Whether its big-mouthed chefs like Gordan Ramsay waxing lyrical about Thai cuisine, or some know-it-all food critics, everyone has an option on Thai food.
You will definitely find a Thai restaurant in every major city in the world, so if you do not know your somtam from your hocked-ham, here are 9 Thai food dishes you need to try today!
#1. Tom Yam Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
Nothing says I am a seafood god more than devouring a bowl of tonsil tickling Tom Yam Goong. For the laymen amongst us, that breaks down as Spicy Shrimp Soup. Although this dish is known as one of Thailand’s signatures dishes, it can be an acquired taste. Some love it and some hate, like the marmite of the Thai seafood world. This spicy shrimp soup is fragrant and tasty and simply must be tried for the first-timer in Thailand.
Main Ingredients: Shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai red chilies, oyster mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, white onions, fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro.
Spicy Level: 3 (Lip-Burner)
#2. Tom Kha Khai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)
If you are consuming Tom Yam Goong but find it a bit too spicy, the wimps’ option is usually Tom Kha Khai. This is a non-spicy chicken and coconut milk soup is delicious and easy to handle. This is something we give our 3 year-old son, so if you can’t handle the hotter stuff. This tasty soup dish is a nice, yet wimpier replacement for Tom Yam Goong, but nice nonetheless.
Main Ingredients: chicken, coconut milk, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms
Spicy Level: 1 (Kindergarten)
#3. Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
Khao Pad is more commonly known as ‘fried rice’. Let’s be honest, you have tried fried rice in the Chinese restaurants back home and it is a very inoffensive unthreatening dish. This is why so many visitors to Thailand are quick to sample this non-spicy Thai food special. As the name suggests, rice+oil+protein+wok+fry = fried rice. You can have this dish with any protein such as chicken, pork, crab, shrimp, mother-in-law or anything else you can think of.
Main Ingredients: rice, egg, oil, proteins
Spicy Level: 1 (Kindergarten)
#4. Pad Thai Noodles
When we talk about some of the most famous Thai food dishes in the world, Pad Thai Noodles have to be right up there. Some say this is the Kingdom’s national and signature dish and we wouldn’t argue that with you. The dish contains any variety of Noodle type, crunchy beansprouts, egg and onion, fried together to create this simple yet delicious meal. It is perfect for a foreign holidaymaker who cannot handle spicy food and can be found on almost every corner of the country. This is also an ideal dish for a vegetarian.
Main Ingredients: Noodle of any type, egg, beansprouts, garlic, sugar, onions, cilantro
Spicy Level: 1 (Kindergarten)
#5. Kai Med Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
If you are an inferior human being when it comes to dealing with spicy food, you can always rely on Farang favorite Thai food dishes such as Kai Med Ma Muang, which is more commonly known to foreigners as Chicken with Cashew Nuts. When a restaurant gets this dish right, it is pretty awesome. Ironically enough, this dish was first inspired by American-Chinese flavors, but is now served in most international-style Thai food restaurants. Using Chicken, cashew nuts, bell peppers and chilies all stir-fried together, it will warm your tongue a little but is ultimately delicious.
Main Ingredients: chicken, cashew nuts, peppers, chilies, green onions
Spicy Level: 2 (Tongue-Tickler)
#6. Pad Krapow Moo (Fried Basil and Pork)
If you are looking for something with a bit of kick without disabling your body’s immune system, we would suggest that the Thai food favorite of Pad Krapow Moo, which is known to us as Fried Basil and Pork with Rice. This dish is served on one plate and usually combines minced pork stir-fried with Thai basil and other sauces such as Soy and oyster sauce. It is really tasty and could be a face-melter if they have put too many chilis in there. You can buy this at most Thai food roadside shacks for 30-50 THB. It is a very common dish with locals.
Main Ingredients: Minced pork, Thai basil, green bell peppers, chilis, oyster and soy sauce
Spicy Level: 3-4 (Between Lip-Burner and Face-Melter)
#7. Gaeng Daeng (Thai Red Curry)
One of the most famous Thai cuisine dishes is a Thai Red Curry, which is known locally as Gaeng Daeng (say that after 10 Singha beers). Usually made with morsels of meat such as pork or chicken, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, chilis and much more, this amazingly fragrant curry is an explosion of flavors. Although when ordered by Thai people, the spiciness level can reach face-melter, they generally dumb down the spiciness for us aliens so we do not set fire to King’s Landing every time we talk after consuming.
Main Ingredients: pork or chicken, coconut milk, Thai red chilis, onions, curry paste
Spicy Level: 4 (Face-Melter)
#8. Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Thai Green Chicken Curry)
One of the standard Thai food dishes that people always want to try is the famous Thai Green Chicken Curry, which is named Gaeng Keow Wan Kai in Thailand. Using slices of chicken, small pieces of eggplant, coriander, bamboo shoots and sweet basil, coconut milk and green curry paste, this dish is the first introduction to Thai curries and is not so spicy, but you can feel a little bit of heat underneath the flavors. This is one of the most common curries with holidaymakers, but I don’t see so many Thai people consuming it. Maybe it is like Kindergarten food for them.
Main Ingredients: Chicken, green curry paste, eggplant, coriander, bamboo shoots, coconut
Spicy Level: 3 (Tongue-Tickler)
#9. Somtam (Green Papaya Salad)
Here we are at our final destination. There is nothing really beyond this dish other than another dimension that cannot be touched by our 5-sense reality. Reaching almost cataclysmic levels of Spiciness, this bowel twisting Thai food specialty is locally called Somtam, but is known by us by the more popular name of Papaya Green Salad. This dish is stuff of legends and of biological warfare. Ask the Kurds about it. First concocted in the Northeastern reaches of Thailand using nuclear thermal reactors and a knock-off version of the Halogen Collider from Kaosan Road, this ultra-spicy number combines garlic, chives, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and raw Papaya that is shredded and pulverized into a substance that could level Addis Ababa. In some regions they add peanuts, shrimp and/or crabs. A health warning or industrial sized protective goggles or a welding mask should be served up with this meal.
Main Ingredients: shrimp or crab, shredded papaya, chilis, garlic, cherry tomatoes, green beans
Spicy Level: 5 (Apocalypse Now… I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!)