Given that one of the first things Thais ask each other when they meet up is “Have you eaten yet?” it’s clear this is a nation that’s extremely passionate about its eats.
You want to know how good a Thai restaurant is?
Don’t look at the menu, the decor or even the prices. Look at the number of people inside.
That’s your quality indicator.
With that in mind we thought we would look at a few Thai dishes. Some are world famous, others are more obscure, but they’re all worth trying, at least once.
#TOM YUM GOONG
This Thai masterpiece soup is teeming with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
It can be ordered loaded with coconut milk (tom yum goong nam kohn) and cream or without (tom yum goong nam sai) for a slightly more sour and healthy version.
A versatile dish that can fit within virtually any meal.
Som tam is perhaps Thailand’s most famous salad. Garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes and shredded raw papaya get dramatically pulverized in a pestle and mortar, releasing a rounded sweet-sour-spicy flavour that’s not easily forgotten. Regional variations throw peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab into the mix. The sweet, salty, and spicy flavors paired with the crisp crunch of the green papaya and sticky rice is utterly luscious.
#PAD KRAPOW MOO SAAP
An incredibly popular ‘one plate’ dish for lunch or dinner, fried basil and pork is certainly one of the most popular Thai dishes. It is made in a piping hot wok with lots of holy basil leaves, large fresh chilli, pork, green beans, soy sauce and a little sugar. The minced, fatty pork is oily and mixes with the steamed white rice for a lovely fulfilling meal. It is often topped with a fried egg (kai dao) you will most likely be asked if you would like an egg with it.
#KAI JAEW MOO SAP
A real Thai comfort food and something everyone can cook is the Thai-style omelet. Eggs are beat up with a dash of fish sauce and soy sauce and then minced pork is added. The egg mixture is then deep fried into an omelet that pleases a palette of rice. It is best eaten with a squirt of chili sauce (sauce prik).
Grilled chicken is found everywhere. It’s hard to walk a few metres without detecting the scent.
Grilled chicken is best complemented with a pile of tangy som tam and a dollop of sticky rice.
#KHAO MOK GAI
A Muslim dish of rice cooked with chicken stock and laced with saffron, turmeric, cardamom and bay leaves.
The chicken is cooked with the rice and creates a recognisable yellow colour.
Don’t forget the essential sprinkle of fried onions and cilantro on top plus the cucumber pickle garnish and the killer spicy sauce.
#KHAO MAN GAI
The chicken rice of Thailand may not be as famous as Singapore’s, but it is still a popular comfort food. Boiled chicken is chopped onto a plate of rice made from the fatty chicken stock.
The garlic chili vinaigrette to accompany is incredible and the dish is always served with a light chicken soup. It can often be ordered with fried chicken as well (khao man gai tod).
Larb is sort of like the meat sibling of som tam; They are made from different ingredients, but go incredibly well together.
It’s a staple dish of Thai Isaan food, it’s easy to make, and it’s a brilliant combination of ingredients. A spoon of larb followed by a ball of fresh sticky rice is one of the great flavor combinations.
Fresh, thin rice noodles in Thai cuisine which are made from rice sometimes fermented for three days, boiled, and then made into noodles by extruding the resulting dough through a sieve into boiling water.
Khanom chin is served in many kinds of stock: coconut milk, fish curry, and chilli.
#KWAY TUAY NUA (Sen Lek)
Sen lek or medium-sized rice noodles are one of the more popular soup noodle choices. Beef noodles or pork and pork ball noodles are a handy lunch option.
Broth, boiled for hours, is poured over a bit of tender meat with noodles, some light bean sprouts and maybe a little green morning glory, which steam in a boiling caldron before being put into your bowl.