With intense aromas and spicy flavors, Thai food is renowned worldwide. The diversity of Thai cuisine is so vast that even a selection of 30 traditional Thai dishes makes this list a brief introduction to this extraordinary and particularly Southeast Asian cuisine.
The 30 best typical Thai dishes
1. Som Tam
Som Tam is a green papaya salad. The dish is originally from Isan (Laos and Northeastern Thailand). In Thai, Som Tam means “pound the sour.” Crispy, fresh, sweet, spicy, sour, Som Tam is a salad full of flavor. The sauce emphasizes the taste made with fish sauce, palm sugar, pepper, garlic, lemon, and tomato. The texture is complemented with raw green beans, toasted peanuts, and dried shrimp.
Laab or Larb is a meat salad seasoned with fresh herbs. Typical of Laos and Northern Thailand. It can be made with pork, fish, chicken, duck, buffalo, or cow meat. The spices, herbs, and type of meat may vary according to the region, but the coriander, scallions, and lots of mints can’t be out.
Jok is a rice porridge widely consumed in Bangkok for breakfast. This delicious dish’s secret is in a good broth added with chopping pork, chives, cilantro, fried garlic, ginger, and lemon to finish – a healthy way to start the day.
4. Pad Thai
One of the most known foods of Thailand and is also widely accepted by Western palates. A traditional Pad Thai recipe includes rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and tofu, seasoned with tamarind juice, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, onion, pepper, and palm sugar. It is usually served with bean sprouts, lemon slices, and roasted peanuts. Many variations add fresh shrimp, chicken, or pork.
5. Pad See Ew
Unlike Pad Thai, Pad See Ew is made with a much larger rice noodle. The noodle is stir-fried with plenty of soy sauce, meat, egg, tofu, and Chinese broccoli.
6. Kuay Teow Neua
Kuay Teow Neua (Beef Noodle Soup). Although beef is not a common ingredient in Thai cuisine, this beef noodle soup is delicious. The big secret lies in the broth that slowly cooks the beef pieces until it becomes very soft. One of our favorite Thai dishes which you can find in Bangkok!
7. Ba Mee Kiew
Delicious egg noodles made with wonton and usually accompanied by beautiful slices of pork belly. Wonton is a Cantonese dumpling filled with meat and widely consumed throughout Asia. You can choose between Dry Wonton Noodles or Wonton Noodle Soup. In the soup version, the ingredients come immersed in a clear broth, while in the dry version, the broth comes in a separate bowl.
8. Khao Niao
Khao Niao (sticky rice) is one of the main staple foods in the Isan region covering northeastern Thailand and Laos. The sticky rice or glutinous rice has such a strong presence in Thai cuisine that it goes in many kinds of dishes, from appetizers to dessert.
9. Gai Yang
Gai Yang is grilled marinated chicken. The ever crispy skin, juicy meat, and sauces on the side make it a true delight! To accompany the gai yang, we love ordering a portion of sticky rice and green papaya salad.
10. Pla Plao
Pla Plao is a fish covered with coarse salt, stuffed with lemongrass, and grilled over hot coals. The appearance is dry, but you don’t believe how juicy this preparation is when you take the first bite. The usual side dishes are fresh noodles, fresh herbs, leaves, and a little special sauce.
11. Gai Hor Bai Toey
Fried chicken on pandan leaf. Pandanus is a plant widely used in Asia to add aroma and color to food. Its fragrance, reminiscent of vanilla, brings a special touch to this dish. The chicken is marinated, then rolled in the pandan leaf, and fried in the wok.
12. Sai Oua
Typical of Northern Thailand, Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage) is a spicy sausage. This sausage is prepared with ground pork, spices, and herbs, for example, lemongrass, which brings a very intense and fresh flavor to it. Excellent Thai snack to have with a beer. If you order as a main meal, don’t forget the sticky rice as a side dish.
13. Hor Mok Pla
Pla is fish, and Hor Mok means the process of cooking these steamed curry dumplings on the banana leaf. An authentic Thai food that has also influenced its neighbors, such as Cambodia’s famous Amok fish. Hor Mok Pla looks more like a steamed fish souffle made with coconut cream, curry paste, and kaffir lime.
14. Hoi Tod
Super crispy oyster omelet at a popular price and served as street food. The origin is Chinese, but it is pretty famous on the streets of Bangkok. The crispness is due to the rice flour, which is added to the omelet dough. There is also a version with mussels instead of oysters.
15. Pad Kra Pao
Pad Kra Pao is a meat stew, usually chicken or pork, with Thai holy basil accompanied by a portion of rice and a fried egg. A quick dish with a lot of food and a delicious aroma of basil.
Read more: How to eat street food and not get sick.
16. Khao Kha Moo
Khao Kha Moo (Pork Leg with Rice) is another traditional Thai food, famous in Chiang Mai’s streets, but not only. It is made with rice, pork, and boiled eggs. The dish’s highlight is the pork leg that is slowly braised in a sweet broth full of spices. The boiled egg, after cooked, goes to the same broth to absorb its flavor and color. If you like pork cut into an aromatic and sweet broth, this is the one you should order.
17. Khao Kluk Kapi
Khao Kluk Kapi starts with rice, not only cooked but sautéed with shrimp paste. Rice is served with various elements that contrast among themselves: green mango, omelet, red onion, dried shrimp, sweet pork, sweet and sour Chinese sausage, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, coriander, onion, egg. A complete and typical Thailand dish in both texture and flavors.
18. Khao Mok Gai
Known as the Biryani of Thailand (Thai-Style Chicken Biryani). This dish is influenced by Thai Muslims living in the south of the country due to Malaysia’s proximity. Rice with turmeric and various spices is cooked with the meat resulting in a yellowish and aromatic dish. Served with slices of cucumber and fried onions, the biggest difference with the other versions of Biryani is the combination of Indian and local spices.
19. Khao Pad
Who has never heard of fried rice? Cooked Jasmine rice, egg, chicken or pork meat, garlic, onion, pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and so on. Just throw everything in the wok, with oil over high heat and hands-on stir-frying. A famous version among Thai foods is the Khao Pad Sapparod which is served in a pineapple.
Read also: The best rice dishes in the world
Thai Curry Dishes
Curry is a mixture of spices that serve as a basis for preparing various dishes in Thailand and are usually made fresh. These spices are pounded with a mortar and pestle until they get a paste consistency. Many foods in Thailand have their own curry paste called by the same name as the dish to identify it. The most common ones are called by their color, being red, yellow, and green curry.
20. Phrik Kaeng Phet – Red Curry
The red curry brings a lot of red chili as its main ingredient, making the curry reddish. The red curry is spicier than the yellow curry, which I explain below.
21. Kaeng Kari – Yellow Curry
Many curry pastes share common ingredients such as galangal, ginger, lemongrass, shrimp paste, garlic, etc. In the yellow curry, the big difference is the addition of turmeric. It is also well used in dishes with coconut milk and potatoes.
22. Kaeng Khiao Wan – Green Curry
In my opinion, this is the curry paste with the most intense flavor. Its base has coriander, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, zest, and the great highlight, green chili. It results in more pungent and intense curry. The green chili stands out and pleases the more resistant palates to astringent spicy. It comes with a lot of aroma and freshness.
23. Khao Soi
Khao Soi is a delicious chicken or beef soup made with egg noodles in two textures: cooked in the broth and another portion fried and served on top of the soup. It usually accompanies pickled cabbage, red onion, and lemon. It is believed to be influenced by the Hui / Chin Haw people. That is, it came with the Chinese-Muslims who migrated to Myanmar, Laos, and Northern Thailand. If you go to Chiang Mai, be sure to try it!
24. Tom Yum
Tom Yum is a sour and spicy Thai soup. The best known is made with shrimps, called Tom Yum Goong. Tom Yum’s main base is the Nam Prik Pao, a paste of herbs and spices made with chili, shallots, and garlic. The soup also takes mushrooms, coriander, tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, and fish sauce.
25. Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai is another delicious soup, traditional in Thailand (and Laos), made with chicken and coconut milk. Aromatic, creamy, and slightly sour. Tom Kha Gai recipe‘s main ingredients are coconut milk, mushroom, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chili, fish sauce, lemon juice, and chicken.
26. Kaeng Som
Kaeng Som is known as Sour Curry. This Thai curry is very popular in southern Thailand, where sour tastes satisfy most local palates. A hot soup with fish, fresh tamarind, and shrimp paste as main ingredients. Some regions like to add turmeric. In this case, it is called Kaeng Lueang, which means Yellow Sour Curry. Pungent but balanced.
27. Massaman Curry
Considered by many to be one of the best curries in Thailand. Massaman Curry deviates from a traditional Thai curry due to the spices used, which has Muslim influence from Malaysia. The common curry ingredients, such as coriander seed, lemongrass, galangal, chilies, and shrimp paste are mixed with dried spices like cinnamon, cumin, cardamom cloves, anise, and nutmeg. The harmony of this curry paste with potatoes, chicken, and coconut milk makes this one of the must-have Thai dishes.
28. Panang Curry
The interaction of southern Thailand with northern Malaysia created another dish that is a must-eat food in Thailand. The Panang curry takes peanuts in the recipe, which thickens the sauce and makes it unique compared to any other Thai curry. It also takes coconut milk, chilies, coriander, galangal, lemongrass, etc.
29. Khao Niao Mamuang
Khao Niao Mamuang, known as Mango Sticky Rice, is nothing more than slices of mango served with steamed glutinous rice (sticky rice) mixed with sweetened coconut milk. Then, an extra portion of coconut cream and sesame or mung beans on top. It can also be found with green glutinous rice colored with pandan leaf or black glutinous rice.
30. Kluai Buat Chi
Banana cooked in coconut milk. A very traditional Thai dessert, including its neighboring countries. Easy to make, light, and healthy. You only need ripe bananas, sugar, salt, and coconut milk.