With exotic flavours and fragrances, it’s not hard to wonder why Thai food is so famous worldwide. Lovers of good food will never feel out of place in Thailand. You can find delicious food almost everywhere, even when you’re just walking through a tiny alleyway. Some of the most popular Thai cuisines have frequently made it among ‘the world’s best foods,’ such as the delicious Tom Yum Goong and Massaman Curry. Since the choices are limitless, it can be hard to decide which Thai food you need to try first. That’s why we made this list of the best Thai food you absolutely need to try at least once in your life!
Top 10 Thai Food You Need to Try
- 1 Top 10 Thai Food You Need to Try
- 1.1 1. Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Stir-Fry)
- 1.2 2. Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
- 1.3 3. Kai Med Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
- 1.4 4. Rad Na (Noodles in Gravy)
- 1.5 5. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp)
- 1.6 6. Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cake)
- 1.7 7. Yum Pla Muk (Thai Squid Salad)
- 1.8 8. Pad Thai (Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles)
- 1.9 9. Massaman Curry
- 1.10 10. Kao Niew Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice)
1. Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Stir-Fry)
Pad Kra Pao is one of the most popular foods among locals. It’s also one of the most comforting foods you can get in the country because it’s so easy and quick to make. “Pad” means fried, and “Kra Pao” means holy basil, which is the dish’s main ingredient. This spicy and savoury dish is made of minced pork or chicken, stir-fried with holy basil, chilli, garlic, oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar. Although pork and chicken are the most common versions, you might also find Pad Kra Pao that’s made of tofu or seafood. The dish is usually served with white rice and topped with Thai fried egg. Due to the sharp flavour of the basil and the chilli, it can be very spicy for most Westerners. However, you can normally order a less spicy version of Pad Kra Pao.
2. Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
Khao Pad, or Thai fried rice, is the go-to dish for locals. There are numerous different versions of Thai fried rice. However, the concept is always the same – it typically includes (old) jasmine rice, egg, onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, soy sauce, and meat of your choice (chicken, shrimp, crab, or pork). In addition, the dish is usually served with sliced limes, cucumber, and other condiments on the side. You can find this comforting dish in almost every Thai restaurant and street food vendor in the country.
3. Kai Med Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
Kai Med Ma Muang is a simple and tasty dish that’s very popular among both foreigners and locals. It’s basically stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, honey, onions, soy sauce, chillies, pepper, and mushrooms. However, different places can use different vegetables in the dish. Besides stir-fried, there are also other versions of Kai Med Ma Muang. One of the most popular is where the chicken is coated in a batter. Since it doesn’t use an excessive amount of herbs, it tastes savoury and slightly sweet. While it is served with chillies, it’s not very spicy.
4. Rad Na (Noodles in Gravy)
If you want to try Thai noodle dishes, you shouldn’t miss out on Rad Na. This popular street food dish consists of chewy flat rice noodles and vegetables drenched in tasty gravy. It can also include different types of meat, such as chicken, seafood, or pork. The dish is usually served with fish sauce, sugar, and sliced chillies in white vinegar on the side. You can add them to make it even more flavourful and tasty.
5. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp)
Bold, aromatic, satiating, and full of nutrients, Tom Yum is world-famous for a reason. In fact, it’s considered a staple in almost every Thai restaurant, both inside and outside of Thailand. This hot and sour soup is made with quintessential Thai herbs, such as lemongrass, lime juice, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, shallots, and fish sauce. There are numerous versions of Tom Yum out there, such as Tom Yum Gai (chicken), Tom Yum Taleh (mixed seafood), Tom Yum Pla (fish), and Tom Yum Goong (Prawns). There’s also a creamier version of Tom Yum using coconut cream. Tom Yum Goong is known to be the most delicious, so make sure to try some!
6. Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cake)
Tod Mun Pla, or Thai fish cake, is a classic Thai appetizer. It’s made with fresh fish paste, long beans, kaffir lime leaves, and curry paste. Every bite is full of the savoury taste of the fish, the crunchiness of the long beans, and the citrusy and nuanced fragrance of the lime leaves and red curry paste. The dish is normally served with a sweet dipping sauce, also known as Nam Jim. This dipping sauce contains chopped cucumbers, shallots, peanuts, and chillies submerged in fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar. When you eat Tod Mun Pla with the sauce, you’ll get a sweet-and-savoury dish that’s delicious as an appetizer. You can also eat the dish with a plate of white rice for a delightful main course!
7. Yum Pla Muk (Thai Squid Salad)
Yum Pla Muk is a type of Thai salad that consists of fresh slices of quid dressed in fish sauce, lime juice, fresh herbs, and Thai chillies. The squid is typically boiled, but some places may also offer grilled, blanched, or steamed squid. This deeply flavoured dish is very simple and refreshing. It has a dose of sourness, a slight sweetness, a zest of tanginess, and a splash of heat. In addition, it’s a low carb dish that’s incredibly healthy.
8. Pad Thai (Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles)
What’s a Thai food recommendation without Pad Thai? This Thai national dish is worldwide famous for a reason: it’s incredibly delightful! It has an accessible flavour that isn’t too spicy for most foreigners, making it a great dish to start for anyone who’s just introducing themselves to Thai food. The dish consists of a combination of egg, peanuts, tofu, and bean sprouts. Due to the fresh tamarind paste, lime juice, dried shrimp, fish sauce, and palm sugar, it tastes sweet and sour. The chilli is usually served separately, so you can make it as spicy as you like.
9. Massaman Curry
Massaman Curry is one of the least spicy Thai curries. It has its roots in India. Therefore, in addition to the usual Thai ingredients like coconut milk, galangal, and lemongrass, it also consists of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. The combination of the ingredients creates a rich, tangy, and slightly sweet curry that’ll delight your taste buds. The curry is usually served with either beef or chicken, with chunks of boiled potatoes in it. You can eat the dish by itself. However, it’s common to serve rice alongside Massaman for a more filling and flavourful dinner!
10. Kao Niew Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice)
Craving for some dessert? Make sure to try some Kao Niew Ma Muang or Mango and Sticky Rice! Mango Sticky Rice is one of Thailand’s most popular desserts. It’s made with fresh mango slices and sticky rice topped with coconut milk and crispy mung beans. You can get Mango Sticky Rice all year round. However, it’ll taste so much better if you get to try it during mango season in Thailand since the mangoes are fresh and premium. This dessert is simple but extremely delicious and will keep you wanting for more.
Since Thailand has hundreds of traditional dishes, this list is only a mere snapshot of all that Thai cuisine has to offer. You can find these delicious cuisines at the majority of Thai restaurants and street food stalls around the country. Keep in mind that some of these foods are spicy, but you can usually ask to tone down the spiciness to suit your taste.
If you need more delicious Thai food recommendations, check out our previous article on the top 10 Thai foods you need to try! Read our article on the best Thai noodle dishes as well for more delicious Thai food.
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