Thai food – as exotic as it is – needs no introduction. Nowadays you can find at least one Thai restaurant in most western towns but Thai food in Thailand itself is a whole new experience.
The juxtaposition of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours is what makes Thai cuisine so distinct and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the Thai national soup tom yam. Thai chefs are extremely talented in appropriating foreign dishes and making them their own – such as in a typical noodle dish. Forget green salad for a while – enjoy a hearty papaya salad, otherwise known as som tam, while Thai green curry is as distinct a dish as they ever get. Enhance your stay in Thailand with its delicious food.
1 Tom Yam Goong
This is the national aroma of Thailand, thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots provide the memorable smells, with chilis and fish sauce providing the kick. Substance comes in the form of jumbo shrimp (goong) and mushrooms. The flavour is a unique combination of spicy hot and sour and makes for an ideal start to a meal, or – when paired with rice – a worthy main dish.
2. Pad Thai
Thailand’s calling card to the rest of the culinary world, pad Thai doesn’t need an introduction. There are an infinite number of variations on this timeless tradition, but usually noodles are dressed up with tofu, bean sprouts, onion, and the brilliant final touch: peanuts ground to near dust. Pad Thai is a diner-participation meal; you put on the finishing touches of fish sauce, sugar, chili powder, and crushed peanuts to suit your taste.
3. Kuay Tiew (Noodle Soup)
Brush up on your chopstick skills and get your slurping muscles ready, noodle soup is a quick-and-easy staple of the Thai eating experience. Variations in ingredients mean ten different vendors could serve it ten different ways ‘ making it nearly deserving of its own top ten list. Noodles ‘ usually thin, occasionally broad ‘ are served up in a broth with just about any edible meat: pork, chicken, beef, duck, and seafood being the most popular. One sample and you may not stop until you’ve tried them all.
4. Som Tam
Som tam ‘ spicy papaya salad ‘ comes from northeast Thailand, but it’s reached near-cult status throughout the rest of the country. Slight regional differences in ingredients means placement on the sweet-or-sour scale may vary greatly between restaurants. Common to all recipes is shredded green papaya and a healthy dose of heat. Barbequed chicken and lumps of sticky rice are the perfect companions.
5. Gai Med Ma Moung (Chicken Cashew Nuts)
Roasted cashew nuts. Sweet soy sauce. Honey. Garlic. And, of course, chilis ‘ it would be Thai food without a little enjoyable pain. Three cheers for the clever soul that figured out nuts and chicken were a good mix. A dish this popular must be more than a little good. Phuket raises the standard with a vast supply of some of the world’s best cashew nuts, and they’re grown locally.