Thailand Food and Drink
Thailand has one of the world’s greatest cuisines, rivalling China and India in its astonishing variety and complexity. For many, the taste of Thai curries – flavoured with rich pastes made from herbs, roots, spices and ground-chillies – is the definitive taste of Southeast Asia.
Thai cuisine is a fusion of tribal cooking traditions from the far north and flavours from the spice trade, which reached the country via the ports of the south.
The cornerstone of any Thai meal is rice – most commonly, fragrant jasmine rice or sticky glutinous rice – and it serves as a cool counterpoint to the fiery flavours of Thai curries and stir-fries. Not every Thai dish is spicy, but most are – locals say that something sweet will douse the heat!
Tom yam: A hot and sour soup prepared with kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce galangal, lemongrass, chilli and limejuice, plus prawns or chicken.
Kaeng khiao wan: Thailand’s famous green curry, based on coconut milk, fish sauce and a curry paste made from green chillies, onions, ginger and lemongrass.
Gang pet: Thailand's spicy red curry made with coconut milk, herbs, garlic, chilli, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning.
Som tam: Pounded green papaya salad with green beans, dried shrimp, and peanuts in a lime juice, chilli and palm sugar dressing.
Pad Thai: Stir-fried rice noodles, served with shrimp or chicken and garnished with peanuts.
Satay: A Malay-inspired dish, made from grilled chicken served with a peanut, shallot and palm sugar dip.
Kaeng phanaeng: A mild coconut curry with a curry paste including roasted spices and beef chicken or pork.
Pad Kaphrao: Chicken, beef, pork or prawns, fried with copious quantities of chilli, Thai basil and garlic. Sometimes a fried egg is added.
Tod mun pla: Thai fishcakes, flavoured with kaffir lime leaves and served with sweet chilli sauce and a cucumber relish.
Kaeng massaman: A relatively mild Thai curry with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, potatoes and beef or lamb, inspired by Indian and Persian cooking.
Coconut milk: Served straight from the shell during the harvest season.
Things to know
Thais like to have all the dishes served at once, rather than separate courses. Tourist restaurants tend to tone down the chilli heat for Western palates, but local restaurants will not.
Most high-end hotels and restaurants will add 10% service charge as well as a compulsory 7% VAT to the bill. Tipping in Thailand is appreciated; it’s customary to offer any loose change in coins as a tip.
Mekhong: Thai whisky, usually served with coke and ice.
Sam Song: Thailand’s most popular rum.
Cha yen: Thai iced tea, made with locally grown tea, sugar and milk.
Singha: The best of Thailand’s local beers.
Chang: Cheaper than Singha and popular for just that reason.