The many mystery meats, crazy colours and tongue-twisting names can make it hard to pick a dish to spend your Baht on. Fret no more, we’ve made this perfectly balanced sweet, salty, spicy cuisine with the fragrance of fresh herbs, easy for you. If you're visiting Thailand, here are 12 things you must try. (Else, grab them if you spot them on a Thai menu in your city).
Gai Med Ma Moung | Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Pardon the pun, but this dish is worth going nuts for. And it’s not difficult to see why. Moist chicken meets the warm crunch of toasted cashew nut along with dried chili, red/yellow/green bell peppers, onion, spring onion and Thai herbs to create this scrumptious and totally Thai dish. Order some steamed white rice on the side if you are really hungry.
Best place to eat: Baan Khanitha, 36/1 Soi Sukhumvit 23, Sukhumvit Road Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok.
Joke | Rice Porridge
Joke, or rice porridge is the most popular breakfast food in Bangkok. It is the best remedy for a hangover after a night of debauchery in Bangkok’s party district. The traditional way of cooking joke is over charcoal, which imparts a toasted, smoky flavour to sticky rice. Joke can be as simple as plain rice porridge with onion leeks and garlic or as lavish as being adorned with pork meatballs, slices of liver, and a freshly cracked egg.
Best place to eat: Joke Samyan, Sukhumvit 103, Udom Suk Soi 9, Bang Na, Bangkok.
Thai Fish Cakes
These delicately spiced, aromatic fish cakes make for a perfect snack on the go. What makes these cakes exceptionally delicious is the absence of batter that may conceal the fresh flavours of the fish, herbs and spices. Kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste and local chili give these fish cakes a distinct Thai flavour. Best eaten hot out of the fryer and dipped into a slightly tangy and spicy chili dip.
Best place to eat: Chatuchak Market; Taling Pling, 36/1 Soi Sukhumvit 23, Sukhumvit Road Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok.
Pancakes by the Street
Bangkok has a love affair with pancakes. Don’t believe me, just walk the streets of Bangkok to see what I mean. There are hundreds of variations right from banana to chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, hazelnut, orange, peanut butter and even green curry. Don’t miss the theatrics of it all - dough stretched paper thin onto the hot griddle, banana slices placed in the middle and folded, fried to a golden brown before being topped with sugar, condensed milk and drizzles of chocolate sauce. So if you see one of the little carts offering pancakes, don’t just walk by. Get one. They are worth investing the calories in.
Best place to eat: The night markets of Koh Chang.
Also Read: Eating Through Japan - One Meal at a Time
Laab | Spicy Meat Salad
This minced meat salad originally from Laos is also a popular dish in Thailand, especially in the Northeast. The meat in laab may be raw or cooked and might also be made with fish, such as catfish. Mint and other herbs feature strongly in the dish, that is seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce and minced chili peppers. Finely ground toasted rice is also an essential ingredient. Laab is often served in lettuce wraps and might be accompanied by fresh vegetables and sticky rice. Not recommended for those who can’t handle spice, as it tends to come with a hefty kick.
Best place to eat: Khao Gaeng Jake Puey food stall, Chinatown.
Kalamae | Sticky rice packet
These brightly coloured triangular packets stare at you from every corner in Thailand. Unpack it and you will find a dessert of sweet, sticky candy. Kalamae is made by boiling glutinous rice flour, palm sugar and coconut cream into a thick gooey consistency before its wrapped in dried leaves of the nipa palm. The dessert doesn’t use any preservatives and is not overtly sweet. Pop one in your mouth and watch it simply melt away.
Best place to eat: JJ market (Chatuchak weekend market) and Lamai Fresh Market, Ko Samui.
Kai Jiew | Thai Omelette
Mind you, this is not a regular omelette. This Thai comfort food uses eggs with a dash of fish sauce, soy sauce and minced pork. The egg mixture is then quite literally deep fried into an omelet and eaten with a squirt of chilli sauce (Thai sauce prik). Kai jeow is usually served on rice.
Best place to eat: Jay Fai, 327 Maha Chai Rd. Kao San, Bangkok. Incidentally Jay Fai is the world's third street food restaurant to win a Michelin star. Or visit Chinatown at night and eat a Thai omelette.
Plah Plow | Grilled Fish
One of the most famous fish dishes in Thailand, Plah Plow is a fresh white fish stuffed with herbs like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and salted. A few minutes on the grill makes the fish tender and juicy.
Best Place to eat: Baan Khanitha, 36/1 Soi Sukhumvit 23, Sukhumvit Road Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok.
Cha Yen | Thai Iced Tea
The answer to coffee and tea drinks from around the world is Thailand's very own and very sweet cha yen. Concocted from black tea, star anise, orange blossom water and crushed tamarind seed, it’s strong, silky, creamy and always an intense shade of orange. The brewed tea is mixed with a generous amount of condensed milk, poured over a tall cup of crushed or tiny ice cubes, and topped with evaporated milk. While the cup is quite tall, the tea itself is no more than a shot glass worth as the rest of it is ice. The copious amount helps cool the tea down instantly so that by the time you take your first sip, it’s refreshingly icy.
Best place to eat: Bangkok Tea, Rod Fai night market. Or Cha Tra Mue stalls situated at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Also Read: How to Make a Perfect Cup of Masala Chai
Coconut Ice cream
One of the easiest ways to deal with the weather in Thailand is Thai coconut ice cream! Made from Thailand’s favourite ingredient coconut milk, this creamy, icy confection is best eaten on a hot day at Chatuchak. The ice cream is loaded with chunky and crunchy coconut bits and topped with a variety of toppings like sticky rice, corn, cubes of sweet jelly and crispy mung beans.
Best place to eat: Nattaporn Ice Cream, 94 Thanon Phraeng Phuton, Phranakorn, Bangkok.
Also Read: Going Nuts About Coconut Oil
Kao Niew Ma Muang | Mango Sticky Rice
This is a must have in Thailand. A small bed of super glutinous rice is placed below some slices of super sweet, non stringy, ripened mango. Adding to the deliciousness is a drizzle of coconut cream syrup. Usually located at many makeshift stands depending on mango availability.
Best place to eat: Mae Varee Mango Sticky Rice
Sukhumvit Soi 55, Bangkok; Boonsap Thai Desserts, 1478, Thanon Charoen Krung, Bang Rak, Bangkok.
This spiky fruit is both loved and hated by many. But do give it a try when in Thailand. The aroma is so strong, it can linger for days, making durian illegal in many air conditioned or public buildings in Southeast Asia. What does it taste like? Well it’s a stinkier cousin of the Indian jackfruit. Go for the semi ripe ones. The riper ones can be a bit mushier and carry a bitter tinge.
Best place to eat: During durian season, which falls between April and August, durian is everywhere on pushcarts along the streets. Or check out the Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok.
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