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Written by Laurence Norah
One of the best things about Thailand is the fantastic food on offer. From spicy curries to tempting desserts, this is not a country where you are going to struggle to find something to eat.
In this post I’m going to take you through eight foods you must try when you’re visiting Thailand, based on my experiences of three months travel around this wonderful country.
1. Sticky rice with mango or banana
Sticky rice is about as Thai as it gets – and when visiting Thai restaurants in lands other than Thailand it was always my favourite dish to order.
Two of the best ways to have sticky rice in Thailand are when it is served wrapped in banana leaves and comes surrounding a banana. These can be found at street stalls all over Thailand, and are incredibly filling. Great for a snack on the go, or as a breakfast option when you’re wandering the streets.
Mango sticky rice is more of a dessert option, with luscious thick slices of Mango server alongside the sticky rice and a good helping of coconut cream. Damn tasty.
2. Yellow / Red / Green Curry
Cheating a bit with this one, by cunningly including three dishes in one entry. Still, they are three of the most popular curries in Thailand, so I figure you’ll let me off.
Originally the only difference between these curries was the colour of the chillies being used, with the same underlying base of coconut milk and lemon grass providing the primary flavours. However they have evolved further now, with the yellow curry featuring turmeric for example, and the green version now featuring lime leaves and coriander.
Depending on where you are, the spiciness of the curries will vary, with the yellow curries of southern Thailand providing the most kick in my experience!
3. Pad Thai
Pad Thai is the most famous of the Thai noodle dishes, and an easy fall back if you can’t figure out what you want. It’s a fried noodle dish that comes loaded with flavour, including chopped peanuts, fish sauce, garlic, onions and chilli.
It also features sugar (sugar often takes the place of salt on Thai tables), the ever present chillies, and usually some type of meat, be that fish or chicken. You really can’t go wrong when ordering a Pad Thai!
4. Khao Soi
A speciality of northern Thailand, specifically around the Chiang Mai area, Khao Soi is a soup based dish with a curried meat (usually chicken), soft noodles, and deep fried noodles. It’s usually yellow in colour and full of flavour, and if you’re in northern Thailand, is not to be missed.
You know, if everyone in the world switched to getting their meat from insects instead of the more traditional Western sources, our food production would become far more efficient. Plus, we’d be eating insects, which is way cooler than cow.
So, it seems only fair to give this a go. From silk worms to grasshoppers, finding yourself a deep fried and horrific looking bug to nibble on shouldn’t be too much of a challenge in Thailand. The former taste like boiled potato. The latter are, well, crunchy. Enjoy!
6. Papaya Salad
Normally I’m not a big fan of Papaya, but I make an exception for this salad version. Using the green papaya as a base, this salad is created with a variety of other ingredients, the main one of which will usually be chilli. This is one spicy salad!
The raw green papaya gives the salad a tart flavour, whilst cane sugar, lime leaves and fish sauce combine to create a dish somewhat unlike any you’re likely to have tasted before. Very much worth going back for seconds, if you can handle it.
7. Massaman Curry
Massaman curry is a twist on yellow curry, but I like it so much that I think it deserves its own entry. Believed to originate from the city of Ayutthaya, the dish includes potato, and is most commonly made with beef, as well as coconut milk, peanuts, cinnamon, and all those other great flavours you find in Thai curries.
8. Noodle broth
Again, I’m cheating a bit here, and lumping a great many dishes under one roof. Noodle soup, in all its variations, is a staple Thai street food, and you’ll see vendors selling it nearly everywhere you go.
The stock will usually be meat based (if you’re a vegetarian you might struggle!), and the noodles are freshly cooked to order, along with some sort of meat, possibly bean sprouts, and a sprinkling of coriander. Cheap and tasty, you could happily live off this for your entire trip around Thailand!
So those were some of my favourite Thai dishes – although there are lots more to choose from of course!
Let me know your favourites in the comments below!
Laurence spends much of his time musing on his travel and photography blog: Finding the Universe. He’s happiest behind his camera viewfinder on top of a mountain, or enjoying a chilled beer somewhere. If you bump into him, say hi, and steer him away from the edge…
Thanks to winn*, avlxyz, Jeffrey_Allen, stevendepolo, goodiesfirst, and Dan Zen for the images from Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.