Hey parents, we’ve got good news!

Traveling with kids is difficult enough, don’t let meal times be any more stressful than necessary. To help you, we’ve taken the feedback from guests visiting our kids cooking class in Bangkok, to create a free menu to make ordering food for your kids easier on your next trip to Thailand.

When your children enjoy the food in the country you’re visiting, it can change the entire dynamic of your trip. This is especially true for Thailand, where many of the travelers come specifically to enjoy all of the spicy and full-flavored Thai dishes. However, for those new to Thai cuisine or traveling with small children, figuring out what to order can be daunting.

Don’t miss our recent recipe for kid’s pad thai, give it a try at home to start getting your kids acclimated for the big trip to Thailand.

How to Order Thai Food Kids Enjoy

If you’re planning your trip to Bangkok, you may already be thinking about what to order your kids. One of the common issues is ordering food that isn’t going to set flame to the tastebuds of your little ones. There is plenty of delicious Thai food that isn’t spicy, but you may come up with only a short list reading travel blogs and tips from writers who don’t stay in the country long.

You also need to understand spice in Thailand isn’t a novelty like in other countries. There are seldom chili eating competitions nor much bravado associated with your ability to eat spicy food. That’s because spicy food is the norm in Thailand, and not the exception.

Remember the crisis in Thailand when members of a youth football team were trapped deep in a cave? When they asked the trapped students (many of them from marginalized people groups like the ones Courageous Kitchen serves) what they most wanted to eat, they responded, ‘pad krapao’. This well-loved Thai dish can appear on the menu simply as ‘stir fried basil with pork’. However, some English menus may neglect to mention this dish is usually made with a healthy heaping of chili, where even the mildest versions can be a shock to those unaccustomed to spicy food!

A guest in our kids cooking class is focused on helping make ‘pad see ew’ for her family.

Now that may sound delicious to you, but unless your kids are Thai, they may not be craving a face full of chili as soon as they get off the plane. This means knowing a few milder dishes to order can be extremely helpful. Instead of ordering the aforementioned spicy pad krapao, you can simply order a plate of ‘pad see ew‘ (wok-fried rice nooodles with egg and chicken) instead. Since the dish isn’t spicy by nature, it makes it a much better choice and delicious for both parents and adults.

Knowing some Thai dishes is helpful, and any knowledge of Thai language comes in handy too. For instance, no guidebook or travel guide is complete without teaching you the phrase ‘mai ped‘, meaning ‘not spicy’ in Thai. Flip those words around and change the tones slightly, and you can ask ‘ped mai‘ or ‘is this spicy?‘ to people in restaurants or at street food stalls.

Already confused? Don’t worry, this isn’t a Thai lesson. However, we do hope parents understand before arriving, that communicating the needs of your children in local restaurants can be a monumental task. Although Thailand is a major destination for vacationers around the world, limited English ability by Thais can add miscommunication to the growing list of obstacles keeping you from feeding hangry kids.

Free English to Thai Menu for Parents

To help ease communication issues parents are having, we’ve created a special one page kids menu that you can download. The menu is created using dishes common in restaurants around Thailand, that are also friendly for kids because they’re not overly spicy. Some dishes may even be similar to food options you have in your home country.

Of course, not every restaurant will have all of the dishes we’ve listed. However, our hope is that with a little assistance communicating you’ll find that even restaurants who don’t, will often willingly do their best to make something tasty for your kids.

In addition, with each food item we’ve included a brief English description and the corresponding Thai characters, as well as an abbreviated phonetic spelling for assistance pronouncing the words on your own.

Food Allergies in Thailand

Here’s a preview of the free menu, we hope it makes communicating food allergies easier for parents.

Ordering in Thai restaurants takes another leap in difficulty if you’re also working around your child’s allergy. This may mean, for example, trying to prevent peanuts from being added to a dish like pad thai where they are commonly used to garnish the popular noodle dish. For this reason we’ve added a section to the menu download, specifically for making special requests including common food allergies translated into Thai.

Thailand is becoming friendlier for vegan and vegetarian travelers too. Much of this is due to the growth of local businesses offering solely meat free options, or existing restaurants hoping to attract new customers with more accommodating menu items. This is great news if you’re visiting the big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. However, when exploring out of the city centers, you should be ready to communicate your dietary restrictions to street food vendors and restaurants you visit.

This is because often Thai food includes what we refer to as ‘sneaky meat’. To get the umami flavors that make the food stand out, cooks are often using meat based sauces and stocks to season food. For example, dishes you may already love such as pad thai and pad see ew are both commonly made with fish sauce. A noodle dish may appear to be meat free, but you can’t assume it is, just because there isn’t any meat cooked in the dish that you can identify easily. Instead, using the right terminology when you order can prevent these problems!

Stir fry sauces in Thailand are often meat based. If vegans and vegetarians are clear in communicating, chefs can use meat free sauces, as in the tofu pad see ew pictured above.

Finally, we know this won’t solve every problem with ordering. You still don’t want to leave home without a smartphone with translation apps and internet access. You can also never underestimate the value of having a local friend. While this simple menu won’t replace your Thai friends, it may make you a little more adventurous on days when you’re not with a guide or friend to give you a hand.

Happy travels to all the parents reading, we hope the entire family enjoys your time in Thailand. If you found this information helpful, please consider making a donation to help us feed and educate those in need.


Dwight is director of Courageous Kitchen and a long term expat living in Bangkok, Thailand. A Thai speaker and astute lover of food, he enjoys teaching cooking, and using his passion for food to transform communities.