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Top dishes to try in Thailand


Personally, I think one of the absolute best things about travelling anywhere is all the amazing food you get to try. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, you should be really excited, as the dishes here are famous the world over. Before you set off, read our guide to some of Thailand’s top taste-bud tickling treats.

Thai food – the basics

If you’ve never been to Thailand before or not eaten Thai food, chances are that you know very little about it – except perhaps that it’s got a reputation for being spicy. And spices do feature pretty heavily in Thai dishes, but that doesn’t mean all are blisteringly hot; there are plenty of milder meals if you know what to look for.

So, what else do you need to know? Well, key features of Thai cuisine include fish sauce – which is used in pretty much everything, often as a replacement for salt – fresh spices and herbs, and a whole lot of rice.

There’s a lot of regional variation in Thai cuisine, so if you’re planning on a jaunt lasting several weeks or months across lots of destinations, don’t expect to find the same food everywhere – especially if you get close to borders with other countries like China and Malaysia. Generally speaking, most dishes are stir-fried and grilled, with fish typically served whole and meat diced and mixed with other ingredients.

If you’re planning to go to Thailand with Hayes & Jarvis, make sure you try some of the below while you’re there.

A note on rice

Ok, so rice isn’t exactly a dish in its own right, but it is a defining part of most Thai meals, so bear with me for a moment! There are lots of different kinds of rice to try, which means it’s good to go for something you haven’t had before when you can; that way, you get to have a lot of different culinary experiences.

One key variety to look out for is khao niaw or sticky rice, which you’ll generally find in the north-east. One thing to bear in mind is this is usually eaten by hand with the rest of meal, so don’t be surprised if you see people doing this – and give it a go yourself! Another type you should try is jasmine rice, which is indigenous to Thailand and often seen as the best available.

Top mains to try

  • Pad Thai: Noodles play second fiddle to rice in Thailand, but there are some great noodle dishes out there. Pad Thai is probably the most famous and you may have even had it in the UK, but nothing compares to trying it in Thailand, so make sure you do.
    • Tom yam kung: Thai soups can be very, very hot, and if you think you want to experience just how hot they can get, tom yam kung soup is the dish to try. Good luck!
    • Thai green curry: Thai curries are typically made using coconut milk, but aside from this staple they vary massively in terms of heat and consistency. Thai green curry (or gaeng kiaw wan) is a kind of middle ground.
    • Gaeng massaman: If you’re like me and can’t handle too much heat, try gaeng massaman – a milder curry made using peanut and potato.
    • Som tam: Another dish that packs a real punch, som tam is a notoriously hot Thai salad made with shredded papaya and an awful lot of spice.

Fruit and desserts

So many wonderful fruits grow in Thailand that it’d be a real shame not to try some, and you can get them at street vendors for an incredibly low cost. Look out for mango in particular, as well as dragon fruit and chompa.

In terms of dessert, you’ll find most dishes tend to be some kind of coconut milk and sugar concoction, usually with some fruit thrown in for good measure. Mango with sticky rice and coconut milk is particularly worth looking out for.

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