Thai food has always been one of my favourite types of food. So as we were planning our first trip to Thailand in November 2019 I was super excited to try some new dishes and experience some authentic Thai food. These are a few of our favourite dishes in Thailand.
Papaya Salad (Som Tam) – Papaya salad was one of the first dishes we tried when we arrived in Bangkok and it quickly became one of our favourites. Originally from the Isaan region in northeastern Thailand, Som Tam can now be found all over Thailand. It consists of thinly sliced green papaya in a sweet, salty, spicy and sour dressing that is so distinctive in Thai cooking. Topped with crushed peanuts and a squeeze of lime, we had some form of papaya salad almost every day during our trip, including a version with salted crab and Thai anchovy. One version we had in Krabi was so spicy it almost brought us to tears…but in a good way.
Grilled Chicken Skewers (Satae Gai) – The best grilled chicken skewers we had in Thailand was on a food tour in Bangkok’s Chinatown. The street stall on one of the main roads in Chinatown was actually a stall owned by the mother of our tour group leader. It was one of many great stops on our tour of Chinatown with A Chef’s Tour. What made these chicken skewers so much better than the meat skewers we had at some of Bangkok’s markets was the flavourful marinade and the peanut dipping sauce.
Pad Thai – Although we didn’t get to try the famous Pad Thai at Thipsamai in Bangkok (close to the other famous street food restaurant run by Jay Fai), we did manage to have a few dishes of Pad Thai during our two week trip in Thailand. This stir fried noodle dish can be found in any Thai restaurant around the world but it originated in the 1930s reportedly created by the prime minister at the time. The rice noodles are stir fried in a wok in a sauce made of tamarind, dried shrimp, sugar and fish sauce, and garnished with peanuts, chillis, spring onion and bean sprouts. All together, these ingredients result in a sweet, spicy, tangy, salty flavour, which is a signature of this dish.
Thai Stir Fry Noodles (Pad See Ew) – Many people are familiar with Pad Thai stir fry noodles but Pad See Ew is a little different. These noodles are stir-fried in a soy sauce and often consist of a wider rice noodle that have a chewier texture. One of our favourite Thai restaurants at home in Vancouver (Sen Pad Thai food stall at the Granville Island Public Market) makes an excellent version of this dish with ultra chewy noodles and Chinese Broccoli. We tried this dish a few times in Thailand but we didn’t know where to get a very good version. Let me know if you know where to find a good Pad See Ew in Bangkok and we will try to visit on our next trip to Thailand.
Spicy Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai) – This became one of our favourite Thai breakfast foods. It consists of chopped chicken stir-fried in a tangy marinade of fish sauce, garlic and chilies served over rice with a fried egg and topped with Thai basil. It has now become a staple food in our house as it is pretty simple to make and it is delicious.
Thai Curry – Thai curry is another dish that we often make at home. Our trip to Thailand allowed us to experience other varieties of curry that were completely new to us including a green curry with a dried pork sausage, Massaman Curry, Penang Curry and a roasted red duck curry. The roasted red duck curry from KoDam Kitchen in Ao Nang was one of our favourite meals in Thailand.
- Penang Curry is a type of red curry that is characterized by its sweet, salty flavour and is often drier than other green or red curries. It is named for the island in Malaysia.
- Massaman Curry originates in southern Thailand and is usually prepared with beef or lamb. It is unique variety of Thai curry due to the inclusion of whole spices and peanuts.
Laab Moo – This is a North Eastern style minced pork salad with Thai herbs that was unlike any salad that I was familiar with but it was delicious. It was full of flavour from the fresh herbs, spices and hint of lime. It can also be made with chicken, duck, beef or mushrooms for a vegetarian version. We had a delicious Laab Moo at KoDam Kitchen in Ao Nang and a similar herb salad made with chopped fried chicken in the food court at Terminal 21 in Bangkok.
Stir-fried Morning Glory (Pad Pak Bung) – Morning glory is a leafy vegetable common in Thai cooking which is often stir-fried with oyster sauce and garlic. This was one of our favourite side dishes to order with lunch, dinner, or even breakfast. Morning glory is also known as water spinach. We know morning glory by the name, Kangkong, in the Philippines.
Boat Noodles (Guay Tiew Ruea) – The first time we ordered boat noodles in Bangkok we made the mistake of only ordering one small bowl each. We should have known that it is customary to order several bowls as each bowl is so small. Don’t worry though, each small bowl only costs about 10 baht, so it is a great deal. These bowls of soup are referred to as Boat Noodles because they were traditionally made and sold from boats. It consists of noodles in a dark soup broth flavoured with pork blood and served with either pork or beef.
Mango with coconut sticky rice (Kao Niew Ma Maung) – You can’t have a list of best Thai food dishes without dessert and mango sticky rice was my favourite Thai dessert. The combination of the perfectly ripe mango and the sweet sticky rice covered in coconut milk or cream, it is no wonder that this is one of the popular summer treats in Thailand.
Drinks – During the heat of the day, a cold refreshing drink was the perfect way to cool off. That’s why I couldn’t pick just one drink as my favourite. We enjoyed daily mango smoothies, Thai iced teas and ice cold Leo beers, preferably while relaxing on a beautiful Thai beach.