Thai Dishes That Will Make Your Mouth Water
In Thailand, cooking and eating are social events. In fact, many Thais consider it bad luck to eat alone. Sitting at a restaurant, you’ll see that things are very different from home. Rather than ordering as individuals, Thai people order several communal dishes. Meal time is an opportunity to socialize, relax, and laugh. And the same goes for cooking at home—everyone lends a hand in the kitchen.
Thai dishes consists of four main flavors: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. It’s not uncommon to encounter all four in one meal! You’ll actually struggle to find a Thai dish that doesn’t involve a flavor clash. It’s one of the things that make exploring Thai food so exciting.
Luckily, you can order Thai food to order:
Like it spicy? “Pet Mak Mat Ka/Krup.”
Prefer it mild? “Pet Nit Noi Ka/Krup.”
It’s also important to remember that Thai people love snacking! With so many affordable street food vendors, eating between meals is a regular occurrence. As a result, some snacks have made our list of top dishes.
#1 – Khao Soi (Northern Curry Soup)
Khao Soi is one of the most unique Thai curries available. It’s a northern specialty, so you’ll find it all over Chiang Mai and Pai. It consists of egg noodles and chicken/beef soaked in an orange broth of coconut milk, herbs, and spices. You can expect pickled cabbage, red onion, and lime on the side. This dish is on the less spicy side of things. It’s also a great example of Burmese and Chinese influences on Thai cooking!
#2 – Gai Yang (Grilled Chicken)
If you see people eating on the street, there’s a good chance Gai Yang is around the corner. It’s a simple dish, but one of our favorite street snacks. You buy it on a skewer, and it’s usually served with a tang sauce and sticky rice. Gai Yang is the perfect combination of smoky and sour flavors. Our rule of thumb is to buy it from the vendor with the longest line—if Thai people think it’s worth the wait, it is.
#3 – Pad See Ew (Thai Stir Fried Noodles)
Pad See Ew has a distinct Chinese influence. Thanks to its thick rice noodles, you’ll definitely feel full after eating this. The noodles are stir fried with endless dark soy sauce, pork/chicken, egg, broccoli, and garlic. If you want the locals to think you know what you’re doing, add in chill, lime, vinegar, and sugar yourself. It’s one of the best ways to nurse a hangover!
#4 – Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup)
No list of delicious Thai food would be complete without a few soups. Most tourists don’t venture out and try Tom Kha Gai. They’re definitely missing out! This soup is both sweet and sour, combining coconut milk, lemongrass, shallots, chicken, and veggies. Better yet, it’s extremely healthy. Many Thai people treat it like chicken noodle soup and eat it when they have a cold.
#5 – Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
You’ll find this (in)famous dish in every corner of Thailand. It’s one of our favorite hangover foods. But beware—there’s no lettuce involved! The typical Papaya Salad will consist of chillies, fish sauce, shrimp, and sliced papaya. It’s typically extremely spicy, so be prepared to work up a sweat. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but we strongly encourage you to try it out.
#6 – Pak Boong (Fried Morning Glory)
Between beers, it’s important to make sure you’re getting fruits and veggies. Morning glory is a Thai staple, so you’ll find it in countless dishes. The closest western comparison would be spinach. Morning glory is stir fried with garlic, chilli, and oyster sauce. Most people eat it with rice as a side dish. Just trust us when we say it’s a lot tastier than spinach back home!
#7 – Poo Pad Pong Karee (Crab Curry)
This dish really highlights foreign influence on Thai food. It’s a unique blend of both Indian and Chinese flavors (with an added Thai twist). The cook starts with a traditional Thai yellow curry, but adds onion, tomato, pepper, and sauteed crab. To top it off, eggs are mixed in for thickness and texture. This curry is on the less spicy side of things, but be sure to specify how much chilli you can handle!
#8 – Tom Yam Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
If you want to eat like a Thai person, this is the dish for you. It’s incredibly tasty, widely loved, and completely filling. It blends all of the traditional Thai flavors, balancing sweet with sour and spicy with salty. Its base is shrimp, mushroom, tomato, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. If you choose to add coconut milk, it will be sweeter and creamier. But if you opt to have it plain, you’ll enjoy more of a sour taste.
#9 – Massaman Curry (Southern Peanut Curry)
This is one of the most popular Thai dishes among foreigners. It’s many backpackers’ favorite curry because it is extremely mild. It has its roots in southern Thailand’s muslim community. Generally, you can expect to find chicken, coconut milk, potato, peanuts, cinnamon, and tamarind sauce. For those who like a kick, you can add in chillies yourself.
#10 – Gai Pad Met Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew)
This is another dish extremely popular with tourists. It’s a mild dish, with an amazing mixture of sweet and salty flavors. Chicken, onions, chilies, and cashews are stir fried in a wok and then served with a sweet-and-sour sauce. It’s a great option when you need a break from spicy food or endless seafood dishes. Just don’t let this become your go-to meal!
#11 – Kao Moo Dang (Pork with Rice)
Say hello to one of Thailand’s most delicious street foods! When your mouth needs a break, this is a great option. It’s extremely filling and packed with protein. Thin slices of pork, chunks of Thai sausages, and boiled egg are served with plain rice. Many vendors also cover it with a barbecue-flavored gravy. We particularly like eating Kao Moo Dang before a night out.
#12 – Nam Neung (Thai Spring Rolls)
Nam Neung is a Thai take on Vietnamese spring rolls. You can find it in most street markets, and especially as Vietnamese-style restaurants in Bangkok. The rolls usually include garlic, mango, cucumber, mint, cilantro, and pork. You dip them in a sweet, spicy sauce. It’s a great way to get your daily dose of vegetables without missing out on a flavor-packed meal.
#13 – Laab (Minced Meat Salad)
This one isn’t technically Thai. Laab originally comes from Laos, and is now extremely popular in northeastern Thailand. Luckily, the dish has gained popularity and you can try it almost anywhere in the country! It combines minced pork, chicken, or fish with vegetables, chillies, and fish sauce. From time to time, you’ll even find liver in your Laab. The dish is best with sticky rice. It packs a punch though, so have a bottle of water handy!
#14 – Nam Tok Moo (Meat Salad/Soup)
Nam Tok literally translates to waterfall, because the dish makes sounds similar to a waterfall as its being cooked. It has the same ingredients as Laab, but with thicker cuts of meat. As a result, it is much more savory and flavorful. Just like Laab, it packs a major punch and is best with sticky rice. The main difference is that it is also available in a soup form.
#15 – Pad Ka Prao (Stir Fried Basil)
This is a great dish when you just can’t decide what to eat. Pad Ka Prao is loved by locals and tourists alike—and for good reason! It’s made with chicken or pork that’s stir fried with garlic, chili, onion, and basil. It’s often served with fried egg and rice. Despite being so simple, it truly has all the flavor you want in Thai food.
#16 – Kai Jeow (Thai-Style Omelette)
We know, we know. Omelettes aren’t originally Thai and an egg tastes like an egg. But we promise that Thai-Style omelettes are one of a kind! The eggs are deep fried in oil, leaving them crispier than any omelette you’ve had before. It’s a great breakfast option, and many Thai people eat it with ketchup and chili sauce.
#17 – Kao Mun Gai (Chicken with Rice)
Kao Mun Gai is a Thai staple that we just can’t get enough of. It’s extremely simple, and the perfect break from flavor-packed, spicy foods. Slivers of boiled chicken are served with rice and chicken stock, often alongside chicken soup. And when you’re feeling adventurous, you can find fried chicken with sweet sauce as well.
#18 – Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
This is easily the least exciting dish on our list. Fried rice is an Asian cuisine, and not necessarily a Thai one. However, each country has its own twist on the popular dish. In Thailand, you can expect wok-fried chicken, eggs, veggies, onion, and fish sauce. Some restaurants even serve it “American-style” with hot dogs and ketchup!
#19 – Khao Niow Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
Ordering Mango Sticky Rice can be a challenge! A line of both Thais and foreigners usually wraps around the block given how popular it is. The name describes it perfectly: sticky rice served with a side of mango and coconut cream. It’s extremely cheap, delicious, and the perfect mid-day snack or dessert.
#20 – Moo Satay (Pork/Peanut Satay)
Our last must-try dish is one that you’ll get addicted to. Slices of pork are soaked in turmeric and coconut milk before being barbecued. They’re then served with a peanut sauce and vinegar salad. This is the type of food you can mindlessly eat for hours. Be careful!