Thai Food is much loved around the world but it can be quite different in Thailand from imported versions. This is our Top 5 List of Favorite (Authentic) Thai Dishes.
In the last 1.5 years we have lived in and traveled around Thailand – on and off – for a total of almost 12 months. Naturally, we got to know the local cuisine and learnt to truly love its unique blend of spicy, sour and sweet flavors. The following 5 dishes became our personal favorites:
5. Khao Soi
Some have called it “Food of the Gods”! This wonderful dish consists of yellow egg noodles in coconut curry with meat (I usually had a chicken leg), topped with fried crispy noodles for a crunchy texture contrast. In a bowl of Khao Soi you will also find pickled cabbage, fresh red onion and a lime wedge.
Khao Soi is part of the Northern Thai cuisine. Before we came to Chiang Mai we had never even seen or heard of it, but it soon became one of – especially my – favorites. While I usually don’t care for numbing my tongue and palate with spicy food, I soon realized I was loving – and looking forward to – the heat of Khao Soi and how it always gave me a runny nose.
Luckily, the heat can be adjusted to taste with condiments. For Khao Soi ground chilies in oil can be added to spice it up. I never add any and still find it pleasantly spicy, but die-hard spicy lovers can crank up the heat to their liking.
At a restaurant a bowl of Khao Soi might cost between 50-100 Baht ($1.70-$3) while at street stalls and in food courts just 30 Baht ($1) will buy you a very happy tummy and palate.
4. Roti – Thai Pancakes
Roti are a great sweet treat to finish off a Thai meal. The fried crispy dough is filled with a variety of options – like nuts, nutella, peanut butter, or egg etc. (our favorite is banana). The sweet versions are usually topped with sweetened condensed milk or even chocolate sauce.
Roti is also called Thai pancake and reminds me of crepes but unlike American pancakes or crepes they are not made from a liquid batter but from little dough balls. When ordering Roti from a street stall you can watch as it is being prepared in front of you.
If you are fascinated by it like me, you can check out my dessert blog where I posted a Roti recipe together with a link to a video, where you can watch a vendor prepare this sweet treat.
As you can see by the soaked paper the Roti is served on, a lot of oil and margarine is used in the process of making them. So it is definitely not a healthy dessert but quite enjoyable when consumed in moderation.
Depending on your choice of filling, the price for a roti varies between 20-50 Baht ($0.70-1.70).
3. Pineapple Fried or Baked Rice
A dish appealing to eye and palate. We are not too certain how ‘traditionally Thai’ fried rice served or even baked in a pineapple is.
But we got introduced to it in Thailand and just the fact that we came to enjoy this dish so much, deserves it a spot in this list.
We have only had Fried Rice in Pineapple in restaurants. It is not a street food dish but restaurants in both North and Southern Thailand serve it.
The pineapple ‘serving dish’ infuses a tropical, fruity flavor into the fried rice. The actual style of the fried rice varies with additions of chicken, pineapple chunks and cashew nuts.
We also had versions with curry flavors plus shrimp and sausage additions.
Cost: 90-150 Baht ($3-5)
2. Khao Kha Moo
Khao Kha Moo is all about the Moo – which (ironically) means pork. “Pork shank on rice with mustard greens and a medium boiled egg” is a correct English description of this dish but it doesn’t even come close to convey how amazing it is.
After first trying Khao Kha Moo at a street food market in Chiang Mai, we came back the next three nights to have it again and again. The braised pork is so tender and flavorful, a little sweet with a hint of cinnamon and a lot of YUM!
It is not spicy by itself but usually served with a vinegar-chile condiment to add heat to taste (we never add any).
Cost: 30 Baht ($1) from a street vendor
1. Pad Thai
Fried noodles Thai style – Pad Thai was the first local dish we dared trying and after that we were hooked. Thin rice noodles are fried with a combination of sauces and vegetable stripes, with or without meat.
It is served with fresh bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and a lime wedge (often cucumber slices). Again, chili flakes or sauce can be added for personal preference but in itself it is not a spicy dish.
We have noticed that in Northern and Central Thailand tofu cubes are also usually added in the mix. Something we haven’t seen in the South.
Served both from street vendors and in restaurants, a plate of Pad Thai costs between 30-90 Baht ($1-3).
Not so much a Favorite – Fried Insects
And for last, a specialty that didn’t quite make our favorites list: Fried Insects
We have seen all kinds of fried insects at Thai markets or street food stalls, but – be it crickets, cockroaches or maggots – neither of them can be considered a favorite of ours (we couldn’t even get ourselves to try them).
Do you like Thai Food as much as we do?
What are some of your favorite dishes?