We believe that the best way to learn about a country’s culture is through its local food. With Thai food being one of the world’s most famous, there is never a better time to unleash your gastronomic desires. Whether you’re relishing the fresh, juicy prawns by the serene eastern seaside or savoring the delightful Green Curry to spice up your day, Thai food is never short of diversity. To help you select the Thai dishes of your choice, here’s our guide to the 5 regional Thai food you should never miss when you’re in the Land of Smiles.
1.) Central Thai Food – Sugar, spices, and everything nice.
Perhaps the most well-balanced variant throughout the kingdom, Central Thai cuisine is easily the poster boy of Thai food. With the former capital of Ayutthaya as the region’s trading hotspot, Central Thailand has always embraced outside influences from neighboring China, India, and Western nations for its cuisine. With all the 5 magical tastes packed in its various dishes, the food this region would be a great introduction for Thai food rookies.
One dish that sums up Central Thai cuisine as a whole would be Tom Yum. Even though it’s one of the icons of Thai food, it still remains undeservedly underrated. The signature mix of spicy from the chili and tangy from the tamarind is its main selling point. You can also have other meats of choice other than shrimp (Tom Yum Goong). Pork, seafood, and chicken can be added in to make a bowl of wholesome Tom Yum. You can take a day trip to Ayutthaya to savor this dish along with taking a stroll through a local shrimp farm for the most local experience!
2.) Northeastern Thai Food – Zesty meals to keep you thrilled
Northeastern or “Isaan” food is like the hyper classmate you had back in elementary school. Barmy, yet well-liked by everyone. The locals like their food “zaap”, or literally full of zest. Back in the days, local farmers would turn to their flavorful grub as an energy booster after a hard day’s work. Add in the influence from the neighboring Laotian cuisine, you’ll have what is the Isaan food of today.
Many people struggle not to include Som Tam or the Thai Green Papaya Salad in the same sentence while talking about Northeastern Thai food, and it’s easy to see why. You’re likely find Som Tam everywhere throughout Thailand, and on just about every little street corner in Bangkok. With fresh vegetables such as juicy limes, cherry tomatoes, green papaya, and the extra kick from the “prick” or chili in Thai, you will have a healthy, and easy to make dish in just a few minutes. Head to Ubon Ratchathani province, where you can learn how to make this dish as well as cycling around a local neighborhood to pick up fresh ingredients for a typical Isaan meal.
3.) Northern Thai Food – Wonderful nuances of spiciness
Thai northerners are known to be kind, courteous, and love a good laid-back day. Ironically, their food contains so many levels of spiciness that we would recommend it to those who are looking for something new and unusual to try. Northern Thai food is criminally underrated, and it has many surprises up its sleeves due to their love of herbs and spices. If you happen to be in Chiang Mai, you’re just in luck, as you’re about to have one of the best culinary experiences of your lifetime.
The dish we want to recommend those who need an introduction to a Northern Thai Food experience would be Khao Soi, or Coconut Curry Egg Noodle Soup. Originally influenced by Burmese cuisine, this dish has now become somewhat ubiquitous. The mixture of the rich, creamy, and spicy coconut curry is often complimented by the succulent pork, chicken, or beef. If you happen to be in Chiang Mai,, we recommend you to give this dish a try, and you can even learn how to cook it for lunch or dinner!
4.) Southern Thai Food – Fiery sensations that will leave you wanting more
People down South love a good fiery dish. Due to the geographical location, this region is blessed with fresh seafood all year round, and spices (especially turmeric), which are the staples of Southern Thai cuisine. The abundance of spices coupled with the influence of Malay cuisine makes Southern Thai food typically spicier than other regions. The locals also never forget to subdue the heat with the help of many kinds of vegetables as well. Those who love a spicy kick to their meals would surely have the time of their lives eating Southern Thai food.
Kanom Jeen or Southern-Style Rice Vermicelli is often best enjoyed with numerous types of fish curry sauces, sweet chili sauce, blue crab curry, fish organ sour soup, and even green chicken curry. We recommend you not to miss trying the fresh vegetables and side dishes to subdue the signature Southern heat! For the best Southern Thai restaurants serving this dish, head to Nakhon Si Thammarat.
5.) Eastern Thai Food – Exclusively distinctive
Too often overlooked or taken as an extension of Central Thailand, the seaside eastern part of The kingdom is actually a thriving hub of fresh seafood and myriads of tropical fruits. Like the aforementioned regions, Eastern Thai cuisine has its own stunning dishes to match. The combination of fruits in main dishes and local delicacies exclusive to the East makes it one of the most distinctive variants of Thai food.
One dish we would like to proudly represent is Moo Chamuang, a signature Eastern dish home to Chanthaburi province. It is Eastern Thailand’s very own local curry, where it features Chanthaburi’s signature herb, cowa leaves or “chamuang” which is best eaten with pork.
Now it’s time to savor the deliciousness yourself! If you’re visiting Thailand in 2019, you’re in luck! The Tourism Authority of Thailand and partners are offering exclusive deals and rewards for Singaporeans. Find out all about it here at Thanks A Million.