Food alone is a worthy reason to visit Thailand, but knowing what to eat is another ball game altogether.
The spicy, intense flavours, local supply of fresh seafood, best tropical fruits and aromas of traditional cooking make Thailand a must-visit foodie destination. But knowing where to begin with so much choice is half the battle. With no shortage of dishes to try, we’ve detailed some essential gourmet experiences that are a rite of culinary passage when in Thailand.
We’ve made your gourmet trek simple with our guide to Thailand’s most popular cuisine, so no matter where you go, you’ll have no trouble finding these mouthwatering Thai foods in restaurants, cafés, street stalls and even in the homes of local families you may meet along your journey.
Any traditional Thai feed would be amiss without this delicious green papaya salad. A simple but thoroughly enjoyable dish, this shredded papaya salad provides the perfect balance of sour, sweet, spicy and salty with a generous douse of lime, palm sugar, fresh chilli and fish sauce, resulting in an explosion of flavour that’s hard to describe.
Pad Thai and Pad See Ew
You won’t have truly earned your local stripes until you’ve sampled pad thai or pad see ew. With chewy noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and delicious fish sauce, this quintessential dish is one of the best things you can eat in Thailand. When it comes to differences between the two, it all boils down to the noodle with pad see ew using larger noodles, broccoli and extra soy sauce for a deeper, charred flavour.
A salad like no other, larb terrifically pairs boiled minced meat with lime juice, crushed rice powder, lemongrass and mint to create a taste sensation. This dish originated in Laos, but the Northern-Thai people have now claimed it as their own. Made with almost any meat (such as beef, pork, chicken, duck, fish or buffalo) and sometimes even served raw, the spices and sauces of this flavourful dish make it unforgettably delicious.
Jok is a rice porridge usually served for breakfast. The origins of this dish stretch back thousands of years and it’s widely eaten throughout Asia, although, the Thai people add their own twist to it. The pudding is usually flavoured with broth, raw or partially cooked egg, minced beef or pork, spices and sauces. While this dish may be less-flavourful than other dishes, it’s a local staple that should be tried at least once.
Tom Yum & Tom Yum Goong
This sour and spicy soup is considered one of Thailand’s most popular dishes. While the history of tom yum isn’t widely known, it’s thought to have originated in Central Thailand. Tom yum goong includes added prawns and is bursting with fragrant spices, fresh vegetables, zesty lemon, umami undertones, fish sauce and palm sugar. Tom yum? More like tom delicious.
Pad Kra Pao
Pad Kra Pao is a mouthwatering meat stew (often with pork or chicken) that’s flavoured with Thai holy basil and zingy sauces, and is usually served with a fried egg and rice. This dish has only been around for the last 40 years but is a firm favourite because of its quick preparation and cooking time. You’ll find this offered at many takeaway venues.
Khao soi is a popular dish in Thai restaurants all over the globe for its powerhouse of flavours and delightful texture. This dish – brought over from Myanmar to Thailand in the 18th century – contains egg noodles, meat (chicken, beef or pork) and mild, fragrant curry powder. There is also a top layer of crunchy fried noodles that takes this meal from good to great. While this dish is available across the country, we recommend trying it in Chiang Mai where it's most celebrated.
Khao Niao Mamuang
Don’t forget dessert! Khao niao mamuang is a simple dish, but oh-so-good. Also known as mango sticky rice, it consists of fresh mango slices served alongside steamed sticky rice, mixed with sweetened coconut milk. It’s usually topped with coconut cream and mung beans and the rice is often dyed a deep purple so that it’s also a treat for the eyes.
Kluai Buat Chi
This dish takes advantage of another delicious tropical fruit that grows abundantly in Thailand. Kluai buat chi is ripe banana cooked in coconut milk and cream, with sugar and a pinch of salt. It’s simple, healthy and absolutely delicious. Enjoy it out and about, or easily master the dish at home so you can enjoy a taste of authentic Thai cuisine whenever you like.
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