Thai Food – 23 Most Famous Dishes

You must have all heard about the fame of Thai food. At least, you must have heard that it ranks among the top 10 in world cuisine. If not, don’t worry, I’ll explain it to you right away. Thai cuisine is one of the gastronomic wonders of Asia and has a great reputation worldwide. Filled with exotic flavors, fresh ingredients, and rich aromas, this cuisine captivates both the eyes and the palate with its delightful tastes.

So, what is special about this cuisine? One of the most distinctive features of Thai cuisine is the perfect harmony of various flavors such as sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. In this article, you will explore the unique characteristics of Thai dishes, the most popular foods, and the cultural richness behind these flavors. If you want to step into the enchanting world of Thai cuisine, you are in the right place! So, let’s get started.

1. Tom Yum: Thailand’s Delicious Spicy Soup

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Tom Yum is one of the most famous and beloved soups of Thai cuisine. Prepared with a perfect harmony of spicy, sour, and aromatic flavors, this soup is enriched with exotic ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chili peppers. Typically made with shrimp or chicken, Tom Yum leaves an unforgettable taste on the palate with the freshness of added mushrooms and tomatoes.

This soup, which is both healthy and filling, is an ideal choice for those who want to explore the rich world of Thai spices. At least, it was for me. Tom Yum was one of the first dishes I tried when I came to Thailand, and from the very first moment, I had never liked a dish so much. Its taste is truly unique. Since the first time I tasted it, this dish has remained a staple on my table, and I am sure you will love it too. For those who want to experience the enchanting flavors of the Far East with every spoonful, Tom Yum offers a true feast of flavors.

If you are wonder about the Tom Yum recipe, you can read my previous post titled Tom Yum Soup – 8 Steps to Thailand’s Most Famous Soup.

2. Tom Kha: Thailand’s Creamy and Coconut Milk Soup

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Tom Kha is a beloved dish in Thai cuisine, renowned for its rich aroma and distinctive coconut milk base. The only difference between this soup and the Tom Yam soup, which is listed first, is the addition of coconut milk in Tom Kha. Prepared with exotic ingredients such as fresh galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves, this soup offers a refreshing and satisfying flavor. Typically made with chicken or shrimp, Tom Kha provides a tropical feast in every spoonful with its creamy texture and mildly spicy taste. The flavors are balanced with lime juice and fish sauce and enriched with a garnish of fresh cilantro. For those who want to explore the aromatic world of Thai cuisine, Tom Kha is an indispensable choice.

3. Pad Thai: Stir-Fried Noodles

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Pad Thai has gained worldwide fame as one of the most iconic dishes of Thai cuisine. This delightful dish, which combines fresh vegetables, rice noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, proteins such as shrimp or chicken, and special sauces, offers a perfect harmony of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Each bite of Pad Thai is a burst of flavor, enriched with the aroma of crispy peanuts and fresh cilantro. As one of the most beloved examples of Thai street food, Pad Thai is both a satisfying and healthy option, making it indispensable for those seeking an exotic dining experience. When wandering the streets of Thailand, don’t miss the chance to try this unique delicacy!

3.1. Alternative: Pad See Eiw for Those Looking for a Pad Thai Alternative

Pad See Eiw consists of thick rice noodles stir-fried in dark soy sauce with chicken, pork, or beef, alongside Chinese broccoli or cabbage. This delicious and safe choice is perfect for those who can’t handle the spicier Thai dishes but want to try something other than Pad Thai. For those who prefer a bit more heat, they can add dried chili flakes, vinegar, or both.

4. Som Tam: Thailand’s Refreshing Papaya Salad

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Som Tam is a refreshing and flavorful papaya salad from Thai cuisine. Made with green papaya, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers, garlic, and peanuts, this salad offers a balanced mix of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Som Tam, with its light and nutritious composition, is a cooling option on hot summer days and reflects Thailand’s fresh and vibrant culinary culture. With every bite, you will experience a dance of exotic flavors, making Som Tam an indispensable choice for those seeking a healthy and delicious dish.

5. Guay Teow: Thailand’s Unique Noodle Soup

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Guay Teow is a favorite noodle soup from Thai cuisine that appeals to every palate. Thin rice noodles combine with a rich and aromatic broth, complemented by fresh vegetables, slices of meat, or seafood to provide a satisfying flavor. Flavored with ingredients like lemongrass, cilantro, fresh onions, and lime, this soup offers a refreshing and fulfilling experience with every spoonful. Guay Teow is an excellent choice for those looking to explore Thailand’s street flavors and savor a warm bowl of happiness. If you want to taste authentic Thai flavors, be sure to try Guay Teow!

6. Laab: Thailand’s Refreshing and Spicy Meat Salad

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Laab is a fresh, spicy, and refreshing meat salad from Thai cuisine. Typically made with minced chicken, pork, or beef, Laab offers a perfect blend of fresh lime juice, fish sauce, finely chopped mint, cilantro, and thinly sliced red chili peppers. Enhanced with crispy roasted rice powder for a crunchy texture, this salad delivers an exotic and invigorating burst of flavors with every bite. Both healthy and light, Laab is an excellent choice for those looking to explore Thailand’s fresh and aromatic tastes.

7. Gaeng Keow Wan: Thailand’s Legendary Green Curry Feast

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Gaeng Keow Wan is one of the most beloved and aromatic dishes in Thai cuisine, known for its green curry. This dish combines coconut milk, green curry paste, fresh lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves to create a creamy and intense flavor. Typically prepared with chicken, beef, or seafood, Gaeng Keow Wan is enriched with fresh vegetables and sometimes sweet Thai eggplant. Balancing sweet and mildly spicy flavors, this curry is a perfect choice for those looking to explore the exotic tastes of Thai cuisine. Gaeng Keow Wan will transport you to Thailand’s enchanting world of flavors with every spoonful. Additionally, I’d like to briefly mention the various types of Thai curries under a separate heading.

7.1. Thai Curry Varieties

Thailand boasts a wide variety of regional curry variations, but there are three main types of Thai curries: Yellow, Green, and Red.

Yellow Curry (Kaeng Lueang)

The yellow color of this curry comes generously from turmeric, ground with classic aromatic ingredients like cumin, coriander, lemongrass, and shallots to create a rich texture. Among the three main curry types, yellow curry is the mildest in flavor due to its lower content of chili peppers.

Green Curry (Gaeng Keow Wan)

The spiciest and most widely known of the three Thai curries, distinguished by its vibrant green color and intense spiciness derived from green chili peppers. It is cooked with coconut milk to add a sweet undertone.

Red Curry (Gaeng Daeng)

Authentic Thai red curry falls between yellow and green curry in terms of spice level—it is spicier than yellow curry but not as hot as green curry. Its striking red color comes from a blend of garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and crushed red chilies.

Dishes incorporating these curries are often varied with chicken or alternative proteins like tofu, along with potatoes, eggplants, vegetables, and coconut milk.

8. Khao Soi: Thailand’s Rich and Aromatic Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

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Khao Soi is a delicious curry noodle soup from the Northern region of Thailand. Made with rich coconut milk and yellow curry paste, this soup is distinguished by its golden color and intense flavor. Soft wheat noodles are typically cooked with chicken or beef and topped with crispy fried noodles for rich texture. Garnished with fresh lime juice, thinly sliced red onion and pickles, Khao Soi offers a perfect balance of sweet, sour and spicy flavors. Both hearty and satisfying, this dish is an ideal choice for those looking to explore Thailand’s culinary culture.

9. Khao Pad: Thailand’s Delicious Fried Rice

Khao Pad is one of the most beloved and satisfying dishes in Thai cuisine. This delicious fried rice is prepared by quickly stir-frying steamed rice with fresh vegetables, egg, and optionally shrimp, chicken, or beef in a wok. Flavored with light soy sauce and aromatic spices, Khao Pad gains a refreshing touch when served with slices of lime and fresh cilantro. Both practical and delicious, this dish is a classic that you can often encounter on the streets of Thailand, sometimes known as “Fried Rice.” It comes in many variations such as chicken, beef, shrimp, crab, or pineapple. Khao Pad will transport you to Thailand’s colorful and flavorful world with every meal.

10. Pad Krapow: Stir-Fried Thai Basil and Chili Chicken

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Pad Krapow is a delightful dish from Thai street food known for its intense and spicy flavor. Prepared with fresh basil leaves, chili peppers, garlic, and minced chicken, this dish offers a rich and aromatic taste experience. Pad Krapow is typically served with an omelette or fried egg, alongside fresh vegetables, and enjoyed with plenty of rice. Featuring a perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory flavors, this dish embodies the characteristic qualities of Thai cuisine. Among the alternatives for chicken, you can find options like pork, duck, beef, seafood, or tofu. Both delicious and filling, Pad Krapow is an ideal choice for anyone looking to explore Thailand’s street flavors.

11. Gai Pad Med Ma Muang: Thailand’s Delicious Cashew Nut Chicken

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Gai Pad Med Ma Muang is a delicious chicken dish enriched with cashew nuts and fresh vegetables, cherished in Thai cuisine. Chicken pieces are stir-fried with crispy cashew nuts, sweet bell peppers, onions, a touch of sugar, and sometimes pineapple, all harmonized with flavorful sauces. The perfect balance of light sweetness and savory flavors makes this dish both satisfying and refreshing. Gai Pad Med Ma Muang is an ideal choice for those seeking a quick and flavorful meal that can be prepared with ease.

12. Hoy Tod: Thailand’s Delicious Seafood Pancake

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Hoy Tod is a crispy and flavorful seafood pancake, popular among Thailand’s street food delicacies. Fresh oysters or mussels are mixed with a thin rice flour batter, fried until crispy, and garnished with fresh spring onions and cilantro. The dish’s characteristic sauce provides a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and mild spicy flavors. Hoy Tod is an ideal choice for those looking to explore both satisfying and the fresh taste of seafood delicacies.

13. Khao Man Gai: Thailand’s Flavorful Chicken Rice

Khao Man Gai is a delectable chicken and rice dish from Thai cuisine known for its simple yet captivating flavors. Tender slices of boiled chicken are served on a bed of fragrant, spicy rice. It is complemented by a light, slightly spicy, garlic-infused and sweet-sour sauce served on the side. Garnished with fresh cucumber slices and cilantro, Khao Man Gai offers a healthy and filling option perfect for those who want to explore the street food of Thailand.

14. Kung Pao: Thailand’s Delicious Grilled Shrimp

Kung Pao is a grilled shrimp dish, beloved in Thai cuisine as one of the most popular seafood options. Fresh shrimp is marinated with lime juice, garlic, hot peppers, and sweet soy sauce, then perfectly grilled. With a crispy exterior and tender, juicy interior, Kung Pao offers a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and mildly spicy flavors in every bite. Widely enjoyed in Thailand’s coastal regions, this dish is an ideal choice for those looking to explore the fresh flavors of seafood.

15. Yam Pla Dook Foo: Thailand’s Delicious Crispy Catfish Salad

Yam Pla Dook Foo
Yam Pla Dook Foo

Also known as Yam Pla Dook Foo, the Thai-style crispy fish and mango salad is one of the unique flavors of Thai cuisine. This dish features crispy fried fish topped with a tangy and spicy mango salad. The fried fish is typically prepared with fish such as catfish or tilapia, fried to achieve a perfect crispiness in thin strips. It is then combined with a salad made of fresh mango, green peppers, onions, dried shrimp, and roasted peanuts. The appeal of Yam Pla Dook Foo lies in its perfect harmony on the palate. The combination of crispy fish pieces and fresh mango salad balances sour, salty, sweet, and mildly spicy flavors. Particularly refreshing and delicious on hot summer days, this dish is a staple in Thai cuisine.

16. Yam Talay: Thailand’s Delicious Seafood Salad

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Yam Talay is a refreshing and delicious salad from Thai cuisine that offers a feast for seafood lovers. Various seafood such as fresh shrimp, squid, mussels, and fish are combined with rich and aromatic lemongrass, cilantro, hot peppers, and lime sauce. Fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs added to the salad perfectly balance the natural flavors of seafood, creating a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and spicy tastes in every bite. Yam Talay is particularly noted as a refreshing option on hot summer days.

17. Pad Phuk Tong: Thailand’s Delicious Pumpkin Vegetable Saute

Pad Phuk Tong is a light and nutritious vegetable stir-fry from Thai cuisine that perfectly balances sweet and salty flavors. Thinly sliced sweet pumpkin is quickly stir-fried in a wok with garlic, peppers, and fresh herbs. This delightful mix enhances the natural sweetness of the pumpkin while balancing it with mild spicy flavors from garlic and peppers. Typically seasoned with soy sauce, this dish is an excellent choice for both vegetarians and those seeking healthy eating options. Pad Phuk Tong is a dish commonly found in rural areas of Thailand, which explains its less frequent appearance in urban centers, though there are places that do prepare it. It can be served both as a main dish and as a side dish or garnish.

18. Pak Boong (Morning Glory): Thailand’s Revitalizing Green Wonder

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Pak Boong, or “Morning Glory” in English, is a beloved vegetable dish in Thai cuisine known for its delicious and nutritious qualities. Belonging to the water spinach family, Pak Boong is recognized for its long, slender, and crispy leaves. Typically stir-fried quickly in a wok, it is seasoned with special Thai sauces to enhance its flavor. These sauces often include garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, and spices, imparting rich aromas and distinct Thai flavors to the dish. One of Pak Boong’s appealing aspects is its lightness and healthiness. Cooked with minimal oil, this vegetable is a nutritious choice rich in vitamins and fiber. Moreover, its quick cooking method preserves the natural taste and texture of the vegetables, making it both healthy and delicious. Found frequently in Thai streets and restaurants, Pak Boong is enjoyed by both locals and foreign visitors alike for its traditional Thai flavors.

19. Kai Jeow: Delicious Omelette of Thai Cuisine

Kai Jeow

Kai Jeow, a popular dish in Thai cuisine, stands out for its simplicity and flavor. This traditional omelette is prepared with eggs, onions, green onions, and sometimes tomatoes. The eggs are beaten, mixed with the vegetables, and then fried or cooked in a pan over low heat. One of the appealing aspects of Kai Jeow is the harmonious blend of eggs and vegetables. The creamy texture of the eggs combines with the slight crunch of the onions and the fresh aroma of green onions, providing a rich flavor that showcases Thailand’s natural and fresh tastes.

Frequently found on street vendor stalls throughout Thailand, Kai Jeow is typically served over rice and accompanied by sweet chili sauce. It serves as both a daily meal for locals and a perfect option for tourists exploring Thai cuisine. Everyone’s favorite omelet for its simplicity and taste, this omelet is one of the indispensable street foods of Thailand.

20. Panang: Meat Dish with Coconut Cream

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Panang is a creamy and spicy curry variety that is a cherished flavor in Thai cuisine. This special curry originates from the southern region of Thailand and is known for its rich aroma. Key components of Panang curry include meat (often chicken or beef), Panang curry paste, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro. During the cooking process, the meat or vegetables are first stir-fried in a wok, then simmered with Panang curry paste and coconut milk. This allows the meat or vegetables to absorb the spices and flavors thoroughly, resulting in a creamy, spicy, and satisfying dish. One of the appealing aspects of Panang Curry is its creamy texture and complex flavors, complemented by a hint of sweetness. Regarded as one of the treasures of Thai cuisine, Panang curry is loved by both Thai locals and food enthusiasts worldwide.


21. Khao Yam: Thailand’s Rainbow Salad

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Khao Yam is a healthy and flavorful salad variety in Thai cuisine. This dish is typically prepared with fresh vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and seafood, served with a sweet-savory sauce. Key components of Khao Yam include fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro leaves, basil), diced fruits (usually pineapple or green mango), seafood like shrimp or squid, roasted coconut, fresh vegetables (lettuce, cucumber, green beans), and a special sauce. This sauce typically contains fish sauce, lime juice, sweet sugar, and spicy chili, adding rich flavors and textures that highlight Thailand’s distinctive tastes. Khao Yam’s appeal lies in its vibrant appearance and fresh, crunchy texture. Each bite features the aroma of fresh herbs and vegetables, complemented by the mild sweetness of seafood and the invigorating spices of the sauce. This salad is an ideal choice for anyone looking to explore Thailand’s exotic and nutritious culinary culture.

22. Larb Gai: Thai Lettuce Wrap

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Larb Gai is a spicy and satisfying minced meat salad, known for its energetic and fresh flavors in Thai cuisine. This traditional dish is enriched with fresh herbs, ginger, lime juice, and the stalks of lemongrass, imparting a vibrant aroma. It is typically garnished with peanuts, lettuce leaves, and slices of lime when served. Being low in calories and a healthy option makes Larb Gai appealing both in terms of taste and nutrition.

23. Shabu (Jim Jum): Thailand’s Delightful and Healthy Hot Pot Experience

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Shabu, also known as “Jim Jum” in Thai cuisine, is a delightful hot pot dish where fresh ingredients are cooked in an aromatic broth. This type of dish is not only found in Thailand but is also part of general Asian culture, making it widely available throughout Thailand as well. Thinly sliced meats, fresh vegetables, mushrooms, and rice noodles are slowly cooked in a richly flavored broth. This broth, flavored with exotic ingredients like cilantro, lemongrass, and galangal, enhances the natural flavors of each component. Jim Jum offers a healthy and enjoyable communal dining experience. Ideal for those looking to explore Thailand’s authentic and social dining culture. Jim Jum takes you on a warm and intimate flavor journey with every bite.

Some important notes:

  • Thai dishes are generally spicy. If you do not like spicy food, it’s important to specify “No spicy” or in Thai, “mai phed (mi ped).” If you prefer a little spice, you can say “nit noy phed.”
  • Above, I mentioned the main names of Thai dishes, but there are many variations of these dishes. You can specify your choice of protein by adding words in Thai such as “Gai” for chicken, “Nıa” for beef, “Gung” for shrimp, and “Puu” for crab. For example, “Tom Yum Gung” refers to spicy shrimp soup, while “Tom Yum Gai” refers to spicy chicken soup.
Thai cuisine has gained worldwide acclaim for its unique flavors, fresh ingredients, and rich aromatic blends. From spicy dishes to sweet and sour flavors, Thai cuisine offers a wide range of flavors that cater to every palate. This cuisine, comprising traditional recipes and street flavors, not only promises a delicious dining experience but also invites you on a cultural journey. If you’re eager to explore exotic flavors and enjoy healthy, delicious meals, there are plenty of reasons to try Thai cuisine. With its fresh herbs, spices, and seafood-filled dishes, Thai cuisine offers a new experience with every meal. Start planning your trip to Thailand now and savor these enchanting flavors!