I absolutely lurve Thai food, and although I don't have all the addresses of places I went to, hopefully this will suffice to give a vague idea of what's on offer in this city that's forever under construction (seriously, they're digging up roads everywhere).
First, my favourite dishes:
- Tom Ka Gai - Coconut chicken soup (although I eat it like curry - over rice - but it's not spicy)
- Ga Pow Mu/Gai - Minced pork/chicken with holy basil; excellent again with rice
- Pork Knuckle rice - My guess that it's heavily influenced by Chinese (esp. Chiu Chow) cooking, as the pork is braised in a five-spice type sauce. Easily found in street stalls and food courts.
- Fish balls - especially the kind that looks like a rugby ball (with pointed ends)
- Mango sticky (glutinous) rice
- Any way they they cook fish - deep fried or steamed with lemongrass, lime etc.
Places I liked:
- MBK food court (6/F)
In general, food courts in Bangkok malls serve great food at excellent prices, and because they've all renovated recently to keep up with the competition, they're now also a fairly pleasant place to sit in too. MBK is a pretty local, down-to-earth mall, and it's got everything from mobile phones to hair accessories to furniture. They have this glam 'food court' thing on the fifth floor - I say avoid it unless you've had enough Thai food. Head to the sixth floor for stuff like pork knuckle rice, pad thai, som tum (green papaya salad) and fish balls. Buy coupons at the counter - buy more rather than less as they are fully refundable if you don't use them all. Prices are similar to street stalls; everything is pretty much 30-45 baht. To get there, just get off the skytrain at National Stadium station.
- Some day (funnily enough, closed on Tuesdays)
A small restaurant somewhere around Thong Lo. Nothing glam, just comfy and cozy with good Thai food. Pretty hard to find though, so hopefully your local friends are as good as mine! haha just kidding...
- Mango Tree/Lemongrass
Both upmarket Thai restaurants - yes, they are featured in tourist guidebooks, but hey, those things aren't all evil. Lemongrass is just behind Emporium (an upmarket mall at Phrom Pong station) which easily dissolves post-shopping fatigue/hunger - although the food court at Empo isn't bad either.
Mango Tree is a bit further away, in an old-ish business district, but is worth the trouble. Décor is bright and cute, whereas Lemongrass' is more subdued but no less elegant.
5/1 Sukhumvit Soi 24
37 Soi Tantawan (near the Ramada Hotel)
- Street food
There are street stalls all over the place, and while they do vary in quality, given that you are without any local guidance, just try anything that you think looks good. If you are concerned with hygiene, all I can say is that I don't have the strongest of stomachs and I didn't have any problems with street food, even with cut fruit. When I did once have a problem, it was actually at a posh restaurant where I had a cold drink with ice that was probably house made with tap or badly-filtered water.
There are more places (including non-Thai cuisine), but I don't know where I've put all my name cards... However, I did once find a good restaurant guide at the concierge of my hotel, so I guess it wouldn't hurt to look in there.
May the manao soda be with you~!