The food in Thailand is incredibly flavourful, colourful and just downright delicious! If you’re really adventurous, and able to handle the stinky and sour, you’ll be in heaven. There’s none of that on my list; I tried the Durian (in ice cream form) but my taste buds decided that was a hard “no.” It’s not surprising there are “no durian” signs in many places, they stink! I also tried a pandam and peaflower drink that was rejected by my palate, prompting me to give up on things that I wasn’t already excited about eating. The ten dishes below however, were my favourite meals here. A visit to Thailand, in my humble opinion, wouldn’t be complete without them.
Before I start, I would strongly suggest a cooking class when you are visiting, should you be interested in making anything at home. We took one in Chiang Mai called TomYumThai Cooking School, the husband and wife owners were a lot of fun and (most importantly) excellent cooks and hosts. We were taken to the local market to learn about the local produce, and cooked five dishes each. We ate each one right after preparing and under such careful instruction, they were all seriously awesome.
1. Thai Curry
Red, yellow, green, panang, massaman; the curries in Thailand are available from pretty much every restaurant, in every city. Meat and vegetables swimming in colourful pastes that pack a punch, balanced out with creamy coconut milk, the curries here are heaven. I always maintained that the store-bought paste at the grocery store was pretty decent, but I’ve decided I was wrong. I’ll have to start making my own or find a good farmer’s market vendor, ‘cause I can’t go back! Side note: I made the one pictured!
2. Kao Soi
Kao Soi is what dreams are made of. Native to Chaing Mai, this curried chicken soup topped with crunchy noodles is so good you’ll be craving it for every meal. Legit, one of us ordered Kao Soi at almost every meal in our three nights in Chiang Mai, there was something about the combination of spices and texture that was just perfection.
3. Tom Yum Goong
This hot and sour soup is so refreshing, weirdly even in the extreme heat a bowl of this soup sounds like a great idea. Tamarind, chilies, garlic and ginger give it a unique, tangy flavour that you won’t find in much else. The broth is accompanied by glass noodles, thinly sliced vegetables, and prawns so it may not look like much, but it’s a full meal for sure.
4. Tom Kha Gai
Another soup that we loved was Tom Kha Gai, which is a coconut chicken soup. It looks simple, but with all Thai food, there is some lovely flavours as it includes lime leaves, lemongrass and of course fish sauce, along with chilis to give the coconut cream an added zing.
5. Fried whole snapper
This was one of the best things we had while visiting the country, this way of preparation turns the skin crisp and the meat of the fish tender, flaky and juicy. Don’t be put off by a whole fish if you’re squeamish, I totally put the tomato on it’s face after this photo! The most popular accompaniments we saw were chili and lime, fried garlic and pepper, or curry sauce. I wish I’d tried them all!
6. Cashew Chicken
I love food where you can see the ingredients in all their glory, no messing around, just simple, beautiful food. Cashew chicken was one of those, and was a nice break from all the spice in the food there. We didn’t have much of it, but the dishes we did have were all so good.
7. Pad Thai
I couldn’t write about Thailand without including this signature dish, although surprisingly we didn’t eat that much of it at all as there was so much else to enjoy. A really good Pad Thai here had more vegetables and then we get at home, but there was the standard street market fare as well.
8. Thai Roti Pancakes
Damn these pancakes! I thought I might lose a little winter weight in Thailand. My friends were recently travelling here (check out their blog for some travel inspiration/serious FOMO). They maintained that the walking helped them keep fit but that it was the lack of dairy notably, cheese, that was a reason you could slim down. I was excited by this. But long story short, I discovered these roti-style pancakes – filled with things like bananas, coconut, and Nutella – I was hooked, and I’m going to need a new summer wardrobe.
9. Thai Milk Tea
I really loved this tea, even brought some back so I could make it the next time I had a hankering. It’s served ice cold and sweetened with condensed milk, making it the perfect caffeine fix for a hot day. The tea they use is mixed with coloring, giving it it’s orange hue, I’m going to ignore that fact and just tell you, it’s a sure to please treat!
Fresh cold coconuts are what kept me going on this trip. You can’t drink the tap water here, so every time I got what I call “recycling guilt” form all the plastic water bottles, I drank a coconut instead. I do wish I brought my own straw so I could truly indulge in my coconut obsession without a care in the world. These tasted best with a great view, obviously!
Those were just my favourites, but for anyone heading to Thailand, prepare to dig into some pretty fantastic dishes, there’s lots to try!
Oh, and I almost forgot, there’s not much of a craft beer scene here, so Chang is basically a permanent sidekick. It may not be too fancy, but on a hot day, and icy bottle of Chang quenches the thirst just fine!