Thai food is a delicious blend of Asian style dishes enhanced with Indian spices such as curry and cardamom and expanded with Malaysian flavours like coconut. It’s not surprising that this blend of the best of several cultures has created one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the western world and here in the Great White North.
The main staple rice accompanies most dishes and can be the standard white rice or sticky which is the main type served in the northeast part of the country. The cuisine uses all types of meat and has many vegetarian dishes as well, all with carefully balanced flavors that blend sweet, salty, bitter and sour with a touch of hot.
Pad Thai has almost as many spelling variations as it has flavour varieties. Most people have tried some version of this standard dish and it’s a favourite of many. Basic rice noodles are flavoured with bean sprouts, onion, meat or tofu and dusted with ground peanuts. Regional differences might be found in the addition of fish sauce, chili, spices or even peanut sauce on the side. Try it everywhere to explore the flavour of each region.
Tom Yam Goong
A spicy hot-sour fish dish with jumbo shrimp and mushrooms, this can be served as a light starter or be paired with rice for a more substantial meal. Lemon grass, lime, galangal (a ginger-like root) and shallots are some of the most recognized aromas of Thailand and all of them are found in this delicious soup.
This is one of those “love it or hate it” foods that some find addictive and others give up after a couple bites. Raw green papaya, garlic, chilies, tomatoes and beans are mashed into a paste, releasing unique flavours that are embody Thai cooking. Depending on the location the salad may be served with peanuts, shrimp, crab or other proteins.
It’s a plain noodle soup that is a large part of the Thai diet, mainly because such a simple base can accommodate any number of additions. Depending on the vendor your soup might come with shrimp, duck, beef or pork and be spiced up with chilies, shallots, lemon grass or almost anything the chef likes to add.
Gai Med Ma Moung
Roasted cashews, garlic and spicy chillies mixed with chicken and little soy sauce make a fabulous combination that can have a mild tingle or bring tears to the eyes depending on who makes it. Carrots, mushrooms and onions add even more complexity and diners in Phuket will appreciate the locally grown cashews that are among the best in the world.
Mainly found in the northeast part of the country, it’s a rich dish made of minced meat seasoned with fish sauce, herbs and roasted rice powder. Laap (larb) is the national dish of Laos but the Thai version uses a different blend of spices including cinnamon and cumin in the preparation. Some versions are made with raw blood and the less-adventurous may want to ask about the ingredients before ordering.
Gang Keow Wan
Iconic and delicious, Thai green curry is something like a thick soup made with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and Thai basil. Thai eggplant, lime leaves and galangal complete the flavours and with rice to soak up the sauce, Gang Keow Wan is a fabulous filling meal.
This dish from the southern part of the country is a sweet curry flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon and peanuts and is made with potatoes. Chicken is the most common meat added and the spices are much milder than those normally found in Thai food.
Plan on an experience and a relaxing dinner when ordering this dish as it cooks at the table while you wait. A pot of basic broth is brought to the table and set on a bed of coals. An assortment of fresh vegetables and meats are also brought and added to the pot according to the diners’ palate. By design, no two Jim Jum meals are the same.
Kao Na Phet
The rich flavour of duck is highly popular throughout Asia and every culture has a different way of preparing it. In Thailand it’s often served as a selection of roast duck pieces set on a bed of rice and drizzled with rich duck stock. Steamed vegetables often complement the dish and duck soup may be served with the rice.