The vibrancy and variety of Thailand’s culture extends beyond its vast ancient temples and snap-ready scenery, to rich, tradition-filled menus in which hot spices pair perfectly with sweet, citrus flavours. Whether tucking into an authentic pad Thai in the perpetually moving Maeklong Market, or dining on world class Thai cuisine in one of Bangkok’s Michelin starred restaurants, Thailand is brimming with explosions of flavours just waiting to be tasted. Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ and although this is largely thanks to Thai people’s friendly faces, we are sure it must have something to do with the smorgasbord of good food too. So, grab a spoon and make your tastebuds dance by diving into some of our favourite traditional food in Thailand…
- Pad Thai
- Massaman Curry (Gaeng Massaman)
- Mango Sticky Rice (Kao Niew Man Muang)
- Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
- Green Curry (Gaeng Keow Wan)
- Khao Kha Mu
It is fair to say that rice is a staple in Thailand and has been around for so long it’s believed to predate Buddhism. It is like bread to the French or pasta to the Italians and most of Thailand’s gastronomic treats revolve around the starchy grain. However, rice is more to Thai people than just food. It is believed to have its own soul which is presented as Mae Posop, the ‘Rice Goddess’, so be sure to eat all the rice on your plate to avoid angering her…
Pad Thai is one of the country’s national dishes and is the perfect place for tourists to start on their discovery of Thailand’s mouth-watering cuisine. What better dish to learn to cook than one that is synonymous with Thai cuisine? Spend the day with a local chef in Chiang Mai, exploring vibrant markets before gathering fresh ingredients to make what is thought to be the most traditional food in Thailand. Noodles and vegetables are fried in tamarind juice, fish sauce, garlic and other seasoning, before adding chicken or shrimp and garnishing with crunchy peanuts and a squeeze of lime. If a cooking course isn’t your thing, head to the side streets of Chiang Mai where you will find an almost endless supply of street vendors, corner cafes and restaurants selling this scrummy staple dish.
Originating in the south of Thailand, this delicious curry is packed full of spices that create a creamy, spicy and aromatic flavour. Although the curry is Thai through and through, there are subtle Malaysian influences that make Massaman curry stand above the rest as a true gem of Thai cuisine. Whether filled with delicious duck or chicken, or just potatoes, onion and fresh spices, this mighty main pairs perfectly with sticky rice and fresh pineapple after a long day of exploring in central Thailand.
With savoury dishes hogging the limelight on our list of traditional food in Thailand, mango sticky rice (kao niew man muang) is an all-time crowd pleaser and a welcome sweet treat. This simple but delicious desert consists of sweet glutinous rice, fresh mango slices and lashings of sweetened coconut milk, combining to create a creamy Thai rice pudding. Roll up your sleeves and dive in with your right hand (a cultural must when in Thailand), rolling the sticky rice before combining it with the mango and milk for a sumptuously sweet mouthful.
Exploring the Maeklong Market in Bangkok is a shopping experience like no other and just happens to be one of the best places to grab the ingredients for som tam (green papaya salad), one of Bangkok’s most famous dishes. A delicious mix of shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, cucumber and carrot tossed in spices, fish sauce, lime juice and chillies. Of all the fresh and zingy traditional food in Thailand, som tam is without a doubt one of our favourites.
If spicy is what you are looking for then look no further. Green curry is considered the spiciest in Thailand thanks to its rich paste and hot chillies. An endless combination of ingredients including green chillies, kaffir lime leaves and Thai sweet basil make up its distinctive verdant colour. Packed with seasonal vegetables, meat or tofu as well as coconut milk for a rich, creamy flavour and served with steaming white jasmine rice, green curry is a guaranteed hit. Head to Bangkok for one of the finest green curries, before venturing out on a boat trip along the Chao Phraya River or visiting some of the most beautiful and beguiling temples at Wat Po.
If you’re on a 3G (Three Generational) gastronomic galivant through Thailand, khao kha mu (pork leg with rice) is definitely one to try. With spice often deterring the tastebuds of youngsters, this sweet dish, which was made famous in Chiang Mai’s streets, is a particular hit with children. Pork leg slowly braised in a sweet, spiced broth is the perfect stomach-filler after a long day of exploring. As far as traditional food in Thailand goes, we reckon the preparation of khao kha mu is one of the most exciting to watch. Walk by street vendors with large aluminium pots filled with simmering soy, pork leg and spices, and watch as the meat falls off the bone onto a bed of bok choi and pickled vegetables, just waiting to be enjoyed as you continue wandering through the streets of Chiang Mai.
Written by Immy Kelly
Header Image © Olivier Romano