Thai food is internationally famous. Whether chilli-hot or comparatively blands, harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish. Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai. The characteristics of Thai food.
depend on who cooks it, for whom it is cooked, for what occasion, and where it is cooked to suit all palates. Originally, Thai cooking reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle. Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients. Large chunks of meat were eschewed. Subsequent influences introduced the use of sizeable chunks to Thai cooking.
With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling. Chinese influences saw the introduction of frying, stir frying and deep-frying. Culinary influences from the 17th century onwards included Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese. Chillies were introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them while serving in South America.
Thai food is widely known for being hot and spicy since almost all Thai food is cooked with basic ingredients such as garlic, chillies, limejuice, lemon grass and fresh coriander leaf and fermented fish sauce (nam pia) or shrimp paste (kapi) to make it salty.
A proper Thai meal should consist of a rice, a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be replaced by non spiced items. There must be a harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal.
Thai food is one of many things that you should not miss while you are traveling in this beautiful “Land of Smiles”. The following list is a top 10 favorite Thai food dishes that you must not miss. The consideration and ranking is based on the popularity, uniqueness and authenticity of these Thai delicacies. Here are the winners of Top 10 Thai Food Dishes.
1. Tom Yam Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
No other dishes can defeat this renowned Tom Yam Goong as the optimal representative of Thai gourmet. Tom Yam Goong is truly one of a kind with its fierce spiciness and sourness and a blatant use of fragrant herbs including galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, shallot, tamarind and chili pepper. There are two styles of Tom Yam; the clear spicy soup and thick spicy soup. The latter is cooked by adding coconut milk or milk to the broth in order to thicken the stock and give the dish a milder flavor. Tom Yam is very versatile and can be made with prawns, chicken, fish and mix of seafood, and mushroom. Tom Yam Goong is the most popular variety of Tom Yam since Spicy Shrimp Soup is the original. Though not very surprising, Tom Yam Goong is definitely a signature dish of Thailand.
2. Pad Thai (Fried Noodle)
This national dish prides itself for its long history traced back in previous centuries. Pad Thai flaunts the authenticity of Thai culinary arts in using only fresh and best ingredients and the well-balancing of the five fundamental flavors. The stir-fried noodle has become popular because it tastes yummy and is served with a variety of seasonings to suit your tastes. Through history, Pad Thai has evolved into two different styles: the classic and the variation. The classic Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper plus bean sprouts, shrimp and tofu and garnished with crushed peanuts and coriander while another style is relatively dry and lightly-flavored. The latter is easily found in street vendors and dominant in Thai restaurants in the West but having classic Pad Thai freshly cooked in country of origin is the way to go.
3. Kang Keaw Wan Gai (Green Chicken Curry)
Since we are having three dishes in a row made of “Gai”, you would have guessed that it is the Thai word for chicken. Chicken is on of the popular meats used in Thai cuisine; it is usually available in most curry and soup. Kang Kiew Wan, literally translated as “Sweet Green Curry”, is nicely sweet and slightly spicy and tastes very delightful with a proper blend of the spiciness from green curry chili paste, blandness from coconut milk, sweetness of sugar and saltiness of fish sauce. It is usually eaten with steamed rice or served as a sauce to rice noodle known as “Kanom Jeen” a more ’spaghetti-like’ noodle.
4. Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup)
Although Tom Kha Kai is another variation of chicken soup, it deserves the No.4 because of its unparalleled taste and popularity. Similar to Tom Yam Kai, the broth is prepared with many types of Thai herbs with the special addition of coconut milk that makes this soup unique. Though the soup is seasoned with chili, lime and fish sauce just like Tom Kha Kai, thanks to the coconut milk, the broth is milder and less spicy. This is probably more preffered by non-spicy eaters.
5. Tom Yam Gai (Spicy Chicken Soup)
Chicken soup is very good to eat when you have a cold but Tom Yam Gai or spicy chicken soup is a yummy treat that you will fall in love with just in a first sip. Tom Yam Kai is a clear chicken soup seasoned with a blend of chili, lime and fish sauce. The broth is simmered with Thai herbs as lemon grass, shallot and galangal which give it a unique and satiating aroma. My foreign friends order this tasty soup as a favorite where-ever they go so you should not miss it by any means!
6. Moo Sa-Te (Grilled Pork Sticks with Turmeric)
This tantalizing sweet-flavored grilled pork sticks are refined with rich, juicy sauce made of turmeric and curry powder. Moo Sa-Te makes a savory hors d’oeuvres that will appease any taste buds. These juicy grilled pork sticks are usually served with two saucy dips – one is a mildly spicy thick sauce with ground peanuts, coconut milk and curry powder and another one is a sweet and sour vinegar sauce with chopped shallot, pepper and cucumber to mitigate its oiliness.
7. Som Tam (Spicy Papaya Salad)
Som Tam is one of the most popular foods among Thai people for its fiercely spicy and sour flavors. Som Tam, which literally means “Sour Pounded”, is a spicy salad made from a mix of fresh vegetables including shredded unripened papaya, yardlong beans and tomato. Som Tam is unique that the spicy dressing and salad vegetables are pounded and mixed in the mortar using a pestle. Somtam is usually served with grilled chicken and sticky rice. Som Tam is good for your health that it contains no fat, low calorie and high vitamins. This is a truly authentic Thai dish that will make a great impression. The only reason why I’m ranking Som Tam at No.7 (though it deserves higher rank) is its strong spiciness that might leave your tongue burned and swollen. Just say “Mai phed” (not spicy) to your waiter if you want less chili pepper.
8. Panaeng (Meat in Spicy Coconut Cream)
Panaeng can be cooked using either pork, chicken or beef. Panaeng tastes like Thai red curry but the coconut milk sauce is thicker and richer. Compared to Thai red curry, Panaeng is mildly spicy and sweet. Paneang is best served with warm steamed rice. There is nothing to dislike about Panaeng expect the fact that it can be too meaty for some people that prefer vegetables with their dishes.
9. Por Pia Tord (Fried Spring Roll)
Fried spring roll is one of the most popular appetizers for foreigners because it is not spicy and comes with sweet and sour dip. Spring rolls are crispy pastries with fried vegetable fillings. Though spring rolls are commonplace in many Southeast Asian countries, Thai Por Pia is different in flavors with a special dip prepared from Japanese apricot.
10. Gai Pad Met Mamuang (Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
Even though Gai Pad Met Mamuang does not represent the overview of Thai food but it is a very nice treat to your taste buds. Since it is by no means spicy or hot, this slightly sweet and salty chicken fried with crunchy cashew nuts is aptly satiating for children or beginners who are not used to spices.
Spoil your taste buds with the harmony of Thai food – tasty and healthy!