9 Awesome Thai Dishes You Must Try
Known for having some of the best cuisine on the planet, Thailand is home to over 300 dishes that are divided amongst 5 distinct regional styles (Bangkok, Central Thai, Isaan, Northern Thai, and Southern Thai).
Navigating through this dizzying array of food choices can be difficult for first-time visitors to the Kingdom, so we put together a curated list of 9 must-try Thai dishes in order to help you narrow down your food choices while traveling.
As a tropical fruit you’ve probably never heard of, Cempedak tastes like a durian crossed with an overripe jackfruit. Its aroma is slightly pungent (like a musty mango) but when eaten, it’s literally heaven at first bite.
Thais along with their neighbors in Malaysia and Indonesia, love eating Cempedak fried due to its crispy exterior and soft, warm inside that harbors an intensely sweet and luscious flavor. Furthermore, the seed can be eaten when cooked which adds a mild-nutty taste to the mix.
To try 3 pieces of deep-fried Cempedak, it’ll only cost you 20 baht.
*the best place to eat this dish: Khao Sok in Surat Thani.
A culinary classic within Thailand, Kaeng Som (แกงส้ม) is an authentic “spicy and sour curry” with a lingering tanginess that’s derived from its tamarind, shallot, and krachai khao base.
Throughout the Kingdom, Kaeng Som is found everywhere as hundreds of variations exist. At its core, the curry is made from a simple chili paste that’s dissolved in a salty broth and then simmered with snakehead or seabass and local vegetables. Unlike most Thai curries, there’s no coconut milk in this soup to balance out the heat which makes it super spicy.
A bowl of Kaeng Som typically costs 50-80 baht depending on your choice of fish.
*the best place to eat this dish: Thale Noi in Phatthalung.
if you love sticky rice, eggs, and grilled food, then Khao Jee Joom Kai will be an incredible sight to your eyes. Aptly referred to as grilled sticky rice, this popular Isaan street food dish can be found all over Thailand – particularly at night markets.
Grilled over a bed of charcoal, the exterior has a great crunch that when paired with the egg, adds so much texture and flavor to the sticky rice. When taking a bite, you’ll be greeted by a warm, fluffy and chewy center that’s highly addictive and surprisingly satiating.
Each skewer typically costs 10 baht and is grilled-to-order.
*the best place to eat this dish: Nong Khai in Isaan.
With an umami-rich broth, Kuay Teaw Ped Toon (aka Thai duck noodle soup) is undoubtedly Thailand’s most flavorful noodle dish – cinnamon, star arise, galangal, coriander, peppercorn, and a myriad of spices are the foundation of its aromatic base.
As for the duck, it’s traditionally braised in a soy broth known as palo, which leaves the skin soft and succulent while the juicy meat almost falls off the bone with any minor movement.
For 50-70 baht, a bowl of Kuay Teaw Ped Toon can be found at small eateries within the Chinese neighborhoods of any provincial Thai city.
*the best place to eat this dish: Songkhla Old Town.
For adventurous stomachs, Silkworm pupae is a traditional delicacy in northeastern Thailand, where they are stir fried with kaffir leaves and sold as street food.
Taste wise, the flesh inside the soft outer-shell is tasteless, like firm bean curd but is scrumptiously spiced. Consistency wise, when you bite down on a pupae it’ll pop juicily in your mouth. An acquired taste? Absolutely, but it’s actually an environmentally-conscious delicacy.
Silkworms are one of the two most widely domesticated insects (the other is the bee). This might just make silkworms the most benign domesticated food source in the world. For 20 baht, you can try a spoonful of these critters at most local night markets.
*the best place to eat this dish: Bueng Kan in Isaan.
As a popular breakfast snack across Thailand, Khanom Krok (ขนมครก) is a savory and slightly-sweet coconut pudding.
The main ingredients that make up this underrated Thai dish are: fresh coconut milk, rice flour, and palm sugar. Traditionally, Khanom Krok is cooked in a cast-iron pan over burning charcoals, but but nowadays most hawkers just use modern gas burners.
Consistency wise, these tasty treats are crispy on the bottom while being warm and creamy in the middle. Ultimately, the balance of those textures is what makes Khanom Krok truly special. A set of 5 typically costs 20 baht and is served in a folded banana leaf.
*the best place to eat this dish: Loei in Isaan.
When cooked right, a Thai-style Egg and Cheese Roti is famous for its crispy texture with fluffy eggs and oozy cheese to soak up the trail of condensed milk drizzled on top.
While the Banana Roti is arguably Thailand’s most popular dessert, the Egg and Cheese Roti is a better option for individual’s that want a non-sweet version that can also be eaten with curry.
With a typical price from around 40 Baht per roti, it’s a cheap and easy way to get a quick snack on the go. To purchase this absolutely delicious snack, you can find most roti stalls set up along the side of a town’s main road during the evening.
*the best place to eat this dish: Koh Lanta in Krabi.
Considered a staple dish throughout Thailand, Khanom Chin (ขนมจีน) is a bowl of fermented rice vermicelli that’s served with an assortment of curries and vegetables.
Traditionally, the noodles are made from rice flour that’s been soaked and fermented for several days, then strained and kneaded through a complex and time-intensive process. As a dish that originated with the Mon peoples, Khanom Chin’s history dates back to ancient times – there are even canals in Ayutthaya named after this dish!
When in Thailand, trying Khanom Chin should be considered a “rite of passage” for visitors to the Kingdom. A typical bowl of goodness costs 20-30 baht each.
*the best place to eat this dish: Khanom Beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Saving the best for last, Kluay Tod (กล้วยทอด) is an incredibly popular Thai street food that fills the bellies of millions of Thai people every single day.
Made from ripe Burro bananas that have been dipped into a batter of rice flour and then deep fried to a golden crisp, Kluay Tod’s taste is slightly-sweet, crunchy, and over-the-top delicious. Some vendors even add-in grated coconut, white sesame seeds, and freshly-roasted Tiger peanuts to pack-in even more flavor.
For a mere 20 baht, you’ll get a handful of delicious fried bananas. To try this Thai street food dish, you’ll need to scour morning markets before 11:00am (these stalls always sell out before lunch time, so get there early).
*the best place to eat this dish: Chiang Khan in Loei.