Top 10 Must-Not-Miss Thai Food

By Siwawut Chaiya

Thai cuisine is one of the best gourmets in the world. It is
well known for the diversity of ingredients, outstanding
spiciness and ample medicinal properties. Most of Thai food is
cooked and refined with more than two types of herbs or spices
which are beneficial to health.

The (mostly unconscious) principle Thai food is the balance of
five flavors which are spicy, salty, sweet, sour and bitter. The
one indispensible ingredient which is generally used in
seasoning a majority of Thai cuisine is fish sauce. Thai food is
eaten either as a single dish or with rice. Steamed rice is the
staple food although sticky rice is more popular in the north
and northeast of Thailand.

Thai food is one of many things that you should not miss while
you are traveling in this beautiful “Land of Smiles”. Since
there are numberless delectable Thai dishes, I am writing this
guideline for you to select the most distinctive and authentic
ones out of the plethora of Thai signature dishes.

The following list is a top 10 rank of Thai food that you must
not miss. The consideration and ranking is based on the
popularity, uniqueness and authenticity of the delicacies. Here
are the winners.

10. Kai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan (Stir-Fried Chicken with
Cashew Nuts)

Even though Kai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan does not represent the
overview of Thai food but it is a very nice treat to your bland
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.

9. Por Pia Tord (Fried Spring Roll)

Fried spring roll is one of the most popular appetizers among
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.

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
relatively 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 greasy or fleshy for some

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
really want to try.

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.

5. Tom Yam Kai (Spicy Chicken Soup)

Chicken soup is very good to eat when you have a cold but Tom
Yam Kai 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 anywhere they go so you
should not miss it by any means!

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 liked by non-spicy eaters.

3. Kang Keaw Wan Kai (Green Chicken Curry)

Since we are having three dishes in a row made of “Kai”, you
would have guessed that it is chicken in English. Not that
chicken is particularly popular in Thai cuisine; it is usually
used 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” likewise to how you eat Spaghetti.

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 becomes popular because it tastes yummy and
comes with a choice to add in a set of seasonings to suit your
appetites. 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 the having classic Pad Thai freshly cooked in its
original country is a way to go.

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.

Even though it is commonly known that Thai food utilizes many
health herbs and spices, there have always been debates whether
Thai food is really good for health since they tend to be
somewhat greasy. It is important to note that it depends on each
dish; some can be highly caloric but many dishes make a good use
of herbs. Garlic, for example, is very good healthwise because
it can prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood
pressure and cancer.

No matter what the food is, the same old concept of moderate
intake comes into play. From Mcdonald’s burger to Japanese
Sushi, a key to optimal fitness is to avoid overconsumption.
Thus, a claim that Thai food is mainly coconut-based and
fattening should never be an adequate reason for you to still
order a Big Mac. Ravish your taste buds with Thai food - tasty
and healthy!

About the Author: My name is Siwawut Chaiya, 23. You can call
me Tom for short. I'm a writer from Chiang Mai Thailand. You can
email me at The full story plus photos
can be viewed at


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