Travelling to Thailand for the first time and dont know anything about Thai cuisine? Fret not! This post on the 10 Thai dishes you have to try is a fun guide for beginners to Thai food.
As always, this post is not sponsored in any way. I wrote this out of our enduring love for Thai food. So sit down, preferably with a glass of wine(!) and lets begin this delicious journey!
At the outset let me state this: WE LOVE THAI FOOD! We love the sweet and spicy taste, the bold flavors and the colorful look. We had our first taste 2 years back and could not have enough. Each time that we have gone back to Thailand, we keep having more. In fact, food is among the top reasons why we love travelling to Thailand. It gives us great pleasure introducing our family and friends to Thai food when they have travelled with us. Being flashpackers we usually have a couple meals in a proper restaurant, but the rest of the time we are happy stuffing ourselves with budget and delicious food from local eating places.
WE LOVE STICKING TO OUR FAVOURITE LOCAL EATING HOUSES, LIKE THIS ONE IN BANGKOK. PICTURES TAKEN CIRCA 2017 AND 2019. NOTICE THE COOL, COLOURFUL AND QUIRKY WALL WITH MESSGES FROM TRAVELLERS AROUND THE WORLD !
We have had quite a few amazing foodie experiences over the last couple of years. Having dinner at a riverside rooftop restaurant overlooking the beautifully lit up Wat Arun, chomping down hungrily on ‘Boat Noodles’ for breakfast while being surrounded by UNESCO heritage ruins in Ayuthuya and having some delicious sea food in the beach shacks of Koh Lanta top that list. But our best moments involve tasting street food in the local night markets. We have visited night markets in Bangkok, Chiang mai and Krabi and loved trying out something new each time.
This list of the 10 Thai dishes you have to try is based on our personal experiences and taste preferences. So you will not find popular items like Tom yum soup in this list due to my prawn/shrimp allergy. We tried to make this a fun Thai food guide for the budget foodie, especially if you are a beginner to Thai food. So all these dishes are budget ones which we have tried at budget eating places but their taste is delicious. Keep in mind that i am not a cook or a food critic, just a common foodie who loves trying out new stuff.
10 THAI DISHES YOU HAVE TO TRY (OR THE THAI FOOD GUIDE FOR THE BUDGET FOODIE !)
10. PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE
WHAT: Jasmine rice stir fried with ingredients like bell peppers, peas, shrimp, pineapple pieces and Thai sauces and served in a cut up boat shaped Pineapple.
OUR TAKE: Though fried rice is very common in India and one of our comfort food items, we had never had this dish before. Just seeing the pineapple it was served in was enough for us to order this! The fried rice is a tad different from the Indian/Chinese versions due to the usage of Thai sauces and spices. Eating the pineapple chunks in the rice was a new one for us. Though I have shrimp allergy, I was able to eat this by removing the pieces and handing them over to my shrimp-loving better half, B! If you are new to Thai food, this is good dish to get you started without giving too much of a shock.
9. PAD SIE EIW
WHAT: Flat and wide rice noodles stir fried with Chinese broccoli, eggs, meat and a variety of sauces like soy sauce and oyster sauce making for a sweet and sour savoury delight.
WHERE: Local breakfast shop at Ayuthuya
OUR TAKE: This is the most popular noodle dish among Westerners in Thailand. If you are a noodle lover you will be spoilt for choice in Thailand with the variety on offer and this dish is amongst the best noodle dishes out there. The name literally translates to ‘Fried Soy Sauce’ as it is made with a generous sprinkling of Thai soy sauces and fish sauces. Though am a rice person, I loved it with its sweet and slightly sour taste that was filling enough to let me wander among the ruins at Ayuthuyya for a few hours without feeling hungry.
8. THAI GREEN CURRY/ RED CURRY
WHAT: Thai curries named so because of their colour. The green curry is based on coconut milk and green chillies and is more pungent than the milder Red curry which is also based on coconut milk and dried red chillies. Both can be prepared with or without meat and are served with rice.
WHERE: Multiple times in Bangkok and the islands
OUR TAKE: The ubiquitous Thai comfort food for us when we are homesick and looking for some curry and rice. I love these coconut based curries as the taste is totally different from what we are used to at home in India. The coconut gives a sweet taste that is balanced by the addition of chillies and the end result is simply tasty. We always have the meat based curries but vegeterians can opt for veggies only options. This is a great lunch dish for us to have with rice after a long and exhausting morning of sightseeing.
7. OYESTER OMELETTE
WHAT: Omlette filled with oysters and fried with a thick batter
WHERE: Night markets of Bangkok and Krabi; Terminal 21 Mall food court in Bangkok
OUR TAKE: This street food staple of Taiwanese origin is a popular item across the night markets of Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. It has been one of the most unique items we have come across and we fell in love after first bite. So much so that we hunt markets seeking out this particular dish! We anyways are oyster addicts and having this variation was a treat for us. Apart from the street markets, another place that serves great oyster omlettes at budget prices is the food court of Terminal 21 Mall in Bangkok. (We love this food court and have visited it both the times we were in Bangkok, but that is a story for another day!). If there is only one item you can try in a market, make it this. You won’t regret!
6. COCONUT ICE CREAM
WHAT: Ice cream of Coconut flavor served in a coconut shell
WHERE: Riverside rooftop restaurant at Supanniga eating room, Bangkok
OUR TAKE: After so many savoury treats, it’s time for a dessert! This is plain old ice cream albeit with a unique flavor and served in a unique manner. We indulged the child within us and happily ate from the shell while watching the gorgeously lit up Wat Arun at night. By the way, if you want to have a romantic dining experience at reasonable prices while watching the the sunset over the Chao Phraya river and the stunning Wat Arun, this is your place.
5. PAD KRA PAO
WHAT: Minced chicken/pork/beef stir fried with basil and Thai sauces and served with rice
WHERE: Multiple times throughout Thailand
OUR TAKE: This beloved Thai staple is again one of our lunchtime favourites. Though some may not like because it is a dry dish without gravy/curry, we have never had any issues and have polished off the plate every time. The taste is slightly different from the usual Thai cuisine due to lack of the sweet element and peanuts. Addition of seasonal vegetables/Chinese broccoli and lettuce provides a good balance to the meat. This is a great option for lunch/dinner at local eating houses.
4. ASSORTED SATAYS/BARBEQUES/GRILLED FOOD
WHAT: Grilled meat on a stick, fish/pork balls on a stick and grilled sea food served with fresh garnishing
WHERE: All over the country! Best places include the night market in Chiang Mai, Chinatown in Bangkok and beach side shacks in the islands
OUR TAKE: We have been fans of grilled barbequed food ever since our stint in China. Though available all over south-east Asia, the sheer variety, easy availability and budget friendly prices make this our de facto dinner option. The sticks are a great munching option while checking out the local markets. Though there are a few veggie options, this is basically a meat/seafood lover’s dream.
Before moving onto our Top 3, I would like to say that we had certain criteria for choosing the top three dishes.
- The dish had to be uniquely Thai
- The dish had to be budget friendly so as to cater to all types of travelers
- Above all, the dish had to be super delicious to leave tasters wanting more
And on that basis, here are our top 3!
3. KHAO SOY
WHAT: Wheat and egg fried noodles served in a rich coconut based curry broth containing meat and served with sides of crunchy pickled veggies and spicy chili condiments
WHERE: CHIANG MAI
OUR TAKE: This one is a Burmese influenced Northern Thai specialty that is found in Laos and Myanmar as well. One of the staples of Lanna cuisine, this is Chiang Mai’s most famous dish and a must have. The thick soup/broth with meat and veggies is perfectly suited for the colder climate of the North and can be had any time of the day. We loved having this as a relaxing and nourishing dinner option when the temperatures would come down and the air started getting chilly.
2. MANGO STICKY RICE
WHAT: Glutinous sticky rice prepared using coconut milk and served with slices of freshly cut ripe mangoes for dessert
WHERE: All over Thailand
OUR TAKE: This is ‘THE’ traditional Thai dessert. Don’t get fooled by the rice: this is as dessert as it gets, though Thai people love it so much that they have it any time of the day. The rice is a variant of Indian ‘Kheer’/rice pudding though the coconut milk gives it that uniquely Thai taste. And the pairing with fresh sweet mangoes is brilliant. Do not come back from Thailand without tasting this!
And finally number 1 !!!
1. PAD THAI
WHAT: Thin rice noodles stir fried with eggs and tofu, with addition of fish sauce, dried shrimps, garlic, shallots, tamarind, chilli peppers and palm sugar. Served with lime and peanuts. May also contain fresh seasonal vegetables and chicken/sea food.
WHERE: Anywhere and Everywhere!
OUR TAKE: This is Thailand’s national dish, the number 1 street food and the country’s obsession. We love this one for it’s refreshing taste and flavors. It is filling enough to keep us hunger free for a few hours, but also light enough to not give that bloated feeling, cheap enough to keep us within budget and tasty enough to have us salivating. Plus it is healthy too for the calorie conscious. What more can a foodie want? You can have this any time of the day: for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can have it at roadside stalls or a star restaurant. Just forget the hustle and bustle of Thailand for a little while and concentrate on finishing this one. Pad Thai is available throughout the country and the taste more or less remains the same except for a few local variations.
So this was our list of top 10 Thai dishes. Do you like Thai food and have you tried any of these dishes? What are your favorites? Share your views and stories with us!
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COPYRIGHT: ALL PICTURES CONCEPTUALIZED, DESIGNED AND OWNED BY ME. PICTURE OF KHAO SOY TAKEN FROM FREE STOCK PHOTOS FROM SHUTTERSTOCK.
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Full time Doctors, part time travelers : We are Two Flashpackers out to explore all we can in the little time we have ! We travel independently, without resorting to tour packages as we feel this is the best way to truly explore a place. Our blog focuses on short term travel and how to make the most of your vacation days. All our articles, posts,itineraries and guides are written to inspire you to travel and explore places on your own while balancing your job and family commitments. Happy Travelling ♥