Thailand – Food and Cuisine
Thailand is famous for many things. Every year, tourists flock to the country’s beautiful beaches and stunning temples. However, another thing the country is famous for is its food. Thai food has a profusion of exotic flavours and fragrances that make it one of the most popular cuisines. With the use of Thai chilis, garlic, herbs, and other ingredients, Thai food features its own unique taste and flavour. Whether you’ve tried Thai food at home or haven’t at all, you don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve been to Thailand and tried the real thing. Here are a few dishes you should definitely have while you’re in the country:
1. Gaeng Kow Wan Gai – Thai Green Curry with Chicken
Tracing its origins from Central Thailand, green curry is the spiciest of them all, with a perfect balance of sweet from the added coconut milk. The main ingredients in this dish are green curry paste, coconut milk and your meat of choice, with chicken as the most widely preferred. The explosion of spiciness comes from the curry paste made by pounding primarily, green chillis, garlic, shallots, and various other ingredients. The coconut milk, blended with green curry and chicken works it magic as it minimises the spice and makes for a delicious meal. Best enjoyed with a plate of delicious steamed rice, crispy fried fish, and Thai chili paste.
2. Tom Yum Goong – Spicy Thai Soup With Shrimp
Everybody must agree that the legendary Tom Yum Goong is the icon of Thai cuisine. Defined by its quintessential aroma, the dish is created using topnotch ingredients such as lemongrass, chilli, galangal, kaffier lime leaves, shallots, fresh lime juice, and plenty of fish sauce. Succulent fresh prawns and straw mushrooms to complete it are then added to complete the dish. Nevertheless, you can also opt for meat such as beef, chicken or pork. You will forget all your worries as you slurp the soup and chew the fresh prawn while enduring the perfection of its sour-spicy-hot taste!
3. Som Tam – Green Papaya Salad
Som tam hails from Isaan in Northeastern Thailand and is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. Som Tam is made from shredded unripened papaya and is mixed with various ingredients including chillis, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, tomatoes, and long beans. These ingredients make up the classic Som Tam dish. But, this dish has other variations as well. You can add raw blue crab, grilled chicken, peanuts, dry shrimp, and sticky rice to suit your taste. One thing is for sure, this dish is a crowd divider – either you want more of it, or you won’t eat it after that one defining bite. You can never say unless you try it for yourself.
4. Pad Thai – Thai Style Fried Noodles
Probably the most famous Thai food known across the world is Pad Thai. You’ve likely tried it at home, but it still remains to be a must-try when you’re in the country. It is a great welcome dish to the flavours of Thai cuisine. Dropped in a searing hot wok, fistfuls of small, thin or wide noodles (you choose) is cooked alongside the best possible ingredients in a noodle dish: ground peanuts, egg, bean sprouts, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli powder, tofu, and onions. It is usually made with shrimp or chicken, however, the vegetarian option is popular too. Affordable and delicious, the best combination in the world, only found in a Pad Thai plate.
5. Pad Krapow Gai – Thai Basil Chicken
Pad Krapow Gai is one of the widely spread fast food dishes in Thailand. Usually made using minced pork or chicken, it is defined by its sharp, peppery flavour from the Thai basil and complemented by the spiciness of a lot of chilli! Its other flavour enhancing ingredients include garlic, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Some vendors also add some sliced onion and sweet bell peppers. The dish is then served with white rice and topped with an oozing fried egg. Prepare yourself for an explosion of flavours as the pork’s fat and the oil is absorbed by the rice. Also, note that most locals ask for lots of chilli in this dish and if you’re not into spicy food, you can always ask the vendor to make it “pet nit noi” (only a little spicy).
6. Kai Med Ma Muang – Thai Stir Fry Chicken With Cashew Nuts
The most bizarre ingredient combination that nevertheless, can be quite addictive, the Kai Med Ma Muang is defined by the versatility of the experience of eating it. The blend of the taste — from sweet to savoury, and the texture — from soft to crunchy, is incredibly shocking in a delicious way. Such is the result of stir-frying chicken with cashew nuts, soy sauce, honey, onions, chillies, pepper, mushrooms, and whatever healthy vegetables you can add into the mix. Fun to cook, and absolutely, fun to eat.
7. Khao Pad – Fried Rice
What sets apart Thailand’s fried rice from all the other ones in the world, specifically in Asia? Thailand’s homegrown, immaculately delicious Jasmine rice. This grain of wonders is then mixed with ingredients such as onions, garlic, egg, and sometimes slices of tomatoes. Then completed with a viand of chicken, pork, shrimp or tuna. Other than these staples, the Khao Pad is a very versatile dish that goes well with whatever you want. The most popular variants are those with basil, chilli, and fish sauce.
8. Khao Niew Mamuang – Mango and Sticky Rice
A famous dessert for the locals, some might find it odd that a dessert is composed of fruit and rice, which is normally something that should be in a heavy meal. But, in actuality, mango and sticky rice is deliciously invigorating and fitting close to a hearty meal. It consists of sliced fresh yellow mango, glutinous sticky rice, coconut milk cooked with palm sugar and on occasion, sweet condensed milk. Truly a treat to a tongue wearied with heavy flavours.
9. Tom Kha Gai – Chicken in Coconut Soup
Tom Kha Gai became the repose for people who cannot tolerate the spiciness of the Tom Yum. But, gradually it became a dish of its own, and not just some other variant. It’s number one ingredient is creamy coconut milk and not just a small amount, but lots of it. The coconut milk makes up the soup, while other ingredients such as fiery chilies, thinly sliced young galangal, crushed shallots, stalks of lemongrass, and tender strips of chicken complete the dish. It is then decorated with a lime topping. Thanks to its creamy consistency, the chillis’ spiciness is toned down. An addictive flavour play between rich sweetness and dashes of spice can be felt in your taste buds. Like most Thai foods, vegetarian options are easily adaptable by substituting a few ingredients.
10. Pad See Ew – Thick Noodle Dish
Pad See Ew is a Chinese influenced dish that is very popular in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. This dish consists of wide rice noodles stir-fried in thick dark soy sauce with chicken, pork, or beef, as well as either Chinese broccoli or cabbage. It has a vegetarian variation that uses a hearty amount of vegetables instead of meat. It is popular in food stalls and street-side restaurants and is actually the safest option if you are not yet ready of the Pad Thai variants sold there which are too spicy, or if you’re looking for something new.
These are just 10 of the dishes in the wide array of Thai dishes you can experience in Thailand. There are still so many mouth-watering dishes in the country’s different regions that you are sure to encounter during your visit. So what are you waiting for? Satisfy your traveller itch by going to Thailand’s tourist spots, and along with it, fulfil your gourmet dreams by enjoying every good treat in the dishes they offer.