Top 10 foods to try in Thailand

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Thai cuisine
Thai cuisine

There are plenty of reasons to visit Thailand, from glorious golden beaches to legendary parties beneath a full moon…and that’s before we mention the food.

Thai cuisine is a celebration of the fresh and fragrant. Whatever your reason for visiting, the abundance of delicious flavours will make you want to extend your stay.

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Phat Thai

Phat Thai
Phat Thai

Invented in the 1930s by a Chinese-Thai chef, this dish of thin rice noodles stir-fried with egg, tofu and shrimp, and seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, vinegar and dried chilli has subsequently reigned as the poster boy for Thai cuisine.

Tom yam

Tom yam
Tom yam

This herb-forward broth is often referred to in English-language menus as ‘sour Thai soup’. The shrimp version – tom yam kung – is the most lauded, and justifiably so: the combination of fatty prawns and a tart/spicy soup result in an unusual but delicious and distinctly Thai amalgam.

Laap

Laap
Laap

Thailand’s northeast in one rustic dish; laap (also known as larb orlarp) takes the form of minced meat seasoned with roasted rice powder, lime juice, fish sauce and fresh herbs. Be sure to eat it with sticky rice, short, fat grains of rice that are steamed and eaten by hand.

Khao soi

Khao soi
Khao soi

When in Thailand’s north, don’t miss this unique, curry-based noodle soup. Typically revolving around chicken or beef, the optional sides of lime, sliced shallots and crunchy pickled greens provide a pleasing contrast with the rich, spice-laden, coconut milk-based broth and soft, squiggly wheat-and-egg noodles.

Som tam

Som tam
Som tam

Although its origins lie in Thailand’s rural northeast, this dish of strips of crunchy unripe papaya bruised in a mortar and pestle with tomato, long beans, chilli, lime and fish sauce, has found a foothold in virtually every corner of the country. Couple the dish with a basket of sticky rice for a light yet piquant Thai meal.

Phat kaphrao

Phat kaphrao
Phat kaphrao

This street food staple combines meat flash-fried with holy basil (the eponymous kaphrao) and a generous helping of fresh chilli and garlic. Served over rice and often crowned with a fried egg, it’s the epitome of the Thai-style one dish meal.

Green curry

Green curry
Green curry

For Thai food novices, there’s probably no better starting point than this intersection of a piquant/herbal spice paste and rich coconut milk. Remember to do as the Thais and couple the curry with a plate of jasmine rice – it’s not meant to be eaten on its own as a soup.

Yam

Yam
Yam

As a side dish or drinking snack, you’re bound to encounter this ubiquitous Thai ‘salad’ that combines meat or seafood with a tart/spicy dressing and fresh herbs.  A good introduction to the genre is yam wun sen, slinky glass noodles paired with minced pork and shrimp.

Kai yang

Kai yang
Kai yang

Thai-style grilled chicken owes its fame to the people of the country’s northeast, who marinate the bird in a unique mixture of fish sauce, coriander root and garlic. Couple the bird with sticky rice and green papaya salad, and you have one of Thailand’s most legendary meals.

Khao phat

Khai Phat
Khai Phat

For many Thai people, fried rice is comfort food. The variations are endless, and the dish is often the result of improvisation, but a staple at seafood restaurants across the country is the simple but delicious khao phat puu, rice fried with hearty chunks of crab and egg.