Best Thai Food – Top 10 Delicious Thai Dishes to Try!
Last Updated on November 8, 2023
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Guest post by One Chance Travel
One of my favorite destinations is the islands of Thailand because of the beautiful scenery, friendly people, and affordable lodging!
But like many travellers, what makes Thailand stand out from the crowd is its cuisine. In my opinion, the best Thai food is up there with the best food in the world.
There’s so much variety and character in Thai food, from strong flavours and vibrant ingredients to subtle seasoning and unique tastes!
The dishes of Thailand come in many forms; you’ll discover that a lot of them focus on using spices and herbs like lemongrass.
You’ll find fish sauce (it tastes better than it sounds!) and curries in many of the best Thai food dishes as well.
With a unique focus on both fresh ingredients and deep-fried goodness, Thailand is sure to have something for every palette, because even the common Thai dishes are packed with character!
Read on to find out the 10 best delicious Thai dishes that you need to try!
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Table of Contents
Best Thai Food: Top 10 Delicious Thai Dishes to Try!
1. Som Tum – Papaya Salad
Papaya Salad is a distinctive Thai dish because it comes from the Northeast state of Issan and is generally either loved or hated.
But whatever your opinion, it’s still thought of as some of the best Thai food in the world. It just might not be the best Thai food for beginners!
Ingredients include garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and shredded raw papaya which are ground together using a pestle and mortar.
Some regional versions of Papaya Salad have dry shrimp, salted crab, or peanuts in the mix. To make this dish even spicier, add more chilies; to make it less spicy, remove the chilies entirely!
This meal is one of the best Thai dishes to order because of its versatility. It can be used as a starting appetizer, side, or as the main course – some of the best Thai entrees are variations of this dish!
To make it more filling, be sure to add some protein – try shrimp to keep with the fresh fish flavor!
2. Tom Kha Kai – Spicy Chicken Coconut Soup
Known as Tom Kha for short, only people with a high spice tolerance should try this popular Thai dish!
It’s a mix of red-hot chilies, young galangal, crushed shallots, lemongrass stalks, and melt-in-your-mouth chicken. Top it off with fresh lime leaves for a creamy soup with a kick.
Like many of the best spicy Thai dishes, there is a version of this meal with less heat; if that sounds more like your preference, check out Tom Yum!
Tom Yum is heavier on the coconut milk and lighter on the chilies which makes it only a little spicy.
But if you do love a bit of spice, Tom Kha is definitely some of the best Thai food available!
3. Pad Thai – Fried Noodles
If you’re looking for the best Thai cuisine, this is usually where you should start. In fact, most people who’ve eaten the best Thai food have tried Pad Thai!
But it is one of the most famous Thai dishes for a reason, especially as it is perhaps one of the best Thai dishes for beginners.
Whatever the reason for its success, Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand, and is spoken around the world in the same abundant context as sushi or pizza.
This meal is made in a hot wok with thin or wide noodles, onion, egg, and bean sprouts.
Pad Thai can be a little mild tasting, so don’t forget to add condiments like fish sauce, chili powder, peanuts, and even sugar!
With its worldwide fame, this is some of the best Thai food to try for first time adventurers into the realm of Thai cuisine.
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4. Kai Med Ma Muang – Chicken with Cashews
If you go your whole life without eating this popular Thai food, I’d understand; Kai Med Ma Muang is not exactly world famous Thai food (yet!).
But I’d also hate to think that you might miss out on the explosive taste combination of well-seasoned chicken with cashews!
Kai Med Ma Muang is stir-fried with chicken, soy sauce, onions, chilis, pepper, carrots, honey, and sometimes mushrooms.
This simple but tasty combination makes this dish one of the best Thai dishes to try!
It’s also a very rewarding dish to cook for yourself, because the amount of different flavours you will enjoy at the end are in contrast to the ease with which the dish is cooked.
5. Chicken Satay – Chicken on a Stick!
Chicken Satay is some of the best Thai food you’ll find – and it usually costs less than $1 USD at any Thai street market! Strips of chicken are marinated in a Thai paste, then grilled or broiled.
Finish it off with chili or peanut sauce and you’ll be dreaming about Chicken Satay long after the food is gone!
The medium of Satay is a versatile one – there are many options available, from the conventional to the extremely exotic.
Lamb, beef, goat and venison Satay are common alternatives to chicken, as well as shrimp and squid, but you can also sometimes find liver, horse, snake and even crocodile Satay!
You can probably find a way to have Satay every day during a vacation in Thailand and not have the same version twice. At the very least, the seasoning on each one will be unique!
Chicken Satay is one of the most popular Thai food dishes across the globe, and can be served fiery and hot or as one of the more mild Thai dishes.
6. Larb Gai – Pork Salad
Want some good Thai food that’s fresh but also filling? Try Larb Gai, a salad made with pork and fresh mint. This popular Thai dish is perfect over steaming white rice or cold greens!
You can also switch it out for chicken, but the pork melts in your mouth with crispy mint leaves, creating a perfect melody of flavors.
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7. Panang Curry
Penang curry is one of the most popular Thai dishes. This red curry is a combination of flavors from Burma, India, and Malaysia.
Usually crafted with chicken, there are a lot of flavorful and rich elements in this dish! For the best Thai food, always try curry first.
You can also try this curry with beef, either way the smell is absolutely intoxicating and your mouth will be watering before you know it.
Panang is usually made with red curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, onions, garlic, peppers, basil leaves, and kaffir lime leaves to name a few ingredients.
Combinations of flavours like these are what make the best Thai food meals so rewarding!
8. Salted Fish
Sometimes, less is more, and nowhere is that showcased better than in Thai best dishes like this.
A popular option at restaurants and Thai street markets alike, salted fish is exactly what it sounds like: fish that is salted.
OK, so there’s a little more to it than that!
Whether pan-fried or made on the barbeque, salted fish is usually some kind of whitefish seasoned with basil, limes, chilies, and coriander.
If you’re going to order this, just remember that you’ll be getting a whole fish out of the deal. However, this does mean that salted fish is a very filling meal, so you won’t be going hungry!
With a recipe so fine-tuned, this is the best Thai meal for fish lovers – you simply can’t go wrong with this popular Thai dish!
9. Mango Sticky Rice
If you want the best Thai food to try, start with Mango Sticky Rice. This is more of a dessert than an entree but also makes a great snack.
You’d never think the sweetness of a mango and the glutinous texture of sticky rice would go well together, but they somehow do with that magic Thai touch.
In some cultures, the idea of using rice in a dessert is enough of a novelty already!
But one taste and you’ll understand why this delicious Thai food is the best Thai dish to try for anyone with a sweet tooth.
The vibrant yellow colour of the fresh mango makes this dish really pop, and coconut sauce gives the rice a little kick. Don’t miss this dessert while in Thailand!
10. Pad See Yew – Vegetarian Friendly!
If you’re wondering if there are any vegetarian options, look no further. Pad See Yew is one of the best Thai food dishes to try!
Translating as “stir fried soy sauce noodles”, this popular Thai entree replaces the usual pork, chicken, or beef protein with bok choy and Chinese broccoli.
While this is one of the best Thai foods for vegetarians, be aware that many chefs use oyster sauce and/or fish sauce – in addition to soy sauce and miso paste – to give it an extra pump of flavour.
Sometimes they even use shrimp as the substitute for the meat protein in what is meant to be a “vegetarian” dish.
Just make sure to check the recipe/ingredients first, although if you’re a pescetarian this is one of the best Thai food dishes to order.
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Which Best Thai Food Dish are you Craving?
Now that you’ve seen the 10 best Thai food dishes, which one makes your mouth water the most?
Was it the most popular Thai food? Or do you want to be adventurous and find the top Thai dishes that no one knows about?
While Thai food favours spice and protein, there are plenty of popular Thai food options for vegetarians and those with a low spice tolerance. When in Thailand, don’t miss these staples!
Best of all, local food is usually very affordable, leaving you satisfied without being overly full.
I hope you get to sample the best Thai food in Thailand this year! For tips on visiting Thailand, visit One Chance Travel’s website.
You’ll learn what to pack, why you should bring your own sunscreen, suggested itineraries, and more!
Aimee Engebretson is a writer from One Chance Travel who fell in love with exploring the world at age 15 when she traded in her future-car-fund for a trip to Europe. Paris would end up being the first of many trips, and she continues to travel at every opportunity today between her career projects as a marketing manager. Check out her YouTube channel for tips and tricks on traveling in California and Asia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pad Thai, Tom Kha Kai, Som Tum and Khao Pad are some of the most popular and best Thai food dishes, and are available all over the world.
The Thai Green Curry holds the title of being the most popular Thai curry dish, and over the years it has become more and more green with the inclusion of more coriander, basil and lime.
The best Thai food uses the freshest ingredients, such as beansprout, mint, galangal, coriander and basil. Because of the strong flavours available for cooking, there’s also no need to use MSG.
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