This is a guest post from Auston Matta of TwoBadTourists.
Food is an integral part of exploring any new destination, and the variety of delectable dishes on offer in Thailand certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are countless delights to sample and this is only a small selection of the top Thai dishes to try when you visit the Land of Smiles.
When it comes to eating in Thailand the best thing you can do is to dispel your reservations about street-side food, avoid the fancy restaurants, and dig in to whatever you think looks delicious. The quality of the street food here is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Nearly everything is cooked at a very high heat and food poisoning, though not unheard of, is uncommon.
Food in Thailand will be cooked fresh in front of you, so don’t be scared about asking for something to be cooked to your taste. Beware, if you say a little hot – “ped neet noi” – expect your dish to have quite a kick. If you ask for “ped mack maan” (very spicy) have water, or beer, to hand!
Thai Green Curry
Probably the most famous dish from Thailand is green curry, and it’s one of the favourites of both locals and tourists. The sweet tones come from palm sugar and coconut milk, and the dish is flavoured with green chilli, garlic and fish sauce. Most commonly served with chicken, it’s also delicious with pork, beef, shrimp, or vegetables. This isn’t a common street food dish but will be served in all restaurants from high-end establishments to roadside eateries. Red and yellow variants are also available – the yellow curry is sublime with crab meat.
Khao Neow Moo Ping (Grilled Pork)
These grilled pork skewers are the ultimate street food as you can eat them easily with your hands when you’re busy taking in the majestic sites of Bangkok. Coated in a sticky marinade these skewers might be simple, but they certainly don’t lack in flavour or enjoyment.
Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
Thailand’s most ubiquitous street food is the divine papaya salad. Made from unripened papaya, the shredded fruit is tossed with garlic, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and chilis to make for simply the most mouth-watering salad you’ll ever eat. Commonly served with sticky rice, this staple of Thai cuisine is thought to have originated in Laos but is today eaten across the entire southeast Asian region.
Tom Yum Goong
Tom Yum is a hot and sour soup which is traditionally served with shrimps. The fragrant broth is made from stock, chilli, lime leaves and fish sauce before the shrimps are added at the last moment to simmer. Chicken or pork can be substituted for the shrimps, and some versions will add coconut milk to give the dish a creamier texture and taste.
Kao Pad Gai (Chicken Fried Rice)
This sweet, succulent dish is a popular street food dish and can be found everywhere in Thailand. Chicken fried rice is cooked with fish sauce, chilli, lime and sugar to give it a rich, multi layered flavour quite unlike any other version of this common Asian dish.
This stir-fried noodle dish is found across Thailand and is actually more popular among tourists than locals. The dried rice noodles are fried at a high heat with tofu, egg, fish sauce, garlic, chilli and palm sugar plus a meat, fish or vegetable of your choice. It is commonly served with a lime wedge, chilli flakes, bean sprouts and other vegetables – you can add these as you wish to suit your palate.
Nam Tok means “waterfall”, and it is thought the dish originates from neighbouring Laos. This meat salad, most commonly made with strips of grilled beef, is packed with flavour from the chilli, shallots, mint, and garlic. The nutty rice powder adds a wonderful texture and soaks up the dressing for extra flavour. If you’re in central Thailand note that Nam Tok can mean “blood soup”, so be sure to ask for the salad version if you don’t want a surprise!
Kai Med Ma Muang (Cashew Chicken)
Despite originating in China, cashew chicken is now a mealtime favourite of both locals and farang (non-Thai people). The chicken is often pre-cooked in flour which helps the meat soak up the delicious flavours from the dried chilli, onions and soy sauce. The cashews give the dish an extra robustness, making it truly unique.
Unlike many Thai curries, Massaman is a relatively mild dish which takes its influence from Middle Eastern cuisine, and it is predominantly eaten by Thai Muslims in the south of Thailand (where the majority of the Muslim population lives). It uses an array of spices which aren’t commonly found in Thai cuisine such as cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. The combination of these fragrant spices with the local chilli and lemongrass is simply divine and the perfect choice for those who prefer something a little less spicy.
Made from minced pork, larb moo is a kind of meat-intensive Thai salad. It’s a staple of the Issan Province, located in the north-east of Thailand, but is readily available across the country. The minced pork is mixed with a range of spices like chilli, lime and fish sauce and served with a generous helping of sticky rice.