There are so many reasons you’d want to visit Thailand. Of course, there’s the fact that the Thai culture is such a friendly and tolerant one, where everyone is welcomed. Then there’s the amazing scenery, from the beautiful interior to the gorgeous beaches and islands. But there’s also the food; so many exquisite dishes to taste and try, and cooked to authentic perfection wherever you go.
Of course, Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines on an international scale and most major cities now boast a wide selection of Thai restaurants, as this round-up on Sydney’s best Thai dishes at www.deliveroo.com.au illustrates. So it goes without saying that most visitors to Thailand will have at least sampled some of the best-known dishes before they arrive in Thailand for the first time.
But nothing beats the real and authentic flavours you’ll encounter by going to Thailand, and you can also try out the amazing regional cooking variations too.
In the north in cities like Chiang Mai, it’s tradition to eat at round tables, called Khantoke tables. Many tourists make sure to attend at least one khantoke dinner and show while they’re in town. Northern Thai food tends not to include much seafood, because of its location, and to be less salty than in other regions. Many dishes from northern Thailand have been replicated in different corners around the world, but there are some that can only be sampled locally.
Burmese curry, or Kaeng Hang Lei, is a pork belly dish, which is cooked with spices that include garlic, turmeric, ginger and tamarind. It’s served as a stew.
Another Chiang Mai dish is Kaeng Khanun, a cross between a salad and a soup. As with many northern Thai dishes, it features cherry tomatoes and pork and the flavour is a mix of sour and spice. Jackfruit adds its own special flavour to the dish.
While there are many delicious Thai soups available throughout the country, Northern Thai Noodle Soup is probably the only one that includes ant eggs! Don’t let that put you off, though, when ant eggs are mixed with the mildly spiced soup, glass noodles and sweet leaves, it’s a delicious combination.
The central region of Thailand is well-placed to draw ingredients from its neighbouring regions as well as its own area and many of the dishes are influenced by both the north and the south.
It’s common to have meals of four or five courses in the centre of Thailand, and as people generally eat with their families, a number of dishes are shared around the table. Dishes in a typical meal usually include a soup, a salad, a fried dish, a curry and a fish dish, as well as vegetables. Meals are often finished with a dessert and one of the most well-known is tong yod, which means gold drop. It’s a dessert made of sugar, syrup and egg yolks, and is seen as a blessing for prosperity for the diners. A variation is tong yip, which is made with similar ingredients and scented with jasmine. Each yip is a five-pointed star shape and the dessert is supposed to bring the people who eat it increased wealth.
In the south, there’s a lot of seafood included in local dishes and even when seafood itself isn’t present, fish sauce is often used, meaning that many dishes have a salty undertone. Flavours are influenced by neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Thai cooking features many different curries, those in the south tend to be thicker in consistency compared with those in the north. And with an abundance of coconuts and pineapples in the region, it’s not surprising that these both feature in southern Thai cooking. For instance, Gaeng Som Pla is a sour curry, with a fish soup base mixed with curry paste and turmeric, which gives the dish an orange hue. Pineapple, bamboo shoots and papaya are often mixed into the dish.
If you’re ready to handle a spicy hit, try Gaeng Kua Kling – a dry and very spicy curry. The heat comes from a combination of chilli, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, salt and shrimp paste. The meat used can be pork, chicken or beef and while it cooks the spices are absorbed into the meat, creating a potently flavoured dish.
Wherever you end up travelling in Thailand, you’re guaranteed to have some amazing food on your travels. You may have your favourites, and there may be some dishes that you don’t like the sound of on paper, but be open-minded and ready to experiment! Your travel memories will be all the richer for it.