Thai food – as exotic as it is – needs no introduction. Nowadays you can find at least one Thai restaurant in most western towns but Thai food in Thailand itself is a whole new experience.
The different Mix of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavors is what makes Thai cuisine so distinct. Thai chefs are extremely talented in appropriating foreign dishes and making them their own – such as in a typical noodle dish. Forget green salad for a while – enjoy a hearty papaya salad, otherwise known as som tam, while Thai green curry is as distinct a dish as they ever get. Enhance your stay in Thailand with its delicious food and the most important is being brave to try something new.
Tom Yam Goong
This is the national aroma of Thailand, thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots provide the memorable smells, with chilis and fish sauce providing the kick. Substance comes in the form of jumbo shrimp (goong) and mushrooms. The flavour is a unique combination of spicy hot and sour and makes for an ideal start to a meal, or – when paired with rice – a worthy main dish.
Thailand’s calling card to the rest of the culinary world, pad Thai doesn’t need an introduction. There are an infinite number of variations on this timeless tradition, but usually noodles are dressed up with tofu, bean sprouts, onion, and the brilliant final touch: peanuts ground to near dust. Pad Thai is a diner-participation meal; you put on the finishing touches of fish sauce, sugar, chili powder, and crushed peanuts to suit your taste.
Kuay Tiew (Noodle Soup)
Brush up on your chopstick skills and get your slurping muscles ready, noodle soup is a quick-and-easy staple of the Thai eating experience. Variations in ingredients mean ten different vendors could serve it ten different ways ‘ making it nearly deserving of its own top ten lists.
Som tam ‘ spicy papaya salad ‘ comes from northeast Thailand, but it’s reached near-cult status throughout the rest of the country. Slight regional differences in ingredients means placement on the sweet-or-sour scale may vary greatly between restaurants. Common to all recipes is shredded green papaya and a healthy dose of heat. Barbequed chicken and lumps of sticky rice are the perfect companions.
Gai med ma Muang
Three cheers for the clever soul that figured out nuts and chicken were a good mix. A dish this popular must be more than a little good. Phuket raises the standard with a vast supply of some of the world’s best cashew nuts, and they’re grown locally.
Geng Kheaw Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken)
So what gives green curry its color? Green curry paste. Sorry, not an exciting answer, but it is an exciting dish. Of all the curries, and there’s plenty of them, the one that’s the color of American money is among the spiciest. It’s also the least like Indian curry; Thailand has a way of making borrowed food distinctively Thai. The proof is in the coconut milk.
Tom Kha Gai
Possibly the world’s most refreshing soup, tom kaa gai (boiled galangal chicken) combines coconut milk with lemongrass, galangal ‘ ginger’s Asian sister ‘ and chicken. It’s a sweet, tame twist on tom yam goong. On a table filled with delectable Thai dishes, tom kaa gai stands out; your spoon will return to this bowl time and again.
Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
Ah, good old fried rice. On first sight, kao phad appears to be little more than a big heap of rice; you call that a meal? It’s mainly served as fried rice chicken with egg inside its more than just a snack.
Massaman is the Thai word for “Muslim”, which is the community to heartily thank for this concoction of coconut milk, potatoes, roasted peanuts, bay leaves, sugar, cinnamon, and tamarind sauce. The meat of choice is often beef or chicken, but because it’s been embraced by the Buddhists, pork can also be found.
Khao Man Gai
This is Thailand’s answer to British fish and chips –it’s a ubiquitous meal served mostly during the daytime (while stocks last) at special khao man gai dedicated stalls and restaurants. The chicken is gently boiled until it is tender then the water is used in boiling the rice. This means that khao man gai – apart from being delicious – is high in cholesterol. Served with a chicken broth and delicious sweet and spicy sauces, it’s the perfect midday snack.