The weather in Thailand may be scorching, yet the true ‘heat’ of the country comes from its spicy (and some not so spicy) local dishes. Eating in Thailand is an exhilarating experience – both for the palate and your appetite. For an unforgettable gastronomical adventure, here is a list of Top 10 dishes for when you’re looking to eat your way through Thailand.
By: Ellyse Ng
Tom Yam Goong
If you’re thinking of ever going to Thailand without even trying out a nice piping hot bowl of Tom Yam, you might as well not go at all. A memorable dish so synonymous with the Land of Smiles, the locals use generous portions of lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and shallots along with chillis and fish sauce to make this marvelously fragrant (and spicy) bowl of sour soup. Usually paired with rice.
Even the expatriates would know how to order a good old plate of Pad Thai. Rice noodles are dressed up in tofu, onion, bean sprouts and of course, its marvellous finishing touch – peanuts. Fried in a wok with a fiery fire, you end up with a great staple dish that’s easy to order and great to consume!
Gang Keow Wan Gai (Green Curry)
You can pick from red or green curry, but Thailand’s green curry promises a sweeter taste that’s out-of-this-world! It’s a simple dish made from green curry paste, kefir lime leaves, aubergine and fish sauce, and the secret ingredient that makes it distinctly Thai is its coconut milk.
Perhaps not for the faint-hearted or faint-stomached, but healthy servings of grasshoppers, roaches, ant eggs, silk worms and caterpillars can be found in almost all Thai markets. Fried to golden (or brown?) perfection, the insects come with a variety of dipping sauce that makes the taste-like-chicken insects even more savoury.
Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes)
Common but definitely unique to Thailand, this popular side dish is a safe but titillating choice for those intolerant of Thailand’s spiciness. Usually eaten as an appetizer, the best ones are chewy and aromatic at the same time. Made from fish paste along with curry paste, lemon grass, chilli, shallot and other spices, pair it with some sweet Thai chilli sauce for a yummy treat!
The durian is the king of fruits, but the Thai durian is the king of all durians. Reigning supreme with its subtle flavour and smooth texture, one of Thailand’s greatest pleasures would be downing the melt-in-your-mouth fruit…if only you could get over its highly pervasive aroma, of course!
Mango Sticky Rice
Each to its own, no mango sticky rice is ever the same. This local dessert is made up of short grained rice steamed to sticky perfection, and topped with sweet coconut milk. The Pièce de résistance is of course Thailand’s famously juicy and fresh ripe mango – a sweet concoction that is made even sweeter with more coconut milk.
Originating from northeast Thailand, the ‘papaya salad’ of Thailand has such a huge following that it’s almost a cult. Tangy and sweet at the same time, you get shredded green papaya coupled with fish sauce, chilli, palm sugar, lime and tomatoes in an irresistible concoction – usually made fresh before your very eyes.
Tom Kha Gai
The milky goodness of this chicken galangal soup is undeniable. Coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and generous portions of chicken are further enhanced by adding mushrooms and chilli for a smoky flavour.
A popular dish especially in Chiang Mai, this favourite is a delicious serving of wheat noodles in sweet chicken curry soup. The egg noodles are either crispy, boiled or both, and the concoction has a thinner consistency than massaman curry – perfect with pickled cabbage, shallots, lime and ground chillies.
No matter which part of Thailand you venture to, you will definitely have to try the unique and exotic flavours of Thailand’s seafood. Fresh from the sea, the prices are always reasonable, and with the locals’ flair for spices, you can be sure that your seafood dish will come with generous flavours of lemongrass, coconut milks, cilantro, chilli and of course, lime. If you have time, head on over to Surat Thani, where it is known for its quality and cheap succulent oysters!
Time to say Sawasdee to Tom Yam-land today, and make the Awesome Thailand guide your travel bible in the ‘Land of Smiles’!
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