There are plenty of reasons to visit Thailand, from its glorious beaches, rich culture, stunning landscape, easy-to-travel reputation and not to forget its amazing food. And who doesn’t love Thai food? Thailand’s food needs little introduction. From Nairobi to Sao Paulo to Hong Kong, it is among the most coveted of international cuisines, but to be honest where better to taste this amazing food than in Thailand itself.
We have asked Chin, one of our locals we work with, about the best dishes in Thailand you should try. Below are her most favorite Thai food picks.
Chin explains that Thailand has such a great variety of food that differs per region. Classic Thai dishes originate from century-old recipes passed down from generation to generation, using the finest ingredients. The balance between sweet, sour, salty and hot form the essence of Thai cuisine.
To really get a good flavor of the differences per region she recommends trying dishes that are characteristic of the various regions.
Food to try from the North
Thailand’s North and Northeastern region, also known as Isaan, is a place of verdant rice fields, relaxing rivers and an intense cuisine made from ingredients grown in backyard gardens and dense forests. Chin hails from this region, and it is still her favorite place to rejuvenate and explore. Due to the cooler mountain climate, there is a lager variety of vegetables than in other regional Thai dishes.
When in the Northeast (Isaan) part of Thailand you should definitely try Som Tam Buu Pla Raa. It is papaya salad made the Isaan way with fermented fish and pickled mud crab. Be aware that it is very spicy.
Also try Laap Muang that differs from the Isaan style Laap Muu. It is a Thai salad made with minced meat. This dish is made by using a special spice of the north called makwaen.
Laap Muang. Photo credit Serious Eats
If you want to go exotic then try Goi Kai Mod Daeng. It is a spicy red ant egg salad with mint, cilantro, lime, and toasted rice powder. The eggs give this salad a buttery contrast that balances the other spices. Delicious! Nowadays the ant eggs are a premium priced product.
Goi Kai Mod Daeng.
Food to try from central Thailand
Central Thailand is characterized by paddy, orchards and sugar-cane fields, and is the heart of the Thai food production. What better way then you eat your way around this region. If you go to central Thailand then a very good choice is Nam Prik Pla Tuu. It is a hot dip made with grilled mackerel, chilies, and fish sauce. It is especially very common in Samut Songkhram.
Nam Prik Pla Tuu
Another delicious Thai dish is Yum Som O. It is one of Thailand’s most popular salad recipes. The pomelo fruit goes very well with with the chilies, peanuts, and mint. A really refreshing an light dish.
Pomelo salad. Photo credit superfoodista.
Food to try from the East
East Thailand consists of mountain ranges alternating with small basins of short rivers. If you go to east Thailand you should try Muu Chamuang. It is roasted pork curry with Chamuang leaf, which can only be found it in the area of Chanthaburi or Trat province.
Kai Yang or grilled chicken, is another specialty that has its roots in the eastern part of Thailand bordering the Isaan region. The chicken is rubbed with garlic, coriander root, black pepper and fish sauce before it is cooked slowly over hot charcoal.
Food to try from southern Thailand
Southern Thai dishes are highly underrated and spicier. Spiciness is not the only characteristic of southern Thai food. It also has a natural abundance of herbs, and a blend of spices like turmeric, galangal, garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
If you travel to the south of Thailand you should try spicy Kua Kling, spicy pork, chicken or beef stir fried with southern curry paste topped with kaffir lime and young green pepper corn.
Another great Thai dish to try is Keang Som Bon Plaa Kamin. It is sour curry with turmeric and pearl snapper fish. Really yum!
Khao Yam is another delicious dish to taste. In Thailand everyone has his or her own way of preparing it, and it is often made with whatever is growing in the garden at home. It is a fragrant tossed rice salad full of herbs, grated coconut, and dry shrimps. It is finished with a unique dressing made from fermented fish sauce.
Southern Thai dishes
When in Thailand you can’t leave without trying a good Pad Thai. Noodles stir fried with crunchy beansprouts, onion, peanuts, fish sauce and egg. You can get it from almost any street stall. Another delicious treat is Krapao Kai Khai Dao. It is one of Thailand’s principal dishes that consist of chicken stir fried with basil leaves, rice and an egg on top.
Pad Thai at a street stall in Bangkok
If you want to explore Thai cuisine yourself when traveling in Thailand Chin is more than happy to let you try various Thai dishes via one of her food tours.
Check the best Thai food experiences here! Only offered by local people.