Want to know more about Thai food? I’ve been traveling around Thailand many times in the past 5-6 years, and I always eat lots of traditional food from Thailand.
The Thai cuisine is unique and like no other in the world, its flavors and dishes often have a perfect mix of sour, sweet, and spicy. And here’s a list of my favorite dishes to eat in Thailand!
Table of Contents
Tom Yum Goong
Tom Yum is a hot and sour soup with flavors that will turn anyone into a food lover. It originated in the central parts of Thailand but can be found almost everywhere, it’s a real classic.
The Tom Yum soup is often made with pork, chicken, or shrimp and the broth include lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, fresh lime juice, and chilies.
Pad Thai is the national food of Thailand and famous all over the world. It’s a stir-fried rice noodle dish, and it’s served as street food as well as a main dish in restaurants. It can include chicken, shrimps, or tofu.
The rice noodles are stir-fried with eggs and the choice of protein. It’s often served with bean sprouts, garlic chives, turnips, chopped roasted peanuts, red chili pepper and lime on the side.
Som Tam, also known as Green Papaya Salad is a real classic with origins from northern Thailand. It’s a spicy salad that is served nationwide in local restaurants, and you could even make it at home if you have the right ingredients.
A traditional Som Tam recipe includes shredded green papaya, peanuts, long beans, tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce, and garlic.
Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai is another famous dish in Thailand, also known as Chicken Galangal Soup. It has a very rich flavor thanks to lots of coconut milk and a variety of mushrooms.
Some other ingredients in Tom Kha Gai are lemongrass, kaffir leaves, galangal, and cilantro.
Khao Pad is simply fried rice, and it can be prepared with various kinds of meat and veggies. The fresh lime juice and chilies combined with fish sauce makes the fried rice delicious and adds that finishing touch to Khao Pad.
It’s a popular dish nationwide, and it’s one of the staple dishes of Thai cuisine.
Laab is another Thai food from the Isan cuisine in northern Thailand. It’s a spicy meat salad which can be served both as an appetizer and main course.
Laab is also known as Larb or Laap, and it’s also considered to be the unofficial national dish of Laos.
Pad Krapow Moo
Pad Krapow Moo is one of the most classic dishes to eat in Thailand, and it’s a stir-fry with pork, holy basil and green beans which are stir-fried together with ginger, garlic, lime, and chilies.
It’s often served with rice and a fried egg on the top. Pad Krapow Moo is simple, yet delicious.
Pak boong is one of the healthy Thai dishes that is made by stir-frying morning glory, also known as water spinach.
Although simple and quick to prepare, it’s a favorite among many locals. The morning glory is typically stir-fried in oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, chilies, garlic, and fermented soybean paste.
Kai Jeow is the Thai version of an omelet, and it makes a great start of the day. It can be prepared in various ways and include meat and vegetables as well.
Mango Sticky rice
Mango Sticky rice has a special place in many Thai people’s heart, and it’s one of their most beloved desserts.
As a foreigner, it can be quite unfamiliar to have rice to your dessert, but trust me on this one, it’s actually a great combo with the sticky rice.
Geang Keow Wan Gai
A list of Thai food wouldn’t be complete without the traditional green curry, and Geang Keow Wan Gai is one of my favorite dishes. Chicken green curry is characterized by its rich coconut milk, fresh chilies, and round eggplant.
It’s usually served with steamed rice, and you can find this in almost any restaurant in Thailand.
Different kinds of soup is an integral part of Thai cuisine, and Tom Saap might be one of the best Thai soups out there.
It’s a quintessential dish of the Isaan cuisine in northeastern Thailand, and it’s characterized by the broth that usually mixes fish and boiled pork with galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.
Panang Curry is a type of red curry which is sweeter and less spicy compared to the Thai red curry. It can be made with chicken, pork, beef, prawns or tofu and it’s usually served with rice.
Unlike green curry, Panang curry is less like a soup and thicker like a sauce. It’s a great choice if you want to try Thai food which isn’t too spicy but still has a rich flavor.
Gaeng Massaman Gai
This is a Thai Muslim dish, which is quite popular nationwide and it’s especially known for combining Persian flavors with Thai food. The main ingredients are chicken and potatoes along with the Massaman curry.
Gaeng Hanglay is another well-known curry dish from northern Thailand that can be found almost all over the country. It’s made with pork that is simmered in the curry paste until it gets so tender that it almost falls apart.
Suea Rong Hai
Suea Rong Hai also known as “crying tiger” is another northeastern Thai food with beef brisket that is sliced into small pieces and served with sticky rice.
Sataw, also known as stink bean can be served with stir-fried prawns and vegetables, or pork. It’s a southern-style Thai dish that you should definitely try!
Gaeng Kee Lek
Gaeng Kee Lek is another popular Thai curry which is made from Cassia leaves that are cooked and drained before adding thick coconut milk. It’s a healthy Thai food that fills your soul without being too spicy.
If you’re traveling to the northern part of Thailand, make sure to have some Khao Soy, also spelled Khao Soi. It’s a creamy coconut curry soup with noodles, and it’s often made with chicken, although pork, beef and vegetarian options are available too.
It can be quite spicy though, but it’s very yummy and rich in flavors.
Gai Med Ma Muang
Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts is a popular Thai dish that was originally adopted from Chinese cuisine. It’s a simple dish that has become a favorite among Thai people and Farangs alike.
In addition to chicken and cashew nut, Gai Med Ma Muang also includes soy sauce, honey, onions, chilies, pepper, mushrooms which together create a flavorful dish with a balanced sweetness.
Thai Noodle soup
Noodle soup (Guay Teow) is a staple dish in Thai cuisine, and one of my own favorite types is beef noodle soup. Guay Teow can be any kind of noodle soup and can be made with pork, chicken or beef.
Both rice noodles and egg noodles can be used to make Guay Teow, and many vendors will also add wontons to the broth.
Tod mun pla
Tod Mun Pla is also known as Thai fish cakes, and they can be found everywhere in Thailand. They are easy to make, cheap to buy and have a nice red-curry flavor.
Kao Niew Moo Yang
Skewers of all kinds are commonly found in roadside stalls and night markets, and one of the most popular street foods in Thailand is Kao Niew Moo Yang. These grilled pork skewers are served with sticky rice but can also be bought without the rice.
Gaeng Tai Pla
If you want to try spicy thai food, you should travel to the southern parts and order Gaeng Tai Pla, which is a curry with a salty sauce made from fermented fish entrails.
Gaeng Tai Pla has a strong umami taste and is usually made with fish and veggies. Some of the most common ingredients are eggplants, yardlong beans, bamboo shoots, and fresh chilies.
You can get roti with various toppings in Thailand, but the most common version is with banana and condensed milk. It’s basically a Thai version banana pancake and it’s delicious!
Roti originally comes from India, but it’s a popular snack and dessert in southern Thailand. You’ll find roti stalls in all markets, and even along the roads in several places such as Krabi, Koh Lanta and Phuket.
More about the food from Thailand
There are countless traditional dishes to enjoy from Thai cuisine, and it’s truly one of the most diverse cuisines in the world. In addition to traditional food from Thailand, such as Pad Thai, Khao Pad, Thai Curry etc, there is a wide range of regional dishes as well.
Northern Thailand is famous for its Isan food and Lanna Cuisine, and the Southern part of the country has a very distinct cuisine as well due to a large number of Muslims living there.
Central Thailand is home to the historic capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya as well as the current capital Bangkok, and there are several famous Thai dishes originating here as well.
Each meal should include something sour, something sweet, something spicy, something soupy, something meaty, something veggie. This is the unwritten rule of eating Thai food, and one that you will learn if you go out eating with Thai friends.
What is a traditional Thai breakfast?
Jok is a type of rice porridge which is commonly eaten as a breakfast food in Thailand. Omelette and rice is another popular choice, also known as Kai Jeow, which can be prepared in various ways.
Khao Tom (rice soup) is another dish that can be served on a Thai breakfast as well as the small coconut pancakes known as Kanom Krok.
Best Places to eat Thai food
In my opinion, the best places to eat authentic food from Thailand is in local street restaurants. They are often characterized by their plastic tables and chairs in a simple setting.
You might think that fancier restaurants will be serving better Thai food, but in my experience, you’ll get a nicer food experience when eating at these smaller restaurants or buy food from a market vendor.
Go where the locals are going and don’t be afraid of entering restaurants without an English menu, on the contrary embrace the experience that you’re about to get.
If you’re traveling around touristy areas, most restaurants serving Thai food will have English menus as well, but the further away you go from the tourist trail, the fewer menus in English you’ll find.
Popular Street Food in Thailand
Street Food is an essential part of Thai cuisine and the society as a whole. Everyone eats street food in Thailand, from the poorest to the richest people in the country.
Almost any dish can be served in roadside stalls or markets, so basically any Thai food can be served as street food. But of course, there are some dishes that are more common than others.
- Hoy Kraeng (Blood Cockles)
- Gai Tod (Fried chicken)
- Fish balls on a stick
- Grilled meat skewers
- Hed Yang (Barbecue mushroom)
- Noodle Soup
- Pad Thai
- Sai Ooah (Sausage from northern Thailand)
- Kluay Tod (Fried banana)
- Roti (Thai pancake)
Frequently Asked Questions about Thai Food
What is the most popular Thai food?
Pad Thai is without a doubt the most famous dish from Thailand, but in terms of popularity Khao Pad, Pad Thai, Green Curry, Red Curry, Som Tam, Tom Kha Gai, and Tom Yum tend to be some of the most popular foods from Thailand.
Can I eat street food in Thailand?
Yes, street food in Thailand is delicious, and cheap too. Just make sure that the street food is freshly made, or that it hasn’t been laying out in the sun for a few hours.
Is street food safe in Thailand?
Contrary to what some think, it’s actually oftentimes healthier and safer to eat street food in Thailand (and other countries) because you get to see when your food is prepared in front of you. This also means that it’s freshly made, and not heated in a microwave.
What is the national dish of Thailand?
Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand and is commonly found all over the country. It is served at markets, local restaurants, and even high-end restaurants.
Is Thai food healthier than Chinese food?
Thai Cuisine and Chinese Cuisine are some of the most diverse cuisines in the world, so there is no easy comparison to make to determine if Thai food is healthier than Chinese food.
Some dishes are healthier, whereas others are not, but in general, both of them are healthy unless you choose a fast-food restaurant.
Why is Thai food so popular?
Thai food comes in a wide variety that suits many people’s tastebuds, and it’s known for being healthy and rich in flavor. The availability worldwide also helps to make food from Thailand popular around the world.
Is Thai food spicy?
Food from Thailand has a wide range of flavors and levels of spiciness. There is plenty of Thai food which isn’t spicy, and there are just as many dishes that are spicy or somewhere in the middle.
Tourists can almost always get a less spicy version if they ask before ordering.