We have visited Thailand many times and even spent a year living in Thailand teaching English. Thai food is some of our favourite so naturally we have a whole bunch of favourite dishes. Below are some of the highlights. Some of these are traditional Thai dishes while others are more modern inventions.
These are not particularly fancy meals. These are the kinds of everyday Thai dishes you can expect to eat frequently if you choose to live in Thailand.
Recipes are included if you want an idea of how they are made. Note however that we have not actually cooked these meals ourselves. We mostly have Thai food in Thailand and delicious street food is cheap enough to make cooking for yourself not worth the bother.
Tom Yum Gai
Tom Yum soup is a popular sour and spicy Thai soup that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. The recipe here adds chicken (Gai = chicken) but seafood or shrimp/prawns also make great additions. Serve with rice on the side. The flavor should be strong and sharp.
400 grams boneless chicken meat diced
3 cups chicken stock
100 grams straw mushrooms
6 halved cherry tomatoes
1 fresh lemon grass stem cut into short lengths
2-3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
5-6 hot fresh Thai chilies, just broken with pestle
Place the stock in a pot.
Add the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, and bring to boil over medium heat.
Add the chicken meat, mushroom, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar.
Cook slowly and uncovered for 10 minutes. Do not stir.
Then add the tomatoes and chilies and cook for 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat. 4 servings.
Serve with rice
Somtam (Papaya Salad)
Somtam is like a fruit salad with chili. That probably makes it sound awful but somehow Somtam is delicious.
It is quite simple to make. The main ingredients are shredded green papaya, chopped green beans, tomato, dried prawns, dried crab, unsalted roasted peanuts, chilies, garlic and lime juice. These are all pounded together in a mortar using a pestle. The “pok pok” sound of somtam being prepared is very distinctive.
When you come to buy Papaya Salad, it is nearly always prepared in front of you. This way you can tell them how many chilies you want! Personally, I also recommend that you ask them to leave out the dried prawns and crab or leave them in there but pick them out. Somtam from a roadside stall will cost you about 20 – 50 baht.
1-12 Thai chilies, each cut into 3-4 segments (depends on your chili tolerance)
8 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
4 cups julienned peeled unripe papaya –
in strips 2-3 inches long and 1/8 inch thick
1 cup cut long beans – 1 1/2-inch-long segments
1 julienned carrot
1/4 cup tamarind juice the thickness of fruit concentrate
Juice of 2-3 limes, to taste
1-2 Tbs. fish sauce, to taste
2-3 Tbs. palm sugar, melted with 1 Tbs. water
into a thick syrup – use as needed
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts.
1. Make tamarind juice with 1 Tbs. of compressed tamarind in 1/3 cup of warm water. Add more tamarind or water as necessary to make 1/4 cup of concentrate.
2. Using a large clay mortar with a wooden pestle, pound the garlic and chilies to a paste.
3. Add the long beans and pound to bruise.
4. Add the green papaya and carrot. Stir well with a spoon and pound.
5. Add the tamarind and lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir and pound.
6. Taste and adjust flavors to the desired hot-sour-sweet-and-salty combination.
7. Add the tomato pieces, stir and bruise lightly to blend in with the rest of the salad.
8. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with peanuts.
Pad Krapow Gai (Fried Basil Leaf With Chicken)
One of the tastiest meals you can get in Thailand for 20 baht (if you are lucky). Spend a few more baht to get a fried egg on the side. Thai basil, chicken, chili and fried egg is a fabulous combination.
Be warned that this can be very spicy. Chances are the further you are from a touristy area the hotter it will be.
Also note that Thai basil is different from the basil you are likely to get in your local supermarket. I do not know how to describe the difference but they have very different flavors.
200 g minced chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoons garlic cloves minced
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh chilies
1 cup fresh holy basil
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1. Heat oil, when hot, add minced garlic. Don’t burn the garlic.
2. Add the holy basil leaf and quickly stir fry it before adding chicken.
3. Enjoy the aroma from the basil, then add the black soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar.
4. Stirfry until the chicken is cooked, but not dry.
5. Pour over steamed rice and serve with a fried egg on the side.
Kai Gieuw Mu Sap (Pork Omelette With Rice)
If you think an omelette should just taste of eggs with maybe a little ham and cheese, this recipe is a wake-up call. It has a strong meaty flavour with a spicy after-taste that is very different from a traditional ‘eggy’ omelette.
If you are living in Thailand and living mostly on local food the combination of egg, pork and rice is also about as close as you are going to get to a western style breakfast.
3 Large Eggs
75 grams Pork Mince
2 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
10 grams Coriander Leaves
10 grams Spring Onion (approx 1)
2 Big Red Chilies
100 ml Oil
1/2 Teaspoon White Pepper
1. Chop the coriander, spring onion and chilies.
2. Whip the eggs in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the pork mince, light soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, spring onion, coriander, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
4. Put oil into frying pan and preheat the oil.
5. Fry the eggs mix for 1 minute.
6. Turn the omelette over and fry the other side for a minute.
7. The omelette should be cooked and golden brown. To make sure its cooked squeeze it, and no liquid should come out.
Serve With Hot Rice and Sweet Chili Sauce
This is probably the most famous Thai dish. Details of what exactly should go into a Pad Thai do vary so don't be surprised if this doesn't match your exact idea of how it is made.
Pad Thai is a fried noodle dish consisting of fried rice or glass noodles with chili and various other ingredients for flavor. Here we use glass noodles. This is a quick cooking dish from central Thailand. Add the chili when it is served unless you are confident in your spiciness level so your guest can choose to make the dish spicy or mild.
For the pounded peanut it is better to choose a dry unsalted peanut, roast them it in a dry frying pan and pound them in a mortar just until they are broken up but still chunky.
1 Small Pack of Glass Noodle
50 grams of Dry Shrimp (optional)
50 grams of Tofu (hard)
2 Small Red Onions
50 grams Beansprouts
1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce
2 Tablespoons Chilli Sauce
1 Tablespoon Peanuts (pound to fine pieces)
1 Teaspoon Dry Flaked Chilli
3 Tablespoons Oil
Fresh Beansprouts and Cabbage
Crushed peanuts and flaked dried chillies
Lemon or Lime Slices
Sugar – to make it a touch sweeter
1. Soak the glass noodles in water for 5 minutes to soften them.
2. Chop the tofu into small squares,
3. Slice the red onion into smaller pieces.
4. Clean the fresh beansprouts and chop off the roots.
5. Put the oil in a hot frying pan or wok with the dry shrimp (optional), and fry for 30 seconds.
6. Break the egg into the hot oil and stir quickly to break it up.
7. Add the glass noodle and other ingredients and stir-fry until done.
Macaroni Gai Kua (Macaroni With Chicken)
This is a slightly odd but very delicious dish. East meet west, Thai style stir-fried macaroni with chicken – the sweet & spicy chilli sauce is the main flavour. YUM!!!
300 grams Macaroni pasta
1 Tablespoon Salt
150 gms Chicken Breast
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Tablespoons Sliced Onions
2 Tablespoons Red and Green Capsicum
1 – 2 Chopped Ripe Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Chopped Spring Onions
2 Tablespoons Chopped Coriander
2 Tablespoons Oil
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1. Boil the pasta with the salt until cooked then rinse in cool water and drain well.
2. Put the oil in a frying pan on a high heat, chop the chicken into small pieces, add to the pan and stir fry.
3. Chop the garlic, add to the frying pan and continue cooking until the chicken is browned.
4. Add all the other ingredients and mix, then add the pasta, mix well and fry for a further minute to warm it all through.
The one and only! The condensed milk makes this oldie delicious
Use an electric blender…
1-2 cups of ice cubes
1-1/2 RIPE bananas ( Note you can use any type of fruit, but I like bananas. )
A little water.
About a cup of milk.
A large sprinkle or maybe a big spoon of condensed milk.
Super simple, super delicious. Coconut is another excellent choice if you want to try something other than banana.
A cool, creamy drink like this is perfect to have on hand while eating super spicy Thai food.
Sangsom and Coke
SangSom is one of the largest selling brands of alcoholic spirit in Thailand. Despite being known in Thailand as “Thai Whisky” it is actually rum if you read the bottle.
It can be enjoyed straight but also mixes well and is a common ingredient in many a cocktail. In fact it is a great favorite in the Khaosan Road area of Bangkok and other touristy hot spots around Thailand with tourists combining SangSom, a local energy drink and a mixer in a small bucket with ice. Add a straw for each drinker. Very social.