Thai food is widely known for its vibrant colors, herbal smell and spicy taste. Since the past, Thai food is influenced by Indian and Chinese food culture. Indian food culture plays an important part in Thai food such as using herbs or spices. Chinese food culture enters to Thailand after Indian but it is still popular now. Most of Chinese influences are noodles and quick fried food. Thai food uses many kinds of herbs and local vegetables, it is can be both food and medicine.
20 Popular Thai Food
● Thai Soup and Curry
Tom Yum Goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง)
Tom Yum Goong is a well-known Thai food for foreigners and it is one of Thailand’s symbols. The main taste of Tom Yum Goong is sour and spicy with vivid orange color from chilli paste. The fantastic smell of bergamot leave, lemongrass and coriander makes it a wonderful dish. “Tom Yum” literally means spicy soup and “Goong” means shrimp. In Thai household, apart from shrimps, seafood or fish and chicken can be added. Tom Yum Goong is so famous that many Thai restaurants in foreigner countries have it in the menu
Gang Massaman (แกงมัสมั่น)
In 2014, Gang Massaman or, briefly called, Massaman was voted as the best food on CNNGO website. This dish is so popular in Thailand that King Rama 2 wrote the famous poet about. However, the origin of Massaman is not from Thailand but Persia. It arrived in Ayutthaya period with Persian merchants. Massaman is red or orange thick curry. The colors are from chilli paste, herbs and coconut milk. The main ingredients are herb such as tree basil and Siam cardamom, potato, pine apple and meat such as chicken, pork or beef.
Gang Keow Wan (แกงเขียวหวาน)
Gang Keow Wan literally means sweet green curry. The green curry is a color of green chilli and sweet in Thai does not only mean sugar sweet but also a pale or pastel color that looks soft and sweet. This dish happened first time in Ayutthaya period like many other dishes. We eat Gang Keow Wan with rice or rice vermicelli (Kanom Jeen). Main ingredients of Gang Keow Wan are chicken or pork, sweet basil, turkey berry and Thai eggplant, decorated with 3-color chilli including red, yellow and green.
Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่)
Tom Kha Gai is very similar to Tom Yum Goong but with softer smell and taste. Galingale, chicken, coconut milk, chilli and bergamot leaves are main ingredients. It has cloudy white color from coconut milk with marvelous smell of galingale and bergamot leaf oil.
Gang Som (แกงส้ม)
Gang Som is a dish from southern part of Thailand. In official Thai language, “Som” means orange and orange color which makes many believe so because of its orange color of Gang Som. But “Som” in southern dialect is “sour”. So, this dish actually means sour soup. Ingredient that makes this soup orange or, sometimes yellow is turmeric power. We normally add fish or shrimp in this dish.
● Thai Noodle
Pad Thai (ผัดไท)
Pad Thai is a very popular Thai dish influenced by Chinese food. This dish relates tremendously to Thai history when Thailand was ruled by leader called Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram who supported nationalism. It was also during World War 2 where rice was scarce. The then leader adapted noodle from Chinese food and made it more Thai by adding different ingredients. Since then Pad Thai has been very popular among both Thai people and foreigners. Pad Thai‘s main ingredients are rice noodle, shrimps, tofu and dry shrimps. It can be easily found as street food or in restaurant.
Pad See Eiu (ผัดซีอิ้ว)
Pad See Eiu is one of noodle dishes which you can find in almost every restaurant or food kiosk. Vermicelli and wide rice noodle is widely used to just quick fry. After that, we can add pork or chicken, egg, condiments and gai lan which is only vegetable added in this menu. See Eiu is one of condiments whose fluid is black, sweet both taste and smell. When adding it in food, food becomes black. And it is the main ingredient in the dish.
Kuay Tiew (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว)
Kuay Tiew or noodle is a dish influenced from China. It is soup with noodle and meat or meatball. Sometimes, it can be eaten without soup called Kau Tiew Haeng or dry noodle. Noodle doesn’t have fixed pattern which means you can add whatever noodle type, meat or vegetables you like. However, there are patterned noodle dish which is very popular called Kuay Tiew Nam Tok (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวน้ำตก) and Kuay Tiew Tom Yam (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวต้มยำ). It is noodles with black soup mostly beef or pork and morning glory.
Yentafo or Yong tau foo is one of fishball noodles with pink color making it stand out. Pink color is derived from red Yentafo sauce. This food is influenced from Cantonese culture including its name. Main ingredients include fishball, squid, blood tofu, dry tofu and Yentafo sauce which can be tomato or chilli sauce.
Kanom Jeen (ขนมจีน)
Kanom Jeen or rice vermicelli literally means “Chinese snack”. But, it looks more like white sticky pasta made of rice. Kanom Jeen can be replaced rice in some menu such as eating Kanom Jeen with Gang Keow Wan or green curry. The famous curry to pair with Kanom Jeen is called Nam Ya or Kanom Jeen Nam Ya (ขนมจีนน้ำยา) which is made from fish mixed with turmeric, chilli, lemongrass, red onion, coconut milk and shrimp paste. Kanom Jeen is one of the famous street food too meaning you can enjoy it almost everywhere.
● Thai Spicy Salad
Som Tam (ส้มตำ)
Som Tam or Papaya Salad is very popular food among Thai people from kids, teenager to adults. It is papaya mixed with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, tomatoes and chilli. We sometimes add crab as meat. Som Tam has many types such as Som Tam Thai (ส้มตำไทย), Som Tam Pu Plara (ส้มตำปูปลาร้า). We can also use corn instead of papaya called Som Tam Kaw Pod (ส้มตำข้าวโพด).
Yam Wun Sen (ยำวุ้นเส้น)
Glass noodle mixed with pork, shrimps, onion, mushroom and tomato and cooked as spicy salad is called Yam Wun Sen. “Wun Sen” means glass noodle which is influenced from Chinese culture. The dish is typically spicy from chili and sour from lime as typical Thai dish. It can be eaten with or without rice. And because of its ingredients and cooking method that requires no oil, this menu is popular among people who are on diet.
Larb Moo (ลาบหมู)
Larb Moo is cooked from finely mince pork and seasoned with chili, pepper, lime juice and fish sauce. Sometimes, Larb can use cooked or raw meat. The taste is surely spicy, sour and a bit salty and smell is of several herbs. Like Som Tam, the origin of Larb Moo is from north east of Thailand and spread across the country. You can find this menu everywhere in Thailand.
Nam Tok Moo (น้ำตกหมู)
Nam Tok Moo tastes also the same as Larb but there is little difference. Nam Tok Moo uses grilled meat such as beef and pork. And then slice in to fine piece and cook with seasoning. We usually eat with side dish which is mostly vegetables and herbs. Other ingredients are chopped spring onion, sweet basil, chilli, cilantro and powered roasted rice which make Nam Tok Moo smells marvelous.
Yam Plah Duk Foo (ยำปลาดุกฟู)
This menu is easy to find in the market or restaurant. Yam Plah Duk Foo is another dish that is similar to salad with spicy and sour taste. Plah Duk is a type of fish used in this menu by grilling and chopping till fish texture becomes smooth. Then we fry it till fish looks crispy and golden. Then mix thinly sliced sour mango, red onion, chili, lemon juice, sugar and fish sauce to make dressing. After we got dressing, we pour it or mix it with fired fish. Some people eat Yam Plah Duk Foo as a side dish when drinking beer.
● A la Carte
Pad Ga Pow (ผัดกะเพรา)
Pad Ga Pow is a common dish for Thai people. There is a joke about this dish that it is a dish for someone who has no idea what to order. It is very easy to cook. Pad Ga Pow can use pork, chicken, minced beef, seafood or liver, quick fried with chili, fish sauce and other condiments and most importantly Ga Pow or basil. The most distinguished of this dish is smell of basil. This menu stresses on spicy and little sweet taste.
Kao Phad (ข้าวผัด)
Kao Phad or fried rice, like many other Thai dish, is a recipe from China. This dish originated from how people want to make rice hot and tasteful again by mixing it with random ingredients and ornaments. There are several types of meat we can add in Kao Phad such as crab, pork or shrimp. We can add egg and other condiments. Today, Kao Phad becomes fancier by adapting or mixing something new. For example, using Tom Yum Goong ingredients to create Kao Phad Tom Yum Goong (ข้าวผัดต้มยำกุ้ง) or adding tomato sauce to create western style fried rice.
Kao Man Gai (ข้าวมันไก่)
Kao Man Gai is a la carte dish from Hainan. It is everywhere in Thailand because it is very easy to order and quick serving. “Kao Man” literally means oiled rice which is from its cooking process where rice is fried with chicken oil and steamed again until it is cooked. And “Gai” means chicken. Chicken which is mostly used in this menu is steam chicken with sauce made from chilli and fermented soy sauce. But today, as people always want something new, there are crispy fried chicken and grilled chicken too.
Kao Moo Dang (ข้าวหมูแดง)
Kao Moo Dang or Thai red pork and rice is a Thai Chinese menu. It is roasted pork with red color from food coloring on Thai rice. Apart from sliced red roasted pork, we add boiled egg, cucumber and sausage on top off the rice and pour a sweet gravy-like sauce on top of everything again. This is dish was once a signature dish of Nakhon Pathom province but today it is popular all over the country.
Kao Ka Moo (ข้าวขาหมู)
Another Thai-Chinese dish with pork as a main star, Kao Ka Moo is braised pork leg on rice. Pork has iconic brown to dark brown color from ingredients which are herbs and spices. The braised pork leg is so soft. After chopping it and put on rice, we usually pour stock that previously used to braise the pork and top with boiled egg, fermented vegetables. This menu is also popular and very easy to find from food shop to luxury food court in department store.