Thailand is a country well known for its unique and tasty cuisine. From spicy to sweet, there is a great variety of flavours and seasonings to be enjoyed. Much like Vietnamese food, Thai food is fresh tasting. Each dish contains a mixture of different textures too, making it a joy to eat. There is not shortage of food options in Thailand.
With so much to choose from, it can be difficult to decide what to eat. Here are some of the more well known meals that you can find and enjoy. Prepare to give your taste buds a work out as we look at popular foods in Thailand.
Som Tam (ส้มตำ), a spicy salad consisting of green (unripe) papaya and other vegetables, is a common sight throughout the country. Originally from Laos, you are likely not far from a cart preparing the dish wherever you are in the Thailand.
The vegetables are shredded into thin strips and covered with a sauce of lime, palm sugar and fish sauce. It is not for the faint of heart as it is typically mixed and served with crushed chillies in the sauce too. Some varieties include ingredients such as crab and peanuts.
Now is probably the best time to learn some Thai – particularly the phrase ‘mai ped’ (ไม่เผ็ด). This means ‘not spicy’, which you can say as you order. More often than not, they will try to persuade you to try it ‘ped nit noy’ (เผ็ดนิดหน่อย), or ‘a little bit spicy’. For a more authentic experience, you should at least try it with some heat.
Perhaps the most famous Thai dish worldwide, Pad Thai (ผัดไทย), is a tasty fried noodle dish. Consisting of rice noodles, fried with egg, tofu and a sauce of tamarind, fish sauce, garlic and sugar. Together with a topping of peanuts, these ingredient represent some of the countries best produce. It can be served with pork, chicken, prawn or other seafood.
Pad Thai is very much the national dish of Thailand. It can again be found across the country in restaurants and as a street food. Of course, it can also be found around the world in Thai restaurants. This is definitely worth a try if you are in the country and looking for something quick and tasty to eat.
Mango Sticky Rice
While this is more of a dessert dish, mango sticky rice or ‘khaoniao mamuang’ (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง) is worth a mention in any list of Thai food. It is a fresh and sweet option to eat as a snack or at the end of a meal. As the name implies, it is made up of two main parts: mango and sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice. Coconut milk is another major part.
It is most popular during the height of mango season when the fruit is most plentiful, the freshest and at its most tastiest. This is around the beginning of summer at April/May time. The sticky rice is steamed and sometimes mixed with other ingredients to give it different colors. The coconut milk provides some extra sweetness on top of the mango and rice.
Khao Man Gai
This dish is Thailand’s take on Chinese style Hainanese chicken. Khao Man Gai (ข้าวมันไก่) includes boiled chicken (sometimes fried) with rice that has been cooked using the stock from cooking the chicken. This has been flavored with a number of different ingredients such as ginger and garlic which, together with the oils from the chicken, result in a fragrant taste.
Usually served alongside it is slices of cucumber, a soup made from chicken broth with radish, and sometimes coriander. The sauce is usually a spicy, made from chillies amongst other things. It is always interesting to see different twists on familiar dishes, and how they differ from neighboring countries.
Another mainstay on Thai menus internationally, green curry or ‘kaeng khiao wan’ (แกงเขียวหวาน) is a dish with origins in the central region of Thailand. The dish gets it greenness from the green chillies used to make it. Together with the coconut milk, it becomes a light green, creamy color. It also means it is particularly spicy while also being somewhat sweet.
The base used to make it include the chillies, garlic, shallots, and lemongrass together with several other ingredients that are crushed in a mortar. Vegetables included can vary, and so too can the consistency. Finally, it is served with rice or sometimes a flatbread called roti.
So Much More to Explore
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Thai cuisine. There is such a wide variety of different foods available, even along just one street you can find so many meals to try. As you move around the country, you will continue to find new and interesting things to try.
Thai cuisine is famous for a reason, and you should be sure to try out all you can. Be sure to embrace it with an open mind for the best experience. Be sure to practice your ordering skills in Thai to be ready for your visit. Use the Ling Thai app (Android, iOS) to get started and help you on your way.