The most popular Thai dishes you absolutely must try when visiting Thailand.
Important tips: If you didn’t like something at one place, try it elsewhere. Tastes can vary significantly.
Pad Thai / ผัดไทย: Pad Thai is arguably the most renowned Thai culinary creation. If you’re new to Thai cuisine, Pad Thai, which translates to ‘stir-fried Thai noodles,’ is an excellent dish to begin your exploration. Traditional Pad Thai is often prepared with shrimp or a combination of seafood, but you can also find chicken, pork, or vegetarian variations to suit your preference.
⇒ Thipsamai Pad Thai restaurant on Maha Chai Road in Bangkok’s Old City (map).
Tom Yum / ต้มยำกุ้ง: Tom Yum holds the title of being the most widely cherished Thai soup, enjoyed both within Thailand and across the globe. If you have a penchant for spicy cuisine, this dish is sure to gratify your taste buds. Typically, Tom Yum is crafted using prawns (Tom Yum Goong), chicken (Tom Yum Gai), fish (Tom Yum Pla), or an assortment of seafood (Tom Yum Taleh) combined with mushrooms. Among locals, the shrimp (Goong) variation is esteemed as the most delectable, making it an excellent choice for first-time tasters!
⇒ Jeh O Chula (map) – giant MAMA noodles / Jay Fai (map) – Michelin star street food and Netflix’s documentary Street Food / Pe Aor (map) – is a favored destination for Bangkok locals seeking oversized lobster noodles and the irresistible allure of tom yum soup. / The Place 168 / Tom Yum Kung bar – 9 Khaosan Rd (map)
Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่) stands as another beloved soup in Thai cuisine. The essence lies in the inclusion of ‘Kha,’ which represents galangal, complemented by the fragrant notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves for herbal richness. This soup boasts a velvety texture, owing to the coconut milk, and tender chunks of chicken. Tom Kha is particularly recommended for those with a preference for milder flavors, as it is notably less spicy compared to Tom Yum.
Gaeng Keow Wan Gai / แกงเขียวหวานไก่. The favored curry in Thailand is undoubtedly green curry. This delightful dish is prepared using a blend of coconut milk, fresh herbs, and green peppers, which impart both its distinctive color and a mild level of spiciness. Contrary to what you might expect, green curry leans towards the sweeter side rather than being overwhelmingly spicy.
Pad Kra Pao (ผัดกระเพรา) is a beloved Thai dish, often chosen by locals when they’re unsure of what to order. It’s quick, delicious, and named after Holy basil, a key ingredient. You can make it with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, or tofu, and it’s served with rice. For extra flavor, consider adding a fried egg (Khai Dao) on top.
Rad Na (ราดหน้า) ranks among the favored street food offerings in Thailand. It features flat rice noodles and a medley of vegetables generously smothered in a luscious gravy. The protein component can vary and includes options like pork, chicken, or seafood.
Khao-soi (ข้าวซอย), hailing from Northern Thailand, is a delectable curry noodle dish. It features a base of coconut milk and yellow curry sauce ladled over tender egg noodles, garnished with a delightful crunch from crispy fried noodles on top. Khao Soi comes in various renditions, including chicken, beef, pork, or vegetarian options. It boasts a mild spiciness, a hint of sweetness, and a creamy texture. If you find yourself in Chiang Mai, trying Khao Soi is an absolute must!
Guay Teow (ก๋วยเตี๊ยว), also known as noodle soup, stands as Thailand’s ubiquitous street food delight. Its widespread popularity is owed to its versatility, making it suitable for any mealtime. Guay teow encompasses a diverse range of noodle soup variations, with hundreds of delectable renditions to choose from.
Gai Pad Med Mamuang (ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วง) is a delightful Thai chicken and cashew nut dish that draws inspiration from Chinese cuisine. The recipe incorporates sweet soy sauce, chili, and onions, offering a balanced blend of flavors. Many tourists favor this dish for its mild and pleasing taste, making it an excellent choice for those who aren’t fans of intense Asian spices or for children. Gai Pad Med Mamuang is traditionally served with steamed rice.
Gaeng Massaman (แกงมัสมั่น) Massaman curry, originating from southern Thailand, is a sweet and creamy delight. This dish comprises coconut milk, meat, and a unique curry paste. The paste includes a blend of spices not typically found in local cuisine, such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, cumin, and nutmeg, along with familiar ingredients like chili, coriander, lemongrass, onions, coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, and cashews.
While the most common version of Massaman curry features beef, variations with chicken or pork are also available. Vegetarians can opt for tofu. The dish’s sweetness is complemented by tender potatoes that soak up the curry, creating a flavorful combination. Should you desire, you can pair it with a side of rice.