When thinking about Thailand, one of the first things that come to mind is the food! Rice, noodles, herbs, bubbling curries; all sold in street stalls. The combination of sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavors. The fresh vegetables and pieces of meat that are turned into a delicious meal in no time. We’ve had our fair share of Thai food over the past few years, so we thought its high time to list our top 10 favorite Thai dishes. Aroi mak-mak!
1. Pad See Ew
It’s almost second nature: the moment my stomach starts grumbling I hop on my motorbike to go my favorite Thai restaurant (Charlie & Lek in Pai) and automatically order a serving of thick, sticky fried rice-noodles with soy sauce, garlic, egg, Chinese broccoli and some finely sliced pieces of meat (or in my case: tofu), otherwise known as Pad See Ew. Only a few minutes later, I have a steaming plate of food in front of me. How can something that tastes so cost only 40 Thai Baht? Amazing!
2. Massaman Curry
This herbalicious yellow curry with small potato pieces and large pieces of chicken is Sander’s absolute favorite, especially if it comes with a chicken drumstick. Massaman is derived from the “muslim”, as the dried spices were imported by Islamic traders in olden days. Therefore, much like the Indian curries, the Massaman Curry is very well seasoned and aromatic. Goes well with rice or roti.
3. Som Tam
Since we discovered Som Tam (spicy papaya salad), we just can’t get enough of it! The sweet and sour flavors, the surprisingly tasty green papaya, pieces of tomato, green beans, peanuts and dried shrimp… we love it! Thankfully, Som Tam stalls are very easy to recognize. If you happen to see a mountain of tomatoes, carrots, papayas, long strands of green beans and a huge mortar, you’re are the right place.
4. Penang Curry
If you like peanuts, peanut butter or satay sauce, then you’ll love Penang Curry! This international delicacy is originally from Malaysia (Penang is a Malaysian island) which has luckily found its way to Thailand. It’s completely different from the Thai curries that tend to resemble soup. Penang Curry, however, is a thick bubbling peanut sauce with coconut milk and red curry paste. Soooo good! It’s traditionally eaten with duck breast, but you can also order it with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu.
5. Mango Sticky Rice
Sweet, sticky and irresistible, Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niaow Ma Muang) is without a doubt the best Thai dessert! Whenever we spot a Mango Sticky Rice stall on the street, we can barely stop ourselves (and quite often don’t). But it does need to be fresh! This lovely dessert is composed of sticky rice that’s boiled in syrup with coconut milk and sugar, after which it’s served with mango and sesame seeds. So nice!
6. Pad Thai
Pad Thai is Thailand’s best known dish. You can’t travel through Thailand without having tried this marvelous dish! The streets are littered with stalls of sizzling hot woks, from which these rice-noodles with juicy bean sprouts, carrot, peanuts, egg, spring onion and fish sauce are magically turned into a meal. You’ll also find it on any Thai menu. Unfortunately, it’s also the most “faked” dish in Thailand. A good Pad Thai should have a shiny brown look, not be sticky and be served with a slice of lime.
7. Green Curry
Hmmm… one thing you can wake us up for in the middle of the night is a big bowl of spicy Green Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan). Green Curry might be the best meal Thai cuisine has to offer. The green color comes from the green chili peppers mixed in with the spice purée. Besides that it contains coconut milk, Thai (green) eggplant, fish sauce, balls of meat or fish and palm sugar. Despite the peppers, this curry is a lot less spicy than the red curries, such as the Tom Yam. Goes well with steamed rice or roti.
8. (Pineapple) Fried rice
Quick, easy to prepare and surprisingly tasty: Fried Rice (or: Khao Pad) is always a good idea. At first glance it might just look like a huge mountain of rice – but looks can be deceiving! This fried rice comes alive with browned onion, garlic, some pieces of tomato, peas, a fried egg, some coriander and some meat or fish of your own choice. Then sprinkle with some flakes of dried chilly and fresh lime juice – and you got yourself a feast! Tastes even better served in a pineapple shell!
9. Tom Yam
Tom Yam is not for the faint-hearted! This sour, spicy soup tastes a lot like the spices it’s seasoned with: lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, coriander, shallots and lots and lots of chili peppers. WOW! Tom Yam Goong with large shrimp is the most popular version, but you can also have it with chicken (Tom Yam Kai) or, for vegetarians, with mushrooms (Tom Yam Hed).
10. Khao Soi
Creamy and very tasty because of the aromatic spices and shrimp paste, this famous dish is from the north of Thailand and has been influenced by Burmese cuisine. Khao Soi is a mild, yellow coconut curry filled with soft, steamed chicken and egg noodles. As a finishing touch, you can add some crunchy, fried noodles on top. Since it contains noodles, you don’t have order a side of rice – a beginners mistake!
** BONUS **
And finally, we wouldn’t want to deprive you from this very sweet-tasting banana roti or pancake! You can find carts with the words “banana pancake” or “roti” on them pretty much anywhere in the streets. And you can choose your own ingredients. Our favorite is the one with condensed milk and Nutella. Enjoy!