It’s no surprise that when either of us travels, it’s almost always planned around Food, whether it’s to explore a new destination, a specific restaurant, or even a special food event. May marks the 10-year anniversary of my leaving the United States, and my first time living abroad, which gifted me four amazing years of bouncing around Asia. During that time, I developed a deep love for Asian cuisine, especially Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. What I’ve realized lately is how little I’ve blogged about those years. I’ve received a lot of questions on my favorite Thai foods and what / where I ate most in Bangkok. I haven’t been to Thailand in several years, but I still jump at the chance to eat traditional Thai dishes anywhere I can in the world.
One of my best experiences while in Thailand was having a local friend show me around and experience Bangkok in a different light. Today, you can book a number of private tours in Bangkok, some of which are even completely food-centric! Having a private local guide is such a great way to learn about a destination’s cuisine, especially if you only have a limited amount of time while on holiday. I’ve grown extremely fond of small-group and private food tours while traveling, as they expose you to so many different foods you may not have otherwise tried. I also love to learn about the food’s history and the spots where locals love to frequent.
The number of iconic dishes found in traditional Thai cuisine is almost mind-boggling, and like other cultures, variations exist depending on where you are in the country. As much as I love Thai cuisine, it’s one of the cuisines that I admittedly know least about. Much of what I learned over the years has come from watching vloggers like Mark Wiens from Migrationology, reading blogs like Eating Asia, or from Thai chefs I’ve met along the way.
Gaeng Keow Wan
This is green curry, which originated in central Thailand. It is one of my favorite curries, but it definitely packs some heat. The addition of coconut milk cools it off a bit and brings a hint of sweetness. It’s a complex blend of flavors and has a number of delicious ingredients, including chicken, Thai basil, Thai eggplant, and spices/herbs like galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, and more.
If I had to pick only one single Thai dish to eat, it would be Massaman curry. This delicious dish originated in the southern part of Thailand and is a Halal dish. You will find it typically made with chicken, but outside of Thailand, beef massaman is very common. The sauce, or soup, has curry paste, coconut milk, and some cinnamon and nutmeg. You’ll find peanuts and large chunks of potato in the sauce as well.
Typically made using minced pork or chicken, Pad Krapow is then stir-fried with Thai basil and some spicy chilies. Thai basil has a unique and rather peppery bite. Outside of Thailand, I’ve managed the spice levels better with this dish. In Thailand, you’ll find this served with an oozing fried egg. However, the other half of Our Tasty Travels doesn’t eat eggs (seriously???) so it’s typically no egg on top if we are sharing.
Tom Kha Gai
This is almost like a variation of tom yum soup, but much less spicy. It has similar flavors, but with a major dose of creamy coconut milk that creates a richer, sweeter soup. I’ve also had several versions that had more of a sweet and sour note, which I really liked.
Khao Soi originated in northern Thailand, and it’s essentially a coconut curry noodle soup. Notice a theme here? I am pretty much all about curries, whether they are from Thailand, India, or even Belize! This dish is quite popular outside of Thailand and the variations you will find are mind-boggling. There are some general consistencies, but for the most part, they change from vendor to vendor and certainly outside of Thailand.
While not technically a food per se, couldn’t resist adding Cha Yen. Thai iced tea is my go-to drink with Thai food. The heavy portion of sweetened condensed milk certainly isn’t great for the blood sugar levels, but considering it’s a once or twice a year splurge, I’ll happily indulge.
If you’re looking for some of the best Thai dishes to try, check out CNN’s 40 Thai Dishes and Where to Eat Them in Bangkok or Hotels.com Bangkok Street Food Guide. And, if you never thought about pairing wine with Thai food, you’re missing out. We have a guide on how to pair Thai cuisine with wine. We typically eat Thai food with wine or with one of my favorite beers, a sour lambic beer from Brouwerij Lindemans that is made with basil!
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