Eating is a favourite pastime throughout South East Asia and with so many fresh ingredients and flavourful spices, it is easy to see why! As I explore each region, I’ll be sampling local specialties and sharing the near infinite variety of foods that make travelling in this part of the world a culinary adventure. Here are the traditional foods from Thailand that I had the pleasure of trying.
A Locavore’s Food Guide to Thailand
Introducing Thailand an incredibly popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia. My 2016 visit included stops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong, Krabi, Railay and Koh Lanta. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister and a king. The Royal Family are greatly loved by the Thai people and any visitor should be careful to show respect. Thailand is considered an emerging economy and tourism plays a large role in this prosperity. However the negative ramifications of foreign attention include blatant sex tourism, rampant environmental destruction and an increasing cost of living for locals. Before we dive into these issues, let’s celebrate Thailand’s favourite activity – eating!!
1. Pat Tai
Pat Tai (also spelled Pad Thai) is a common fried noodle dish made traditionally with egg, shrimp, green onions, peanuts and lime. You can find this simple, but delicious meal, at most restaurants and many street food stalls. It is the perfect dish for those new to Thai food as the level of spice, salt, sour and sweet can all be customized using condiments. Best enjoyed with a cold Chang Beer after a long day of sightseeing in Bangkok.
2. Gaeng Kiew Waan Gai
Gaeng Kiew Waan Gai, also known as green coconut curry, is a true Thai classic. This spicy curry paste is made from a combination of chillies, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime rind, coriander, cumin and shrimp paste. That is an intensely flavourful combination! The most common preparation is with chicken, Thai eggplant, sweet basil and coconut milk. Best eaten when freshly prepared at a family-run restaurant and served with jasmine rice.
3. Guay Tiew Kua Gai
Guay Tiew Kua Gai is another fried noodle dish that features thick rice noodles cooked in pork fat and served with chicken, green onions and cilantro. It was one of my absolute favourite traditional foods from Thailand! Best eaten from a street food stall that specializes in Guay Tiew Kua Gai and cooks it on a charcoal brazier.
4. Khao Soi
Khao Soi (Khao Soy) is curry noodle soup from Northern Thailand. This delectable dish is a combination of curry paste, coconut milk, rice noodles and slow cooked chicken. The curry itself is traditionally made with the aromatic flavours of cardamom, turmeric, ginger, coriander and garlic which are heightened by the addition lemongrass, lime and cane sugar. It is topped with crispy noodles, pickled radish, shallots, cilantro and fresh lime. Best enjoyed as frequently as possible while visiting Northern Thailand.
Dying to know where to find the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai? I’ll share my secret with you!
5. Tom Yum
Tom Yum is traditionally a soup made from tomato, lemongrass, Thai ginger, kaffir lime and chillies and frequently served with shrimp. While I had many bowls of Tom Yum soup, my favourite version was a vermicelli noodle stir-fry with Tom Yum sauce. Best enjoyed as a light meal or as a starter before a main course.
There are dozens of incredibly flavourful and unique dishes to try in Thailand. While I can’t list them all here a few more of my favourites were Sai Ooa: a spicy sausage common in the north, readily available at the night markets, Som Tum: a spicy papaya, green bean & peanut salad and Mango with Sticky Rice: a dessert made of fresh mango with coconut cream sweet rice.
Have you had any of these delectable dishes?
Stay tuned as I share my stories from Thailand including the cooking class where I made Som Tum, the prison where I ate Green Curry, the tuk tuk tour where I tried Guay Tiew Kua Gai and the river boat trip where I drank Thai Ice Tea! To read all my stories from Thailand, subscribe here!