Traveling to Thailand? Here are some of the best things you’ll eat and drink there.
Whenever I told people I was heading to Thailand, they more than likely commented about the great food I’d enjoy. Of course, the food was one of the reasons why we went to Thailand. The variety of flavors and the authenticity were what I most looked forward to on our trip. The food we tried did not disappoint! Read on to see what dishes we tried and what you should expect when you visit.
A couple of notes:
-None of the food was overwhelming in spice, which says a lot since my palate can’t handle very spicy food. Even when we would tell the waiter “spicy,” it was still very manageable. We think that most places gave us a tourist level of spice because Thai spice is notoriously intense and we rarely felt the heat. Some restaurants do include spices on the table if you want to make it spicier yourself.
-Most of the restaurants we went to had menus with English translations and photos so we never had an issue ordering.
-Reflecting on what we ate on our trip, I wish we had more time and stomach space to try more! I missed trying one of my favorite Thai dishes – Khao Soi – in Chiang Mai (the origin) and had trouble finding it elsewhere.
When I asked one of our tour guides what Thai people ate for breakfast, he chuckled and explained that they usually make one big batch of food in the morning and eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With the rise of tourism and Western influences, breakfast menus may feature familiar dishes like pancakes and scrambled eggs. They also serve boiled rice soup, which is similar to congee of Chinese culture. Many of our breakfasts were included in our hotel stays, and all except one had buffets. We saw everything from croissants and fresh fruit to fried rice and omelets. We also saw a lot of chicken sausages (hot dogs) for breakfast.
While this is probably the most familiar Thai dish for Americans, it is with good reason because it is plentiful in Thailand. We went to one of the oldest and most well-known restaurants for pad thai in Bangkok and the pad thai was incredible! One version was traditional with dried prawns and the other version was baked inside an egg crepe like an omelet. As I learned, traditional pad thai always comes with prawns, not chicken or beef.
Fried rice is always a safe Asian dish. It’s also hearty and delish. I grew up on fried rice. We saw a lot of pineapple fried rice in Thailand.
Tom Kha Gai – Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
Tom Kha Gai was a dream in Thailand and a perfect representation of the flavors in Thai food. Spicy and sour, this hot soup tingled our senses and always seemed to have the perfect amount of each flavor profile.
Kuay Teow Kua Gai – Fried Noodle with Runny Egg
This local Bangkok dish is hands down one of the best things I ate in Thailand and probably in my life. It’s known as a Thai carbonara. Wide rice noodles are fried in pork fat with marinated boneless chicken. Then a runny egg is placed on top. After topping it with chili flakes and pickled chilies, everything is mixed together. The noodles are crispy, the dish is smoky with a reminisce of the strong wok power, and the runny egg pulls it all together. AMAZING.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Basil / Chicken Satay
This is another “safe” and easy dish to order in Thailand. It usually comes with white rice. I had it on several occasions and it was always satisfying.
Bugs and Frogs
We had a feeling we would encounter edible bugs in Thailand. It happened on our food tour at a street vendor stand and the bugs/frogs were so well fried that they only tasted like a fried thing. The “only” thing we needed to get over was the shape of the thing. I tried frog, cricket, and ant eggs. Boyfriend also tried mealworm, which was the only thing that wasn’t fried all the way and in fact gooey in the middle. And that’s all I need to say about that. It was mostly a bucket list thing!
Traditional Khantoke Dinner
We went to a dinner and a show event where they served traditional Lanna (Northern Thailand) food. The meal was on a traditional tray and the dishes included cabbage, fried chicken, fried pork skin, braised pork, fried onions, and fresh vegetables.
They love their prawns in Thailand. We had them on many occasion, with noodles or rice and on their own.
Spicy Fried Fish
I believe this dish was served tourist-friendly. I was expecting a whole fried fish but it came out as fried fish nuggets. It still tasted incredible and was the perfect amount of spice for me.
The massaman curry won me over! This complicated curry has a number of spices, peanuts, coconut milk, and chunks of potato.
Close behind the massaman curry is the yummy panang curry!
Rotisserie Chicken with Spicy Dipping Sauce
This was a simple yet tasty meal. The chicken was served with rice and spicy sauce.
Som Tum – Green Papaya Salad
Hello, spicy! This was one of the most consistently spicy dishes we ate in Thailand. It’s made with shredded, unripe papaya, dried shrimp, and lots of chili peppers!
Tom Yum Soup
This spicy soup was one of my favorites. It’s made with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, fresh Thai chilies, and fresh lime juice.
Sticky Rice with Mango
The most well-known Thai dessert was plentiful and for that I was pleased! The fresh mangoes were heavenly. This dessert is made with sticky rice, coconut milk and fresh mangoes. Sometimes the rice is dyed with natural dye from food to make it colorful.
Coconut Rice Dumplings
These coconut and rice flour bites are best eaten piping hot! They are slightly gooey inside with corn.
We saw many crepes in Thailand, whether made by street vendors or in restaurants. We tried one that we saw a lot – with Nutella and bananas!
Kanom Sai Sai – Coconut Cream in Banana Leaves
Move over sticky rice with mango! I hadn’t tried this dessert until in Thailand and one bite made me obsessed! It is rice flour in the consistency of gelatin with shredded coconut in the middle. Some people noted that they didn’t like the texture but I was in love with the sweetness!
Sweets at the Mall
We visited two malls in Bangkok and was amazed by the number of food options they had! Desserts galore! The dessert seemed more international with a Thai flair, like a Thai tea cupcake. These were some of the sweets I ogled.
Kanom Buang – Thai Taco Dessert
This classic Thai dessert has a thin, crispy outside and is filled with shredded coconut and egg yolk. You can usually find them for very cheap at street vendors.
Since the heat can be intense in Thailand, fresh fruit smoothies and juices are a good option. We had mango and watermelon.
Green Tea Thai Tea
The green tea is legit in Thailand and the flavor is very strong! I enjoyed this refreshing green tea Thai tea.
Fresh Coconut Juice
Straight from the source!
The most distributed beers you’ll find are Singha, Chang, and LEO. These are your typical, easy-to-drink beers. I had Chang and LEO and couldn’t tell the difference between them.
With some searching and luck, we also found craft beers in Thailand! Full Moon Brewworks (out of Phuket) and Chiang Mai Brewing Company distribute in their respective cities. We tried the Cha Tri IPA from Full Moon Brewworks (a collaboration with Australia’s Stockade Brew Co) and Red Truck IPA and Chiang Mai Weizen from Chiang Mai Brewing Company. These were a welcome change from the usual Thai beers! Full Moon Brewworks also has the Chalawan Pale Ale.
We also splurged on dinner at Nahm, one of the world’s 50 best restaurants. See the full experience here.
As you can imagine, this is a small taste of the plethora of dishes you can enjoy in Thailand! I’ve been missing Thai food off and on since returning from our trip. Thankfully, there are lots of options of Thai food in Austin!
Do you like Thai food? What is your favorite dish?