1. Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
A perfect starter for most meals is the salad, and Som Tum is one of a kind when it comes to taste. Made up of garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes and shredded raw papaya, it creates a sweet-sour-spicy flavour that is not easily forgotten. Regional variations also throw peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab into the mix.
2. Pad Thai (Thai Style Fried Noodles)
Pad Thai was made popular in Thailand during World War II and has since become one of Thailand's national dishes. It is made from stir-fried rice noodles with egg, beansprouts, peanuts, shallots, tofu, prawns and tamarind juice/sauce. Today, some food vendors add pork-chops to enhance the taste. It is sweet, spicy, tangy and extremely delicious.
3. Tom Yum Goong (Prawn)
Tom Yum is probably the most well-known of Thai soups and it is popular not only in Thailand but in Thai restaurants worldwide. It is a clear, sour soup flavoured with fragrant lemon grass, fresh galangal root and kaffir lime leaf. Tom Yum Goong, uses shrimp as the main ingredient of the dish and is the most well-known variety of Tom Yum. Seafood (Tom Yum Taleh) and chicken (Tom Yum Gai) may also be used or mushrooms, for a vegetarian version.
4. Kway Teow Rua (Boat Noodles)
Originally served from boats floating in Bangkok’s former extensive network of canals, boat noodles received their name. Now, majority of them have moved to land and the easiest place to find them is at Victory Monument’s boat noddle alley. Many stalls still stay true to serving small bite sized bowls - a practice that was formerly used so the noodles would not spill out of the bowl when waters were choppy in the canal.
In every bowl, a few strands of rice noodles are blanched in piping hot soup before being tossed into a small bowl along with a few pieces of water morning glory and some slices of either pork or beef. Also, not forgetting a fresh sprinkle of pig’s blood. Do not be surprised to see stacks of bowls on every table as the portion is so small, one bowl is never enough!
5. Phad Kraphao Kai (Stir-fried Chicken with Hot Basil)
A visit to Thailand will not be complete without a taste of Thailand’s most popular and relished dish. This is a hot spicy dish that is mostly made up of garlic and fresh chillies. If you are not a fan of spice, the dish can be ordered ‘less spicy’ or ‘non-spicy’. Almost any kind of meat such as shrimp, squid, chicken or pork can be used to cook this dish. A common practice is to order a fried egg on the side and to sprinkle chili laced fish sauce on top. The peppery taste of the seared basil, the salty chicken, and the runny egg yolk has made the dish among the list of local Thai favourites.
6. Gang Keow Wan (Thai Green Chicken Curry)
One of the tastiest variations of curry is the Thai green chicken curry as no curry powder is used in the recipe, only fresh herbs and spices. The usual line up of ingredients includes red chili, kaffir leaves, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk mixed with green curry paste, bamboo shoots, baby eggplant and basil. The end product of curry is definitely richer and tastier.
7. Roti Gluay
Thai style roti is crafted by swiftly flipping dough continuously on a hot, greased skillet until it reaches just the right consistency - flaky on the outside and soft in the middle. Roti can be ordered plain or with fillings like banana or pineapple, but a drizzling of sweetened condensed milk on top is a must. If you prefer something less sweet, there are alternatives such as honey, nutella, chocolate, coconut and sugar available. Even before trying a bite, watching the quick hands of a roti master at work is an experience in itself.
8. I-dtim Mat Phrao (Coconut Ice-cream)
Although traditional European-American style ice-cream was first introduced to Thailand by foreigners, Thailand has quickly adapted its own unique version of ice-cream. Made with coconut milk rather than cow’s milk, I-dtim Mat Phrao is both sweet and refreshing, and locals often consume it with kernels of boiled corn or gingko biloba sprinkled on top. Many Thais also enjoy the ice-cream wedged between a folded piece of white bread. Mobile coconut ice-cream vendors can be found wheeling around all parts of the city. Try spotting them by identifying the tall, round stainless steel canisters used to keep the ice-cream frozen.
9. Khao Niew Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
What do you get when you add authentic, slow cooked coconut sticky rice and decadent coconut cream to some of the world’s most delicious mangoes? The answer: a classic Thai dessert. While it is true that this popular dessert can be found in Thai restaurants all over the world, it always seems to taste better in Thailand. One reason is the quality of mangoes. They are all produced within Thailand and are golden sweet. If you are more adventurous, try having the coconut sticky rice with slices of fresh durian fruit in place of the mango.
10. Cha Yen (Thai Milk Tea)
Thai Milk Tea (Cha Yen) is the national drink of Thailand. Thai Milk Tea if done correctly should be sweet, milky, and silky with a mixture of both tea and milk flavours. In Bangkok, even the road side carts make good milk tea. Do not leave Thailand if you have not tried it!