Thailand is popularly known for its delicious cuisine. The best news? It’s also extremely affordable. Thai dishes are known all over the world (it’s likely there’s been a restaurant put in near you) due to its signatures flavors and fragrances that leave your taste buds tingling for more. I personally make an effort to have Thai food about once a week, and I never get tired of trying something new. When I lived in Chiang Mai, my favorite activity was to try out some of the local restaurants and see their various takes on a popular dish.
Guay Teow (noodle soup)
This is one the most famous Thai foods and you will easily find it anywhere you go in the country. The dish is prepared with chicken, beef, or pork and includes egg or rice noodles. Vendors also occasionally add wontons or meatballs to the broth for added flavor. The dish can served at any point during the day but it is often chosen by locals as a midnight snack. The dish is also topped with varieties of condiments such as dried chili peppers, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice.
Tom yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup)
This is a soup prepared with a blend of fragrant lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, galangal, fish sauce, and shallots. It also includes river shrimps with straw mushrooms. It is usually served with steamed white rice.
Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad)
This Thai dish originates from the Isaan region in northeastern Thailand and is one of the most famous meals you can find outside of the country. Som tam has numerous varieties but the classic som tam comprises of carrots, shredded green papaya, dried shrimp, tomatoes, palm sugar, runner beans, fish sauce, garlic, tamarind pulp, numerous chilies, and even more garlic. The ingredients are usually mixed with mortar and pestle, which breaks down the individual flavors. I always ordered this as a side just for some added spice. It can be occasionally served with peanuts, as well.
Pad Thai (Thai-style friend noodles)
Pad Thai is one of the national dishes in Thailand and great food to try if you want an introductory to Thai food. It is a fried noodle dish made with chicken or shrimp. You can also try out the vegetarian option, which occasionally includes tofu or you can find protein-less. Pad Thai is available in almost every corner in Thailand and can often be found for affordable prices. A win-win for your wallet and your stomach!
Pad See Eiw (thick noodle dish)
This dish is made with wide, rice noodles that are fried in thick, dark soy sauce. It can include pork, beef, or chicken and almost always has cabbage or Chinese broccoli. It has a rich flavor and it is a wonderful starter dish to try out if you cannot take the spicier Thai dishes (don’t worry–it takes practice). If you are adventurous and want to spice things up, you can also add dried chili flakes or vinegar.
Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut soup)
This meal is a tamer version of tom yum and it is made with fiery chilies, crushed shallots, sliced young galangal, stalks of lemongrass and strips of chicken. In order to reduce the spice, coconut milk is added to the dish before it is topped off with fresh lime leaves. Like most stews in Thailand, you can eat the soup with steamed rice.
Pad Krapow (fried basil)
Pad Krapow is prepared using minced pork or chicken. It is fried with lots of chilies and Thai basil–this dish is not for picky eaters! It has a sharp and peppery flavor and the chilies are the main flavor. If you want to try out this dish without dying, you can simply tell the vendor to make it pet nit noi, a little spicy. Pad Krapow can be eaten with white rice and it is often topped with a fried egg.
Laap (seasoned minced meat)
This dish originates from northeastern area of Thailand. It is made from minced meat seasoned with fish sauce, roasted rice powder, and fresh herbs. It is best to eat this dish with sticky or steamed rice. Traditionally, it was eaten with your hands–you can still try if you would like!
Have you tried any of these dishes on your travels to Thailand?