The land of smiles is also a land of amazing food. Thailand’s profusion of exotic herbs and spices, flavours and fragrances, makes its cuisine among the tastiest in the world.
Famous for its bold flavours and fresh ingredients, Thai food is essentially a marriage of Eastern and Western influences perfected over the centuries. Balancing disparate elements in each dish, Thai food often strikes a harmonious chord between sweet and sour, salty and bitter, which makes it taste so unique.
From amazingly cheap and delicious street-food to the finest restaurants in Bangkok, from backpacker favourites to Thai classics, here are five meals you must try in Thailand.
Tom yum kung
Arguably the most famous of Thailand’s many tom yum (or tom yam – pictured above) soup dishes, tom yum kung is a hot and sour, spicy shrimp soup with sweet citric overtones.
Variations on this classic dish abound in Thailand and in neighbouring countries, including Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It’s best enjoyed with an ice-cold bottle of Chang beer to cleanse and cool the palate.
As delicious as tom yung and no less popular, pad thai (pictured above) is a stir-fry dish consisting of rice noodles, egg, fish sauce, tamarind juice and chilli pepper, most often garnished with crushed peanuts and pieces of lime and sometimes wrapped in omelette.
Pad Thai is best enjoyed at dinky street-side stalls throughout Thailand, where you can grab a plate with tofu or chicken for as low as 30 baht (less than $1US) – making it a firm backpacker favourite.
This Burmese-influenced curried-noodle dish is served predominantly in northern Thailand and Laos.
Sitting mid-way on the spectrum between soup and curry, khao soi (pictured below) is made with a mix of crispy and boiled egg noodles, cabbage, shallots, meat, ground chillies and lime. It can be a fairly fiery dish that, like pho in Vietnam, is often served with a plate of accompaniments which are added to taste.
Massaman curry is a southern Thai dish – but you wouldn’t necessarily know it to taste it. Arab in origin, the massaman is heavy on dry spices and very aromatic as a result.
Served with rice and traditionally made with beef, massaman curry usually contains coconut milk, roasted peanuts or cashew nuts, potatoes, bay leaves, fish and tamarind sauce, ground chilli and assorted spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.
Mango with sticky rice
Sweet mango drenched in coconut sauce with a side of sticky, white rice – it’s a combination that is far, far better than it sounds.
Thailand’s most famous dessert is a veritable mouth-watering delight – and surprisingly addictive to boot. Just as good from a street-stall as in a Thai restaurant, mango and sticky rice is the perfect conclusion to any Thai meal.
Feeling hungry? Don’t leave Thailand without trying every single meal on this list and more. Also check out the best places to visit in Thailand.