The Number Ten: Best Thai Foods – tentree

The Number Ten: Best Thai Foods

When I moved to Thailand three years ago, I didn’t know much about the local cuisine. To be honest, I struggled to love Thai food at first, as my eyes welled up and tongue caught with prickling fire in every single bite. But how those times have changed! These days, I crave the comforting tastes of chili, lemongrass and kaffir lime each time I leave the county.

The truth is, many people don’t know a lot about Thai food – even the ones that have been to Thailand! Of course, everybody knows pad thai, the floppy rice noodles tossed up in a wok with egg, tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts and fish sauce. But there is so much more to the ethnic cuisine than that, including an intensity and depth of flavour that ranges from tart to savoury, scorching hot to sweet depending on the dish. When it comes to experiencing Thai cuisine, pad thai is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you ask me, I would say skip the pad thai! Here are a few of my recommendations for new dishes to try on your next eating adventure through Thailand:

papayasaladSom Tam (Papaya Salad)

This salad is made with a lot of arm-work in a mortar and pestle. Garlic, chilies, tamarind juice, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes and shredded green papaya are pounded up together in a rough but precise fashion. The result is a mixture that’s hot but slightly salty and sweet at the same time. Som tam is best enjoyed with sticky rice (kao niew), which is how it’s traditionally served in the province that it comes from, Isaan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKhao Soi

Khao soi is a curry soup from the north of Thailand. It can be difficult to track down in other parts of the country, but absolutely worth the effort. It’s made using coconut milk, lime, shallots, pickled cabbage and gets its bright yellow hue from curry powder. Khao soi is among the most authentic and unique of Thailand’s many comfort foods.

Tom-Yum-GoongTom Yum Gung

This soup is much more ubiquitous in Thailand than khao soi and thankfully, it tastes just as good. Whereas the former is savoury, tom yum gung is spicy, sour and just a tiny bit sweet. It’s served with mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves wading inside a red curry broth. Some people like to have this soup with a broth made of coconut milk for a more hearty flavour.

mangostickyriceKao Niew Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)

In Thailand, no meal is complete without dessert - and mango sticky rice is the most famous of all.The quality of mangoes in Thailand is unrivalled anywhere else in the world due to their fresh taste. In this dish, the yellow-orange fruit is chopped into slices overtop a bed of sticky rice. The finishing touch is a drizzle of coconut cream syrup for a mouthful that’s both creamy and smooth.

penang-curryPanang (Red Curry)

Panang is made from red curry paste fried up with coconut cream and traditional Thai spices. The taste is unbelievably profound, and difficult to describe. The curry is bold and hot and spicy down the throat, yet somehow so velvety that you’ll be licking off the spoon.

massaman (1)Gang Massaman (Massaman Curry)

Here is one more Thai curry of epic proportions. Massaman originates as a Halal dish from southern Thailand, but has become popular throughout the country for how easy it is to stomach (it’s sweet rather than spicy - unlike most other curries). The sauce is a blend of curry paste, coconut milk, peanuts, nutmeg and cinnamon loaded up with chunks of potato, onion and meat. It’s heavy, hearty and totally gluttonous.

kao-moo-dangKao Moo Dang (Rice with Red Pork)

This dish is wonderful for its sheer simplicity: thin-sliced barbecue pork, barbecue gravy-sauce over rice with sliced cucumbers and sometimes a hard-boiled egg on the side. Thailand’s cucumbers are famously tasty, and they provide the perfect crispy texture against the silky, non-spicy main meat and sauce.

morning-gloryPad Pak Bung Nam Man Hoy (Morning Glory)

This vegetable is native to Southeast Asia and goes by many different names, including Chinese spinach and swamp cabbage. While “swamp cabbage” may not sound so appealing, pad pak bung nam man hoy (as Thais call it) is extremely delicious, not to mention healthy and light. In Thailand, it’s usually prepared with a gentle tossing in oyster sauce, garlic and chili.

Nam-Prik-Pla-TuNam Prik

This is the Thai version of an “appie platter” with an assortment of steamed veggies, fresh fish and rice centered around a fermented shrimp and chili dip. The paste is strong and fishy, both in flavour and odour, and that’s why some consider nam prik an acquired taste. Nonetheless, it’s one of Thailand’s greatest and most original delicacies!

zv cha yenCha Yen (Milk Tea)

A sweet tooth is mandatory for trying the drink called cha yen or Thai milk tea. It’s made by loading sugar, sweetened condensed milk and the signature tea over ice. Despite being so rich, cha yen is the perfect refreshment on a hot day. Don’t forget, you can always tell the vendor “nik noy suga” if you’d like it just a little less sweet.

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