How to eat like a local in Thailand!

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Do you have a favourite Thai meal? One of our favourites is Red Curry with beef or chicken. The richness of the spices and coconut blending together, the flavourful broth soaked up by fluffy jasmine rice...heaven in a bowl. This one is easily available in North America, but there are so many more Thai dishes to try!

Today our Bangkok-based guide Swai describes six very popular Thai meals that we aren’t typically served in Thai restaurants we encounter at home, but are delicious staples of the local diet.

Six Must-Try Thai Dishes



Thai cuisine is quite famous for its healthiness, and especially its particularly delicious taste. Also, there are many varieties so you can choose to cook one dish several ways, with a mixture of many kinds of ingredients that taste beautiful together. Many foreigners know only a few Thai dishes like Phad Thai (fried grass noodle) or Tom Yum soup (strong ingredients of herbal soup) since they are so popular even in Thai restaurants abroad. The following courses are samples of popular Thai cuisines which are really native throughout the country.

1. Kraphrao or Thai basil leaves with meat: This is common for a Thai local meal. It is always fried with some meat, either pork or chicken or beef or even squid. The main ingredient is from basil leaves which will be stir-fried with some chili and meat. If you’re not already, get used to spicy food, although it is possible to reduce chili for your own need.

2. Larb or minced meat with rice powder: This one is cooked in a very particular way, and after well done the flavor is very nice. It is always served with side dishes of mixed fresh vegetables. The taste is a mixture of salty and a bit sweet, but the real body element is a strong sour and spicy taste. The major ingredients are dried hot chilis and dried rice powder. Chili can be reduced to avoid too much spic in case you're not yet used to a strong spicy taste. The plain rice is sometimes replaced by sticky rice.

3. Kratiam Phrik thai or meat with garlic and pepper: The choice of meat is depending on your own favorite taste like pork, chicken or beef. Sometimes it can be replaced by squid. When eating with rice it is so tasty, especially with fried garlic and just a little bit of spice from pepper powder. It is simple to prepare and enough for one meal when served together with a plate of plain rice.

4. Som tum or papaya salad: This type of dish is very local. The main ingredient is fresh raw papaya, sliced into pieces. With a mortar, pound slightly together with some coconut sugar, fish sauce, baby tomatoes, dried tiny shrimps, roasted peanuts and fresh chili. It is always eatable with sticky rice and a side dish of some fresh vegetable of native morning-glories, cowpeas and cabbage.

5. Kuaytiew or basic soup noodle: This is really local and so popular throughout the country, from street food to restaurants, to food shops in a food plaza. It is also called soup noodle with fish ball. Generally, it is served in a bowl of soup with fish balls (cook-minced fish meat and forming up to shape like a white ball). There are also choices of noodles for selection like flat noodle, skinny noodle, rice vermicelli or yellow noodle (egg noodle) depending on your own preference.

6. Kaeng Khiewwarn or green curry: This one is a tasty, simple meal. Just pour atop onto a plate of plain rice and it can be enough for one meal. The meat can be either chicken, beef or minced fish meat. The curry is a little bit spicy and the soup is quite flavourful since one main ingredient is made from coconut milk.

Most Thai meals are usually served together with a little bowl of sliced fresh chili in fish sauce. And while eating, according to Thai custom, the practice is using a spoon with the right hand side and fork with the left. All main courses are shared in the middle of the table, with extra serving spoons separately. Each individual’s plate is always filled up with boiled plain rice. And there will always be a glass of cold water or water with ice cubes for each person.

Thanks Swai for explaining these authentic Thai meals to us! Travelers to Thailand should be sure to sample at least one - if not all! - of these delicious dishes before they return home. A guide like Swai will be happy to help you find and enjoy them!
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