There’s no doubt that a visit to Thailand is an unforgettable experience. The Land of Smiles offers stunning beaches, interesting architecture, and a rich cultural history. However, one of the most exciting things about travelling to Thailand has to be its gastronomy! From spicy curries to savoury noodles and succulent seafood dishes; Thai cuisine boasts an array of flavours you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Here is a quick guide to Thai food and the best dishes you can try during your stay in Thailand.
Origin of Thai Flavors and Ingredients
The flavours found in Thai cuisine are incredibly unique. Dishes usually feature a blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavours that come together to create something truly special. Ingredients such as chillies, lemongrass, coconut milk, and galangal are used to bring out the flavour of each dish. This combination creates a complex flavour profile that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Thai Cooking Techniques
In addition to its ingredients and flavours, Thai cooking techniques make it stand out from other cuisines. Stir-frying is one of the most popular methods used in Thai cooking; this method helps bring out the flavours of each ingredient while still keeping them distinct and separate. Other techniques like steaming or boiling are also widely used by chefs across Thailand. Each technique helps create dishes with unique textures and tastes that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
Thai Regional Variations
Thai cuisine varies greatly across different regions of Thailand; each region has its own way of preparing traditional dishes with local ingredients or spices that aren’t available elsewhere in the country. Northern Thailand is known for its fragrant curries made with locally grown herbs and spices while Central Thailand features tangy salads made with fresh fruits like mangoes and papayas. Southern Thailand is known for its seafood dishes cooked in coconut milk which adds an extra layer of richness to any meal! Make sure to savour some of these Southern Thailand delicacies during your stay at well-known Thai islands in the Andaman Sea, be it at a Phuket resort or a Khao Lak hotel.
Now that you know the ins and out of Thai cuisine and its origins, here are a few signature dishes you need to try out during your visit!
- Tom Yum Goong – This spicy and sour soup is perhaps one of the best-known dishes from Thailand. It’s made with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chillies and shrimp (or other seafood). You can also add mushrooms, tomatoes and even coconut milk for added flavour. Tom Yum Goong has a unique combination of sweet and sour notes that will tantalise your taste buds!
- Pad Thai – If you’re looking for something quick, easy and delicious then Pad Thai is your go-to dish. This stir-fried noodle dish includes garlic, chilli powder, fish sauce, tamarind juice, palm sugar and bean sprouts. You can also add prawns or tofu for some extra protein! Pad Thai is often served with a side of lime wedges so you can adjust the flavour according to your preference.
- Khao Soi – This is a northern curry dish consisting of egg noodles in a creamy curry broth topped with crispy fried noodles for added texture. Khao Soi usually contains chicken or beef but it can be made vegetarian friendly too! The broth is typically flavoured with turmeric powder, cumin powder and lemongrass which adds a zesty kick to this hearty meal.
- Papaya Salad: This dish is also known as som tam and is made with shredded green papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, and chilli. It’s a spicy and tangy dish that is perfect for those who love bold flavours. You can find som tam at street food stalls and markets throughout Thailand.
- Green Curry: This dish is made with a blend of herbs and spices, coconut milk, and your choice of protein. It’s a bit spicier than other Thai curries and has a unique flavour. Green curry is commonly served with rice and can be found in most Thai restaurants.
- Mango Sticky Rice: This is a sweet and delicious dessert that is made with glutinous rice, coconut milk, and sugar. It’s typically served with slices of fresh mango and is a must-try for those with a sweet tooth. You can find mango sticky rice at street food stalls and markets throughout Thailand.
- Massaman Curry: This dish is a rich and flavorful curry made with coconut milk, peanuts, and your choice of protein. It’s typically flavoured with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise, giving it a unique and delicious taste.
- Papaya flower salad: This dish is called “Yam Hua Plee” and is made by marinating the young and tender flowers of the papaya tree in fish sauce, lime juice, and chillies. It’s a unique and delicious dish that’s worth trying.
- Thai Iced Tea: This refreshing drink is made with black tea, milk, and sugar and is often served over ice. It’s a great way to cool down on a hot day, and it’s a popular drink in Thailand.
- Gai Tod: This is a deep-fried chicken, which is usually served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. It’s a delicious and satisfying snack to enjoy at any time of the day.
- Kao Niao: steamed sticky rice is a staple in Thai cuisine and it is usually served with a variety of toppings such as meat or seafood, coconut cream and peanuts. It’s a perfect on-the-go snack and a good option for a light meal.
Thailand offers an incredible selection of food for visitors to enjoy, be it at a streetside eatery or a fine dining restaurant! Whether you prefer spicy curries or savoury noodles there is something for everyone. Don’t forget to bring your appetite because these are just a few examples of the many traditional dishes you need to try while visiting the Land of Smiles! Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations, they might surprise you with a hidden gem. Bon Appétit!