by : RJ Fisher last update: November 2022
Thai food is fragrant and exotic with carefully balanced flavors. Oh boy!, don’t you just love Thai food? I could probably recommend over a hundred Thai dishes, but you would spend all of your time reading instead of eating. So, I put together a list of 11x Thai Food that you’re sure to love.
1. Pad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles)
Let’s start this list with the most iconic Thai Food dish of them all. Stir fried flat rice noodles with small shrimp, tofu and either pork or chicken. Add a bit of tamarind paste, a dash of fish sauce, a sprinkle of sugar and maybe a chili or two. Fry it all up with egg, bean sprouts, chives, ground peanuts and get ready to eat. Street vendors will prepare it for you in under a minute and often for less than $2.
Fun fact: In the late 1930’s the Thai government organized a competition to define a new Thai national dish. Pad Thai won the competition and earned itself a prominent place in Thai cuisine.
2. Pad Khaprao (Fried Basil)
Holy Basil (Khaprao) is the absolute star of this stir fried Thai food dish. It’s different from the sweet basil that we normally use in the West. The texture is firm and more stable under high cooking temperatures. In fact, it needs cooking to release its anise-licorice-like fragrance and flavor. Pad Khaprao is best with beef, pork or chicken. Garlic, chili and light soy sauce complete the dish. Served over steamed rice.
If you like Thai food, you’re sure to love Malaysian food as well. This genius fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine is going to leave you craving for more.
Read: “Must-eat Malaysia foods“
3. Kai Met Mamuang (Chicken Cashew)
The Chinese Sichuan “Kung Pao Chicken” inspired yet another Thai classic. Tender chicken, dried chili pepper, (spring)onion, carrot and of course roasted cashew nut are the main ingredients. Stir fried together they provide this dish with a unique contrast in both textures and flavors. Served over steamed rice.
4. Tom Yam (Spicy and Sour Soup)
This remarkable soup is probably the all time favorite Thai food. Broth infused with galangal and lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice to sour it up. The Thai like to add generous amounts of dried and fresh chili to satisfy their unrelenting heat crave. Ask to have it prepared “mei phet” if you’re not into spicy. Usually, this soup is served with large prawns, but also goes well with chicken.
5. Khao Pad (Thai Fried Rice)
What do you eat when you’re poor in Thailand and all you is have a handful of rice and some leftover veggies? Well, you scavenge an egg, throw it all in a sizzling hot wok and stir. I imagine that this is how “Khao Pad” was born. This simple Thai food works even better with added protein, whether it’s chicken, beef, pork, seafood or tofu.
Khao Pad comes with cucumber and a slice of lime on the side. Drizzle some phrik nam phla (chili in fish sauce) on top and you’re good to go. If you’re not poor and you can afford an extra fried egg on top, you’re a lucky man indeed.
6. Kaeng (Curry)
Thai curry (Kaeng) is without a doubt one of the most famous dishes in Thai cuisine. Different curries exist and contrary to common belief, not all of them are spicy. The base is always a curry paste consisting of shallots, garlic, galangal, cilantro, lemongrass and shrimp paste.
Depending on the type of curry various other ingredients make the taste. Chilies are thrown in for heat and color. Most importantly, fresh green herbs are added only at the last minute to preserve flavors and fragrance. Many Thai curries are also prepared with a good amount of added coconut milk for a silky smooth texture.
6a. Kaeng Daeng (Red Curry)
The red color in this curry is derived from red chilies. Added protein can be any kind of meat or fish, but most common are pork, chicken, beef or duck. Vegetarian alternatives include tofu and/or pumpkin while Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots are the common vegetables in this curry. Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves lend extra fragrance.
6b. Kaeng Khiao Wan (Green curry)
Green curry is very similar to red curry. The green color is derived from green chilies and extra lemongrass defines the characteristic green curry taste. First, fry the curry-paste to release its aromas and then add a generous amount of coconut milk. The Thai like to eat their green curry with chicken or fish balls, while Thai eggplant and pea eggplant are the designated vegetables. Kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil give the green curry extra fragrance.
6c. More Curries
Phanaeng Curry: Rather thick curry with peanuts as the distinctive ingredient. Mostly eaten pork.
Massaman Curry: Cooked with spices like nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise, mace and cloves, which give this curry a completely different taste compared to others. Further ingredients to this usually mild curry are potatoes, peanuts and beef or chicken. Fun fact: Massaman curry was voted nr. 1 in the “CNN world’s 50 best foods list” in 2021.
Cambodian cuisine really has something new and special to offer. Although influenced by Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cooking, it has its own unique identity.
Read: “5 Cambodian Foods” – Insiders Only
7. Som Tam – Green Papaya Salad
Probably the most favored Thai food by the locals, mainly because of the tangy flavors. They claim that the tartness of green unripe papaya is very refreshing on a hot day. Ironically, the Thai also like to add heat to the salad by throwing in lot’s of chilies.
Anyway, next to shredded green unripe papaya and chilies this salad consists of carrot, long bean, tomato, garlic, sugar, tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice, peanuts and dried shrimp. Release the flavors by mixing and gently pounding all the ingredients in a wooden mortar and pestle. The result is a tangy, salty, spicy salad that’s immensely popular with the locals.
8. Kuai Tiao (Noodle Soup)
Noodle soup is a staple all over South East Asia and Thailand is no exception. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, any time is good for a bowl of steaming noodle soup. Countless variations exist. Of course the broth is important, which could be either chicken, pork or beef based.
Use rice noodles, wheat noodles, it doesn’t matter, whichever you like. Subsequently, top it with bits of meat, veggies, dumplings, fish balls and any condiments of your liking. Adding sugar, chilies, fish sauce, lime, vinegar and fried onions at will to make it your personal dish. Best when eaten with chopsticks and a Chinese soup spoon. Slurping is allowed.
9. Pak Boong (Morning Glory)
Pak Boong a.k.a. “Morning Glory” might be the most popular vegetable dish in Thailand. Stems and leaves of the water-spinach plant are stir fried with lot’s of garlic, fish sauce, oyster sauce, yellow bean paste (tao chiao) and moderate chili. It’s always spectacular to watch a chef cooking a dish of Pak Boong, because the right taste requires that cooking flames come into the wok.
Note!: Are you traveling? Do not forget travel insurance. Healthcare in most of South East Asia is hopelessly underdeveloped. Any serious ailment or injury will most likely involve medical transport to Bangkok or Singapore costing a fortune to be paid upfront if there’s no proper insurance. Read about travel insurance, or get an instant non-comittal quote.
10. Tom Kha Kai (Coconut Chicken Soup)
Another soup and it’s a winner! Similar to Tom Yam, because of the galangal and lemongrass infused broth, yet sweet and creamy due to generously added coconut milk. This soup is eaten with tender chicken and sometimes mushrooms. Moderate use of chilies gives the dish an extra kick.
11. Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango/Sticky Rice)
Above all, we need a sweet finish, right?! So, how about the Thai classic, mango and sticky rice? The name already reveals the ingredients of this popular dessert. Sticky rice, topped with sweet coconut milk and paired sweet ripe mango. Tastes even better with toasted sesame seeds on top. And you said you had no room left!
Is your favorite Thai food in the list? Or is there another dish that you like even more? Let us know in the comments below, maybe we can extend the list.
* affiliate links disclaimer
Save this article for later? Click on one of the images below to save it to Pinterest.