There's a world of flavour around every corner of Thailand. It all started for us as children when we 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 our first memories of Thai food, and it left a lasting impression.
Over the years, we'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 us to experience more of the vibrant flavours and unique charm that Thai food can provide.
As we share our top 21 best Thai dishes with you, we invite you to join us 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.
#1 Som Tam - Spicy green papaya salad
Som Tam is a dish that 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 our palette.
#2 Gai Hor Bai Toey - Pandan Leaf Chicken
A personal favourite snack of ours 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.
#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.
#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. We love it when you can find, Kai Jeow Pu which is the crabmeat variant.
#5 Pad Kra Pao Nua - Stir-fried beef with Thai basil
Pad Kra Pao Nua is a Thai dish we 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.
#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.
#7 Gaeng Keow Wan - Green Curry
A staple in our 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.
#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.
#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.
#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 one of our favourite noodle dishes that's the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. Add on some awesome Sriracha sauce for some extra heat.
#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. We really enjoy variants of this dish which include pineapple and meat floss.
#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.
#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.
#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!
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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 ours when mangoes are in season.
#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.
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, we 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!