What to Eat in Thailand

What to Eat in Thailand

Everyone knows the true way to anyone’s heart is through food. Living in Thailand for the past 16 months has filled my heart with so much joy surrounding food. I feel like I could eat the same dish everyday and, yet, something would be different about it. Many restaurants have their own spin on the traditional dishes, like Pad Thai. While other dishes have multiple ways to order the same dish, take Som Tam for example.

This country has such a range of foods that vary from region to region, but typically you can find these unique cuisines throughout the country. If you’re traveling to Thailand soon, then be ready for a taste bud overload.

This list is composed of 7 categories of “What to Eat in Thailand” plus a bonus list . Trust me when I say, I couldn’t possibly try and add every single Thai cuisine item, so I narrow down each category into the dishes that I personal feel you would be missing out on if you didn’t try them while in Thailand. Before we get into food, let’s learn a little bit of the basic for ordering.

Helpful Hints and Phrases for Ordering

Many dishes are almost ALWAYS made to order (unless cafeteria style), which means you can order certain dishes to your specification. Here are a few key words to know when ordering stir fry dishes.

1. Choice of meat, vegetable, or vegan 

        • Gai = chicken
        • Moo = Pork
        • Nuea = beef
        • Talay = Seafood
        • Pla = fish
        • Pak = Vegetable
        • Jai = Vegan

Note: there is not always an option for vegan in Thailand because not every food cart, restaurant, or dining location has the ability to do vegan. There is a high use of fish sauce or oyster sauce in Thai food. 

2. Level of Spice

        • Ped Mak = Very Spicy, like THAI SPICY, burn your mouth, breath fire kind of spicy
        • Ped Nid Noi (or just ped noi) = A little bit spicy (but again remember you are in Thailand)
        • Mai Ped = No Spice

Note: from personal experience, just because you ordered “Mai Ped” doesn’t ALWAYS come with no spice. If you need ZERO spice, you should say “Mai Prik”, which translate to No Chili.

3. Adding Extras

There are several occasions when ordering food in Thailand that you have the opportunities to add an egg as an extra or a “topper”. There are two 

        • Kai Jeow: Omelet
        • Kai Dao: Fried Egg
        • Kai Tumsuk: Hard Boiled Egg

Note: kai jeow and kai dao can also be ordered alone as a meal. I would eat a “Sawng Kai Jeow” (2 egg omelet) or a “Kai Jeow Dao” (omelet with fried egg) for breakfast most days of the week and they are DELICIOUS!

4. Removing Something

Because many dishes are “made-to-order”, you can also order food without something or with “a little” of something. This is common, especially if you are allergic to something.

        • Mai = No or None or Zero
        • Nid Noi or Noi = a little
        • Mak = Very

Note: There were times where I just wanted the veggies and meat so I would say “Mai Khao”, which means no rice. It took me awhile to get the specific tone (and I honestly forgot already) but many times, they would understand.

**TUEA = Nut (said in a rising-fallingtone)

What to Eat in Thailand

1. Spicy Salads

Tam Kanoon
Tam Kanoon

English Name: Spicy Jackfruit Salad

Description: This dish is made from young jackfruit which is chopped up and mixed with spices and can sometimes be fried. I believe it is also a vegetarian option. I LOVE this salad with sticky rice as a light lunch.

Ordering Style: Typically found at markets, pre-made, or cafeteria style.

OTHER OPTIONS

Som Tam Papaya Salad
Som Tam or Som Tam Khorat (Thai Style)

English Name: Papaya Salad

Description: This dish made with baby papaya (shredded), tomatoes, peanuts, green egg plant, chili, lime, sugar and fish sauce (sometimes garlic). If you get it Thai style, it will come with crab and crab paste.

Ordering Style: Typically Made-To-Order

Som Tam Pon La Mai

English Name: Spicy Fresh Fruit Salad

Description: This dish is a combination of cubed fruit mixed and peanuts in the same manor as Papaya Salad. Typically, it contains dragon fruit, apples, and oranges, but can come with a variety of other fresh fruits.

Ordering Style: Typically Made-To-Order

Yum Moo Yor

English Name: Spicy Pork Sausage Salad

Description: This dish is a combination Vietmanese pork loaf, quartered tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cilantro with a spicy dressing of fish sauce, sugar, chilis, and lime. (similar to papaya salad)

Ordering Style: Typically Made-To-Order

Note: I don’t have a photo of this dish because I wasn’t a huge fan of the pork loaf, but it was ALWAYS at every Thai party or gathering. If you are a foodie and up to try anything then this and “Woon Sen” should be on your list to try.

Yum Woon Sen

English Name: Spicy Glass Noodle Salad (bean thread noodles)

Description: This dish is a combination glass noodles, dried shrimp, cilantro, fried garlic, onions, peanuts, and Chinese celery with a dressing of fish sauce, limes, Thai chili and sugar.

Ordering Style: Typically Made-To-Order

2. Rice Dishes

Most rice dishes are made to order and often come with a soup or broth. Depending on the restaurant, the soup/broth could be vegetarian or chicken.

Khan Mon Gai
Khao Man Gai

Description: Boiled Chicken on a bed of steamed rice, often served with a spicy ginger and garlic sauce.

Note: This dish typically comes with the boiled skin. If you are like me and aren’t a fan of boiled chicken skin you can say “Mai Nang”, which mean “no skin”

Khoo Mon Gai Tot
Khoo Man Gai Tot

Description: Fried Chicken on a bed of steamed rice, often served with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Gai Yang Jeow
Gai Yang Jao

Description: Roasted chicken on a bed of rice with a spicy tamarind sauce mixed with onions and cilantro.

OTHER OPTIONS

Moo Gratiem Garlic Chicken
Khao Gratiem Moo/Gai

Description: Garlic Pork or Chicken served on or with rice topped with crunchy, fried garlic. 

Khao Kha Moo

Description: Slow-Braised Pork Leg served on a bed of  rice with blanched chinese broccoli, often served with a hard boiled egg and veggies.

Note: You can also order “Moo Tun” which is another type of stewed pork

Khao Moo Krop

Description: Crispy Pork belly served on a bed of rice with a ginger-garlic sauce.

Note: “Kop” which is another type sauce which is a red, spicy sauce.

3. Stir Frys

Pad Grapaow Gai
Pad Gra Pao Gai (Chicken)
Grapao Mu Kai Dao
Pad Gra Pao Moo Kai Dao

Description: Spicy Thai Holy Basil Stir Fry with chicken / pork served with rice and a spicy fish sauce and cucumbers. This dish can also be served with a fried egg or omelet.

Hed Grapaow
Hed Gra Pao

Photo Courtesy of Marlie @ Meet Your Globe

Description: Spicy Thai Holy Basil Stir Fry with  Mushrooms served with rice. This is a vegetarian option for Gra Pao and can also be served with Kai Jiew or Kai Dao

Fried Rice
Khao Pad "Sapparod"

Description:  Stir fried rice with a variety of vegetables and/or choice of meat, typically made with a fish sauce and oyster sauce combination. You can order it plain with vegetables or with “Sapparod” which means pineapple. The pineapple fried rice usually comes with cashews (beware nut allergies).

Pad Prik Pao
Pad Prik Paow Gai Kai Dao

Description: Stir fried vegetables with a soy sauce, sometimes fish sauce/oyster sauce served with a bed of rice

OTHER OPTIONS

Pad Pak Ruam
Pad Pak Ruam (moo) Kai Jiew

Description: Stir fried vegetables with a soy sauce, sometimes fish sauce/oyster sauce served with a bed of rice. Often served with choice of meat.

Pad Ped Naw Mai Moo Sap

Description: Stir Fried Bamboo Shoots comes in a variety of ways. Typically, it is made with bamboo shoots, ground pork, garlic, green onions, and kaffir lime leaves with an oyster and soy sauce, served with a side of rice. However, I would often get it as a breakfast dish with eggs scrambled into the dish (pictured).

Note: This is another great vegetarian option.

Stir Fried Bamboo

Faktong Tawd

Photo Courtesy of Marlie @ Meet Your Globe

Description: Fried Pumpkin served on a bed of rice and likely a side of stir fried veggies.

Gai Pad Med Maa Muang

Description: Cashew Chicken with vegetables served with a side of rice. Can be ordered according to your spicy level.

4. Noodle Dishes

Believe it or not, I only ever really ate these two noodle dishes. I’m 100% positive that there are many different kinds, but I just couldn’t get enough of Pad Thai and Pad See Ew.

Pad Thai
Pad Thai

Description: Traditional Thai rice noodle stir fry with eggs, tofu, shallots, bean sprouts and palm sugar mixed in tamarind sauce and fish sauce combo. Typically topped with raw bean sprouts, more shallots, lime, peanuts and chili powder to taste. In addition, some traditional Pad Thai will come with raw banana flower.

Pad See Ew
Pad See Ew

Photo Courtesy of Marlie @ Meet Your Globe

Description: Fat rice noodles with soy sauce stir fried with Chinese broccoli, egg and choice of meat. Typically served with chili powder, lime, sugar and sometimes peanuts.

5. Soups

Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai

Description: Thai Coconut Soup is a spicy and sour soup made with lemongrass, tomatoes, galangal, kaffir lime, mushrooms and sometimes other vegetables like red peppers, or small green eggplant balls, served with a side of rice.

Note: This dish can also be served as a vegetarian or vegan option depending on the restaurant.

Tom Yum Moo
Tom Yum Moo

Description: Thai Spicy Noodle Soup served with choice of meat and noodle, with half an egg and steamed morning glory & Chinese cabbage.

Note: My preference with Tom Yum is with pork and egg noodles. But Tom Yum Kung (shrimp) is another popular way to have this dish. IT IS SPICY…so beware.

Baa Mi Moo Daeng
Baa Mi Moo Daeng Naam

Description: Egg Noodle Soup served with morning glory and Chinese broccoli topped with Red Pork

Note: “Baa Mi” is the style and you can also order the soup with “Moo Tun” or “Moo Krop”. In addition, you can also order it “Baa Mi Moo Daeng HANG,” which mean “no soup”.

**This was my personal favorite “Go-To” lunches. I think I ate it 2-3 days a week. I loved to add peanuts and this spicy vinegar sauce that my restaurant would have on the tables. I occasionally would order it with Thai dumplings (I forget how to order it in Thai).

OTHER OPTIONS

Sen Lek

Description: Rice Noodle Soup with choice of meat and served with vegetables and occasionally topped with fried wontons.

Note: This soup can also be ordered as vegetarian or vegan. It is similar to Baa Mi (egg noodles) and you can add “Tok” which is chicken or pork blood added for flavor.

Sen Lek Pak
Sen Lek Jai

Photo Courtesy of Marlie @ Meet Your Globe

6. Curries or Gaeng

Thai Curries

Gaeng Kiew Wan

Description: Green Curry is typically made with green curry paste (thai spices), choice of meat, green eggplant, coconut milk, and pea eggplant with chili. There are many different variants including ones with chicken feet or chicken blood jelly. (Pictured Top)

Gaeng Panang (Daeng)

Description: Penang or Red Curry is made with red curry paste (thai spices) and coconut milk with choice of meat and vegetables. Typically, I’ve had just the red curry and meat served with a side of rice. (Pictured Right)

Gaeng Massaman

Description: This Thai-Indian style curry is an oil based curry with spices including cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and others. It’s often served with choice of meat and potatoes and can be served as a vegan dish. (Not Pictured)

Gaeng Hang Lay

Northern Thai Speciality Dish

Description:  This curry is made with pork belly and pork ribs that are stewed with different types of herbs and spices and served with a side of rice. This dish is not typically served with vegetables. (Not Pictured)

Kanoom Jean Nam Prik

Photo Courtesy of Marlie @ Meet Your Globe

Description: Vegan Peanut Curry over rice noodles served with vegetables and sometimes a hard boiled eggs.

 

Khao Soi
Khao Soi Gai

Northern Thai Speciality Dish

Description: Spicy Coconut Curry Soup is served with choice of meat with egg noodles and topped with pickled mustard greens, onions, and lime (extra chili to taste) and crispy egg noodles. *vegan and vegetarian available*

7. Desserts

Thai desserts are widely popular. There are so many different types of desserts found around Thailand that I honestly couldn’t even begin to tell you about all of them. These are my top favorites.

What to Eat in Thailand- Roti
Roti Guay Kai

Description: Fried pastry filled with egg and choice of filler (I liked “guay” or banana) topped with sweetened condensed milk and sometimes chocolate.

Note: Roti Sai Mai is another dessert that’s a pastry filled with stringed sugar, thing Thai Cotton Candy

What to Eat in Thailand- Mango Sticky Rice
Khao Neow Ma Muang

English Name: Mango Sticky Rice 

Description: One of the more famous Thai Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice is made with a fresh yellow sweet mango placed on top of sweet sticky rice cooked in a coconut milk – sugar mix, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.

Note: Occasionally, you might find blue or green rice. These are flavored sticky rices: blue is butterfly pea and green is pandan leaf

What to Eat in Thailand- Guay Tawd
Guay Tawd

Description: Deep Fried Bananas in a sweet dough topped with toasted sesame seeds.

My personal favorite! Picture is me learning how to make them!

What to Eat in Thailand
Khanom Buang

Description: Thai crepes or crispy pancake that is filled with sweet cream and topped with sweet or salty shredded coconut or Foi Thong (strips of egg yolks).

Note: These tend to look like tacos and are commonly found as street food.

What to Eat in Thailand - Coconut Pancakes
Khanom Krok

Description: Thai coconut-rice pancake, sometimes you can find them with corn or onion, but I like the plain coconut.

What to Eat in Thailand- Khao Lam
Khao Lam

Description: Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Shoot usually cooked over a fire or on a grill

What to Eat in Thailand
Pa Thong Ko

Description: Deep Fried Thai Bread, which usually comes paired with sweetened condensed milk

What to Eat in Thailand- Ice Cream Sandwich
Ice Cream Bread Sandwich

Description: It’s exactly what you see, ice cream in a slice of bread

Thai Crepe

Description: Thai crepes are crunchy pancakes that can be sweet or savory (pictured)

OTHER DESSERTS (NO PHOTOS)

Fuk Tong Gaeng Buad

Description: Pumpkin in Sweet Coconut Soup

Khao Tom Mud

Description: Sticky rice dessert stuffed with bananas, or sweet potato, or taro wrapped in a banana leaf, typically grilled or placed over a fire

What to Eat in Thailand

BONUS: WHAT TO DRINK IN THAILAND

Coffee and cafes are very popular in Thailand. You can get all types of coffees and teas including Thai Specialities. Iced teas, iced coffees, and frappes tend to be more popular and common throughout Thailand, but are able to get hot cups if that is your preference. This list could go on forever. I’ve included my TOP 4 (first pictures) and some random drinks I tried (bottom 4) to show a variety of drinks you can pick from. If you’re interested in learning more about the coffee culture, you can head over to my Lampang blog, where I go into more details about how to order drinks.

What to Drink in Thailand- Iced Latte
Latte
What to Drink in Thailand- Americano
Americano
What to Drink in Thailand- Green Tea
Cha Kiew Latte Yen

English Name: Iced Green Tea Latte

What to Drink in Thailand- Thai Tea
Cha Thai Yen

English Name: Iced Thai Tea

What to Drink in Thailand- Smoothies
Smoothies
What to Drink in Thailand- Butterfly Cafe Latte
Butterfly Cafe Latte

English Name: Iced Butterfly Tea Latte Combo

What to Drink in Thailand- Matcha Cafe Late
Matcha Cafe Latte

English Name: Iced Matcha Tea Latte Combo

Charcoal Chocolate Drink

OTHER OPTIONS

  • Cha Kiew Manow (Lemon Green Tea)
    • No Milk
  • Cha Thai Manow (Lemon Thai Tea)
    • No Milk
  • Pink / Green / Sweet Milk
  • Other teas
    • Rose Tea
    • Butterfly Pea Tea

ADDITION: You can also add Muk (boba) or grass jelly to drinks (in some cafes at least). These are mostly found in the teas and milk drinks.

Meet Marlie from Meet Your Globe

Marlie and I met in Chiang Mai when we were learning how to become teachers in Thailand. She taught English at a high school in a small town called Tak, located along the Myanmar border. She lived in Thailand for just under a year and a half, roughly the same amount of time I spent there. Marlie is vegetarian and learned a lot about how to order food to match her lifestyle. I’m so grateful to have had Marlie’s input on vegetarian and vegan Thai dishes to be able to provide you with a combination of food options.

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15 Comments

  • Farrah

    Oh, that spiciness guide is definitely helpful! I haven’t been to Thailand in ages, but would love to go back to visit again (and eat all the things!!). Thanks for putting this guide together! *-* (I’m so hungry now…)

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      It took me a while to learn, but once I did I was able to manage the spice level so much better!!! I want to go back too! I miss the food so much

  • josypheen

    This post is making me so hungry! I flipping love Thai food (even if I have never set foot in Thailand…) The one thing I seem to be missing out on is all the desserts! I have never tried any of those sweet goodies. I need to try more sweets!

    Those spicy salads looks so good, but I have to admit, the one Thai thing I couldn’t eat from the spice level was a salad. I loved it, but could only eat half before my taste buds gave up!

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Thai food is one of my favorite types of food! The desserts were a shock to me, but you’ll have to go back and try them one day 😊

      I know what you mean with the spicy salads! I also would try but my taste buds would do the same as yours.

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      I must say, I think this was one of my harder posts to write. My food list just Keep growing and when I thought I was done. nope. I’d think of more food. Glad you enjoy it! Thank you for reading

  • Emma

    This is making me so hungry, and rally miss Thailand. I want all of this right now. Such good food, I could really go for some thai curry and mango sticky rice right now

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Writing this post was so hard! I still have been craving Thai food so bad, but it’s just not the same here! I miss Thailand too! Thank you for reading

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Thank you so much! I appreciate the read! Thai food is delicious! This guide kept making me hungry! Spicy salads are such a unique combination of flavors!

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      I miss pad grapow so much! I haven’t quite been able to imitate it here, but I’ll get it one day! Thank you for reading!

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Thank you for reading! Baa Mì was one of my go to lunches! It’s delicious! I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to try it!

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