Should you eat in a food court or savour the street food?

If you ask most of the Thai people, they would prefer to eat in shops or the street food. In terms of taste, they tell me that street food or restaurant taste better than food court. I tend to agree too.

However they would still eat in a food court for convenience’s sake. For example, there is ease in parking, fully air conditioned, senior and disabled friendly, clean washrooms as well as providing the option to shop around since most of these food courts are located within shopping complexes like Central, BigC or Tesco. It is suitable for family, friends or couples who wish to go for some shopping/ window shopping after food.

Food court BigC
Food court at BigC

But when we have overseas friends who are visiting, we would usually take them to eat at a food court. There are several reasons for this:

1. Food is prepared under clean and hygiene environment
Most Thai people are immune to the street food and drinks. Sometimes when they eat from stores with lots of flies or the food is not washed clean or not fresh, they do not get stomach upset or food poisoning easily.

However it may not be the case for foreigners. Sometimes they have sensitive stomach and can get food poisoning quite easily. Having diarrhea or stomach pains would definitely hamper the enjoyment of the trip and sometimes this can lead to hospitalization.

2. Taste of the food is plausible
Usually you would not find extremely delicious food in a Thai food court. The taste is average and usually the food do not taste horrible. You would still be able to know how rad na (a type of thick gravvy soup noodles) or chicken rice typically taste like.

To me, that is good enough. If I go to food court I tend to order Western food like chicken chop or fish and chips instead of their local dishes. To me, it taste alright because well, french fries pretty much taste the same everywhere.

3. Huge variety and ease of selection
If I asked my overseas friends what they want to eat, they would tell me, ‘anything laa’. Well, ‘anything’ is really hard to define. I have no idea what they want and puts me in a real dilemma. So if we take them to the food court, they are able to walk around and decide for themselves what to eat.

Food court at Central, BigC and Lotus have very visual photographs of every available dish and the pricing. In BigC food court, I often also see English description being included:

Food court Thailand

Clear food labels in BigC food court

All you need to do is walk around and look at the picture of items available, then point at the picture for the staff to prepare for you. Easy for you, easy for the staff. Back in the days which I can’t speak Thai at all, I could still go on my own to order food without needing to disturb my Thai friends. It is the same for my friends…. put them in a food court and they would survive and order a dish that they like.

Even if you are buying rice with dishes, you need to point at the dishes and the staff would put for you.

Food court mostly operate using prepaid cards

The food courts usually operate using a card. You do not pay to the staff who hands you the food. You usually need to go to the designated counter to get the pre-top up card. Usually I find it easier to top up 100 baht but if I plan to order Western meal with Latte I would top up like 200 baht. After I finish my food I would go back to the counter to get a refund.

Once, I top up 100 baht. Then I purchased a Korean food set costing 100 baht. Then I wish to order coke and the card has no more value. I asked how much the coke cost- the staff told me 17 baht. I just went to the counter to top up 17 baht and the staff accepted:

Western dish at food court

Another food court that I really recommend is the Platinum Mall food court located at the 6th floor (if I still recall correctly). The food court is huge and is usually very packed. Due to the volume of customers, the counter to get the pre-topup card and the counter to get the refund are different. There is a huge variety of food you can find there.


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