Foodies rejoice because Thailand is the ultimate dream for anyone that appreciates good food, and the best part is you won’t even break the bank while tasting everything there is to taste. Considering Thai food can vary from region to region, it is always a fantastic idea to have a local source of information, such as a ‘Destination Expert,’ who can ensure you don’t miss out on some local must-try dishes.
To give you a head start on what to expect from Thai cuisine, as well as some of the best dishes to try in Thailand, here are a few inspiring culinary options to make your mouth water.
Like anywhere in the world, it is always a good idea to spot the busy places and eat where the locals eat, but when it comes to Thailand, you cannot go wrong. Street food is a big thing in Thailand. You will find famous street markets on Koh San Road in Bangkok and, of course, the Walking Sunday Market in Chaing Mai, where you can try just about anything. Still, there will also be times when you discover local markets and eateries on your own, so stay open-minded to try it all.
If you are not yet familiar with Thai food, we will give a little overview into what kind of flavors to expect and what the main dishes are that you should try while traveling around, and you won’t need much convincing after your first dish to try some more of what’s on offer. Thai food is renowned for being aromatic, slightly spicy, and full of flavors. It is ideal for anyone who eats meat, is vegetarian, or is vegan, considering the array of fresh vegetables and alternatives on offer here.
The top flavors you will find
Thai food is world-renowned, of course, and Thailand’s capital Bangkok is said to have the best street food in the world, so you will not be hungry or disappointed here. Some of the primary flavors found in Thai food are coconut (sweet), tamarind (sour), Thai basil (sweet and strong), lime juice (sharp and sour), lemongrass (fresh, citrus), Thai fish sauce or soy sauce (salty), Thai chilis (spicy), coriander (intense and aromatic) and ginger (sweet and peppery). It is fantastic that there is such a contrast between flavors, yet they somehow work together perfectly, and you will see that right away.
Best dishes to try in Thailand
This is one of the most popular and well-known dishes both inside and outside the country and can be found on menus in Thai restaurants worldwide. However, none will come close to the cooked ‘on-demand” Pad Thai you will get on the streets in Bangkok – at a fraction of the cost. Pad Thai is essentially the Thai version of stir-fried noodles, which is cooked with tamarind to give a sweetness to the dish and crushed peanuts and either chicken or vegetables. It is one of Thailand’s national dishes, and although ‘Pad Thai’ means stir-fried from Thailand, ironically, this dish is known as Chinese fried noodles by the locals. Either way, this is a dish not to be missed, and with it being available on almost every street corner, you won’t miss the chance to try it.
There are a variety of curries to try, all with a different spice level, so make sure you order the one you can handle. Panang curry is generally a mild curry which many tourists order, and consists of shrimp, while Gaeng Keow Wan Thai green curry is the spiciest of them all, but if you can handle it, you will be rewarded with lovely flavors of ginger, eggplant, chilis, coconut milk, and ginger.
Guay Teow – Noodle Soup
This is one of the top dishes in Thailand but the least vegetarian friendly due to it being made with chicken, pork, or beef and with added meat-based wontons; however, if you eat meat, this is one to try. The noodle soup is generally topped off with delicious ingredients to add more flavor, such as lime juice, fish sauce, and chili flakes, and can be eaten any time of the day.
Tom Yum Goong – Spicy Shrimp Soup
When ordering spicy food in Thailand, be prepared for it to be spicy, especially this one, which comes with a bit of a kick, but a delicious one at that. This is such a great dish that combines all the iconic flavors of Thai cuisine such as lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut cream, kaffier lime leaves, chili, all paired with fresh prawns and shallots.
Khao Pad – Thai Fried Rice
You will notice many locals eating this staple dish in Thailand, which consists of a few essential ingredients, such as rice mixed with some egg and onion. It can be compared to the Indonesian dish Nasi Goreng and can be found everywhere in Thailand.
Khai Med Ma Muang – Chicken with Cashew Nuts
This is a firm favorite with tourists and locals throughout Thailand and has savory flavors of soy sauce, honey, onions, pepper, mushrooms, and fresh vegetables mixed with chicken and cashew nuts.
Mango Sticky Rice
So, we have mentioned a few of the savory dishes, but this is a must-try dish in Thailand when it comes to sweet dishes. It is made of rice mixed with coconut milk and mango and either eaten with a spoon or hands. If you are traveling around South East Asia, you will find this delicious dessert in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, so you will have plenty of opportunities to indulge.
Thom Kha Ghai – Chicken in a coconut soup
Coconut is used in many Thai dishes, giving it that creamy, sweet flavor, and this chicken soup dish is no exception. However, it has added sour and spicy flavors too, making it a very satisfying meal. You will find that with a lot of dishes, the ingredients used, including the base of coconut milk in curries and soups, are incredibly healthy, so when you’re eating in Thailand, don’t deprive yourself of anything, but instead enjoy all the flavors offered to you.
Cooking Classes and Food Tours
You will not be short of options when looking for a cooking class in Thailand, and if you have the time, it is one of the best things you can do in the country, in terms of learning a new skill, learning about the Thai culture and learning about what goes into Thai cooking. If you plan to do some sightseeing, but want to do a cooking class or a food tour as part of it, make sure to check out these trips, which do just that.