Thailand is internationally renowned for its sumptuous cuisine, and with good reason. With a tropical climate, the country is rich in fresh produce, including exotic fruits, vegetables, and aromatic herbs and spices.
Its temperate waters are also bountiful in seafood. In fact, Thailand is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, generating $8.31 billion in revenue from the seafood industry every year.
Presenting travelers with the opportunity to sample a myriad of different dishes and flavors, from street food to high end restaurants, Thai cuisine has a dish to satisfy all tastes. From the silky noodles of Pad Thai to Kao Niew Ma Muang, a sumptuous sticky rice and sweet mango dish, we look at nine delicious Thai dishes.
1. Pad Thai
One of the most famous of all Thai dishes, Pad Thai is served throughout Thailand, from street carts to chic restaurants. With a dash of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of peanuts, this slippery noodle dish has a signature sweet-savory flavor.
Made with thin, flat rice noodles, there are numerous variations of Pad Thai, but it is typically cooked with a protein, the most popular being shrimp or chicken, tofu, scrambled egg, beansprouts, and garlic chives. The stir fry sauce is made with brown sugar, tamarind, oyster sauce, and fish sauce.
2. Khao Soi
With origins in Northern Thailand, like Pad Thai, Khao Soi is a delicately spiced dish that is particularly appealing to the Western palate, making it hugely popular among tourists. This coconut-based curry usually incorporates a chicken drumstick topped with fried noodles and flavored with garlic, shallots, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, coriander seeds, and a hint of chili.
3. Khao Pad Sapparot
Served in a hollowed pineapple, this Thai fried rice takes on the fruit’s sweetness, the aromatic herbs and spices adding depth of flavor and cashew nuts adding a nice crunch. The end result is a sweet but delicious dish that is popular with travelers and locals alike. The dish is typically made with shrimp or sometimes chicken.
4. Gaeng Keow Wan
Translating as “sweet green curry,” Gaeng Keow Wan is the fieriest of all Thai curries. Balanced with coconut milk, Gaeng Keow Wan is made from a variety of delectable fresh ingredients, including coconut milk, ginger, and eggplant. It gets its color from the fresh green chilies that are pounded with a pestle and mortar.
Surging in popularity in the early 1900s during the reign of King Rama VII, Gaeng Keow Wan is usually served with thinly sliced fish or chicken breast, and accompanied by steamed rice to temper the spice.
5. Tom Yum Goong
This hot and sour soup is a signature Thai dish, commonly featured on many Thai restaurant menus in the West. Usually made with shrimp, Tom Yum Goong is served at Thai Square in London, an establishment widely accepted to be one of the finest Thai restaurants in the UK.
Made from a fusion of fresh herbs and spices including kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, crushed peppers, and galangal, fish sauce and lime juice are added to the paste, which is then stir fried in oil. Tom Yum Goong is usually made with shrimp, but these may be substituted with pork, chicken, or even beef.
6. Hoy Tod
This popular dish is essentially an oyster or mussel omelet. There are two distinct types of the dish, made with different types of batter: a spongy version that is always cooked with oysters, and a crispy-fried version that may be made with either oysters or mussels. Hoy Tod incorporates crispy beansprouts and is often served with chili sauce.
7. Pak Boong
One of the tastiest dishes in Thai cuisine, Pak Boong is stir-fried morning glory plant. A rare find in the West due to the scarcity of its main ingredient, which is also known as water spinach, the tender shoots and leaves are much-loved in Thai cookery for the way they take on other flavors so beautifully.
8. Lod Chong
This simple dessert is made from sweetened coconut milk, green noodles, and crushed ice. It is the perfect antidote to a heavy meal and is incredibly popular in Thailand.
Sold by street vendors and restaurants alike, the sweet jelly noodles have little flavor and are there simply to add texture. The sweetened coconut, on the other hand, is tasty and refreshing.
9. Kao Niew Ma Muang
This mango and sticky rice dessert is simple yet delicious, making it an all-time crowd pleaser. The sticky rice is soaked in coconut syrup before being topped with salted coconut sauce, and served with sumptuous, sweet mangos.
Rather than being steamed, the rice is cooked in a pot on the stove, with coconut and brown sugar added to sweeten the flavor. It is important to use the ripest, sweetest mangoes possible for the dish, which is relatively easy to make at home.