Thai food is known by people all over the world for its spiciness, sour and exotic flavours. It easily becomes one of top 5 national cuisines travelers must try. When you visit Thailand, there is a vast variety of Thai food for you to try, both main dishes and desserts.

This post will focus on the menus that Chinese visitors should try while traveling in Thailand. We will omit Tom Yum Koong in this post because almost everybody knows it is a must when visit Thailand. So there is no mention of this menu here.


1. Pad Thai

Pad Thai the most recognized Thai menu by people all over the world. As name suggests, everybody knows that it is from Thailand. Pad (sometimes written as Phad), means “fried”, like fried rice and fried vegetable. So Pad Thai basically means fried from Thailand.  The ingredients include noodles, soy bean, Thai chives, tamarind sauce and your meat. Meat can be chicken, pork, shrimp including seafood. For the topping, people usually put mashed dried chili, sugar and fish source.

To increase its taste Pad Thai should be eaten with side dish, and the most famous side dish is fresh banana blossom. Nobody knows why banana blossom is so famous for Pad Thai but it is almost always mandatory side dish since the beginning of Pad Thai. The best place to have Pad Thai in Bangkok is Pratu Phee (Ghost’s Gate). Most people agree that there are a few street restaurants that have the best flavour of Pad Thai.


2. Pad Krapow Kai or Chicken Basil  

Pad Thai maybe the most famous Thailand overseas, but in Thailand the most popular menu is Pad Krapow. When hamburger is represented as the one-menu menu almost everyone eats, Thailand has Pad Krapow as one-dish menu that every Thai eats too. For some reasons, most Thai people eat is during lunch rather breakfast. Krapow is a Thai word for basil, so Pad Krapow fired basil.

Similar to Pad Thad, it is normally fired with various kinds of meat such as chicken, pork, beef and seafood, but the most popular is chicken and pork. So the full name is Pad Krapow Kai as for “Fired basil with chicken” and Pad Krapow Moo is for “Fired basil with minced pork”.

It is made in a piping hot wok with lots of holy basil leaves, large fresh chilli, pork, green beans, soy sauce and a little sugar. The minced, fatty pork is oily and mixes with the steamed white rice for a lovely fulfilling meal.

Pad Krapow is often topped with a fried egg (in Thai “Kai Dao”). When you order this menu in a market or restaurant, the cook will almost alway ask if you want an egg on it. The best answer is yes because egg will make taste even better.

We you order, as Chinese you should tell the cook not to put a lot of chilli with it because smashed chillis that they put into a pan is very hot and it make the whole dish more spicy.


3. Som Tam

Som Tam Thai

Som Tam with less spicy taste

Som Tam Poo Plara (very spicy)

Som Tam or “Papaya Spicy Salad” is the common menu in North Eastern of Thailand. Later it became popular in all areas in the country. Som Tam is usually eaten with hot sticky rice. Normally people in North Eastern Thailand have other dishes with Som Tam such as grilled chicken,  Laab (Spicy minced pork salad), and spicy bamboo shoot Salad along with fresh vegetable.

The main ingredients usually put in Somtam are papaya, dried-shrimp, salted-crab, chili, palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind juice, tomato, long bean. Some people usually add anchovies for delicious taste.

There are variety of Som Tam but the three most popular types are Som Tam with dried shrimp and dried peanut (called Som Tam Thai), Som Tam with salted crab (Som Tam Poo) and Som Tam with fermented fish (called Som Tam Plara). For the taste you can tell the cook to make it spicy, or sour or sweet or mixed all taste together. Also these types can be mixed together and become new combination depending on how you want it to be.


4. Nam Prik Kapi

Nam Prik means chili paste or chili smashed into paste which is, of course, very hot. However Nam Prik Kapi is not as many people think. Chili paste in Nam Prik Kapi dish is just the item that make taste better, but the real meat is deep fired mackerel fish, Thai-style omelet, and bunch of vegetable. Basically it’s a vegetable dish with Nam prik as side dish.

Nam Prik has been popular in Thailand since several hundred years ago when Thailand was just small clans. Later it became mandatory dish for Thai people in rural areas because it is easy to make and all ingredients can be found in their farm. Nam Prik, is made by pounding together chilies, garlic, shallots and other ingredients to create a thick dipping sauce and the most important item that can’t be omitted is shrimp paste.


5. Yam Nua (Grilled Spicy Beef Salad)

When it comes to the word “Salad”, Thai salad and salad in Western food is not the same. In Thailand, when we say salad, we automatically means it hot and spicy ingredients mixed vegetable and meat. Thai people simply call Thai Salad as “Yam”. You can yam all kinds of meat but fish and chicken are not so popular for Thai salad.

The most popular one is grilled spicy beef salad. If someone want appoint “King of Thai Salad”, Yam Nua should receive this title.  Yam Nue is mixed of onion, coriander, spearmint, lime, dried chili together with grilled tender strips of beef .  Yum nua is best served with sticky rice to soak up the sauce, but you can eat it on its own as a quick light snack as well.


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