What Are Some Traditional Thai Foods to Try When Visiting Thailand?

Thailand is a food lover’s paradise, offering a myriad of flavorful and aromatic dishes that reflect the country’s diverse cultures and regions. From fiery curries to fresh, tangy salads, here are some must-try traditional Thai foods when visiting this culinary destination.

#1: Tom Yum Goong
This popular soup embodies the classic Thai balance of spicy, sour, salty and sweet. Made with shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and mushrooms, it delivers a refreshing and complex burst of flavors. The broth is simmered to allow the herbs and spices to infuse before lime juice, fish sauce and chilies are added to finish this iconic dish.

#2: Pad Thai
Arguably Thailand’s most famous noodle dish, pad thai features stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, tofu, shrimp, peanuts, garlic, chives and bean sprouts. The sweet-savory-spicy sauce is made from tamarind pulp, palm sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Squeeze some lime and toss in some roasted peanuts to complete this quintessential Thai street food.

#3: Massaman Curry
This rich, coconut milk-based curry is uniquely Thai with Persian influences. Slow-cooked with tender chunks of meat like chicken, beef or lamb, it gets its depth of flavor from spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and cumin. Potatoes, onions, peanuts and sometimes tamarind provide delicious contrasting textures. Jasmine rice is the perfect accompaniment.

#4: Khao Soi
Hailing from Northern Thailand, this coconut-curry noodle soup is rich, comforting and full of flavor. Egg noodles are bathed in a curry-coconut broth along with chicken or beef, then topped with crispy fried noodles. It’s served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime and chili paste for spice. The complex layers of tastes and textures make this a must-try regional specialty.

#5: Tom Kha Gai
This comforting coconut soup features chicken simmered in a creamy, fragrant broth infused with galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. The combination of comforting coconut milk with spicy chilies and fresh lime juice is a hallmark of Thai cuisine. Add mushrooms for extra flavor and texture in every spoonful.

#6: Som Tam
Green papaya salad has countless variations across Thailand, but Thai som tam generally features shredded green papaya, tomatoes, chili peppers, green beans, peanuts, garlic, sugar, lime, fish sauce and dried shrimp. The vibrant mixture of spicy, sour and sweet is utterly addictive.

#7: Gai Yang
This Thai-style grilled chicken is marinated in garlic, coriander root, white pepper and fish sauce for maximum flavor. Grilling imparts smoky charred notes while keeping the meat juicy. It’s typically served with sticky rice and a spicy dipping sauce along with cucumbers, shallots and herbs. Simple yet full of flavor. Best served with Som Tam.

#8: Laab Moo
Minced pork salad mixes meat with roasted rice powder, mint, cilantro, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce and chili for a punchy blend of spicy, herbal and sour flavors. The rustic dish originates from Northeast Thailand. Variations include duck, chicken or beef.

Local Tips: 

It is common in Thailand to order the combition of Som Tam, Gai Yang, and Laab Moo together!

#8: Kaeng Khiao Wan
Known as Thai green curry, this iconic dish features tender chicken, beef or fish simmered in a sauce made from coconut milk, green chilies, garlic, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and aromatic Thai basil. Each spoonful explodes with flavor and a gentle spice that builds. It’s rich yet light and complex. Serve with jasmine rice.

#9: Khao Man Gai
A true Bangkok street food favorite, this Hainanese-influenced dish features poached chicken breast served over rice cooked in chicken broth and garlic. It’s served with a ginger-chili dipping sauce along with cucumber and chicken broth soup. Simple, light and delicately flavored.

#10: Yam Pla Duk Fu
This spicy and tangy salad from Northern Thailand features crispy fried catfish with mint, lemongrass, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce, chili and roasted rice powder. The contrast of flaky fish with the intense, zesty flavors is explosive. A perfect meal with sticky rice.

#11: Gaeng Keow Wan Kai
Known as Thai green chicken curry, this dish features coconut milk-poached chicken in a green curry sauce made from Thai green chilies, garlic, shallots, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. It’s rich yet light with pronounced herbal notes. Served with jasmine rice.

#12: Khanom Bueang Yuan
These crispy Thai crepes are made with rice flour and stuffed with shredded coconut, sesame seeds and sugar. Rolled into a tube, they make for a delicious crunchy treat. Sweet and nutty flavors pair nicely with an afternoon cup of Thai tea.

#13: Sai Oua
This Northern Thai pork sausage is seasoned with herbs and spices like lemongrass, garlic, chilli, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. Grilled over charcoal, it gets a wonderful smoky aroma and flavor. Sliced and served with sticky rice, it makes for finger-licking good street food.

#14: Yum Som-O
The refreshing salad features the sour fruit pomelo along with shrimp, chicken or pork, shallots, peanuts, dried shrimp, lime, fish sauce, sugar and chilies. It embodies the Thai blend of spicy, sour and sweet with lots of great textures. A light and palate-pleasing accompaniment to rice dishes.

#15: Nam Prik Ong
This Northern Thai chili dip is made by cooking tomatoes, garlic, dried chilies and shrimp paste together into a wonderfully complex, tangy and spicy condiment. It’s served with raw and blanched veggies for dipping and spooning over rice. The balance of flavors is exceptional.

#16: Kuay Chap Nam Sai
Originating from Northern Thailand’s Chin Haw community, this dish features slices of stewed pork belly and offal served with rice noodles in a peppery broth made from the stewed pork. Garnished with greens, it’s hearty, boldly flavored comfort food.

#17: Khao Kluk Kapi
A classic rice dish combines steamed rice with shrimp paste and shredded green mango. The pungent, funky shrimp paste and fresh mango create an explosion of salty, sour and spicy flavors. It’s a staple in Southern Thailand, rounding out any meal.

#18: Khanom Krok
These bite-sized coconut rice pancakes are made in a special pan that creates the cute round shape with a little divot for holding toppings like sweetened shredded coconut. Chewy, crispy, hot off the pan, they’re a beloved Thai street treat.

#19: Miang Kham
This snack lets you construct your own bite-sized parcel using a betel leaf topped with lime, dried shrimp, peanuts, ginger, chili, and coconut. Wrap it up and devour the sweet, spicy, bitter and salty flavor mix. Healthy, fresh and fun to assemble.

#20: Sai Krok E-san
This grilled northeastern sausage has a sour kick from fermented rice and is aggressively spiced with garlic, black pepper and chili flakes. Sliced and grilled over hot coals to release the aroma, it’s served with glutinous rice, fresh greens and spicy dips.

#21: Mango Sticky Rice
This classic Thai dessert pairs sweet sticky rice with perfectly ripe mango. The sticky rice is steamed until tender then drizzled with sweet coconut cream and served with sweet, juicy mango slices. It’s simple yet completely irresistible. The creamy and fruity flavors complement each other beautifully.

#22: Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti
This traditional Thai dessert gets its color and flavors from pandanus leaves. Green rice flour jelly is flavored with pandanus and coconut milk, then layered in a glass with sweetened coconut milk, kidney beans, jackfruit and palm seeds. Sweet, creamy and beautifully layered, it’s a stunning treat.

#23: Khanom Tokyo
These Thai-style crepes are sold as street food across Thailand. The bubbly, crispy crepes are made with rice flour and coconut milk and filled with sweet shredded coconut, palm sugar and sometimes banana. It’s then folded into a cone shape. A sweet, cozy treat!

With Thailand’s diversity of cultures and ingredients, there’s always a new dish to discover. Part of the fun is being adventurous and trying unique regional specialties you’ve never experienced before. With this tasty selection, you’re sure to fall in love with authentic Thai cuisine. Every dish bursts with fresh, vibrant flavors and aromas that reflect Thailand’s diverse cultures. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients and dishes – it’s the best way to explore Thailand’s amazing culinary traditions from all regions of the country. Keep an open mind, open palate and open sense of adventure to make the most of this foodie paradise. Sawasdee ka and happy eating!