Thai food is one of the world’s great cuisines. It combines a variety of complex flavors and textures in several layers. The typical Thai ingredients include things like galangal (similar to ginger), coconut milk, tamarind, lemon grass, lime, basil, turmeric, garlic, shallot, Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce etc.
Famous Thai Food Dishes
Top 15 famous Thai food dishes that everyone should try while visiting Thailand, personally recommended by our Thai chef, are as follows:
1. Pad Thai (Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles) : ผัดไทย
Pad Thai is probably the most famous Thai food dish. Pad Thai – which means ‘Thai-style stir-fried noodles’ – might be a good dish to start with if you are just introducing yourself to Thai food. It has a good combination of classic ingredients – like egg, tofu, peanuts, and bean sprouts. The traditional taste is a bit funky (fish sauce & dried shrimp), sour (fresh tamarind paste and lime juice), sweet (palm sugar) and not really spicy, unless you will add too much chili which is usually served to you separately. The typical Pad Thai is served with shrimps or mixed seafood. There are also chicken, pork or vegetarian versions.
Pad Thai can be found on street stalls and all main Thai restaurants. At Khao San Road you can pay very cheap for the dish, starting at 40-50 THB. Bangkok’s restaurant “Thipsamai Padthai Pratoopee” is the most famous for having the best Pad Thai in town, with massive queues at the door.
The original Pad Thai recipe can be found here: Pad Thai - Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles : ผัดไทย.
2. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp) : ต้มยำกุ้ง
Tom Yum is the most popular Thai soup, both inside and outside of Thailand. If you like spicy food, this dish will certainly please you. It is a clear, hot and sour soup flavored with fragrant lemon grass, galangal root, kaffir lime leaf, bird’s eye chilies, etc. There are hundreds of variations of Tom Yum depending on the main ingredient of the dish. Tom Yum is usually made with prawns (Tom Yum Goong), chicken (Tom Yum Gai), fish (Tom Yum Pla) or mixed seafood (Tom Yum Taleh) and mushrooms. The shrimp (Goong) version is regarded to be the most delicious by locals so as a first timer you should opt for it!
Learn how to cook Tom Yum soup here: Tom Yum - Creamy Thai Sour and Spicy Soup : ต้มยำ.
3. Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Galangal Chicken Soup) : ต้มข่าไก่
Tom Kha Gai is another popular soup between Thais. The key is the “Kha” (galangal), lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves for herbs, the creaminess of coconut milk and soft pieces of chicken. You will feel the contrast between creamy coconut milk and the acidity of spices. It is recommended for people who can’t eat spicy food because Tom Kha is much milder than Tom Yum.
4. Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (Thai Green Chicken Curry) : แกงเขียวหวานไก่
The most popular curry in Thailand is green curry. It is made from coconut milk, herbs and green peppers, which give the color and the maximum level of heat to this dish. Green curry is not that spicy, it is rather sweet. Green curry is such a great dish, especially when served with steaming rice or kanomjeen noodle.
5. Som Tam (Thai Green Papaya Salad) : ส้มตำ
Som Tam is a spicy papaya salad from the North Eastern part of Thailand. Originally, the recipe for Som Tam comes from Laos and is popular not only in Thailand but also throughout Southeast Asia. When you try this dish, you will leave comment that even the salad in Thailand can be spicy! The flavor of Som Tam combines well with the spice of red chili pepper, the saltiness of fish sauce, the sourness of lime or tamarind, plus the sweetness of palm sugar. It can be mixed with some crab, peanuts, dried shrimps, and rice noodles. In addition, the main ingredient can be used mangoes, cucumbers or other vegetables instead of green papaya. Thai people love to eat it with sticky rice. Although the combination of flavors may not be familiar, it is delicious, refreshing and healthy. You should give a try to the most famous Thai salad and order “Som Tam Thai” from the vendors that can be found on almost every street corner of Bangkok and all over the country. In restaurants, it is served either as a starter or main course.
6. Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Stir-Fry) : ผัดกระเพรา
Pad Kra Pao is a very popular dish for local Thais. When people don’t know what to order, they just order Kra Pao! This dish is quick and delicious. "Pad" means "fried" and "Kra Pao" is Thai name of Holy basil that is one of the main ingredients. Pad Kra Pao can be cooked with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, tofu, or whatever you want. It is served with rice and you can order a fried egg (Khai Dao) on top of it. The most common one is made with ground pork and topped with fried egg. This classic combination is called "Pad Kra Pao Moo Khai Dao". Pad Kra Pao is another extremely spicy delight to try in Thailand.
Learn how to cook Pad Kra Pao here: Pad Kra Pao (Holy Basil Stir-Fry): ผัดกระเพรา.
7. Khao Pad (Thai-Style Fried Rice) : ข้าวผัด
Tired of the “spiciness” of Thai dishes? Go for Khao Pad! Khao Pad is a favorite for all locals. In Thai, Khao is rice and Pad is stir-fried. The meal usually includes meat of your choice – shrimp, chicken, pork, crab or beef together with egg, onion, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes and a delicious seasoning. The mixture also includes fish sauce, a pinch of sugar and pepper. Thai fried rice is cooked with Jasmine rice, which is scented. It is usually served with sliced cucumber and limes on the side. There are several other variations including an American style with barbecue sauce and a fried egg on top. Sometimes this dish is served inside a pineapple. It may seem strange, but it looks really good. Fried Rice is one of the easiest meals to find, excellent for those who have not yet fully adapted to local cuisine.
8. Rad Na (Thai Style Noodles in Gravy) : ราดหน้า
Rad Na is another popular street food dish in Thailand. Rad Na is flat rice noodles and vegetables topped with thick gravy. The meat can be pork, chicken or seafood. You can put some additional sugar, fish sauce, sliced chilies in white vinegar and ground dried chilies on the side when eating.
Learn how to cook Rad Na noodle here: Thai Style Noodles in Gravy (Rad Na Sen-Yai) : ราดหน้าเส้นใหญ่.
9. Khao Man Gai (Chicken Rice) : ข้าวมันไก่
Khao Man Gai is a simple street food that can be found all around Thailand. Originally brought by immigrants from southern China, Chicken Rice is also considered one of Singapore's typical dishes. The juicy pieces of boiled chicken and white rice usually served with some slices of cucumber, soybean sauce and winter melon soup.
More about this popular Thai food dish read here: Chicken Rice (Khao Man Gai) : ข้าวมันไก่.
10. Khao-soy (Northern Thai Curry Noodles) : ข้าวซอย
Khao-soy is a northern-style curry noodle dish. It’s made of coconut milk and yellow curry gravy poured over soft eggs noodles, then topped with crispy fried noodles. Khao-soy has versions with chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian. It is slightly spicy, sweet, and creamy. This dish is a must-eat if you are visiting Chiang Mai!
11. Guay Teow (Thai Noodle Soup): ก๋วยเตี๊ยว
Guay Teow, or noodle soup, is Thailand's most popular street food dish. It can be found almost everywhere as it can be eaten at any time of the day. Guay teow describes any type of noodle soup and there are hundreds of variations of them. The soup can be made from chicken, pork or beef, and rice or egg noodles. Vegetables, mushrooms and cilantro can also be added.
As the variety of Thai food dishes is enormous, the choice of Thai noodle dishes is really wide and they differ a lot. You can check the Most Famous Thai Noodle Soup Dishes in Thailand to have an idea of Thai noodle soups you should look for during your trip to Thailand. We are sure you'll find one that you would like to try.
If you want to expand your must-try Thai food list with other noodle dishes, check our Thai street food guide to Ordering Noodle in Thailand.
12. Gai Pad Med Mamuang (Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts): ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วง
Gai Pad Med Mamuang is basically a dish made with chicken and cashew nuts. This dish is much like Chinese dishes, the recipe includes sweet soy sauce, chili and onions. Most of tourists love this dish because it is very delicate with a pleasant taste. This dish is recommended if you are not a lover of Asian food spices and a great choice for children. Gai Pad Med Mamuang is served with steamed rice, of course.
13. Gaeng Massaman (Massaman Curry): แกงมัสมั่น
Another curry dish for you to try in Thailand is Gaeng Massaman. Massaman is a sweet curry that originated in southern Thailand, which is influenced by Malaysian and Thai Muslim culture. This is a dish made with coconut milk, meat and curry paste. This curry paste contains ingredients not common in local cuisine such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, cumin and nutmeg, mixed with popular ingredients such as chili, coriander, lemongrass, onions, coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce and cashews. The most common Massaman curry is cooked with beef, but there are also variants with chicken or pork. Vegetarians are also offered tofu. The dish is a little sweeter and all accompanied by potatoes that absorb the curry like a sponge. If you wish, you can order a side dish of rice.
14. Moo Satay (Pork Satay): หมูสะเต๊ะ
In Thailand, you can try Moo Satay, pork skewer with peanut sauce. The meat is marinated with turmeric and coconut milk making it one of the most popular appetizers in the country.
15. Kai Jeow Moo Sab (Thai Omelette): ไข่เจียวหมูสับ
Thai-style Omelette or Kai Jeow is the easiest Thai dish to eat. It is one of the most common dishes for kids. It is a pork omelet mixed with fish and soy sauce served with rice, it is fluffy inside but crispy outside. When eating, you can add the fish sauce, chili sauce (sauce prik) or ketchup.
In Thailand, you will find many desserts sold everywhere. Mango Sticky Rice is a traditional Thai dessert with common ingredients from local cuisine, but together they make all the difference. It consists of sweet rice from coconut cream, served with mango slices. The combination is very tasty. Another dessert you should try is Coconut Ice Cream. It is usually served inside the coconut itself and sprinkled with a chocolate sauce and peanuts. You can find the extensive list of Authentic Thai Desserts You Must Try in Thailand.
Eating insects in Thailand
Tourists in Thailand are trembling with mixed curiosity, considering it a fun challenge to try eating insects. If you want to face a fried insect such as the famous cockroaches, scorpions, and fried warms, the right destination is Khao San Road and all the night markets in larger cities. You can find our guide to Thailand Insect Food to find out more about this special gastronomic experience.
Where to eat Thai Food
All of these Thai foods are easily found in restaurants or on the street stalls, where you can buy something to take away or you can stop to enjoy a meal at the tables and chairs nearby. The best place where you can find and try most of these Thai food dishes cheap in Bangkok is Pier 21 Food Court at Terminal 21.
To try many famous Thai food dishes in one day, join a feasting tour of 16+ tastings in Bangkok that invites guests on a culinary experience around the backstreets of old Bangkok. It's a food tour designed by a chef, led by the team of professional foodie guides. It’s the highest rated #1 Bangkok food tour on TripAdvisor!
"Mai ped" that literally means “not spicy”, will probably be the most important phrase in Thai if you cannot eat spicy food.
If you get a little tired of Thai food, you can always have varied cuisine in Thailand including Italian, French, American, Indian and so on. Even it is usually a little more expensive than local, but it is still very affordable.
Don’t forget to dive into the world of extremely delicious local cuisine while traveling in Thailand and your journey will be even more impressive!