A Food Lover’s Guide to Thailand's Mouth-Watering Cuisine

05, February, 2018

A Food Lover’s Guide to Thailand's Mouth-Watering Cuisine

Thai food is appreciated for its fine balance of salty, bitter, spicy, sour and sweet flavours. Fermented fish sauce, coriander, lime juice, chilli, coconut milk, galangal, garlic, basil and lemongrass are some of the elements that help to give a perfect balance of flavour and bring a dish to life.  

Thai food has four main regions
Any travellers on the Thailand tour packages that explore different regions of the country will soon notice a complete difference in dishes as they travel around. Let's take a look at the Thai cuisine on a regional tour of the country: Northern, Northeastern (Isaan), Central and Southern

Northern cuisine is regional to the relatively cool mountains and lush valleys of the highlands with include places like Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. The cuisine has strong influence from China’s Yunnan Province, Northern Laos and Shan State in Myanmar. Many dishes are sour and salty, mild or hot, but rarely sweet tasting. The most popular dishes consist of a variety of soups, a northern-style curry, such as khao soi, and nam phrik oong with steamed vegetables and sticky rice. Also, sai ua is a further favoured dish that consists of a delightful spicy sausage with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, dried chillies and ground pork.

North-eastern (Isaan)
The north-eastern cuisine has taken a lot of influence from neighbouring countries, south as southern Laos which is a short distance across the Mekong River, while also having a taste of Khmer cuisine from nearby Cambodia, as well as elements from Vietnam. The cuisine is defined by a combination of spicy and salty flavours, and is very hot. Regional specialities in this region are certain to include larb (sour minced pork, beef or chicken salad with plenty of chilli, shallots and mint), koi (meat salad, chopped, sour) and som tam (green papaya salad). Other components eaten in large quantities include sticky rice and nam phrik bla (chilli and spicy fermented dipping sauce). Also, the majority of dishes seen on the Thailand tours are served with herbs and raw vegetables to help with cleansing the palate.

Central cuisine radiates from Bangkok and includes the rice-growing heartland of this part of the country. The cuisine is characterised by a sour, sweet, salty and hot taste. Nam prik (chilli dipping sauces) and steamed jasmine rice are favoured in plenty of dishes (more than sticky rice). Central Thai dishes include a variety of soups such as the extremely popular shrimp soup with lemongrass (tom yum goong). Also, many meals are served with a selection of dried spices and condiments.

Visitors to southern Thailand will get to taste dishes with strong flavours and inspired by the regional cuisine from India, Indonesia and Malaysia, including fresh turmeric and coconut milk. Also, the south of Thailand has a quite large Muslim population, which again influences the local cuisine. A further factor is the close proximity to the coast, which means fish is much more prominent on the menu compared to meat. Sour flavours are high on the list of ingredients, and coconut is a major component of the local curry dishes. A regional favourite is Nam prik kapee which is fried fish and raw vegetables eaten with a dipping sauce based on lime juice, palm sugar, chillies and shrimp paste.

Many of the southern markets serve a delightful salad of grated coconut, dried shrimp and dried cooked rice which is called khao yam and eat for breakfast or lunch. Also, on the street food scene is a flatbread which is plainly served with condensed milk, while other more adventurous choices include a curry sauce or with minced beef or chicken.

Most popular types of dish
Thailand has plenty of good food which is typically split between curries, soups, salads, and noodle and rice dishes.

Thai curries are built on base of curry pastes which combine an complex blend of spices, shallots, chillies, herbs and herbs which are ground together using a pestle and mortar to bring out the flavour. The use of many of the spices and coconut cream has taken past influence from India. Any of the curries made without coconut cream are naturally thinner and less sweet, while also having a soup-like consistency. A few of the most quintessentially dishes of the region include the red Thai curry (kaeng phanaeng) which is sweet, salty and thick with a nutty peanut flavour, the hot red chicken curry (kaeng phet), and the sweet and green curry (kaeng khiaw wan).

Also, a Thai sour curry (Kaeng som) is created with fish and has a noticeable sourness to its taste because of the okra leaves in the north-east, or tamarind elsewhere on the tour to Thailand.

Thai soups are traditionally eaten with other dishes in a meal and not as a stand-alone starter. Many of the soups include ingredients like galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, as well as chillies for the extremely spicy dish. A few of the favourites include a sour and hot prawn soup with coconut milk (tom yam kung) and a creamy chicken coconut soup (tom kha kai).

Noodle and rice dishes
The noodle and rice dishes are popular on the street food scene throughout Thailand and come in many different varieties, such as stir-fried, doused in gravy, or boiled up as soups. One of the famous is the Thai stir fries, which can incorporate a mouth-watering combination of dried shrimp, lime, ground peanuts, spring onions, tofu, egg and noodles. Other great dishes include the simple one-dish meals such as curry (khao kaeng) served on steamed rice and fried rice (khao phat).

Many of the Thai-style salads incorporate the basic flavours in a refreshing and unique harmony. The Thai salad is created in many different ways – with seafood, noodles, meat or vegetables – but will add in a dash of chillies or lime juice. A few of the top salads to taste on the Thailand customised tours include deep-fried fluffy catfish (yam plaa duk foo), banana flowers (yam hua plee) and pomelo (yam som oh).

Read more: Thai Food and Drink