Thai food is the staple of South-East Asian food culture. Originating from the kingdom of Thailand, the food often incorporates spices, herbs and ingredients natively found in the region. As a result, each dish is uniquely accented with a strong flavour, be it sweet, sour, spicy or salty (not bitter, of course; who likes bitter food?). For a full experience with the cuisine, try out these top 6 dishes you can find in Thai restaurants.
Basil Minced Meat Rice (Khao Pad Gra Pow)
The most basic and quintessential Thai dish you can find, this dish is a harmonious fusion of fragrant Thai rice and the distinct flavour of locally grown basil infused in stir-fried meat. An additional salty tang is added using the Thai oyster and fish sauce. Sometimes, long beans are added to give it an extra crunch. Often, the dish is also served with a sunny-side up egg (Khai Dao).
A well-made version of this dish should let the gentle fragrance of the basil tickle your nose, not overwhelming you with a salty overdose of fish sauce. It’s quite hard to get this dish wrong; at most there would be too much flavour. Definitely one of the safest dishes you can get at any Thai restaurants.
Tom Yum Soup
One of the most well-known soups from Thailand, “Tom Yum” actually stands for boiled spices. It’s an apt name for the dish, a soup that incorporates a multitude of spices, including lemongrass, ginger and chili. This soup often includes meat, and the seafood variant of this bowl of sizzling hot goodness is popular among Singaporeans.
The broth is usually a good mix of sour and spicy, making the Tom Yum soup one of the most flavourful soups in the region. Restaurants may offer you different variants of the soup; you have a choice of including condensed milk, or omitting certain spices. An indication of a good Tom Yum is when you get a kick every time you take a spoonful of the broth.
While most Singaporeans would be familiar with the red curries available in many other forms of Asian cuisine, the green curry is quite native to South-East Asia. Its colour, similar to red curry, is derived from chili that is used to make its sweet and spicy base.
Traditional ingredients included in green curry include the Thai eggplants or peas, in addition to the usual meat and coconut milk.
A good green curry would offer a good blend of sweet creaminess from coconut milk, in tandem with the spiciness of the green chili. While most curries can be quite spicy, you can ask the chef to tone down the hotness if you’re not used to it.
Many Singaporeans end up discarding the eggplant instead of eating it, but all the ingredients in the curry are edible.
One of the most iconic stir-fried dishes to come from Thailand, Pad Thai is made from thin rice-flour noodles mixed with seafood or meat. The dish is usually served with peanuts, dried chili flakes and a lime for garnishing. The springy texture of the noodles mixed with the chewy meat and the crunch of peanuts gives this dish a wonderful texture, alongside the mix of tastes in your mouth.
Good Pad Thai should not be too oily. Instead, it’s dry and light on the seasoning. You would be able to taste the umami from the meat used in the dish.
Pad Si Yieu
The sister dish of the Pad Thai, Pad Si Yieu is not as commonly seen in local Thai restaurants. Unlike Pad Thai, the Pad Si Yieu is made using dark soy sauce, and replaces the Pad Thai’s light springy noodles with traditional kway teow noodles. This dish is also more likely to include leafy vegetables that are stir fried with the noodles to absorb the dark soy sauce’s salty tang.
While Pad Thai is paired with peanuts and dried chili flakes, Pad Si Yieu is often eaten with an orange chili mixture. The chili is mild to help accentuate the deep flavours that penetrate the dish.
Mango Sticky Rice
Probably the most famous Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice is exactly what it is: Thai mango paired with sweet sticky rice, and topped off with coconut cream. While most people would be deterred by the general sourness of the mango, Thai mango is often much sweeter than the other regional counterparts, making this dish a sweet refreshment to round up the meal.
Inventive Thais have recently developed this dessert into an ice cream form, so you can find mango sticky rice ice cream in some restaurants, if you ever want to try a new dessert.