If there is something that fills all Thais with pride, it is their cuisine. Thai food is undoubtedly among the best in the world, and that’s the reason why most of the world’s large cities abound with Thai restaurants. Stroll through cities as far away from Bangkok as San Francisco, Sydney or even Budapest, and you will see many Thai restaurants. Even in cities like Guatemala City or Bogotá I have eaten in good Thai restaurants that serve delicious Thai food dishes.

Thai cuisine mixes different flavors in the same dish in a unique and very distinctive way. Thai dishes can be sweet, sour, salty and spicy all at the same time. This characteristic, which at first tends to surprise those who are unfamiliar with Thai food, is one of the reasons that makes many travelers enthusiastically fall in love with Thai food. Even if you are one of those travelers who get extremely food-homesick and try at all costs to avoid any unfamiliar dishes, I recommend that you open your mind a bit in Thailand, and try different Thai specialities.

It would be a real shame to miss out on Thai food. Just be careful with the chili peppers! If you didn’t yet acquire a taste for Thai spicy levels, remember to ask for mai phed –not spicy– or phed nit naoi –just a little spicy–. Even though you’ll probably find that ‘just a little spicy’ doesn’t mean the same to you and Thais!

Below you have a list of 10 Thai dishes that I recommend you to try on a trip to Thailand. I choose 10, but they could easily be 100, since the variety of recipes in Thailand is almost infinite. Believe me: Thai food is one of the greatest reasons to travel to Thailand!


1. Pad Thai

delicious pad thaiAmong all Thai dishes, the most famous one for foreigners is Padthai. Basically it is fried rice noodles with your choice of shrimps or chicken, mixed with egg, tofu, vegetables and, the secret ingredient, a sauce based on tamarind and palm sugar. Sprinkle some chilli powder and ground peanut on top, and you are good to go. They say that Pad Thai was invented to differentiate Thai cuisine from Chinese. Be that as it may, nowadays it is undoubtedly the most popular Thai dish among tourists. Thais eat it as well but not as much, since there are countless Thai dishes to choose from.

Is it spicy? In 90% of the cases it is not, even though there’s always chilli powder served on the side, that virtually every Thai sprinkles on top. In some restaurants in southern Thailand, chili is already added to the mix.

Price: THB 50 (€ 1.3) in local restaurants / THB 180 (€ 4.7) in fancier restaurants.

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Baan Padthai

2. Som Tam

Som Tam

Som Tam is a papaya salad typical of the Isan region (east Thailand), the largest, most populated and least visited region in the country. In addition to green (unripe) papaya, it’s main ingredients are chili, garlic, tomato and peanuts. It is seasoned with a fish sauce (pla raa). Don’t let the name ‘Papaya Salad’ misguide you: it has nothing in common with a western salad. In fact many foreigners can’t bear it. But those of us who eat it tend to love it. It’s usually an acquired taste affair, so I advise you to give it a few chances, and it will probably grow on you. It is eaten with khao niao, sticky rice.

Is it spicy? Usually quite a lot. So if you don’t like spicy, you better make sure the waiter gets the idea. To make sure it is no spicy at all, you can tell the waiter: Mai sai prik krab (do not use chilies).

Price: 40/80 THB (€ 1.10 / € 2.20)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Somtam Nua

3. Khao Phad Saparod

Kha Phad Saparot

Along with Pad Thai, Khao Pad Saparod is the typical dish that almost every traveler likes. It is fried rice with shrimp or chicken, pineapple, egg, cashews, raisins and fish sauce, served inside a half pineapple shell. It is mixed with curry powder, so it also has a hint of curry flavor. An excellent option for children.

Is it spicy? Never.

Price: 60/80 THB (€ 1.6 / € 2.2)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Baan Ying Cafe & Meal

4. Kai Phad Med Mamuang

Kai Phad Med Mamuang

Kai Pad Med Mamuang is one of my favorite Thai dishes. It is a stir-fried dish made with chicken, cashews, pepper, onion, mushrooms, all chopped and mixed with a sauce based on oyster sauce and soy. Rarely eaten alone, it is usually accompanied by a side dish of white or brown rice.

Is it spicy? Rarely.

Price: 80 THB (€ 2.1) in a local restaurant / 180 THB (€ 4.7) in a more elegant restaurant

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: The S&P Restaurants chain serves delicious Kai Phad Med Mamuang.

5. Phad Krapao

Phad Krapao

Phad Krapao is a dish that Thais usually eat when they are in a hury, for example for quick lunch breaks during the workday. It is a stir-fried dish with chicken, chili and basil, mixed with an oyster and pepper sauce, and served with a portion of plain white rice.

Is it spicy? It usually is.

Price: 50 THB (€ 1.3)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Any local restaurant.

6. Phad Siu

Phad Siew

Phad Siu is a sautéed noodle dish with chicken, egg, pepper, garlic and oyster sauce. For those of you still wondering: yes, phad means ‘sauteed’ or ‘stir fried’. The noodles used in Phad Siu are bigger and stickier than those in Pad Thai, and this is one of the reasons why Phad Siu is not as popular with foreigners. The texture of these noodles may seem strange at first, but you should give them a chance: they are really good!

Is it spicy? Never.

Price: 60 THB (1.6 €)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Any local restaurant.

7. Kai Thod

Kai Thod

Kai Thod doesn’t have much of a secret: deep fried chicken wings coated with garlic and parsley. The secret is mainly in the batter, which makes the difference between the good and the not so good 😉

Is it spicy? Never.

Price: 100 THB (2.6 €)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Any local restaurant

8. Kuai Tiao

Kuai Tiao Soup

Thailand’s quintessential noodle soup. Kuai Tiao is the dinner that half the country eats every day, and it is sold in almost every corner. It is considered a humble but tasty dish, highly prized among Thais, and is typically sold as street food or in simple local restaurants. There are infinite variants of Kuai Tiao. Almost every stall adds a personal touch to the mix, whether it’s their choice of noodles, the ingredients used in the broth, or their choice of meat, commonly fish, tofu and chicken balls. With all its ingredients already prepared, this dish is cooked in the blink of an eye, simply by soaking the noodles in the boiling broth and adding the rest of the ingredients. In just one minute or even less you’ll have the steaming bowl in front of you ready to be slurped. Although before you start eating, you’re expected to season it with a choice of Thai condiments like sugar, chili powder, fish sauce (nam pla) and soy sauce.

Is it spicy? Never.

Price: 45 THB (1.2 €)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Any street stall

9. Yam Ma Khwa Yao

Yam Ma Khwa Yao

It is basically an aubergine salad with fish sauce, lemon, chives, eggs and dried shrimp. It has a distinctive sweet-salty taste and is sometimes a bit spicy. You won’t find it in all restaurants, as it is a somewhat special dish. I recommend eating it together with grapefruit salad (Som-O).

Is it spicy? Sometimes.

Price: 150 THB (€ 3.9)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: Than Ying Restaurant

10. Kai/Mu Satae

Satae Thai Food

Kai Satae are chicken skewers, while Mu Satae are made with pork. These barbecued skewers are eaten after dipping them in a delicious peanut sauce. Thai dishes have influences from many Asian countries and in this case, Kai or Mu Satae is originally an Indonesian dish, adapted with a Thai twist. It is very popular at street food stalls and is eaten both as part of a dinner, and as a quick snack at any time of the day.

Is it spicy? Sometimes.

Price: 150 THB (€ 3.9)

Recommended restaurant in Bangkok to eat it: On Soi Plaeng Nam Road in Chinatown

Bonus) Tea with milk

Thai milk tea is usually drunk cold, with plenty of ice. Normally the hot tea is mixed with condensed milk and sugar, and then poured into a long glass filled with ice. This beverage is typical of southern Thailand and will become a favourite among the sweet-toothed!