I recently wrote about our time living in Thailand and last week I shared everything you needed to know about the food in Thailand. Today I give you a list of must try foods when you are in Thailand, whether you like it or not is another question. For the most part, the food in Thailand is amazing, so amazing that I don’t really have very many photos of the food as I was too busy eating to bother – this should tell you something, so some of these photos are thanks to Wikipedia.
Khao Soi – you will usually only find this dish in Northern Thailand as it is a Burmese influenced dish. It is sort of a curry soup dish. It is made with a runny curry sauce with coconut milk to which you add boiled egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, fried chillies, crispy egg noodles and a meat, usually chicken on the bone. I haven’t found it on a menu in Australia but it was a common meal in Chiang Mai with many different versions of it and we had narrowed down to our two favourite places to buy this from – one was from a food stall in a temple during a weekly night market where they would serve it out of big terracotta pots sitting over small coal braziers; the other from a restaurant that specialised in this dish out on a back road of the city near our place where the locals flocked and no one spoke English. We have attempted to make this a couple of times since we returned home and while we have come close enough to satisfy our cravings for it, it just isn’t the same. It was a fun dish to get as takeaway because you would get about 8 little bags with all the different components to the dish so you can put it together when you are ready to eat.
Pad Thai – probably the most popular Thai dish, it is a cheap and tasty stir fried noodle dish. We found the addition of banana flower and whole mini shallots really refreshing and I love how they would give you your serving expertly wrapped up in a banana leaf. Again, we had our favourite stalls and this was a great meal as millions of people from across the world can attest to. I think that a good pad thai has a generous serve of chilli and ground nuts and a decent slice of lime.
Fish Cakes – I found these to be very different from the meaty versions served at home. They are very small, fried fish cakes served as a snack with a spicy dipping sauce. They pack a punch and are often served with a few sticks of cucumber to cool your mouth afterwards. I would often grab a small bag of these with a stick at the night markets to munch on as I walked around.
Spring Rolls – these are a good snack or side to a meal and can make a decent light lunch and are great both fresh and fried. Not much explanation is needed here other than a word of advice to taste your dipping sauce first as it is usually packed with chilli.
Tom Kha Gai – a spicy hot chicken soup that was full of complex flavours and both filling and refreshing at the same time. I have my own recipe that I make from home that I recently wrote about.
Sticky Rice and Meat wrapped in leaves – I really don’t know what this is called in Thai and to be honest, the place I often bought it from I just pointed to what I wanted. You would get a small serve of sticky rice and a choice of meat and they would just parcel it up in a leaf. It was simple and delicious when you didn’t want to be bombarded with flavours. I wouldn’t say it was plain though, the rice must have been soaked in a broth and the meats were very tender.
Roti – You often think of roti as the bread you have with Indian cuisine but these Thai roti’s are served as a dessert from the street vendors. They are more like a crepe. The dough is stretched thin and placed on a buttery hot plate. Your requested filling, such as a sliced banana or an egg is placed in the middle as it cooks and the edges folded around it to create a parcel. After a minute or two it is chopped into bite sized pieces and placed in a Styrofoam tray before being drizzled with your toppings, usually condensed milk or chocolate. You eat this fresh and hot with a small wooden skewer and worry about the calories later. Sometimes, especially of an early morning you might find a vendor in the wet markets selling simple roti that are a bit crispier and drizzled with some butter or honey before being folded up into a roll to eat one handed.
Anything on a stick – food on a skewer or served to eat with a skewer are popular and available pretty much everywhere at any time. From fruit slices to meat balls (these didn’t appeal to me at all), spring rolls to satay chicken. From our time in Thailand, my daughter even still says today, everything tastes better on a stick. You usually get a little bag of condiments to go with your stick food. A sauce to dip into, a mix of sugar chilli and salt for your fruit, a pickled mix, even little bags of cucumber to cool your palate.
Satay – most often small pieces of meat, usually chicken or pork, on a skewer with a bag or dish of satay dipping sauce, small triangles of toast and a cucumber relish. This was a favourite starter dish or snack while we decided what to eat for dinner. I’m not sure why they add the toast but whenever we make this at home now we always make the little triangles of toast to soak up the yummy sauce.
Pad See Ew – this is another very simple dish of fat rice noodles darkened with soy sauce and cooked with eggs, chicken and bok choy. You can then add your condiments – often this is chilli flakes, sugar and fish sauce. This is easy to recreate at home and popular with most people.
Ancient Ice Cream – Bo Raan is made from coconut milk and is light and refreshing with a variety of flavours added such as pandan, thai tea, coconut, durian and mango. They are made on a wooden stick and served poked into a small paper cup to catch the drips because they melt fast in the heat. You can also get other ice cream which is served out of big silver canisters and the Thai’s like to have this on bread or on sticky rice with toppings like condensed milk, chocolate sauce and fruit. We even found a great ice cream shop ‘iberry’. If you can find it, the stylised shop itself is worth going for but they had the most bizarre flavours like spicy mango, pumpkin, basil, and tamarind amongst the hundreds of flavours to choose from.
Tom Yum Gung – This is prawns, mushrooms, tomato, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, made with and without coconut milk. It is sour, salty, spicy and sweet making it a typical Thai dish. Just, yum.
Dried Fruit – every week we would wander the stalls inside Wararot market and select a few different packets of dried fruit to nibble on. You can choose between fruit that has had sugar added or not and the varieties available seem endless. We particularly liked the mango which is nothing like what we can buy in our supermarkets at home. There were also lots of different nuts with and without flavouring as well as stall after stall of pork crackling. You could even get a type of jerky where the dried meat was sticky with flavours with a predominant taste of coriander seeds. But this is getting a bit far away from dried fruit now.
Mango and sticky rice with coconut cream – a popular dessert in Thailand with no explanation needed except I found the addition of small crunchy fried salty mung beans (though some people believe it is rice) was amazingly delicious. There are good and bad versions of this, I found some to be far too salty and others quite bland. Like with any dish in Thailand, keep hunting until you find your favourite vendor.
Pad Kra Pao – A simple dish of minced pork or chicken stir fried with basil and chillies and served on rice, sometimes with a runny crispy fried egg on top. Be warned, in my experience this is spicy even if you ask for it to not be spicy.
Insects – yes, you can buy insects to eat, you don’t have to so you can stop screwing up your face. They are deep fried, often with kaffir lime leaves, chillies and garlic, so they become a crispy little chip like snack. Ant eggs and frogs were also regularly seen at market stalls. Fun to try but we never had it as a regular meal.
Grass Jelly – a strange little dark jelly cut into cubes or strings and served with shaved ice and brown sugar. It is different and hard to explain and certainly an acquired taste. Just give it a go if you get the chance.
Durian – the ‘king of fruits’ is so foul smelling that most hotels ban it from even entering the building and is as ugly as it smells with a big thorny husk. They are loved by Thai’s though and you will surely see big mounds of this fruit sitting ready to be cut and they often use it to flavour desserts. The texture of the fruit is a bit like a custard apple. Obviously I didn’t like it and again, it is one of those things you just need to try for yourself.
There are so many dishes I haven’t written about – the spicy papaya salad Som Tam, Morning Glory stir fry, Kuay Tiew a noodle soup, the abundance of Fried Chicken, the pulled pork, the larb with the crunch of toasted rice … oh I could go on and on. Is there a dish you would love to know about? What is your favourite Thai food?Love it. Follow me. . .