There’s no denying it: Thailand is a gastronomic playground, a gourmand’s dream, a heaven for foodies. It’s not an exaggerated reputation. The food in Thailand is simply phenomenal, you should put Thai food on your menu.
It doesn’t hurt that Thai cooks, from the humble street vendor to the Michelin-rated chefs, know what the heck they are doing, and so do Thai diners. The locals know what to eat, how to eat, and where to eat.
So when in Thailand, do as the Thai and check out these 10 best Thai foods locals eat (and then, cook them at home):
Green Papaya Salad (som tam)
You may have heard of som tam, the spicy Thai salad made of green papaya, chilies, slices of tomato, fish sauce, shrimp, and sometimes crab or peanuts.
Popular throughout the country despite regional differences in cuisine, som tam is a national staple and a delicious complement to all Thai dishes.
Tom Yum Noodles (kuay teow tom yum)
You may have heard of tom yum gung (tom yum soup with shrimp), but have you heard of tom yum noodles?
Rice noodles in a bowl of tom yum soup is a match made in heaven. Commonly sold at street-side noodle stalls, it’s a classic lunch or dinner for locals on the go.
Thailand’s most famous fried noodle dish is a local favorite too.
Local versions of pad thai vary—some have juicy prawns while others use tiny dried shrimp. Some scramble the eggs right into the noodles while others wrap the noodles in an egg omelet.
No matter what version you get, one thing is universal: pad thai is delicious.
Holy Basil stir-fry on Rice (pad kaprow)
Thais love their pad kaprow, a spicy stir-fry of meat and generous amounts of holy basil.
The basil, which tastes distinct from Italian basil, has a sharp, almost spicy flavor that pairs well with tender meats, such as pork or chicken.
Try a plate and you’ll see why this is a national staple.
(gaeng phet, gaeng kiaw waan, gaeng penang, gaeng masaman)
Curries literally come in all colors in Thailand—take your pick from red, yellow, or green.
Most Thai curries can be ordered either “dry” or “wet”; the former resembles a stir-fry with a thick sauce, while the “wet” version is similar to a bowl of soup.
Both versions can be eaten with rice, noodles, or in some instances, with roti canai, a flaky Malaysian flat bread.
Pork Leg on Rice (khao kha moo)
If rice is the national carb of Thailand, pork is surely the national meat. The two come together in this delicious comfort food: stewed, fatty pork leg on rice.
Usually served with a side of pickles and a hard-boiled egg, the melt-in-your-mouth pork can be found at most local haunts.
Meat Salad (nam tok)
Literally meaning “waterfall” in Thai, nam tok is also the name of a type of meat salad.
A choice of thinly sliced meat (usually chicken, pork, or beef) is mixed with coriander, onion, chilies, lime juice, and a seasoning mix of roasted rice.
The result is a tangy and hearty salad that is full of flavor.
Grilled Chicken (gai yang)
The people of Isaan (northeast Thailand) may take much of the credit for perfecting the grilled chicken, but it’s a dish that is served throughout the country, from the sultry south to the mountainous north.
Gai yang is simple, unassuming, and mouthwateringly delicious with sticky rice and som tam.
Okay, so this is an ingredient, not a dish, but it’s an ingredient that features in almost every Thai dish you’ll encounter.
Thai chilies can range from big to small and green to red with varying shades in between. Used generously for phet (spicy) dishes, chilies give “oomph” to almost all Thai food.
Crispy deep-fried Pork Belly (moo krob)
And if fatty pork leg wasn’t enough, Thailand also boasts moo krob, crispy deep-fried pork belly, which can be incorporated into many Thai dishes.
Get it stir-fried in your pad kaprow or top your kuay teow tom yum with it. No matter how you eat it, it’s so good you’ll willingly forget how fattening it is.
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