Have you ever tried Thai foods? They are a perfect balance of five flavors – sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Many dishes are also well-known for their spiciness, so Thai people often eat them with something to help overpowering spiciness. For example, we usually eat “Tom Yum Kung,” which is so spicy and sour, with rice and Thai omelet. Actually we eat almost everything with rice. Not only does it help you to feel less spicy, but also it is a perfect food pairing and delicious.
If you have a chance to try Thai food, please be sure that you don’t miss to taste these five menus that I am going to recommend you. There are many popular Thai foods, but I will write down the top five dishes that you must try. They are all easy to find in Thailand because they are basic local Thai street foods. You probably see them a lot along the way while traveling around here.
1. Tom Yam Kung (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
It is the No.1 Thai food that foreigners love. This quintessential Thai soup comes with lemongrass and it is spicy and sour. You can ask for a mild version if you don’t like spicy food. Indeed, Tom Yam can use other ingredients as well, such as fish, squid, and mussel. If you are seafood lover, you must love this dish. However, those who are allergic to seafood can ask for “Tom Yam with Chicken.” It also tastes so good. Thai people usually eat Tom Yam with rice and Thai omelet. You might find that Tom Yam can be cooked with rice or noodle, too. It’s called “Tom Yum Fried Rice” and “Tom Yam Noodle.”
2. Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
It is one of the most internationally recognized Thai dishes. Thai local people also love this one. Some people can eat it almost every day and are not likely to get bored. “Som Tum” mainly consists of shredded papaya or you can change it to fruits, which is called “Som Tum Polamai.” You can also ask them to add fermented fish sauce or salted preserved egg. It can be very spicy to mild – which you can ask for. The best combination dishes with Som Tum are grilled chicken or “Gai Yang” in Thai and sticky rice or rice vermicelli. A Thai style of eating is to roll the sticky rice into a small ball and dip it into the Som Tum’s sauce.
3. Pad Thai (Thai Style Fried Noodles)
One of the best well-known Thai dishes is “Pad Thai.” It comprises stir-fried rice noodles with egg, tofu, red chili pepper and chicken or seafood (fresh shrimp, squid, and crab). There is also a vegetarian version that omits meat and use substitute soy sauce instead of fish sauce. It is more sour, salty and sweet than spicy. Thai people eat Pad Thai with fresh bean sprouts, banana blossom, lime wedges and roasted ground peanuts.
4. Pad Ka Prao (Fried meats or Seafood with Sweet Basils)
It is kind of a default dish. If Thai people don’t know what to eat, “Pad Ka Prao” is always the very first choice for them. Almost every Thai restaurant and street food stall has Pad Ka Prao in their menu. This is quick and easy to make. Any kind of meat you like such as pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, or squid can be used in this dish. Pad Ka Prao is always served with warm Jasmine rice. Do not forget to top it with a fried egg! It can be very spicy, so you should tell them how spicy they would like.
5. Mu Ping (Thai Grilled Pork on Skewers or Thai BBQ Pork)
Another popular street food in Thailand which you can easily find. With traditional charcoal to cook, “Mu Ping” tastes so great and smells so delicious. It can also be cooked over gas barbecue. It is best served with warm sticky rice. If you like spicy food, you can ask for spicy dipping sauce which is called “Nam Jim Jaew” in Thai – it is only available for some restaurants. It will make Mu Ping more delicious!
As you can see, popular Thai foods are quite spicy so please ask them for a mild version or “Mai Phet” (“Not Spicy” in Thai) if you cannot handle spicy food. Please remember that “Not Spicy” in Thai may also be too spicy for you. The safest way is using “Mai Sai Prik”, meaning without chili when you order some Thai food such as Tom Yam, Som Tum, Pad Ka Prao, Thai curry, etc.
By Natcha Poompradit, ASEAN Correspondent from Thailand