Thai food is one of the world’s great cuisines. It combines a variety of complex flavors and textures in several layers. The typical Thai ingredients include things like galangal (similar to ginger), coconut milk, tamarind, lemon grass, lime, basil, turmeric, garlic, Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce etc.
The local dishes everyone should try while visiting Thailand, personally recommended by our Thai chef, are as follows:
1. Pad Thai (Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles) : ผัดไทย
Pad Thai is probably the most famous dish of Thailand. Pad Thai – which means ‘Thai-style stir-fried noodles’ – might be a good dish to start with if you are just introducing yourself to Thai food. It has a good combination of classic ingredients – like egg, tofu, peanuts, and bean sprouts. The traditional taste is a bit funky (fish sauce & dried shrimp), sour (fresh tamarind paste and lime juice), sweet (palm sugar) and not really spicy, unless you will add too much chili which is usually served to you separately.
The original Pad Thai recipe can be found here: Pad Thai - Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles : ผัดไทย.
2. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp) : ต้มยำกุ้ง
Tom Yum is the most popular of Thai soups, both inside and outside of Thailand. It is a clear, hot and sour soup flavored with fragrant lemon grass, galangal root, kaffir lime leaf, bird’s eye chilies, etc. There are hundreds of variations of Tom Yum depending on the main ingredient of the dish. Tom Yum is usually made with prawns (Tom Yum Goong), chicken (Tom Yum Gai), fish (Tom Yum Pla) or mixed seafood (Tom Yum Taleh) and mushrooms. The shrimp (Goong) version is regarded to be the most delicious by locals so as a first timer you should opt for it!
Learn how to cook Tom Yum soup here: Tom Yum - Creamy Thai Sour and Spicy Soup : ต้มยำ.
3. Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Galangal Chicken Soup) : ต้มข่าไก่
Tom Kha Gai is another popular soup between Thais. The key is the “Kha” (galangal) for the herb, and the coconut milk. It is recommended for people who can’t eat spicy food because Tom Kha is much milder than Tom Yum.
4. Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (Thai Green Chicken Curry) : แกงเขียวหวานไก่
The most popular curry in Thailand is green curry. It is a curry made from herb and spice blend curry paste cooked with coconut milk. Green curry is not that spicy, it is rather sweet. Green curry is such a great dish, especially when served with steaming rice or kanomjeen noodle.
5. Som Tam (Thai Green Papaya Salad) : ส้มตำ
Som Tam is a spicy papaya salad from the North Eastern part of Thailand. The flavor of Som Tam combines well with the spice of red chili pepper, the saltiness of fish sauce, the sourness of lime or tamarind, plus the sweetness of palm sugar. It can be mixed with some crab, peanuts, dried shrimps, and rice noodles. In addition, the main ingredient can be used mangoes, cucumbers or other vegetables instead of green papaya. Thai people love to eat it with sticky rice. You should give a try and order “Som Tam Thai” from the vendors found on almost every street corner of Bangkok.
6. Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Stir-Fry) : ผัดกระเพรา
Pad Kra Pao is a very popular dish for local Thais. When people don’t know what to order, they just order Kra Pao! This dish is quick and delicious. "Pad" means "fried" and "Kra Pao" is Thai name of Holy basil that is one of the main ingredients. Pad Kra Pao can be cooked with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, tofu, or whatever you want. It is served with rice. You can order a fried egg (Khai Dao) on top too.
Learn how to cook Pad Kra Pao here: Pad Kra Pao (Holy Basil Stir-Fry): ผัดกระเพรา.
7. Khao Pad (Thai-Style Fried Rice) : ข้าวผัด
Khao Pad is a favorite for all locals. In Thai, Khao is rice and Pad is stir-fried. The meal usually includes meat of your choice – shrimp, chicken, pork, crab or beef together with egg, onion, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes and a delicious seasoning. Thai fried rice cooks with Jasmine rice, which is scented. It is usually served with sliced cucumber and limes on the side.
8. Rad Na (Thai Style Noodles in Gravy) : ราดหน้า
Rad Na is another popular street dish in Thailand. Rad Na is flat rice noodles and vegetables topped with thick gravy. The meat can be pork, chicken or seafood. You can put some additional sugar, fish sauce, sliced chilies in white vinegar and ground dried chilies on the side when eating.
Learn how to cook Rad Na noodle here: Thai Style Noodles in Gravy (Rad Na Sen-Yai) : ราดหน้าเส้นใหญ่.
9. Khao Man Gai (Chicken Rice) : ข้าวมันไก่
Khao Man Gai is a simple street food and it can be found all around Thailand. The boiled chicken and rice usually served with some slices of cucumber, soybean sauce and winter melon soup.
More about this popular Thai food dish read here: Chicken Rice (Khao Man Gai) : ข้าวมันไก่.
10. Khao-soy (Northern Thai Curry Noodles) : ข้าวซอย
Khao-soy is a northern-style curry noodle dish. It’s made of coconut milk and yellow curry gravy poured over soft eggs noodles, then topped with crispy fried noodles. It is slightly spicy, sweet, and creamy. This dish is a must-eat if you are visiting Chiang Mai!
Don’t forget to dive into the world of extremely delicious local cuisine while traveling in Thailand and your journey will be even more impressive!
The variety of Thai food dishes is enormous, the choice of Thai noodle dishes is really wide and they differ a lot. If you want to expand your must try Thai food list with other noodle dishes, check our Thai Street Food Guide: How to Order Noodle in Thailand.
The best place where you can find and try most of these Thai food dishes cheap in Bangkok is Pier 21 Food Court at Terminal 21.