If you’ve gone throughout your life so far without eating a single Thai meal, then your taste buds are really missing out because Thai cuisine is among the best in the world and is now more popular than ever. Although the best Thai food is obviously found in Thailand, Thai restaurants around the world get very close and you can even create good Thai food in your own kitchen with the right recipe.
Thai food is incredibly popular because it’s absolutely delicious, easy enough to make, often very quick and uses fresh, nutrient packed ingredients. It can also be spicy if that’s your thing, but it can be made without the chillies too. The meals below are staples of the Thai diet that are both fairly simple but really delicious too. Keep reading for Thai food that you will be sure to love and need to try when you’re in Thailand.
Tom Yum Soup – ต้มยำ (Spicy Shrimp (Goong) or Chicken (Gai) Soup)
Tom yum soup is an incredibly popular Thai dish and for good reason – it’s delicious! Goong means shrimp in Thai and it’s a popular ingredient to add to the soup, but it can also be made with chicken and other types of seafood. It primarily consists of shrimp stock, shrimp and mushrooms and is incredibly easy to make if you love it and want to make it when you get back home.
Pad Krapow Gai / Moo – ผัดกะเพรา (Fried Basil + Chicken (Gai) / Pork (Moo) )
This meal is incredibly quick to put together and there’s not many tastier meals out there. The main ingredients are chillies, shallots, chicken and some chicken stock and fry them together until the meat browns. You’ll often find it service with rice and with a fried egg on top of the rice.
Pad Thai – ผัดไทย (Fried Noodles – Thai Style)
Wherever you live in the world, you’ll at least have heard of Pad Thai; this is probably the most ‘touristy’. Served with chicken, shrimps or tofu if you’re that way inclined, it should be seasoned with ginger, soy sauce and peanut oil. Served on Pad Thai noodles – it’s impossible not to like this one.
Tom Kha Kai – ต้มข่าไก่ (Coconut Soup With Chicken)
Although in other cultures this is classed a soup, in Thailand it’s actually eaten more as a curry and served with rice. If you’re not too keen on spice, then this is a great dish for you as it’s fairly mild. The base of the soup is made with coconut soup, with chicken, mushrooms and lemongrass added with a squeeze of lime.
Gaeng Daeng – แกงเผ็ด (Red Curry)
Gaeng Daeng is popularly called red Thai curry is western countries, imaginatively named this due to its bright red colour. Red Thai curry is often made with chicken, beef, pork, tofu or seafood and uses red curry paste as the base for the curry. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, egg plant and bamboo shoots and you’ve got yourself and authentic red Thai curry. You’ll be able to find this anywhere in Thailand and it’s definitely worth a try.
Gaeng Keow Wan – แกงเขียวหวาน (Green Curry)
Many know this dish as green Thai curry and is one of the most popular Thai dishes going. Similar to the red curry, this dish is comprised of green curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, chillies and your choice of meat. This dish is readily available anywhere so it’s a great meal if you’re pushed for time.
Som Tum – ส้มตำ (Spicy Papaya Salad)
Som Tum is referred to in western countries as Thai green papaya salad and is an incredibly popular meal in Thailand, served on the streets by many food carts. It’s main ingredient is green papaya, but don’t expect it to taste like the sweet exotic fruit that you’d often associate with papaya. Green papaya tastes most like cucumber. Seasonings are added like fish sauce, garlic with tomatoes and roasted peanuts to create a traditional Som Tum.
Larb Moo – ลาบหมู (Spicy Minced Pork Salad)
Larb is a meat dish that compliments Som Tum very well. Minced pork is combined with lime, chillies, fish sauce and cooked with toasted sticky rice to create a wide range of flavours. This rice is slightly crunchy which really adds some texture to the dish and adds a real earthly flavour to the dish.
Kai Jeow Moo Sab – ไข่เจียวหมูสับ (Thai Omelette with mined pork)
Kai Jeow Moo Sab is a Thai pork omelette in western countries but with added Thai flavours, of course. It’s simply eggs, pork, green onions and a small amount of fish sauce to give you a simple Thai taste with minimum hassle. It’s very quick to cook and if you make it at home the washing up will take longer than it takes to create this dish!
Yam Nua Yang – ยำเนื้อย่าง (Spicy Beef Salad)
Yam Nua is a spicy beef salad which accompanies many other Thai dishes very nicely. All that’s needed is good quality beef, fresh hot chilli peppers, garlic and fish sauce to cook together in a pan. It’ll come with a salad of lettuce, cucumber and shallots and drizzle with lime juice.
Kao Niew Ma Muang – ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง (Mango and Sticky Rice)
This is served as a dessert and consists of mango and sticky rice soaked in coconut milk. Although this might sound fairly basic, but the sticky rice is crunchy and adds an earthy taste to the otherwise sweet dessert. Perfect to round off a delicious Thai meal.
These Thai dishes are the perfect introduction to Thai cuisine if you haven’t been lucky enough to try Thai yet and you’re visiting the country for the first time. Try to get fellow tourists and local’s opinions of restaurants just to make sure you’re visiting the best establishments and enjoy your Thai experience!