Thai cuisine is well known for its spiciness, with Som Tam (a spicy papaya salad) being a famous example. In fact, however, the secret to Thai food is a balance of five flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Some Thai dishes have a careful blend of all these tantalizing tastes. Others are served with something to help deal with the overpowering spiciness. For example, Tom Yum Goong, which is sour and spicy, is often paired with an omelet or rice. This could be the reason rice is always part of a Thai meal.
As well as many herbs and spices used in Thai food, fish sauce is often used in a similar way salt is, as it mellows the taste. This means vegetarians will have to take this into account and be more careful when choosing food in Thailand.
There is a great variety of Thai food for you to try, both main dishes and desserts. You can also try local foods, which are different in each part of the country. Northern Thai meals usually feature sticky rice, Nam Prik (spicy chili paste), fresh vegetable, and soup, northeastern Thai meals are famous for their spicy and sour dishes and an essential condiment Pla Ra (fermented fish sauce), while traditional southern foods are well-known for their herbs and spices.
There is also a lot of Chinese influence. Many Chinese restaurants and fusion foods exist in Thailand side by side with the authentic Thai cuisine restaurants.
11 Thai Dishes You Must Try!
Tom Yum Goong
This is a delicious Thai soup with shrimp as a main ingredient. So if you are not into seafood, jump ahead to the next dish! For all of you seafood lovers, you’re having a great start into your Thai food experience. This is a clear soup with lemongrass and is often seen as a hot and sour soup. So if you are not into spicy, don’t forget to ask for a “mild” version.
Pad Thai are easily translated in stir-fried noodles. They are often served as street food and at local eateries. They do serve it in restaurants, but in my experience the cheaper versions of this dish are ALWAYS better! Pad Thai can be eaten with seafood or chicken, or as a veggie dish. I haven’t seen many versions with pork and the ones that I did eat I really don’t recommend. Pad Thai is NOT spicy, it is more sweet and sour flavored.
The title says it all, noodle soups. There are many varieties of this soup, main choices can often be made between chicken, pork, seafood or veggie. My preference always goes to the veggie noodle soup, preferably one focusing on extra mushrooms!
This dish combines all five tastes; sour, hot, salty, savory and sweetness and mixes it together. In English this dish can be translated to ‘green papaya salad’.
Throughout cities in Thailand, this dish is one of the staples of street food cooking and dining. It’s fresh, easy to prepare, and tastes wonderful. There are again many different variations for this meal, some including fermented fish sauce or salted preserved egg.
Gai Med Ma Moung (Chicken Cashew Nuts)
Thai stir fry chicken with cashew nuts. Another often very spicy dish, so don’t forget to ask for a milder version if you prefer this, and if it is an option. Together with some veggies, the cashew nuts and the chicken this is a perfect dish. I often also order some steamed white rice on the side if I’m really hungry!
Geng Kheaw Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken)
My all time favourite when it comes to curry’s! You don’t even want to know how many times my mouth has been on fire because my request for “milder” curry didn’t go through translation properly. You can order it with chicken, beef or veggies. I mostly go for chicken and veggies because beef isn’t always the best in Thailand.
The paste of this curry is made of green peppers (that is why it is so damn hot!) together with coconut milk, Thai eggplant and loads of other ingredients this makes the spiciest curry you can get in Thailand.
Kao Phad (Fried Rice)
The famous Thai fried rice is a favourite for almost all locals and tourists. The meal usually includes some kind of meat, either chicken, shrimp, crab or beef. Together with egg, garlic, onions and a delicious seasoning this is an easy to go to meal that can be found at many street vendors.
Another favourite of mine, I so love my curry’s! Interesting fact is that Massaman is not a native Thai word and comes from the Muslims early writing around the 19th century. This is a bit of a softer curry compared to the green, red and yellow Thai curries. It does have some dried peppers in there, so be aware it is still spicy. The rich flavors in the paste come from cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and several others, these are all spices imported from the Middle East. Massaman Curry can be found in almost any restaurant, lucky us!
Crispy fried spring rolls can be found at almost any street vendor or restaurant. They are often served as an appetizer or little snack and are delicious with some hot or sweet-sour sauce. I used to get these for lunch a lot, they are really easy to come by, seriously, and you can get them on almost every street corner. They are often fresh made and are done in a few minutes. Don’t forget about the taste, nothing is better than Thai spring rolls!
I wasn’t going to put them in, because they are often referred to as backpacker food. You seriously can’t go without them though; they are the best damn things that have ever come out of Thailand. I’m not kidding, it has been almost 3 years since I was in Thailand and you can ask anyone, I still talk about them. The other night I even had a dream about them, those delicious banana pancakes with vanilla sauce mmmm.. They have hundreds of variations (even some without banana if you prefer that) but you can get them with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, hazelnut, orange, almost anything you can think of, they can put it on for you! So if you see one of the little carts offering pancakes, don’t just walk by.. GET ONE!!! and if you don’t want to do it for yourself, please do it for me, I’ll be satisfied knowing that someone is enjoying them somewhere.