best thai food dishesOne of the many wonders of Thailand is the enchantingly delectable cuisine. An amalgamation of food from surrounding areas, and evolved over time into something completely original, Thai food is blended from a variety of spices to form an array of salads, curries, soups and rice dishes. Notoriously spicy with a strong tendency towards seafood, Thai cuisine never disappoints.

Despite Pad Thai and Green Curry hailed by global markets as the best Thai dishes, when in Thailand, it’s hard to ignore the colorful variety offered in every eatery. Although there may often be similar offerings on each menu, Thai food changes considerably depending on where it’s cooked, with different regions specializing in their own version of each dish.

So which dishes are worth a try?

Tom Ka Kai

Tom Ka is a thick coconut soup flavored with galangal, lime, ginger and coriander. Kai is the Thai word for chicken and along with locally grown mushrooms, adds some substance to an otherwise light dish. Intensely flavored, this soup is most often only mildly spicy but it is worth double checking, as some restaurants add chilies to bring out the flavor, which can set your mouth on fire! Best eaten with a side dish of boiled rice, this mouth-watering dish is offered in practically every restaurant, and if not listed, can often be requested.

As one of the most common and highly popular meals, Tom Ka is rarely expensive and should usually cost no more than $2-$3.

Pad Ka Praow

Pad Ka Praow is an extremely popular fried rice dish, chosen most often as Thai comfort food. Comprising of garlic, chilies and Thai holy basil, fried with soy sauce into rice, this dish is luxuriously filling yet tingling on the tongue. Although it is considered a spicy dish, the flavor resounds in the mouth and not in the back of the throat like most curries, saving you from and unwanted coughing fit!

Although it is available with most meats, there is a tendency for it to be served with pork or chicken as the most complimentary flavors.

Tom Yam Kung

Tom Yam is a famous and extremely tasty hot and sour soup offered practically everywhere in Thailand, from high class restaurants right down to street food stalls. It can be served with any type of meat but is particularly delicious when tried with a variety of seafood (Kung means shrimp). It is basically a spicy clear soup seasoned using lemongrass galangal, kaffir leaves, lime and fish sauce. Occasionally, coconut milk is added to give it a more chowder feel. It can be a particularly spicy number so beware and ask for it ‘mai pet’ (no spice) if you’re worried about overpowering heat.

Despite its overwhelming prevalence, it is best when ordered from the street and enjoyed in the company of Thai people on their way home from work or just popping out for dinner. Each street food stall generally has a specialty, so it’s easy to find carts dedicated solely to Tom Yam.

Chim Chum

Chim Chum is most often found offered at small Thai pop-up restaurants or from street food vendors. It is a form of hotpot served still cooking in a terracotta dish over a terracotta pot of hot coals. A variety of meat and noodles are offered by the server to add to your hotpot; pork ribs being a common addition.

The boiling soup itself is made from lemongrass, galangal, kaffir leaves and holy basil and may sometimes contain garlic. The soup can be topped up throughout your meal and many restaurants leave additional spices and vegetables on the table for you to mix and match your own dish.

Chim Chum is more of a social meal and Thai people can be seen sitting for hours refilling their hotpot and drinking local Thai whisky. This is a dish best enjoyed when you have time, as rushing will not allow you to appreciate the atmosphere and ambience created by the task itself.

Papaya Salad

Papaya salad is a Thai dish often experienced accidentally by those looking for a ‘light lunch’. However, it is considered one of the spiciest dishes offered in Thailand and eaters often report numb and blue lips after finishing their serving!

Locally known as ‘Som Tam’, the dish is made up of sour lime, salty fish sauce, extremely hot red chilies and sweet palm sugar. Papaya salad has consistently made it into the top 50 most delicious meals in the world due to its balance between the four key tastes, however, it is about as spicy as Thai food gets!

Other ingredients often included are eggplant, beans, tomatoes, garlic, brined crabs and shrimp paste.