Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy are the five fundamental taste senses we all know. But to balance them all in one single meal is, no wonder, a secret that you can only find in Thai dishes, the secret that has captured the heart and palate of many food enthusiasts around the world.
What Are Thai Dishes Famous for?
Thai cuisine uses a broad range of ingredients, some of which are unique to the region. These include Thai basil, galangal, lemongrass, tamarind, fresh herbs and spices and a variety of chillies, which together create distinctive and hard-to-replicate tastes.
If you are a skilled home cook who loves playing around with exotic ingredients, then these Thai dishes are for you. First, you need to familiarise yourself with the 4 main Thai cuisine categories: kaeng (curry), tam (pounded food), yam (mix), and tom (boiled food).
1. Pad Thai (Stir-Fried Noodles)
Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish bursting with a combination of sweet, tangy, and savoury flavours. It is one of the most famous and loved Thai dishes due to its enticing taste and the satisfying textures of its ingredients. A key component in Pad Thai is tamarind, a tropical local fruit known for its sweet and sour flavour profile, contributing a unique, tangy twist that distinguishes the dish.
To make the sauce: Mix the tamarind, sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce and leave it aside.
In a pan, stir the chicken for two minutes, add the shrimp, and stir for another two minutes over medium heat.
Add the garlic, tofu, shallots and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the soaked noodles and the sauce prepared earlier and let them cook together for 1 to 2 minutes.
In the same pan, push the noodles aside, add the egg, stir it until it is lumpy and then mix together with the noodles.
Sprinkle the bean sprouts and the green onions, and stir for 1 minute.
Serve your pad thai, garnish with peanuts and enjoy!
2. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup)
Tom Yum Goong is a well-known hot and sour shrimp soup celebrated for its harmonious blend of spicy, sour, and umami flavours, all enhanced by aromatic herbs. One of the essential herbs in this dish is the galangal which has a complex flavour often described as citrusy and slightly peppery, with hints of pine and earthiness, adding depth and richness to the soup.
12 cup shrimp
2 12 cups water
2-3 lemongrass stalks
3 teaspoons sliced galangal
12 cup shredded straw mushroom
5 hot chillies
1-2 tablespoons chilli paste
4 tablespoons fish sauce
12 unsweetened condensed milk
5 kaffir lime leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
In a pot filled with water, add the herbs: lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, hot chilli and bring them to a boil.
Once the water starts boiling, add the chilli paste, milk, and fish sauce.
Once it starts boiling again, add your mushroom and shrimp and let them cook for only 2 minutes to keep the shrimp tender and juicy.
Turn off the heat, then add the coriander and lemon juice. Serve hot and relish.
3. Kaeng Luang (Yellow Curry) Recipe
It is one of those classic and delightful Thai dishes known for being rich in flavours and textures. This aromatic Thai curry dish has pieces of chicken cooked in creamy and velvety soup infused with a mixture of herbs, making it a comforting dish beloved by many.
6 thighs boneless, skinless, cut into cubes
1 large shallot, shredded
12 a pound of Warba potatoes (you can use white or red potatoes) cut into cubes
3-4 tablespoons yellow curry paste
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
6-8 leaves of Thairegular basil (you can use coriander), shredded
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Soften the onions in an oiled pot for a couple of minutes.
Incorporate the Thai curry paste and stir to combine, then add 3 tablespoons of coconut milk and stir for a couple of minutes.
Incorporate the chicken and stir to cook for additional 2 minutes.
Add the potatoes, the rest of the coconut milk can and the broth.
Once the soup simmers, bring the heat down and let it cook for 15 minutes.
Finally, add the sugar and fish sauce.
Serve it beside white rice and be ready to be blown away by the taste.
4. Thai Panang Chicken Curry Recipe
Thai panang chicken curry is a rich, savoury dish loved for its creamy coconut base infused with panang curry paste. It offers a subtly sweet and nutty flavour with a milder heat than other Thai curry dishes. The tender chicken and aromatic Thai basil in the recipe add flavour and texture layers, making this curry a comforting and satisfying meal.
Ingredients for the Curry Paste
14 cup shallots, cut into small pieces
4-5 coriander roots
1 stalk of lemon grass, cut into pieces
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 12 tablespoons kaffir lemon zest
1 inch galangal, chopped
1 tablespoon of shrimp paste
1 12 tablespoons of roasted coriander seeds
34 roasted cumin seeds
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon salt
14 tablespoon white pepper powder
Half a cup of water
Ingredients for the Chicken Curry
1 12 cups of coconut milk
1 tablespoon palm sugar
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
2 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
A handful of spur chilli, shredded
Grind the herbs and spices with half a cup of water in the food processor until they become a soft Thai panang curry paste.
Add half a cup of coconut milk in a pan, and cook it until it is reduced to half the amount over medium heat, then add 5 tablespoons of the curry paste prepared earlier.
Add the sugar, kaffir leaves and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the chicken, mix and let the chicken cook well.
Add 1 cup of coconut milk, then cook for 5 minutes.
Finally, add the fish sauce and the spur chilli, then serve it hot beside white rice.
5. Pad Kra Pao (Holy Thai Basil Stir-Fry) Recipe
Pad Kra Pao, or Thai Basil Stir-Fry, is a simple yet flavourful dish famous for its fusion of hot chillies and fragrant holy basil, creating a savoury, spicy, and slightly sweet taste. It is ubiquitous in Thailand due to its simple ingredients that can easily be bought from local stores. Typically served with rice and a crispy fried egg, this popular Thai street food offers a quick and satisfying meal that bursts with authentic Thai flavours.
3 Thai Chillies
6-7 cloves of garlic
2 Fresno chillies
1 Cup of ground beef
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
A handful of coloured mild chilli pepper, shredded
A handful of Thai basil (you can use Italian basil instead)
1 Deep fried egg
In the mortar and pestle, ground the garlic and the two types of chillies into a rough paste.
In a hot wok without oil on high heat, cook the beef until it is light brown. Do not let the beef be boiled and saucy.
Lower the heat, push the beef aside in the pan, add some oil, then sautee chilli paste.
Mix the beef with the paste after it is sauteed, then add the fish sauce, sugar and about 4 tablespoons of water and cook for a couple of minutes.
Turn the heat off, add the coloured peppers and the basil, then mix.
Serve the beef alongside white rice and the fried egg.
6. Authentic Tom Kha Gau (Spicy Thai Chicken Soup)
Spicy Thai Chicken Soup is a delicious fusion of tangy, spicy, and aromatic flavours, featured by its lemongrass-infused coconut broth and tender chicken pieces. The unique combination of chillies, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves in the soup delivers a warming heat and refreshing citrus notes that you can enjoy besides white rice as a tummy-comforting dinner meal.
500 gm chicken thighs, boned and skinned, cut into pieces
A handful of button mushrooms diced
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 chillies shredded
Juice of 1 lime
Freshly chopped coriander for garnishing
In a pot, pour the milk and water. Over medium heat, stir quickly to prevent the milk from splitting.
Add a pinch of salt, lemon grass, and the galangal and bring the soup to a simmer.
Place the chicken in the pot and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Add the mushroom and the kaffir leaves, and let it cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the fish sauce, serve it in a bowl, squeeze lime juice on top, add the chillies and garnish with coriander.
If you are planning on visiting Thailand in the future or are just curious to experiment with new recipes, keep these dishes in mind, as they are bound to provide you with a unique culinary adventure that you’re unlikely to regret.