Thailand is home to a variety of colourful dishes boasting garlic and a generous dosage of chilli – with a heat factor ranging from hot to seriously hot. These two ingredients are frequently used in Thai dishes and can be a bit of a wakeup call to the taste buds of those willing to try.
On a recent trip to Thailand I found myself in awe of the Thai cuisine I was eating, and I began to realize that Thai food in Australia had been through quite the makeover before being presented to the Aussie palate. Dishes such as Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry are frequently showcased in Australian and English Thai restaurants and yet during my travels I found these two items a rarity on the local menu. Excited to find some new dishes, I decided to order some plates I had not tried before and as a result created a list of some of the plates I think best represents Thai cuisine. My absolute favourite remains snapper, barbequed whole and served alongside a mix of fish sauce, soy and lemon juice, loaded with garlic and chilli and sweetened with a little sugar. In Thailand you generally can’t go wrong, yet keep in mind these dishes are best eaten in small, local restaurants or at food markets.
Stir-fried Chicken with Hot Basil
In every restaurant I ate (whether it was built with or without walls) I would ask for a recommendation. Most of these times the husband or wife of the chef would point to this dish.
It will cost around 80 baht and is served alongside rice and a fried egg, the chicken is minced and then stir fried in a wok with a generous amount of garlic, chilli and hot basil. This is Thailand on a plate!
Although this doesn’t sound very Thai, I have to highly recommend it as a delicious street food to try. We found this was too good to refuse at the local food markets, 10 baht for a perfectly cooked piece of chicken, dipped in homemade sweet chilli sauce. The chickens that I saw in Thailand live a natural lifestyle, roaming free on properties. They have big long legs from all the exercise they are able to do and as a result they are incredibly tasty.
Fried Pepper and Garlic with Prawns
This very simple dish is a beautiful compliment to prawns. The black pepper really dominates, creating a nice gentle heat which is a good change to hot chillies. Served with steamed rice, this is a nice change for those needing a break from spicy food.
A spicy Thai soup might not sound like the type of food you want after a hot day on the beach, but these tasty soups, despite their heat are refreshing and full of flavour. Generous helpings of lemon grass, lime juice and coriander help compliment big chunks of ginger, chilli and hot basil. Tom yum or spicy soup (as some places translate it) is a must try for those searching for an authentic dish bursting with Thai ingredients.
This curry uses peanuts as a main ingredient making it quite creamy and mild in taste. A nice change from the spiciness found in other curries such as green and red curry. Panang curry is made with either beef or chicken and served alongside white rice, a perfect dish to share.
Fried Peanut Cookies
These cookies are a delicious snack for peanut lovers. You can find them in many of the little shops sitting on the side of the road selling watermelons and pineapples. They are made from a simple batter that is then fried in vegetable oil, they are circle in shape and dotted with peanuts. At about 5baht each they make a great cheap snack for the beach!
Although this is not a food, it still makes this list. Served cold, Thai coffee is a little different to the usual cappuccino from home. A mix of granulated coffee, sugar, condensed milk and ice makes for a very tasty and cool break during a humid afternoon.