One of the things Thailand is most famous for is its tasty local dishes. From Michelin star restaurants to street vendors, you will be able to find somewhere selling yummy food whatever your budget. Given the popularity of Thai cuisine it is no surprise that many Thai restaurants have opened up in cities across the world in recent years, and in the United Kingdom at least, it appears to overtaken Chinese food as people’s favourite oriental cuisine.
If you visit Thailand do not be scared to try “street food”, food prepared and sold on the side of the street. A good tip with street food is to not be put off my large queues, especially if it is mostly locals queuing, as this is a good sign of quality and the food is also more likely to be freshly cooked. I had seen one street vendor near the end of one day who still had over 100 meat skewers pre-cooked and you can be sure that was all wrapped up and sold the next day (maybe even the day or so after that!). So if you are unsure how long something has been sat there for do not hesitate in asking the vendor to throw your food back on the grill for a couple of minutes, they won’t be offended. Obviously depending on what the vendor is selling some dishes, like Pad Thai for example (a stir-fried rice noodle dish with vegetables and with or without meat), will be prepared right before your eyes as the vendor will ask you what you would like in it. This is without a doubt the cheapest way to eat in Thailand.
The North of Thailand is especially famous for its unique dishes which are renowned throughout Thailand itself. One of my personal favourites (and also the friends I was travelling with) was the Northern Thai Spicy Noodle Soup, known as Khao Soi locally. It’s made of coconut milk and yellow curry gravy poured over soft egg noodles, then topped with crispy fried noodles with meat an optional extra. It has a moderately spicy, sweet, and creamy taste and is one of the best dishes I have EVER had. Most Northern Thai dishes can only be found in the North, although some cities in the South will try to imitate them, but it goes without saying it is best to try these dishes where they originate from. A staple dish in the north of Thailand is steamed sticky rice which is usually served with nearly all dishes. Most Thais do not consider a meal complete without rice. Visitors to the landlocked north of the country may be disappointed by the lack of seafood so if seafood is your food fix you are advised to try a sea food dish in the South or on one of the islands where it will not only be fresher but cheaper too (less transportation costs).
I hope you have found this short blog useful. Below is a short list of the most popular Thai dishes and their ingredients which I loved while I was there. Maybe you could try some at home?
1) Pad Thai - 200g raw prawns (or meat of your choice), fresh coriander, 2 x 200g packs straight-to-wok pad Thai noodles, 85g beansprouts, 1 egg, 1 lime, 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp roasted peanuts.
2) Tom Yum Soup - 700ml chicken stock, 1 lemongrass stalk, 5 thick slices galangal, fresh coriander, 3 lime leaves, 6 large prawns, 3 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 6 small green chillies, 4 tbsp lime juice.
3) Thai Minced Chicken Salad - 2 lemongrass, 4 lime leaves, 2 red chillies, 3 garlic cloves, fresh root ginger, 4 skinless chicken breasts, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp chilli powder, 50ml fish sauce, 1 red onion, chopped, 3 tbsp lime juice, handful each mint, , basil and coriander leaves, 3 Baby Gem lettuces, 1 cucumber, 200g bean sprouts.
4) Thai Green Chicken Curry - For the green curry paste: 1 lemongrass stalk, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, 1 tsp coriander seed, ½ tsp cumin seed, 6 green bird's-eye chillies, 4 garlic cloves, 5 shallots, fresh ginger, 1 tsp kaffir lime, 2 tbsp chopped coriander stalks, 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, 1 level tsp shrimp paste, 2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil.
For the Curry: 2 x 400g cans coconut milk, 2 heaped tbsp green curry paste, 500g chicken breast, 100ml chicken stock, 1-2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp palm sugar, 4 kaffir lime leaves, 50g fine green bean, 100g baby aubergine, handful Thai basil.
5) Thai Shredded Chicken & Runner Bean Salad - 200g runner beans, 1 red chilli, 2 shallots, 1 lemongrass, 2cm piece ginger, 2 cooked chicken breasts, small bunch mint leaves, large bunch Thai basil or coriander, 1 lime, steamed jasmine rice.
Coconut Dressing: 100ml coconut cream, 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp sugar, juice 1 lime, 1 bird's eye chilli.
6) Northern Thai Spicy Noodle Soup (Khao Soi) - 4 tbsp ready-made Thai red curry paste, 9 chicken drumsticks, 1 tbsp mild curry powder, 400ml/14fl oz coconut milk, 400ml/14fl oz chicken stock, 2 tbsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar), 1 tbsp fish sauce, 300g/10½oz fresh egg noodles, 3 tbsp groundnut oil, splash dark soy sauce, 2 spring onions, trimmed, thinly sliced, 1 red onion, 50g fresh coriander and 2 limes cut into wedges, to serve.