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Thailand was the first Asian country I ever visited, and I can’t recommend it enough.
It was a country where I tried so many new and incredible Thai (and other Asian) dishes, explored the incredible temples, walked through street markets, and also found myself in animal cafes. 😂
Also, if you’re planning on visiting Bangkok, Thailand, like how we did, then I’m going to be giving you some suggestions for foods to try.
Some of these are ones I’ve had, and others are going to be ones I need to check off the next time I visit Thailand.
But also, this is what the Thai food bucket list is for!
It’s here to help you and me…
- Try new recipes.
- Expand our culinary horizons.
- Learn new cooking techniques.
- Work with new ingredients.
- And push us to travel and explore other people’s cultures.
Also, it’s a part of a bigger series I’m doing when it comes to leveling up your food knowledge and cooking skills.
So for instance, I’ve done an Italian Food bucket list and a Japanese food guide.
And if you want to be apart of this and grow with me, then I’d love to have you join! 😊
More From the Series 🥘✨
The Mexican Food Bucket List: 42 Authentic Mexican Recipes 🇲🇽
Your Indian Food Guide: 10 of the Best Dishes You Should Definitely Try 🇮🇳
The Greek Food Bucket List: 34 Traditional Recipes from Greece 🇬🇷
What is Typical Thai Food
I feel like the one thing we think of (or at least many of us do) when it comes to Thai food, are creamy coconut curry dishes.
And while I do talk about Thai curries down below, I’ve quickly learned that Thai food is so much more than that.
Depending on the region you’re visiting, you can have Thai cuisines and dishes that have been influences by nearby countries such as…
- Indonesia, India, and Malaysia which have influenced the south with ingredients such as coconut milk and turmeric.
- Laos, Burma, and China who have influenced northern Thai cuisine with certain noodle dishes, glutinous rice, and different spicy curries.
- Vietnam which has some culinary influences in parts of eastern Thailand.
- Portugal, who, while they’re not nearby, did influence Thailand by brining ingredients over like chilis.
So as you can see, the answer to what typical Thai food might look like isn’t so simple.
I could say something like, “Well there’s a lot of different curries, rice and noodle dishes, and soups,” but that just wouldn’t cover it.
Thailand is a complex and diverse country when it comes to food. And it is so worth exploring!
15 of the Best Thai Dishes
There are so many wonderful Thai dishes to try, so whether you want to understand what Thai food is really like at home, or when visiting Thailand, then this will be your helpful guide.
Also, I will be adding to this list when I have more time to research and try more recipes.
And if you have any Thai recipes that you think I should have on this list, then let me know, I might just add them. 🙂
1. Kaeng Kari (Yellow Curry)
Kaeng kari, translating out as “curry curry,” is what you would want to say if you’re craving what we call “yellow curry” in the west, and want to order some in Thailand.
And if you want to make it at home, then it’s suggested by the American Thai cook, Leela Punyaratabandhu, in her curry recipe to look for kaeng kari paste specifically.
Apparently, kaeng kari paste and jars of curry paste labeled as, “yellow curry” are not the same.
But essentially, this type of curry is a mild, creamy, and tangy dish filled with meat, potatoes, and other veggies. It’s kind of like the perfect comfort food to have on a cold night. 👌
2. Phrik Kaeng Phet (Red Curry)
I remember the first time I had red curry in Thailand and it was such a surprise. 😂
I had made it at home and ordered it at Thai restaurants in America so many times.
And I remember the first time I took a bite of it and thought something like, “This is not what I was expecting.”
But it wasn’t a bad thing!
In fact, it was just really cool to have the authentic dish instead of some replicated recipe I found on the internet.
It had this wonderful combinations of strong Thai basil, creamy coconut milk, savory curry, and veggies I hadn’t used for the dish before.
And if you want to make it at home, then here’s a Phrik Kaeng Phet paste recipe you can try!
Side Note: If you want to get some coconut milk for all of these recipes on the list that require it, then here’s the brand of coconut milk I personally use!
3. Kaeng Khiao Wan (Green Curry)
Again, I had a completely different experience when trying this in Thailand.
It had a strong, almost star anise flavor, combined with a nice creaminess from the coconut milk, and it was a very comforting dish.
Of course, it will vary depending on who is making it, but that was just my experience.
Now beyond the flavors, the history of this dish is also very interesting to me.
One of the first places this curry recipe was mentioned was by Khun Ying Plien Plassakornwong, who in the early 1900s, was a lady in waiting at the royal palace in Bangkok.
Also, traditionally it’s made with goat (which tastes like tasty lamb), and is served with roti, a delicious flat bread, so I think it’s worth trying the authentic recipe.
And lastly, here’s a link to a good kaeng khiao wan recipe made by a chef from Thailand.
4. Massaman Curry
Massaman curry is one of my favorites; it has so many good flavors and is incredibly savory!
But it’s also completely different than the others.
Being more mild, and taking on the flavors of cardamom and cumin, it’s a wonderful dish to have at a restaurant or at home.
And if you make it at home, then here are some suggestions as given by an American Thai cook I’ll link to below:
- Onions and potatoes are best when it comes to produce, use anything more, and it’s not good.
- Use meats that are more tough and require slow cooking.
- Stick to the spices on the list. Don’t add things like Thai basil, fresh chillies, and other normal ingredients for dishes like red curry. This doesn’t work for massaman.
- Don’t overcook the potatoes.
Also, the massaman curry paste you can get at the store is apparently pretty darn close to the original, so no worrying there!
Here’s a Massaman Curry Recipe for you to try at home. 😊
5. Panang Curry
I love panang curry, it’s a very rich, savory, and sweet Thai curry!
Made with no veggies and lots of meat (normally beef), it’s a fun dish to have with a hot bowl of rice.
Also, it’s similar to red curry, but it also has ingredients like peanuts, cumin, and coriander.
So if you’re craving something super hearty and a bit complex in flavor, then this is a great Thai recipe to try!
Here’s a panang curry recipe that looks pretty tasty! It’s made by a Thai chef and she has a good guide for making it at home.
6. Pad Thai Noodles
I love Pad Thai, but I’m going to assume that the ones I’ve had aren’t authentic. So I really do look forward to trying a good authentic Pad Thai when I visit Thailand next.
Oh, and why didn’t I get it in Thailand the last time? I don’t know. 😂
But according to a Thai cook (who I link to below), the best way to get pad thai outside of Thailand is in your own kitchen. Here are a few of her tips:
- Make sure to use a stir-fry wok so that the noodles don’t come out wet, but more dry and a little smoky.
- Have a good balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Don’t have any one flavor being more strong that the others.
- Make sure to load it up with beansprouts to give the dish a nice freshness and not make it super heavy.
But of course, if you plan on visiting Thailand, then might as well try it for the first time there. 🙂
7. Larb Moo
Coming from Northern Thailand, Larb just means that it’s chopped (really chopped), hence the small pieces of ground meat.
Now you can use ground pork for this dish, or you can use chicken, it’s up to you!
It’s also been described as a meat salad, so for people who love their meat dishes, this Thai recipe will probably be a great one to try!
Also, the recipe I link to down below includes flavors like….
- Chili flakes
- Fish sauce (Heres’ the fish sauce I use)
- Fresh mint leaves
So you kind of just know that it’s going to be a Thai dish packed with a ton of flavor. 👌
8. Pad See Ew
If you’re craving some fried noodles (like how I almost always am), then this Thai version might just hit the spot.
A dish you can commonly get as street food in Thailand, it includes ingredients like…
- Large flat noodles (the texture has to be amazing 👍).
- Dark soy sauce (super tasty and different than normal soy sauce).
- Garlic 🧄
- Also some tasty toppings!
This dish can be traced back to China, and there are other versions of it in other Asian countries, but I think the Thai version sounds incredible.
9. Thai Fried Chicken
I remember the first time I had Thai fried chicken and it was life changning.
Ok, it didn’t actually change my life, but it did change my opinion on what was the best type of fried chicken.
And you’re probably thinking, ok, but it’s just a different version of fried chicken, what makes it so special?
The spices, the flour used, the perfect tenderness of the chicken.
I’m going to drop a Thai fried chicken recipe for you here to try at home (if you’re not going to Thailand anytime soon).
But just know that if you do visit Thailand, you can easily get it hot and fresh as street food and it’s super tasty!
10. Gai Yang (Thai-Style Grilled Chicken)
Marinated Thai street food chicken.
Honestly, I feel tempted to just leave it at that, because it sounds incredible by itself.
Also, it’s made with at TON of flavorful ingredients.
So you’re using things like lemongrass, cilantro, chillies, turmeric, garlic, soy sauce, and so much more. Just seeing flavors like this make me think it would be perfect for a summer BBQ.
I mean, can’t you just imagine the amazing smells coming from the backyard?
Gai Yang (Thai-Style Grilled Chicken)
11. Pad Kra Pao
Basically, you’re getting a plate full of a meat stir fry with flavorful holy basil, garlic, chilis, and lime.
Also, it’s served with rice and an egg on top which just sounds really good!
And while you might be getting some complex version of this dish at a restaurant, I think this Pad Kra Pao recipe, that some call the original version, might be a great one to try this week!
12. Pad Krapow Gai (Thai Basil Chicken)
I love savory garlicky basil meat dishes, and this one looks really good!
Also, it’s been said to be the equivalent of a burger or a sandwich. It’s quick and easy and something that Thai people grab for lunch.
Oh, and another authentic way of having it is with a fried egg which sounds really good. I mean, I can just imagine how tasty the rice and chicken would taste with the egg yolk.
Here’s the original Pad Krapow Gai recipe I linked to if you want to try it, but I also found a pad krapow recipe that was a bit more authentic if you want to try that as well!
Both look pretty good. 😊
13. Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)
I love fish cakes.
Ever since I’ve been to different Asian countries, I’ve really enjoyed trying so many fish cake recipes, and now I really can’t wait to try the Thai version as well!
You kind find this dish in many Thai restaurants and street vendors, and if you want to make it at home, it’s actually not too complicated!
I really like the method this cook uses for Tod Mun Pla since she shows how to make it taste really good and fresh!
Oh, and here’s another Tod Mun Pla Recipe I linked to first (the one you see in the photo above). I’m not sure if this one is as authentic, but it still looks good! 👌
14. Thai Crying Tiger Beef
Steak marinated in dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce, and then grilled and eaten with a tasty dipping sauce.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a beef dish this flavorful.
And coming from Norther Thailand, there are apparently plenty of stories as to why it’s called crying tiger beef.
But one of the stories I read was pretty cute!
It was said that tigers would come down into villages, kill their cows, but then just leave the brisket part behind.
The villagers would take the brisket, cook it, and say that if the tigers knew, they would cry that it was missing out on such an incredible feast.
I don’t care what other stories there are for this Thai dish, I’m gonna say that this one is the best.
15. Mango Sticky Rice
Probably the most famous Thai dessert, it’s incredibly creamy, sweet, and fresh.
Also, if you want to make this at home, then I highly recommend getting nam dok mai mangoes if at all possible.
I thought I knew what a good mango was until I had this type in Thailand.
They’re these super soft and sweet golden mangos that go with so many dishes!
But getting back to mango sticky rice, it’s a great dessert served with sliced mango, glutinous rice, coconut milk, and palm sugar.
It’s such a fun recipe to try!
Here’s the original Mango Sticky Rice Recipe I linked to, and the one that’s shown in the photo above.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more authentic, then here’s another mango sticky rice recipe I found for you to try!
Thai Food FAQ
I really do think Thai food is one of the best cuisines in the world, so I totally encourage you to explore it more!
And if you want to explore and learn more, then here are some frequently asked questions people have about the food from Thailand.
1. What are 3 key ingredients in Thai food?
There are a lot of key ingredients, but since this specific questions has been asked many times, then here’s a good answer!
- Chilies: This ingredient is commonly used in Thailand, and they’re used in so many ways. So you see them as toppings, in stir fries, curries, and so much more! Also, prik khee nu and prik khee nu are the main two varieties you’ll see in Thailand.
- Fish Sauce: Fish sauce is made up of fish that have been fermented for up to two years, and it adds this nice tangy flavor that mixes well with other ingredients.
- Basil: Obviously not a surprise, you’re going to find basil in a lot of dishes in Thailand. And sometimes they’re going to be in ones you wouldn’t have been expecting, since the Thai food you eat in your country might not serve it that way.
2. What makes Thai food famous?
Beyond the fact that it just tastes really good, I think it’s the use of unique ingredients that, when combined, create wonderful diverse flavors.
Also, Thai food has so many dishes and ingredients that have been influenced by different countries with rich culinary heritages themselves. So I think it’s only natural that Thai food would become incredibly famous in other countries!
3. What is the most popular Thai food?
There are many places that have different answers, so this is going to be completely based on my own opinion.
The most popular Thai food, for other countries, is probably Pad Thai.
Now I’m not taking into account what’s the most popular dish in Thailand, since I haven’t been able to find an answer on that.
However, seeing as how I’ve seen it on the menu of different restaurants all around the world, I’m going to go with this answer.
4. What is the best Thai food for beginners?
For this one, I’m going to go with the same answer.
Pad Thai is a great Thai dish for beginners!
It doesn’t have to be spicy, and has wonderful flavors of peanut and garlic. Also, it’s made with tasty noodles which a lot of people love.
It’s an easy recipe to try!
5. Is Thai food similar to Chinese?
While there are Thai dishes that have been inspired by different regions of China, the flavors can be pretty different!
I’ve found that Thai food is a lot hotter, and you’re going to see a lot more curries, and different combinations of herbs and spices.
Both Thai and Chinese food are incredible, but I would not say that they are similar.
In closing, I just want to say that I hope you thoroughly enjoy exploring Thai cuisine!
You’re going to have so much fun trying all the different flavors and trying new dishes.
Also, if there’s a dish that wasn’t on this list, that you think should be added, then let me know! I might just add it. 😊