A Guide To Thai Cuisine
If you’ve been following along with my Thailand posts, you know by now about my love affair with Thai food. Thai cuisine is packed with so many flavors and the Thai are masters at balancing them all. Every dish has a perfect amount of salt, sweet, spice, and sour so you’ll never encounter a boring Thai dish (and if you do, it’s probably not an authentic one!).
Whether it’s street food or a sit-down restaurant meal, you can pretty much find authentic Thai food anywhere in Thailand, but make sure to do your research! There can be a lot of tourist traps depending on where you go. Some rules of thumb though….
- If you see locals eating at the restaurant/food stand, that’s always a good sign
- Read reviews on TripAdvisor to find the best Thai food with the best prices
- Research is also important when it comes to your health and safety- sanitation standards in Thailand are not as strict as other countries in the world, so I’m sure you’ve heard about food poisoning nightmares. However, I followed the tips listed above and have yet to get sick!
If you’re traveling to Thailand or you’re just curious about Thai cuisine in general, I’ve made a guide of all the must-try, iconic plates you should be ordering/making at some point in your life. They’re all delicious, surprisingly healthy (even they’re “junk” food isn’t that bad for you), and a party in your mouth every time!!! 🎉
Thai Iced Coffee
Thai iced coffee probably differs from the regular iced coffee you’re used to. Think of it more of a dessert drink as it’s always topped with sweetened condensed milk.
In my opinion, this style of coffee is delicious, but if sweet coffee’s not your thing, ask for an iced Americano instead!
You can find fresh coconut water almost everywhere throughout Thailand, and it will be the best you’ve ever had every time!! I’m seriously addicted and have one about every day. Not only are they refreshing, but they’re great for hydration, especially in the Thailand heat.
When you finish, you can eat the meat inside (they’ll usually always serve you a spoon with your order)!
Thailand’s most famous alcoholic beverage among partiers: HUGE buckets of alcohol in sand buckets mixed with all types of juice, soda, energy drinks, etc. They’re a great drink to tackle with a partner or two, but don’t attempt to finish one alone!! They’re always super STRONG!
Tom Yum (Papaya Salad)
This is my all-time favorite! It’s made of shredded papaya and carrots, snake beans, tomatoes, dried shrimp and peanuts, covered in a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and crushed chillies.
It’s typically super spicy in Thailand, so if that’s not for you, make sure to let your server know your preferences!
If you want to make it yourself at home, follow this authentic recipe!
Not to be confused with Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, Thai spring rolls are always fried and accompanied with a sweet and sour chili dipping sauce. They’re usually filled with glass sea noodles, carrots, and cabbage and wrapped in a rice paper, which is then fried.
Chicken satay is one of the best street-foods in Thailand, in my opinion! It’s typically skewered chicken that is dipped in peanut sauce, grilled, then served with more peanut dipping sauce and an assortment of pickled vegetables. Yum!!
Tom Yum Goong
Sweet and sour prawn soup that’s packed with tons of spice and fresh herbs 😍 It literally puts every other soup to shame because it’s packed with SO much flavor.
Authentic tom yum goong is typically VERY spicy, so let the server know your spice preferences! And don’t eat the raw lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. These are only in the soup for seasoning and are not edible (trust me- I already tried to eat them my first time trying this soup lol 😳)!
For an authentic tom yum goong recipe, click here!
Tom Kha Gai
Tom kha gai is another incredibly flavorful Thai soup, but with chicken and vegetables as the main stars of the dish. It’s made with coconut milk as its base and seasoned with fresh basil, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, and chillies.
Thai curry comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. It can be made with veggies, chicken, shrimp, duck, pork, fish, crab (you get the idea!), and in Thai cuisine you can get (in order from spiciest to the least spicy) red, green, yellow, or massaman curry. Each have coconut milk as their base, but their curry pastes consist of different spices.
For a super authentic Thai red curry recipe, click here!
Steamed White Fish
This dish is popular in Thailand’s tropical, coastal regions and islands. It’s served typically with whole, on-the-bone snapper and topped with onions, chillies, and fresh herbs in an acidic sauce (usually vinegar or lime juice).
This is one of the lightest and healthiest dishes you can find in Thailand, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s delicious and packed with tons of flavor!!
Thai omelets are a popular dish in Thailand and one I never knew about until traveling here! To my surprise, they are typically served as a lunch item, not breakfast. Inside the omelet, you’ll find green onions, minced pork and vegetables marinated in fish sauce.
Pad thai is probably the most well-known Thai dish on this list, and with good reason. I’m sure you already know it’s SO delicious and definitely one of the “heavier” main courses you can order in Thai restaurants.
If you’re not familiar with pad thai, it’s a savory rice noodle dish made with crispy tofu, green onions, bean sprouts, and topped with crushed peanuts. I would eat it for every meal if I wasn’t so mindful of my health lol 😝
Stir fry, like Thai curry, is extremely popular in Thailand, and is made with all different types of protein and vegetables. It’s typically cooked in a sweet and sour chili sauce or a ginger-based sauce.
When it comes to stir fry in Thailand, the menu always reads “fried ____”, but this just means it was cooked in a wok, rather than being deep fried (which to me, is what usually comes to mind when seeing the word “fried”).
Mango Sticky Rice
This light and delicious dessert consists of sliced mango and coconut sugar or condensed milk-sweetened sticky rice, and is sometimes topped with some sort of crunchy component like peanuts or rice puffs.
I’m a huge fan of this dessert because it doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed and it’s actually not that bad for you.
These “pancakes” are one of the most popular street-food dishes in Thailand! They are typically made with fruit inside and topped with Nutella or sweet condensed milk, but they can also be made savory too. They’re addicting 😍
That about covers all the most iconic Thai dishes authentic to Thailand!! I’ve only traveled to southern and mid-Thailand so far, so maybe I’ll have more to add to my list once I make it to the north.
If you have any other favorites to add to the list, let me know!!