Your friend says, ‘let’s order Thai!’ You say, ‘I don’t like peanuts.’ The friend says, ‘but there’s LOADS of Thai dishes that are ridiculously yum.’ You say, ‘No there isn’t. It’s just Pad Thai or fresh air. I don’t understand. Let’s order pizza.’ Your friend throws you shade forever.
If that exchange is familiar but you want to change and become a Thai food boss, here’s Just Eat’s guide to the ten best Thai dishes out there. Thai food is pretty darn incredible, so two disclaimers: we can’t be responsible for you drooling all over the keypad while you read this, nor can we account for the amount of Thai food you will have ordered by the end…
Massaman, Red Curry
This red curry is spicy and sweet but a touch less hot than your average Green Curry. The colour comes from big red chillies, crushed with garlic, lemongrass, shallots, ginger and fish paste, all mixed in with coconut milk. It’s packed with wonderful spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin and has a definite Middle Eastern flavour.
Som Tam (Green papaya salad)
Som Tam is a lighter dish – a spicy salad no less, made from a mix of fresh veg including shredded unripened papaya, yardlong beans and tomato. The spicy dressing is made from pounded sour lime, hot chili, salty, savoury fish sauce and palm sugar. Som Tam is usually served with grilled chicken, but you can add cooked prawns, crab meat or cashews if you’re vegan. Sticky rice is usually Som Tam’s date.
Geng Kheaw Wan Gai
This is a gorgeous green curry with chicken (but you can sub it out for beef, tofu or more veggies) the paste of which is made of hot green peppers and coconut milk. Chuck in some aubergine and veg and you’ve got a supremely ‘creamy’, sweet, sour, hot, spicy, hell of a treat. And just to say it again, spicy. This will make your nose run in a wonderful way.
Moo Sa-Te (Grilled Pork Sticks with Turmeric)
Sweet-flavored grilled pork sticks in a rich, juicy sauce made of turmeric and curry powder. Nope, you’re not dreaming. Moo Sa-Te really is that good. Usually served with two sauce dips: a slightly spicy thick sauce with ground peanuts, coconut milk and curry powder and a sweet and sour vinegar sauce with chopped shallot, pepper and cucumber, this side is a real winner.
Tom Yum (or Yam) Goong
A hot and sour Thai soup with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir, lime juice, chillies and usually cooked with prawns (goong), or if not another meat or veg option. Sometimes there are also optional ingredients like Nam Phrik Pao (chili jam) and coconut milk. Tom and yam are derived from two Thai words: Tom refers to boiling and yam to a spicy and sour salad. Delicious. That is also another word to describe this dish.
Khao Soi Curry Soup
A Northern Thailand favourite is this soup-like dish, similar to Yellow or Massaman Curry except not as thick. There’s coconut milk again and it’s topped with egg noodles and usually served with chicken or beef (veggies can always sub in tofu). This is one of the dishes that shows the Burmese influence on cuisine in Northern Thailand.
Yes it had to be in here, we can’t leave out the national dish. A really good Pad Thai is a noodle-y awesome treat for the senses: a little spicy, a bit sweet, a touch sour and mouthwateringly tasty. Fresh flavours of red chilli peppers, tamarind juice, and coriander are dropped in a piping hot wok along with noodles (thin/wide, your choice) eggs, fish sauce, crunchy bean sprouts, shrimp (or tofu) and glorious topping of crushed peanuts. A squeeze of fresh lime on top gives it zing.
Sweet and mild, yellow curry contains coconut cream as well as coconut milk, giving it a richer taste and less of a kick than red or green curry. The yellow curry base is made of turmeric, cumin yellow mustard seed, nutmeg, kaffir lime juice and leaves. It’s typically made with chicken or beef and chunky veg, like potatoes. But you can also make it with duck, tofu prawns or fish. The best accompaniment is steamed rice or rice noodles.
Tom Kha Kai
Thanks to an abundance of Thai herbs and coconut milk this is similar to, but way milder, sweeter and creamier than Tom Yum soup. Expect tender strips of chicken and crushed shallots, all infused with a mouthwatering concoction of chili, lime, fish sauce, thinly sliced galangal and lemongrass topped off with fresh lime leaves.
Kai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan (Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
This is essentially a lovely juicy stir-fried chicken with crunchy, toasted cashew nuts and it’s glorious. Not spicy at all (so good for kids or spice haters), it’s a crunchy, salty, sweet taste sensation.
So, next time someone suggests a Thai takeaway, you can blind them all with your knowledge, all the while enjoying one of the tastiest cuisines out there. It’s a win all round!