I never knew I loved Thai food until I came to Thailand. I’d been to a couple of Thai restaurants in the UK & once in Australia, but of course the best way to experience Thai food and to find out the best Thai food in Thailand is to taste the real thing right here in Thailand!
I still remember the first time I had ‘Pla Sam Rot’ – Three-Flavoured Fish, and thought I’d just died and gone to heaven. It was the same the first time I tried Chicken & Cashew Nuts, and trying my first Panang Curry.
I’m making myself hungry as I write this!
With good reason, Thailand is known across the world for its vibrant Thai food culture. But what is the best Thai food in Thailand?
That’s what I’m about to explore with you. Eat your way through my selection of the best Thai food in Thailand to discover the flavors of the Land of Smiles.
My Absolute Top Favourites
- Kao Soi: A Northern Thai delight, Kao Soi combines soft egg noodles in a rich, fragrant coconut curry broth, topped with crispy noodles.
- Chicken & Cashew Nuts: Tender chicken stir-fried with crunchy cashews & vegetables in a tasty savory sauce.
- Panang Curry: A thick, peanutty flavor, enveloping meat or veggies in a creamy, aromatic and spicy sauce.
- Som Tum: A spicy green papaya salad with a tangy, sweet and sour dressing.
- Pla Sam Rot: Deep-fried fish in a vibrant, sweet, sour, and spicy sauce, an irresistible trio of Thai flavors.
- Stir Fried Morning Glory: The clue is in the title; stir-fried morning glory greens, in tasty garlic and soy sauce.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Appetizers and Snacks
1. Por Pia Todlazy fri13th, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Indulge in the delightful crispiness of Por Pia Tod, renowned as one of the best Thai appetizers. These Thai spring rolls are brimming with a blend of vegetables, occasionally featuring meat or seafood. Enjoyed as a popular Thai street food, they are enjoyed for their crunchy texture and are typically accompanied by a tangy sauce.
- Main Ingredients: Vegetables, meat or seafood (optional), rice paper, tangy dipping sauce
Hot Tip: To enjoy the freshest rolls, choose a street food stall that prepares them on the spot.
2. Tod Mun Pla
Tod Mun Pla is a tantalizing Thai fish cake, infused with red curry paste and fragrant kaffir lime leaves, served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
- Main Ingredients: Fish, red curry paste, fine green beans
Hot Tip: Elevate your Tod Mun Pla experience by pairing it with a crisp local beer.
3. Satay Gai
Satay Gai, a delectable Thai appetizer, features succulent chicken skewers marinated in a flavorful blend of coconut milk and bold spices. Grilled and served with a luscious and sometimes spicy, peanut sauce, it’s a hit with the kids (and me)!
- Main Ingredients: Chicken, coconut milk, bold spices
Hot Tip: To elevate your Satay Gai experience, squeeze fresh lime over the grilled skewers for an added zing.
4. Khanom Jeeb
Khanom Jeeb, or Thai steamed dumplings, are delicate parcels filled with a mixture of pork, shrimp and water chestnuts, elegantly pleated and served with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce. Khanom Jeeb is a must-try Thai delicacy.
- Main Ingredients: Pork, shrimp, water chestnuts
Hot Tip: For an authentic experience, savor Khanom Jeeb at a local dim sum restaurant where they are handcrafted and steamed to order.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Soups
Here are some of the best soups of Thailand:
5. Tom Yum Goong
Tom Yum Goong is a vibrant and zesty Thai soup, made with fresh shrimp, fragrant lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, bird’s eye chilies, mushrooms, and a splash of lime juice, creating a hot and sour symphony of flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Seafood, lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce
Hot Tip: For an authentic experience, savor Tom Yum Goong at local eateries where it is freshly prepared using regional shrimps and aromatic herbs, ensuring an unparalleled taste sensation.
6. Tom Kha GaiEvan Joshua Swigart (TheCulinaryGeek) from Chicago, Illinois, USA; hometown of Ames, Iowa, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tom Kha Gai is a creamy Thai coconut soup, combining tender chicken pieces with aromatic galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and mushrooms, gently simmered in coconut milk for a rich, fragrant flavor.
- Main Ingredients: Chicken, mushrooms, lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk.
Hot Tip: To savor the full flavors of Tom Kha Gai, try pairing it with steamed jasmine rice.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Noodles and Rice Dishes
Here are some of the best noodles and rice dishes of Thailand:
7. Khao Soi
My absolute favourite, Khao Soi is a delectable Thai soup originating from Northern Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai. It’s made using soft egg noodles and chicken or beef, simmered in a rich coconut milk-based broth, flavored with curry paste, shallots, and pickled mustard greens, and topped with crispy fried noodles.
- Main Ingredients: Coconut milk, curry, noodles, and crispy toppings.
Hot Tip: For the most authentic and delightful Khao Soi experience, seek out a specialized vendor in Chiang Mai.
8. Pad Thai
Pad Thai, a popular Thai street food dish, combines stir-fried rice noodles with a mix of protein options like chicken, seafood, or tofu. Typically, it’s seasoned with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, garlic, and chili, and served with a lime wedge to squeeze over the noodles. A generous sprinkle of crushed peanuts adds that signature crunch.
- Main Ingredients: Rice noodles, protein (chicken/seafood/tofu), tamarind, fish sauce, peanuts.
Hot Tip: To experience authentic flavors, find a street vendor whose Pad Thai is made fresh to order right before your eyes.
9. Pad See Ew
Pad See Ew, commonly found at Thai food markets, combines wide rice noodles stir-fried with succulent slices of chicken or pork, crunchy Chinese broccoli, and egg, all tossed in a rich sauce of soy, oyster sauce, and a hint of sugar, creating a delightful balance of savory and sweet flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Flat rice noodles, soy sauce, protein (pork/beef/chicken), Chinese broccoli, Thai basil.
Hot Tip: Ask for it less sweet if you prefer a more savory flavor dish.
10. Green Curry Fried RiceTakeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green Curry Fried Rice is a flavorful fusion dish where fragrant jasmine rice is stir-fried with green curry paste, tender chicken or shrimp, crisp bell peppers, and sweet peas, then finished with fresh basil and lime for a vibrant, spicy kick.
- Main Ingredients: Rice, green curry paste, Thai basil, protein (meat/seafood), vegetables.
Hot Tip: Try it with crispy fried fish to add an extra layer of texture to the dish.
11. Kuay Teow Reua
Kuay Teow Reua, often known as Boat Noodles, is a rich, hearty soup brimming with slender rice noodles and tender slices of beef, immersed in a dark, savory broth infused with spices and a hint of sweetness. Topped with fresh herbs and bean sprouts, this traditional Thai dish offers a delightful mix of textures and flavors, tingling your taste buds with every slurp.
- Main Ingredients: Beef or pork, egg noodles/rice noodles, broth, herbs, bean sprouts.
Hot Tip: Always add the side greens; they’re not just garnishes but integral to the soup’s full experience.
12. Khao Pad
Khao Pad, or Thai fried rice, is a versatile dish featuring jasmine rice stir-fried with your choice of meat, like chicken or shrimp, mixed with eggs, onions, and tomatoes, and seasoned with soy sauce and a touch of sugar, often garnished with refreshing cucumber slices and a wedge of lime.
- Main Ingredients: Jasmine rice, eggs, onions, protein (chicken/seafood/pork).
Hot Tip: Request a side of chili fish sauce (nam pla prik) for a spicy, tangy kick.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Curries
Here are some of the best curries of Thailand:
13. Gaeng Keow Wan (Green Curry)
Gaeng Keow Wan, also known as Green Curry, is a typical Thai dish featuring a fragrant and spicy green curry paste, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and your choice of protein like chicken, beef, or tofu. Enhanced with Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, and a hint of sweetness, it’s a lovely balance of rich, aromatic flavors.
- Main Ingredients: coconut milk, bamboo shoots, chicken (Gaeng Keow Wan Gai), and a medley of Thai herbs like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
Hot Tip: For an authentic taste, seek out places that make their green curry paste from scratch.
14. Massaman Curry
Massaman Curry is a rich, slow-cooked Thai stew that blends tender chunks of beef (or chicken) with creamy coconut milk, infused with a warm, aromatic mix of spices like cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom. This delicious dish is cooked with soft potatoes and crunchy peanuts, offering a delightful contrast in textures and tastes.
- Main Ingredients: Beef, potatoes, cumin, cinnamon, coconut milk, tamarind.
Hot Tip: To fully savor the flavors, pair it with fragrant jasmine rice for a delicious and well-balanced meal.
15. Panang Curry
Panang Curry is a thick, savory Thai dish known for its robust flavors, combining tender slices of beef or chicken with a rich, red curry sauce made from coconut milk and a blend of lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. This curry stands out with its slightly sweet and nutty undertones, often finished with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts on top.
- Main Ingredients: Beef (commonly used, but various protein options available), Panang curry paste, coconut cream, peanuts, and key spices.
Hot Tip: Chicken Panang is my favourite, but you can have with beef, fish or just vegetables.
16. Gaeng Karee (Yellow Curry)
Gaeng Karee, or Yellow Curry, is a milder yet deeply flavorful Thai dish, featuring tender pieces of chicken or vegetables simmered in a smooth, golden sauce made from a blend of turmeric, coriander, and cumin. This creamy curry is enriched with coconut milk and often includes potatoes and onions, offering a balance of sweet and savory with a gentle, aromatic warmth.
- Main Ingredients: Turmeric, chicken, potatoes, onions, coconut milk.
Hot Tip: Pair Gaeng Karee with fragrant jasmine rice, to enhance its rich flavors.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Stir-Fried Dishes
Here are some of the best stir-fried dishes of Thailand:
17. Pad Krapow Moo Saap
Pad Krapow Moo Saap is a vibrant and aromatic Thai stir-fry, featuring finely minced pork sizzled with a lively mix of garlic, chili, and fragrant holy basil leaves. This quick and fiery dish is often crowned with a crispy fried egg and served over a bed of steamed rice, creating a simple yet bold blend of spicy, savory, and slightly sweet flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Minced pork, garlic, chilies, holy basil leaves, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar.
Hot Tip: Elevate your Pad Krapow Moo Saap experience by opting for a fried egg (khai dao) on top. The runny yolk adds a creamy texture that beautifully complements the spicy pork, providing an authentic and delightful twist to this Thai stir-fry.
18. Gai Pad Med Mamuang (Cashew Chicken)
Gai Pad Med Mamuang, or Cashew Chicken, is a popular Thai stir-fry dish that combines succulent pieces of chicken with crunchy cashews, crisp bell peppers, and sweet onions. Tossed in a savory sauce with a hint of sweetness and a touch of chili, this dish strikes a perfect balance of flavors and textures.
- Main Ingredients: Chicken, cashew nuts, onions, scallions, and occasionally dried chilies.
Hot Tip: Pair it with a side of jasmine rice. The rice complements the dish by absorbing the rich sauce and balancing the crunch of the cashews and the tenderness of the chicken. Additionally, if you’re sensitive to spice, let the chef know your preference, as this dish can sometimes be made with a bit of a kick!
19. Pad Prik KhingNeil Conway, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pad Prik Khing is a bold and flavorful Thai stir-fry dish, known for its distinctive red curry paste which offers a spicy and slightly sweet taste. It typically features tender slices of pork or chicken, green beans, and kaffir lime leaves, all stir-fried together in a dry curry sauce, resulting in a dish that is both aromatic and deeply savory, with a pleasant crunch from the beans. This dish stands out for its rich, intense flavors, without the creaminess of coconut milk found in other Thai curries.
- Main Ingredients: Choice of meat (pork, chicken, tofu), string beans, red curry paste.
Hot Tip: Enhance Pad Prik Khing with a side of steamed rice. This not only helps to moderate the spice level but also allows the rice to absorb the vibrant flavors of the curry paste.
20. Pad PedVee Satayamas from Bangkok, Thailand, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pad Ped is a fiery Thai stir-fry dish that sizzles with bold flavors, featuring your choice of meat like chicken, beef, or seafood, stir-fried with red curry paste, fresh kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and crisp bell peppers, all brought together in a spicy and aromatic sauce.
- Main Ingredients: Meat of your choice, eggplant, bamboo shoots, basil, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves, red curry paste.
Hot Tip: Pair Pad Ped with an iced Thai tea. The tea’s sweetness offers a delightful contrast and helps cool down the intensity of the dish.
21. Pad Phuk Tong
Pad Phuk Tong is a delightful Thai stir-fry showcasing tender slices of pumpkin, sautéed with garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of sugar, often mixed with egg and flavored with Thai basil, creating a sweet and savory dish with a unique texture.
- Main Ingredients: Pumpkin, pork strips, fresh basil, soy sauce, oyster sauce.
Hot Tip: When savoring Pad Phuk Tong, consider pairing it with a portion of steamed jasmine rice. The rice not only complements the sweetness of the pumpkin but also balances the flavors and textures, making for a more fulfilling meal. Additionally, if you’re adventurous with flavors, ask for a sprinkle of crushed peanuts on top for an added crunch!
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Grilled and Roasted Dishes
Here are some of the best grilled and roasted dishes of Thailand:
22. Gai YangBasile Morin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Gai Yang is a classic Thai grilled chicken dish, marinated in a tantalizing blend of lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, and coriander, then grilled to perfection for a smoky and aromatic flavor, often served with a spicy dipping sauce.
- Main Ingredients: Lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, lime juice.
Hot Tip: For an authentic Gai Yang experience, try pairing it with sticky rice and a side of som tum (spicy green papaya salad). The sticky rice is perfect for soaking up the flavorful marinade and the som tum adds a refreshing, zesty contrast to the smoky, savory chicken. Don’t forget to use your hands for a truly traditional Thai dining experience!
23. Moo Ping
Moo Ping is a popular Thai street food, consisting of succulent skewers of marinated pork, grilled to a smoky char. The pork is typically marinated in a mix of garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of sugar, creating a perfectly balanced sweet and savory flavor.
- Main Ingredients: Skewers of grilled pork, marinated with a blend of garlic, pepper, coriander root, and sweetened soy sauce.
Hot Tip: When indulging in Moo Ping, it’s a great idea to pair it with sticky rice or a fresh papaya salad. The sticky rice acts as a neutral base, complementing the rich flavors of the marinated pork, while a papaya salad adds a refreshing, crunchy element to the meal. Plus, eating Moo Ping right off the skewer is part of the fun and authentic street food experience!
24. Pla Pao
Pla Pao is a traditional Thai dish where a whole fish, often tilapia or snapper, is generously stuffed with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, creating an aromatic infusion from the inside out. The fish is then coated in a layer of salt and grilled over an open flame, resulting in a crispy exterior while keeping the inside moist and tender. This method imparts a subtle smokiness and a delicate blend of herbal flavors, making Pla Pao a uniquely flavorful and satisfying seafood experience.
- Main Ingredients: Whole fish, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, salt crust
Hot Tip: To savor Pla Pao at its best, pair it with a side of tangy Thai dipping sauce for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
25. Nuea Yang Nam TokTakeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nuea Yang Nam Tok, also known as Thai Waterfall Beef Salad, is a zesty dish combining the richness of grilled beef with the freshness of herbs and a tangy, spicy dressing. The thinly sliced beef, charred to perfection, is tossed with a mix of shallots, mint, toasted rice powder, and a lively dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, and chili flakes. This creates a blend of smoky, sour, and spicy flavors, with a pleasing crunch from the rice powder, making it a vibrant and appetizing meal.
- Main Ingredients: Grilled beef, lime juice, fish sauce, shallots, mint, dried chilies, toasted rice powder.
Hot Tip: Enjoying Nuea Yang Nam Tok with a side of sticky rice is a great way to complement its bold flavors. The sticky rice not only soaks up the delicious dressing but also provides a subtle, soothing texture against the spiciness of the dish. Additionally, if you enjoy fresh flavors, consider adding extra herbs like mint or basil to enhance the dish’s refreshing qualities.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Seafood Specialties
Here are some of the best seafood specialties of Thailand:
26. Goong Pad PrikTakeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Goong Pad Prik is a vibrant Thai dish that features succulent prawns stir-fried with a medley of bell peppers, onions, and a mix of fresh chilies, all coated in a savory sauce with a hint of garlic and oyster sauce, delivering a delightful balance of heat and flavor.
- Main Ingredients: Succulent shrimp, chili, fish sauce, and an array of fresh ingredients.
Hot Tip: When enjoying Goong Pad Prik, consider pairing it with a portion of steamed jasmine rice. The rice acts as a perfect canvas to absorb the spicy, garlicky sauce, enhancing the flavors while moderating the heat from the chilies. For those who prefer less spice, you can ask for the dish to be made with fewer chilies, ensuring a more subtle heat that doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
27. Pla Rad Prikpelican, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pla Rad Prik is a classic Thai dish where a whole fish, such as snapper, is deep-fried until the skin is irresistibly crispy and the inside remains tender and flaky. The fish is then topped with a spicy and sweet sauce made from garlic, chilies, and tamarind, providing a delightful contrast to the crispy texture. This combination of the crunchy fish with the tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy sauce makes Pla Rad Prik a beloved dish, celebrated for its burst of flavors and textures.
- Main Ingredients: Whole fish (sea bass or snapper), chili, garlic, tamarind juice, fish sauce.
Hot Tip: Serving Pla Rad Prik with a side of steamed jasmine rice is highly recommended. The rice not only balances the heat and sweetness of the chili sauce but also absorbs its vibrant flavors, making each bite a delightful experience. Also, don’t hesitate to squeeze a bit of fresh lime over the fish right before eating to add an extra zesty dimension to the dish!
28. Talay Pad PrikKent Wong, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Talay Pad Prik is a fiery seafood stir-fry, featuring an assortment of fresh seafood like shrimp, squid, and mussels, cooked with a blend of Thai chilies, garlic, and basil, delivering a punch of spicy and aromatic flavors
- Main Ingredients: Shrimp, squid, assorted shellfish, chili, fish sauce, bell peppers, and onions.
Hot Tip: Pair this spicy dish with a cooling side, such as cucumber salad or a cold beverage like iced tea, to balance the heat and enhance your dining experience.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Street Food
Here are some of the best street food of Thailand:
29. Kai JeowBitterschoko, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kai Jeow is a simple yet satisfying Thai omelette, fluffy and golden, often enhanced with minced pork or vegetables, and served with a sweet chili sauce for a touch of sweetness and spice.
- Main Ingredients: Eggs, fish sauce, lime juice.
Hot Tip: Enjoy Kai Jeow with a portion of steamed rice and a dash of Sriracha for an extra kick, making it a hearty and quick meal any time of the day.
30. Hoy Todpelican from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hoy Tod is a Thai street food delicacy, often described as an oyster pancake or oyster omelette. This dish features a crispy, golden-brown batter mixed with a generous amount of fresh oysters, and occasionally shrimp, cooked to a perfect chewy texture. The pancake is typically seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, and a hint of white pepper, and served with a side of tangy, sweet chili sauce, creating a delightful contrast of textures and flavors – crispy on the outside, soft and briny on the inside, with a perfect balance of savory and spicy notes.
- Main Ingredients: Fresh mussels, eggs, bean sprouts, and green onions.
Hot Tip: To savor the full essence of Hoy Tod, drizzle it with a generous amount of sweet and savory sauce. Pair it with a side of fresh lime wedges for a zesty kick. For an authentic experience, enjoy this delectable treat hot off-the-street vendor’s griddle.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Desserts
Here are some of the best desserts of Thailand:
31. Kao Niew Mamuang
Kao Niew Mamuang, or Mango Sticky Rice, is a beloved Thai dessert that pairs sweet, ripe mangoes with warm, glutinous sticky rice. The rice, soaked in a mixture of creamy coconut milk and sugar, becomes tender and rich, creating a delightful contrast with the fresh, juicy mango slices. Often topped with a drizzle of sweetened coconut cream and a sprinkle of crunchy toasted mung beans, this dessert offers a harmonious blend of sweet, creamy, and fruity flavors, making it a simple yet irresistible treat.
- Main Ingredients: Fresh mangoes, sticky rice, coconut milk
Hot Tip: For the best experience, select ripe mangoes that have a vibrant yellow color and a slight give when pressed gently.
32. I Tim Grapao
I Tim Grapao, commonly known as Basil Ice Cream, is a unique and refreshing Thai dessert that combines the aromatic essence of sweet basil leaves with the creamy texture of ice cream. This unexpected pairing results in a delicately flavored treat, where the herbal, slightly peppery notes of basil pleasantly complement the sweet, rich creaminess of the ice cream. Often served as a cool respite from Thailand’s tropical heat, I Tim Grapao is a delightful fusion of traditional flavors and modern dessert innovation.
- Main Ingredients: Coconut milk, sugar, salt
Hot Tip: To elevate your experience, try I Tim Grapao topped with roasted peanuts or sweet corn for an added crunch and flavor contrast.
33. Tub Tim Grob
Tub Tim Grob, often referred to as Red Ruby Dessert, is a delightful Thai dessert consisting of crunchy water chestnuts coated in tapioca flour and served in sweetened coconut milk, creating a unique texture and refreshing sweetness.
- Main Ingredients: Water chestnuts, tapioca flour, coconut milk
Hot Tip: Best enjoyed cold, this dessert is perfect as a light, sweet finish to a spicy meal, offering a soothing and satisfying contrast.
34. Khanom ChanKARL RAN., CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Khanom Chan is a traditional Thai dessert known for its delicate layers and subtle fragrance. This steamed sweet is made from coconut milk, tapioca flour, and sugar, and is often infused with the aroma of pandan leaves, lending it a gentle, floral sweetness. The dessert is distinctively presented in multi-colored layers, each one tender and slightly chewy, creating not just a visually striking treat but also offering a unique, melt-in-the-mouth texture. Khanom Chan is a symbol of prosperity and is commonly served during festive occasions and celebrations in Thailand.
- Main Ingredients: Rice flour, tapioca starch, coconut milk, sugar
Hot Tip: Pay attention to the layers when eating Khanom Chan; each layer is steamed separately to achieve a delicate texture and visual appeal.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Unique Delicacies
Here are some of the best unique delicacies of Thailand:
35. Gaeng Hang Lay
Gaeng Hang Lay is a Northern Thai curry with pork or beef, known for its sweet and tangy flavor, thanks to ingredients like tamarind, palm sugar, and spices like ginger and turmeric.
- Main Ingredients: Tamarind, shallots, garlic, ginger, and an array of spices.
Hot Tip: To savor Gaeng Hang Lay at its best, pair it with fragrant jasmine rice to complement the dish’s intricate flavors.
36. Yam Pla Dook FooTakeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Yam Pla Dook Foo is a Thai salad made with crispy fried catfish, typically mixed with green mango, red onions, chili, lime juice, and fish sauce. It’s a flavorful and crunchy dish, balancing sweet, sour, and spicy flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Catfish, green mango, and a medley of herbs and spices.
Hot Tip: To savor the full spectrum of flavors and textures in Yam Pla Dook Foo, take a bite that includes both the crispy catfish and the zesty green mango salad.
37. Som Tum Pu Plara© Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Som Tum Pu Plara is an intense version of green papaya salad made with fermented fish sauce and crab, delivering a potent blend of spicy, sour, salty, and umami flavors
- Main Ingredients: Green papaya, fermented fish sauce (plara), salted crab (pu), and a harmonious mix of herbs and spices.
Hot Tip: This dish is quite pungent and strong; pairing it with sticky rice and grilled meats can help balance its bold flavors.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Regional Specialties
Here are some of the best regional specialties of Thailand:
38. Kanom Jeen Nam Ya
Kanom Jeen Nam Ya combines soft rice noodles with a fragrant fish or chicken curry sauce, enriched with lemongrass, galangal, and coconut milk. This comforting dish is often garnished with fresh vegetables, offering a creamy, aromatic, and slightly spicy experience.
Commonly found in Southern Thailand, the dish reflects the region’s abundant seafood and unique blend of local spices, including turmeric and galangal, which are more prevalent in Southern Thai cooking.
- Main Ingredients: Fish, coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, rice noodles
Hot Tip: For an authentic Kanom Jeen Nam Ya experience, seek out fresh, handmade rice noodles and try adding a small spoonful of crispy fried garlic on top for an extra texture.
Laab is a zesty and spicy Thai salad made with minced pork, chicken, or beef. It’s seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce, chili flakes, and fresh herbs like mint and cilantro, creating a lively mix of sour, spicy, and savory flavors. Roasted rice powder adds a unique nutty crunch, making Laab a light yet flavorful dish, often enjoyed with sticky rice.
Originating from the northeastern region of Thailand, Isan, and also from Laos, the use of ground toasted rice and the style of serving it with sticky rice and fresh vegetables is characteristic of the Isan region’s culinary traditions.
- Main Ingredients: Minced meat, fresh Thai herbs, toasted rice powder, chili, lime juice
Hot Tip: When making Laab, use fresh herbs such as mint and cilantro to elevate the freshness, and be generous with the toasted rice powder for that signature texture.
40. Khao YamAndy Li, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Khao Yam is a vibrant and refreshing Southern Thai rice salad. It features a colorful mix of fresh herbs, shredded vegetables, and fragrant spices, all tossed with cooked rice. Typically dressed with a sweet and tangy sauce, often made from tamarind and fish sauce, this dish is a delightful medley of textures and bright, zesty flavors. The combination of these ingredients is typical of Southern Thai cuisine, which is known for its bold flavors and heavy use of seafood.
- Main Ingredients: Jasmine rice, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, green mango, dried shrimp
Hot Tip: For a punchier flavor, pair your Khao Yam with ‘nam budu’, a pungent fish sauce preparation unique to the Southern regions of Thailand.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Royal Thai Cuisine
In Royal Thai Cuisine, the emphasis is not just on the taste but also on the artistry and elegance of food presentation, reflecting the refined tastes and high standards of the Thai royal court.
Here are some of the best royal Thai cuisine of Thailand:
41. Khao Chae
Khao Chae is a refreshing Thai dish of rice soaked in fragrant jasmine water, served with assorted sides like fried shrimp paste balls and sweetened pork. This delicacy offers a cool, aromatic eating experience, ideal for hot seasons. The complexity of its preparation, including the carving of vegetables and the delicate balancing of flavors, reflects the sophistication expected in royal cuisine.
- Main Ingredients: Rice, iced jasmine water, fried shrimp paste balls, sweetened pork shreds, green pepper, pork.
Hot Tip: Enjoy each bite of rice with a different side dish to experience a variety of flavors and textures, and savor the aromatic jasmine-infused water.
42. Phad Phak Ruam MitVee Satayamas from Bangkok, Thailand, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Phad Phak Ruam Mit is a simple yet flavorful Thai stir-fry, featuring a medley of colorful, crisp-tender vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and bell peppers. Lightly seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of oyster sauce, it offers a fresh, nutritious, and subtly savory side or main dish. The attention to detail in the preparation and the emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients are hallmarks of Royal Thai cuisine.
- Main Ingredients: Baby corn, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas.
Hot Tip: Great as a standalone vegetarian dish or as a side with meat dishes, it’s versatile and a great way to balance out a meat-heavy meal.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Vegetarian Options
Here are some of the best vegetarian dishes of Thailand:
43. Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng
Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng is a fiery and flavorful Thai stir-fry featuring morning glory, swiftly cooked in a hot wok with garlic, chili, and fermented bean paste. This dish is known for its high heat cooking, resulting in a smoky flavor, and is often finished with a splash of soy sauce and a hint of sugar, balancing the robust flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Morning Glory, garlic, chili, soybean paste, soy sauce.
Hot Tip: To savor Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng at its best, ensure a quick stir-fry to retain the crispiness of morning glory. Adjust the spice level according to your preference and complement it with a dash of soy sauce for an extra depth of flavor.
44. Gang Jued Woon Senwoinary from Chinese restaurant Unnan in Kumamoto, Kumamoto, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Gang Jued Woon Sen is a light and soothing Thai soup featuring glass noodles in a clear, mild broth. It’s typically loaded with minced pork, vegetables, and sometimes tofu, offering a delicate balance of flavors and a comforting, nourishing meal.
- Main Ingredients: Mung bean noodles (woon sen), carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, light and savory broth.
Hot Tip: Enjoy this soup as a starter or alongside spicy dishes, as its mild flavors provide a soothing contrast.
45. Tom Kha Hedlydiajoy1, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tom Kha Hed is a flavorful Thai soup that combines the rich, creamy texture of coconut milk with the earthy taste of mushrooms. Infused with galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves, this soup has a unique, aromatic flavor profile, with a hint of tanginess from lime juice, adding a refreshing touch to the creamy base.
- Main Ingredients: Mushrooms, coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves.
Hot Tip: Pair it with a crispy appetizer or a salad to add texture to your meal, as the soup is quite rich and creamy.
46. Yam Som O
Yam Som O is a Thai pomelo salad. It typically includes pomelo fruit, shrimp or chicken, shallots, roasted coconut, chili, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. It’s a refreshing and tangy dish with a balance of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors.
- Main Ingredients: Pomelo segments, coconut flakes, peanuts, shallots, lime juice, palm sugar, chili.
Hot Tip: This salad is great as a light meal or a starter and pairs well with a dry, crisp white wine to enhance its citrusy flavors.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Drinks
Here are some of the best drinks of Thailand:.
47. Cha Yen
Cha Yen is Thai iced tea. It’s made with black tea, sugar, condensed milk, and ice. The result is a sweet and creamy iced tea with a rich and refreshing taste.
- Main Ingredients: Strongly brewed Ceylon tea or a local Thai tea blend, sugar, condensed milk, ice, evaporated milk.
Hot Tip: Perfect as an afternoon pick-me-up, enjoy it with spicy or fried foods to balance the richness of the tea with the spice of the meal.
Oliang is Thai iced coffee. It’s prepared with coarsely ground roasted coffee beans and often mixed with sugar, sometimes with a bit of cardamom or other spices. The coffee is brewed using a sock-like filter and then served over ice, creating a strong and aromatic iced coffee beverage.
- Main Ingredients: Coffee, sesame seeds, corn, soybeans, assorted seeds and grains, sugar, and ice.
Hot Tip: Ideal as a post-meal treat or a morning energizer, pair it with a light snack or dessert to complement its bold flavors.
49. Nam Manao
Nam Manao is a Thai lime dressing or sauce. It is typically made with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili. This tangy and slightly spicy sauce is commonly used as a dipping sauce for grilled meats or as a dressing for salads and seafood dishes, adding a burst of flavor to the meal.
- Main Ingredients: Freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, salt (optional), water or soda.
Hot Tip: For the ultimate enjoyment of Nam Manao, serve it chilled over ice for a crisp and revitalizing experience. Adjust the sugar and salt levels according to personal taste preferences to achieve the perfect balance of flavors.
Best Thai Food in Thailand – Final Thoughts
The only way to have a truly authentic Thai dining experience is to get over here to Thailand and try some of these foods for yourself!
Similarly when we went to India, the Chicken Tikka Massala I was used to on a Friday night home from the club just didn’t even come close to the real Indian food experience.
Even if your local Thai food place is owned by Thai’s, they likely can’t get some of the fresh ingredients that make Thai food so ridiculously tasty!
If you don’t like spicy food, don’t be afraid to ask for less spice – ‘Mai Ped’ – No spice. I can’t guarantee it always works, but the food here is so cheap, you can try as many dishes as you like, and if you eat in a local family restaurant I can guarantee your leftovers won’t get wasted!
49 Best Thai Food in Thailand – FAQ’s
What are the Top Dishes to Try for Someone New to Thai Cuisine?
For someone new to Thai cuisine, I’d recommend starting with these top dishes:
- Pad Thai: A classic stir-fried noodle dish with a unique tamarind sauce, often served with shrimp or chicken.
- Green Curry (Gaeng Keow Wan): A fragrant and slightly sweet curry made with coconut milk, green curry paste, and vegetables, often with chicken or beef.
- Tom Yum Goong: A spicy and sour shrimp soup with lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal, offering a taste of Thailand’s bold flavors.
- Massaman Curry: A rich, mildly spicy curry with a nutty flavor, typically made with beef or chicken, potatoes, and peanuts.
- Som Tum (Papaya Salad): A fresh and spicy salad made from shredded green papaya, tomatoes, green beans, and peanuts, seasoned with lime juice and fish sauce.
- Mango Sticky Rice: A popular dessert of sweet, ripe mango served with sticky rice and coconut milk, showcasing Thai’s unique dessert flavors.
These dishes are some of the best Thai food in Thailand and provide a well-rounded introduction to the variety of Thai cuisine.
What is Traditionally Served for Dinner in Thai Households?
Dinner in Thai homes usually features a communal dining experience, with dishes like fragrant green curry (Gaeng Keow Wan), spicy minced meat salad (Larb), and grilled fish (Pla Pao) shared among family members.
Which Region in Thailand is Renowned for its Culinary Excellence?
Thailand’s north, particularly Chiang Mai, is celebrated for its unique flavors and dishes such as Khao Soi, a creamy coconut curry noodle soup with deep-fried crunchy noodles on top.
What are Some Must-Try Menu Items at a Thai Restaurant?
At a Thai restaurant, apart from the famed Pad Thai, venture to try Massaman curry, a rich and aromatic dish infused with spices and often containing potatoes and nuts. Som Tum, a spicy green papaya salad, is a refreshing side dish that offers a punch of flavors.
What is a Common Thai Breakfast For Locals?
Locals in Thailand often start their day with Jok, a rice porridge often served with pork, and Khao Tom, a savory rice soup. Both are comforting and provide a mild yet nourishing introduction to the day.
What are Some Must-Try Delicious Thai Dishes?
Some must-try Thai dishes that I personally recommend include;
- Chicken & Cashew Nuts: A stir-fry delight combining tender chicken with crunchy cashews, bell peppers, and onions in a savory and slightly sweet sauce.
- Khao Soi: A Northern Thai noodle soup with a rich, coconut curry broth, served with chicken or beef, and topped with crispy fried noodles.
- Pla Sam Rot: A flavorful dish featuring deep-fried fish topped with a three-flavor sauce – sweet, sour, and spicy – garnished with fresh herbs.
- Panang Curry: A thick, peanut-flavored curry with a mild heat, usually made with beef or chicken, and kaffir lime leaves, giving it a distinct aroma.
- Pomelo Salad (Yam Som O): A refreshing salad with juicy pomelo segments, often mixed with prawns or chicken, and dressed in a tangy, slightly spicy sauce.
- Stir-Fried Morning Glory: A popular side dish featuring water spinach stir-fried with garlic, chili, and soybean paste, known for its delicious simplicity.
Where Can I Find the Most Delicious Thai Food in Thailand?
Everywhere! For the best Thai food in Thailand visit local street markets, renowned restaurants in major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, as well as traditional eateries in smaller towns that offer authentic flavors.