Asian food is so far removed from what you might eat in Europe or America but it’s well worth exploring. While you might have some Chinese or Indian food in your home country, have you ever tried Thai? Thailand’s food culture really is unique and special and worth exploring if you get the chance.
You could try and cook some Thai food for yourself at home. However, the best versions of these dishes are undoubtedly found in Thailand itself. So get yourself on a plane, fly across to this beautiful nation, and try the most authentic meals cooked by local chefs. You won’t regret it.
Below, you can learn all about Thailand’s food culture by exploring the country’s most delicious dishes. They might be a long way from what you’re used to but keep an open mind. Open up your tastebuds to a whole new world of culinary experiences.
Found largely in the north of Thailand, khao soi is an absolute staple of Thailand’s food culture. It’s as simple as adding noodles to boiling water to create soup. However, on top of this, you can add so many different flavor combinations. That’s what makes it one of the most versatile dishes on this list. Traditionally, tomato sauce and minced pork are added on top but there are a number of variations.
You’ll find khao soi in neighboring countries like Laos and Myanmar. However, the Thai version is just exquisite. While it will be hard to find in Europe or America, you should try it if you happen to be in Thailand. It’s a substantial meal yet absurdly cheap, meaning you can fill up without running out of spending money for the rest of your trip in Thailand.
Gaeng Keow Wan
Much of the food you find in Thailand is similar to that found in China. However, Gaeng Keow Wan takes inspiration from another Asian country: India. This is a kind of green curry that differs from the typical noodle soup that you may expect to find in Southeast Asia. The green color, though, is something that is quintessentially Thai.
The bright color is made by adding plenty of green chilies, which also give this dish a ton of heat. Coconut milk is often added to tone down the spiciness and help create a milder taste on your tongue. If heat isn’t to your liking, then, make sure you ask the chef to add plenty of milk.
Widely regarded as Thailand’s national dish, pad Thai is often what visitors to this country seek out the most. Taking inspiration from the Far East, this involves stir-frying some noodles and vegetables. There are so many ways to cook it, resulting in more flavor combinations than you could ever count. The unique flavor comes from a bespoke pad Thai sauce, which is very salty but with a subtle hint of sweetness.
This creates a flavor combination that many Westerners aren’t used to. Don’t be afraid, though. Most people are pleasantly surprised by the pad Thai sauce, opening their eyes to new culinary possibilities.
Like many of the food items you’ll find in Thailand, this is inspired by Chinese cuisine. Guay teow is a simple stir-fry recipe that fries up noodles and rice until they’re nice and crispy. If you’ve only ever eaten these kinds of food boiled, then you’re missing out. Thai chefs know that by cooking the food in a wok, they can achieve cooking perfection.
Soy sauce and chili paste are often added to make the dish more salty and spicy. It can then be topped with anything you like, although shrimps are commonly used. Thailand has a massive coastline and they like to get as much food from the sea as they can. This dish was originally created for Chinese laborers who were working overseas in Southeast Asia, which is how it got to Thailand in the first place.
Salads in Thailand are likely going to be a long way from what you’re used to. In particular, using vast amounts of meat in Salad is not unusual. One example of this is laab, which is actually the national dish of Laos. The meat can be just about anything from chicken and pork to beef and fish. If you’re a vegetarian, then you can substitute the meat for mushrooms.
Laab is best enjoyed with a side of sticky rice and served at room temperature. Loaded with vegetables, there’s no shortage of nutrients, making this one of the healthier dishes you’ll find in Thailand. The meat then adds plenty of protein and energy to keep you feeling alert during the day.
Also known as morning glory stir-fry, pak boong is one of the healthiest and most delicious meals you can eat in Thailand. It’s fairly simple, being comprised of just five or six ingredients. The core component is the morning glory plant, which is kind of like spinach. It’s densely packed with nutrients and freshens up your meal.
Pak boong is generally consumed as a side dish. However, you could have it on its own if you’re not too hungry. The key to getting the preparation right is to find the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy. Do this to perfection and you’ll find yourself with an unbeatable flavor combination.
Eggs play a big role in Thailand’s food culture and this is most clearly seen in a meal called kai jeow. This is simply an omelet but, like all Thai food, it’s going to have a somewhat different flavor from what you’re used to. This mostly comes from the sauce, which is a combination of fish sauce and sriracha. It’s not to everyone’s taste – especially if you can’t handle spicy food – but for some, it’s absolute heaven.
The eggs are usually mixed up with rice and onions to make this dish a little more substantive. For that reason, kai jeow makes for a hearty breakfast or a decent-sized dinner. This is another example of Thai cooks taking simple, cheap ingredients and turning them into something mouthwatering.
Yam Pla Dook Foo
If you love seafood and see yam pla dook foo, then order it immediately. You won’t regret this. Made from catfish, this is a truly unique way to prepare fish and one you probably won’t have encountered before. The name translates to crispy fluffy fish, which just about sums the meal up.
The fish will be grilled over charcoal until the chef achieves the perfect texture. This doesn’t only happen in fancy restaurants, either. You’ll come across yam pla dook foo at just about any street food stall. You may have hygiene concerns but there’s really no need to worry. This crispy fluffy fish dish has been part of Thailand’s food culture for many years and locals know how to cook it safely.
If you’re looking for a meal that’s different from but similar to pad Thai, then try pad phak. This is also a kind of stir-fry which you’re bound to enjoy if you like Chinese food. The humble wok is so important in Asian food culture and it’s used to its full potential in the preparation of this dish.
Because different parts of the wok hold different levels of heat, you can cook everything in one pan, moving it around as required. This results in vegetables that are cooked to perfection. Whether you like them soft or crunchy, you can get the consistency you’re looking for. Pad phak rarely contains meat, either, making this an ideal vegetarian option.
What is traditional food in Thailand?
Thai food draws on inspiration from countries like India and China. It’s made up of curries, spicy salads, and stir-fry vegetables. They tend to be lightly prepared but bursting with aromas and often with a spicy kick.
What is Thailand’s most popular food?
Many dishes from Thailand are enjoyed around the world but the most popular food is probably pad Thai. This is a Thai style of noodles and rice that are pan-fried and served with a variety of delicious toppings.
What is a traditional breakfast in Thailand?
Most commonly, Thai people start their day with a bowl of boiled rice, which has a consistency similar to porridge. A boiled egg will usually be added to this for an extra boost of protein.
What makes the food in Thailand unique?
Thailand food culture isn’t quite like anything else. This is because they take bits and pieces from different Asian cultures and create something new and distinctly Thai. This results in bizarre and unusual flavor combinations, combining sweet, savory, and citrus flavors into one delicious dish.