’ll easily recognize laab if ever you’re served one when in Thailand. It’s made with minced meat sprinkled with some fresh herbs and spices such as dried red chilli, lime juice, scallions, and fresh mint leaves, giving it a colour-speckled look when placed in front of diners.

Try It Here: Laab Ubon Kontrakan


Address:  251 6 S Sathorn Rd, Yan Nawa, Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

Contact details: +66 85 981 5041

Operating hours:

  •  Monday to Sunday, 4:00 PM to 3:00 AM

Laab Ubon Kontrakan offers different kinds of laab which you can try out depending on your preference or your dietary requirements. You can go for the laab moo (pork) or try other varieties such as laab blah (fish), laab dtup (liver), and laab gai (chicken).

They also serve other local dishes for you to try out when in Bangkok. We recommend that you try out their grilled pork neck with some of their grilled tilapia – not only are they the perfect combination but their taste is also unforgettably unique!

Pro tip:

  • If you’re an avid football fan, then this restaurant is definitely for you. Imagine watching your favourite football team as you chow down on your favourite Isaan dishes while chilling with your family and friends in this restaurant.

Their gang naw mai can soothe your soul

One of the most distinctly Isaan vegetarian dishes here in Thailand, gaeng naw mai is something you probably haven’t seen or heard of before if you’re coming from a Western country. This food item is a crazy mixture of bamboo shoots and buttery curry straight from Laotian culture.

Try It Here: Baan Restaurant


Address:  139/5 Wireless Road เลยสน. ลุมพินีมา 50เมตรมุ่งหน้าไป, Rama IV Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Contact details: +66 2 655 8995 

Operating hours: 

  •  Open from Monday to Sunday except Tuesday, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM

You can try out some gang naw mai when in Bangkok by visiting Baan Restaurant. You don’t need to stay vegan here though (but you can if you want to) since you can also order other curry dishes with some meat such as lamb and beef.

Some of their curry dishes are also quite spicy so we recommend that you pair some of them with the restaurant’s special brown rice. Plus, you can also just hang out with family and friends here while enjoying a few rounds of their signature Thai cocktails. 

Pro tip:

  • This restaurant caters to the different dietary and cultural needs of its customers. As such, don’t think twice about asking the wait staff for halal food items or if you want something vegan.

Sai grok Isaan is the perfect finger food 

Are you a fan of cold cuts and cured meat? Then Thailand’s Isaan dish called sai grok Isaan should be perfect for someone with your tastes!

It’s basically sausage created using fermented ground pork stuffed in casings and if you want to try out Thailand’s street food culture, this dish is something you definitely shouldn’t miss. Looking for food stalls selling these pork sausages grilled and served on bamboo skewers.

Try It Here: Aksorn


Address:  The Original Store, Aksorn 1266 Charoen Krung Road 5th Floor, Central, 1266 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand

Contact details: +66 2 116 8662 

Operating hours: 

  •  Monday to Sunday, 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Aksorn is a modern restaurant with a local twist where Thailand and Chinese dishes are combined to great effect. Instead of finding sai grok Isaan skewered on a grill, you can order some dishes topped with this savoury dish.

One dish you shouldn’t miss is the vegetable curry topped with sai grok Isaan slices. They perfectly complement each other’s flavour and are definitely a dish you shouldn’t overlook when in Thailand.

Pro tip:

  • If you’re not into spicy food, ask the restaurant staff to reduce the chillis or at least let you know if you’re ordering something too hot. 
  • For example, their River Prawn Red Curry can be a bit too spicy for those who aren’t looking for that extra kick in their meals!

Tom saep can wake you up like no other

Tom saep is a clear broth or soup that originated from Isaan and is prepared with some dark vegetables and chunks of meaty bones making it a savoury, spicy, and sour broth. If you want something to wake you up or if the weather is a bit cold or rainy, then this is the soup for you!

Try It Here: Ruen Noppagao


Address: Soi Sathorn 6, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand  

Contact details: +66 2 116 3317  

Operating hours: 

  •  Monday to Sunday, 11:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Ruen Noppagao serves some of the best tom saep and they serve this dish all through their very inviting and stylish restaurant here in Bangkok. Aside from their tom saep, do yourself a favour and order their gai tod nam pla, kapong neung manao, and nua yang jim jiew!

You can wash down some of these delicious food items with the restaurant’s very own cocktails while enjoying their cold appetisers sampler tray. After trying all these at Ruen Noppakao, we’re certain you’ll yearn for this restaurant once you’re back in your home country!

Pro tip:

  • The restaurant can get crowded and fully booked so we recommend that you book or reserve your table in advance. You don’t want your date or your companions to walk away from this restaurant just because you forgot to reserve your seats, right?

The som tum Thai is a festival of flavours

Som tum Thai is an Isaan dish that you can easily recognize even from many tables away. Just look for piled shreds of green (almost white) papaya salad sprinkled with some dried shrimp, green beans, and cherry tomatoes – and you’ll know this is the dish we’re talking about!

Try It Here: Somtum Der


Address: 5, 5 Sala Daeng Rd, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand  

Contact details:+66 2 632 4499  

Operating hours: 

  •  Monday to Sunday, 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Somtum Der offers one of the most delicious Som Tum Thai not just because of the taste and flavour but because they are best paired with the other dishes offered by this restaurant. The salad is simply amazing if combined with their grilled sausages, meats, and fried chicken.

We highly recommend that you order their other food items as well (like their grilled meats and salads) as these are some of the most authentic Isaan dishes here in Bangkok. 

Pro tip:

Portion servings here are generous so it’s best if you can bring a companion along with you when you dine here. 

Its gai yang and moo yang are so unique

Isaan’s moo yang (grilled pork) and gai yang (grilled chicken) are not your typical barbecue. Thanks to their unique blend of herbs and spices in the marinade (which includes garlic, fish sauce, lemongrass, and peppercorn), these grilled specialties are truly distinct and delicious!

Try It Here: Sabaijai


Address: 87 Ekkamai 3 Alley, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand 

Contact details: +66 2 714 2622   

Operating hours: 

  •  Monday to Sunday, 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Here at Sabaijai, one of their best sellers is their grilled chicken and fried sea bass. Both taste fantastic but don’t forget to try out the brown sauce that comes with them to elevate the flavours of the said items.

You can also order other Isaan dishes here such as gai yang, som tum, and moo yang. We highly suggest that you eat them with the restaurant’s sticky rice to perfectly complement the smoky and savoury flavours of these dishes.

Pro tip:

  • The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating but we recommend that you choose the outdoor one if you’re planning to eat here in the afternoon. 
  • This way, you can experience the beautiful sunset of Bangkok while dining on some delicious Isaan dishes.
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