Ultimate Thai Food: 21 Of The Best Thai Dishes That Blew My Mind

There's a world of flavour around every corner of Thailand.

It all started for me as a child when I first visited the bustling city of Bangkok. The enticing aromas wafting from the food stalls, the excitement of grabbing a bite to eat at the Amphawa floating market, and even the novelty of enjoying a fizzy drink out of a plastic bag. These were some of my first memorable encounters with Thai food, and it left a lasting impression.

Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to revisit this captivating country several times, exploring everything from the busy corners of Bangkok to the serene beaches of Phuket. This allowed me to experience more of the vibrant flavours and unique charm that Thai food can provide.

Since my first trip, Thai food has exploded in popularity around world, with Thai restaurants as popular as ever. That being said, Thai cuisine is not restricted to eating out; I've found a special delight in cooking Thai food at home, especially the aromatic and spicy green curry.

As I share my top 21 best Thai dishes with you, I invite you to join me on this culinary adventure, exploring the best that Thai cuisine has to offer and maybe inspiring you to bring a piece of Thailand into your own kitchen.

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#1 Som Tam - Spicy green papaya salad

Som Tam dish truly embodies the spirit of Thai cuisine. It combines sour, sweet and salty flavours along with a kick of spice to form a salad that's so refreshing and invigorating. The crunch of the unripe green papaya and peanuts, mixed with fresh tomatoes and the heat from fresh chillies, never fails to satisfy my palette.

Som Tam - Spicy green papaya salad

#2 Gai Hor Bai Toey - Pandan Leaf Chicken

A personal favourite snack of mine is Gai Hor Bai Toey also known as Pandan Leaf Chicken. It comprises bite-sized pieces of chicken wrapped in fragrant pandan leaves which have been fried to perfection. These nibbles are as memorable as they are delicious. The pandan leaf imparts a unique aroma and taste to the chicken that is simply out of this world.

Gai Hor Bai Toey - Pandan Leaf Chicken

#3 Moo Ping - Grilled pork skewers

A popular street food meal, Moo Ping consists of marinated pork skewered and grilled over a charcoal flame. The smoky, caramelised edges of the pork are a testament to its marinating process, usually involving a combination of garlic, soy sauce, and coconut milk.

Moo Ping - Grilled pork skewers

#4 Khai Jiao - Thai-style omelette

This Thai twist on the classic omelette is made fluffy and crisp with the addition of fish sauce and often, a pinch of white pepper. It's the comfort food you didn't know you needed. I love it when you can find, Kai Jeow Pu which is the crabmeat variant.

Khai Jiao - Thai-style omelette

#5 Pad Kra Pao Nua - Stir-fried beef with Thai basil

Pad Kra Pao Nua is a Thai dish and can never get enough of. A flavour-packed dish that features stir-fried beef tossed with lots of garlic, chillies, and Thai basil - a personal favourite ingredient. The heat from the chillies combined with the mint, aniseed and pepper notes of the basil makes for a dish that's deeply satisfying.

Pad Kra Pao Nua - Stir-fried beef with Thai basil

#6 Gaeng Daeng - Red Curry

A vibrant, fiery curry that gets its colour and spice from dried red chillies. It's a creamy, aromatic dish that packs quite the punch, perfect for those who love their curries spicy.

Gaeng Daeng - Red Curry

#7 Gaeng Keow Wan - Green Curry

A staple in my own cooking, this fragrant, creamy curry made from fresh green chillies, coconut milk, and a host of aromatic herbs and spices is a Thai classic. It's rich, slightly sweet, and wonderfully aromatic which makes it popular with dinner guests.

Gaeng Keow Wan - Green Curry

#8 Massaman Curry - A fusion of Thai and Indian flavours

This curry is a beautiful marriage of Thai and Indian cuisines. It's a bit milder and sweeter than other Thai curries, with the inclusion of warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Massaman Curry - A fusion of Thai and Indian flavours

#9 Gaeng Ped Yang - Thai Duck Curry

This red curry variation features tender duck, making it a rich, indulgent treat. The duck's robust flavour stands up wonderfully to the spicy, aromatic curry base.

Gaeng Ped Yang - Thai Duck Curry

#10 Pad Thai - The national dish

Pad Thai is arguably Thailand's most recognisable dish. This quick, flavourful rice noodle stir-fry is brimming with popular Thai ingredients like prawns, tofu, egg, peanuts, and lime, complemented by a sweet sauce created from fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and tamarind paste. This creates a dish that's the perfect balance of sweet and savoury.

Pad Thai - The national dish

#11 Khao Pad - Thai Fried Rice

A simple but satisfying dish, Thai fried rice is a wonderful medley of jasmine rice, egg, and usually some form of protein like chicken or shrimp. It's a dish that can easily stand on its own or be a great accompaniment to other dishes. I really enjoy variants of this dish which include pineapple and meat floss.

Khao Pad - Thai Fried Rice

#12 Pad See Ew - Stir-fried noodles

This popular Thai street food dish features wide rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, garlic, and usually a protein like chicken or beef. It's the kind of comfort food that hits the spot every time with its sweet and savoury flavours.

Pad See Ew - Stir-fried noodles

#13 Khao Soi - Northern Thai noodle soup

A coconut-based curry noodle soup that's traditional in Northern Thailand. The combination of crispy egg noodles atop a lusciously creamy curry soup base sets Khao Soi apart. It's a dish that's perfect for when you want a bowl of comfort.

Khao Soi - Northern Thai noodle soup

#14 Pad Kee Mao - Drunken Noodles

Also known as "drunken noodles," this dish features broad rice noodles stir-fried with basil, garlic, chillies, and a mix of sauces. Despite its name, it's not traditionally prepared with alcohol!

Pad Kee Mao - Drunken Noodles

#15 Tom Yum - Hot and sour soup

No list of Thai food would be complete without mentioning this famous Thai soup. It's spicy, sour, and utterly aromatic, thanks to the liberal use of fragrant herbs like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. There's several variants of Tom Yum such as Tom Yum Goong which contains prawns.

Tom Yum - Hot and sour soup

#16 Tom Kha Kai - Coconut soup

This soup is a wonderful balance of creamy, tangy, and spicy flavours. It features tender chicken simmered in a coconut milk broth infused with galangal and lemongrass. There's several variants available including those with seafood and mushroom.

Tom Kha Kai - Coconut soup

#17 Pla Pao - Salt-grilled fish

A classic Thai barbecue dish, Pla Pao is all about showcasing the freshness of the fish. Grilled over charcoal with a coating of salt to retain its moisture, the result is incredibly tender and flavourful seafood.

Pla Pao - Salt-grilled fish

#18 Goong Ob Woon Sen - Shrimp baked with glass noodles

A deceptively simple dish that’s rich in flavour, Goong Ob Woon Sen is a Thai casserole of prawns and glass noodles, seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.

Goong Ob Woon Sen - Shrimp baked with glass noodles

#19 Mango Sticky Rice - A famous Thai dessert

An iconic Thai dessert, this sweet treat pairs perfectly ripe mangoes with sticky rice drenched in a sweet coconut cream often served in banana leaf for a sweet parcel of deliciousness. It's a delightful way to finish off any Thai meal and a personal favourite of mine when mangoes are in season.

Goong Ob Woon Sen - Shrimp baked with glass noodles

#20 Roti Gluay - Thai Banana Pancake

This is a popular Thai street dessert. The roti is thin and crispy, filled with sliced bananas and drizzled with condensed milk for a sweet treat that's hard to resist.

Roti Gluay - Thai Banana Pancake

Final Word

As we reach the end of our culinary journey, it's clear that the world of Thai cuisine is diverse, rich and absolutely delicious. From the vibrant street food culture that's alive with flavour to the comforting bowls of aromatic soups and curries, each dish offers a unique experience that encapsulates the essence of Thailand. It's this variety and depth of flavours that makes Thai food so unforgettable.

But Thai cuisine doesn't just lie in tasting these dishes; it's in the joy of cooking them yourself, discovering new flavours and ingredients, and sharing this culinary adventure with others. So, I encourage you - whether you're a seasoned home cook or a newbie in the kitchen, give these dishes a try. You won't regret it!

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