Officially, it was just a picnic.
Like so many of Berlin’s great cultural institutions, Thai Park started out as a disorganised and spontaneous curiosity. In the mid-1990s, immigrants from the city’s East Asian communities (Thai, but also Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese and Laotians) started to meet in Preußenpark in the west of the city when it was a sunny day. They’d cook, chat, gamble, drink and generally have a good time. Pretty soon, people began to notice that this was something special.
Before long, Berliners were travelling from all across the city to sample some of the most interesting and authentic cooking the city had to offer. This street market was never granted a permit, though, and for more than two decades the official story was that this was just a picnic in the park. If visitors were sometimes offered delicious food, what was wrong with that?
But those were the old days. After the pandemic, Thai Park reopened in a more regulated and streamlined form. There’s not so much gambling anymore, fewer of the stalls sell alcohol, but this is still a great place to go on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon and eat some of the best cooking anywhere in the city.
If you’re going to order one dish at Thai Park, it should be this. The papaya salad, or Som Tam, actually originates in Laos, but it has become synonymous with Thai cuisine. Literally, the name means something like sour and crushed: the papaya is thinly sliced and softened through being bashed down, then dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, chilli and peanuts. Be warned: it’s spicy!
- Find the papaya salad at stand 23 (and elsewhere).
Here comes another classic. This delicious plate of noodles might be the best known Thai dish worldwide: sweet, salty and sour, it should be loaded with beansprouts and various other ingredients (tofu, shrimp, shallots, egg) which give it complexity and variety. Give it a good squeeze of lime and enjoy!
- Try the version from the Queen of Pad Thai at stand 3-4.
Spicy crab salad
Seafood is very popular in Thai cuisine, and this dish sees fresh crabs mixed with a spicy salad dressing. Fresh, tangy and spicy, this dish can be enjoyed from stand 8 with a cup of fresh Longan juice. Refreshing and delicious.
- Spicy crab salad, longan juice and fried chicken are all available from stand 8.
This delicious coconut curry noodle soup originally comes from northern Thailand and it is so delicious that in 2022 it was actually named by TasteAtlas as the World’s Best Soup. There are a few different versions, but they generally share the common features of combining a thick, rich broth with crispy noodles and fresh herbs and toppings.
Fermented pork and rice sausage
You might think that Berlin’s Thai Park would be a good chance to take a break from Germany’s favourite pork snack, but it would be a mistake to overlook these fermented sausages from the Isan region of northern Thailand. Salty and slightly sour, these pork and rice delicacies are usually served with fresh chili, ginger slices and fresh vegetables.
- Order the fermented pork and rice Isan sausages from stand 45.
From gyoza to manti and pierogi to momos, dumplings unite the world. Try one of the most colourful versions on offer from King of Dumplings at Thaipark, where you can sample steamed buns and noodles with various delicious fillings.
- Try steamed buns from King of Dumplings at stand 40.
Grilled meat on a stick with mala sauce
Like spicy food? Try these grilled barbeque sticks of pork meat which are covered with mala sauce, a spicy, numbing dressing made from Sichuan peppercorns and originates from China. Open fire cooking has been having a bit of a moment in Berlin recently but, at their best, these spicy skewers can rival anything.
- Order grilled meat with mala sauce from stand 36.
Ho Mok (steamed fish with curry paste)
This tasty one-bite dish consists of a little steamed parcel of fish and curry paste. Its origins take in both Thailand and Cambodia, where it is often topped with chili and wrapped in a banana leaf. Delicate but firm, spicy but fresh, this dish can be found all over Thailand but remains relatively little known.
- Try Ho Mok along with other steamed treats at stand 11.
From a little known dish to a certified crowd pleaser, satay is one of those dishes which appeals to just about everyone. Originally from Indonesia, these little sticks of skewered meat have long been a part of many of the cuisines of south east asia, and with good reason. Order it with plenty of peanut sauce.
- Chicken satay skewers are available from stand 29.
Fried corn fritter
Another dish as delicious as it is simple are these fried corn fritters. Crispy and naturally sweet from the corn, these were invented as a vegetarian alternative to Thai fishcakes. A popular street food throughout Thailand, they work well with the red sticky Thai sweet chili sauce.
- Order fried corn fritters from stand 6.
Chicken feet, fried insects & more
Feeling adventurous? Some of the snacks you can try at Thai Park are a little unusual, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Fried and breaded chicken feet are a favourite snack for many visitors (best enjoyed with a cold beer) while you can also eat battered cockroaches, worms and grasshoppers at various stalls. After all, isn’t it the variety and authenticity of the stalls which Thai Park such a special feature of Berlin’s culinary landscape?