Thai restaurants have gained popularity around the world, primarily due to the cuisine’s strong flavors and diverse ingredients. While simplicity is emphasized in many international cuisines, Thai food is not one of them — dishes often include a laundry list’s worth of ingredients, and they harmonize to create impressive (and delicious) results.
Check out 17 of our favorite Thai dishes and drinks before hopping a flight to Bangkok or heading to your local Thai spot to give them a try.
Nuea daet diao kaphrao thot
A dish that’s frequently consumed with alcoholic beverages, nuea daet diao kaphrao thot is sun-dried beef that’s subsequently deep-fried. It’s mixed with crispy fried basil, and served alongside a spicy dipping sauce.
Khao man kai
The Thai version of Hainanese chicken rice, khao man kai is not often seen on Thai menus in the West. The dish is created by topping garlic-steamed rice with sliced chicken, chicken broth, and served alongside a spicy sauce.
Khao tom kui
Khao tom kui is plain rice congee. Often accompanied by various side dishes, the affordable dish is typically eaten for breakfast. Other variations of the dish include meats and green onion as well.
Kai yang originated in Laos and northeastern Thailand (namely Isan), but can be found all over Thailand today. The dish, marinated (and heavily seasoned) chicken grilled over charcoal, is typically served with som tum and sticky rice.
Found in many Thai restaurants, laap pet is another northeastern Thai dish. It’s minced duck (served either cooked or raw), typically seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice, and other aromatics before being mixed with chili and mint. Sticky rice is the usual accompaniment.
Yam pla duk fu
Yam pla duk fu is an Isan dish consisting of crispy fish (pla duk) and spicy mango salad. The salad is typically served in a bowl separate from the fish, allowing the fish to remain crispy.
Sai krok Isan
One of northern Thailand’s most famous foods, sai krok Isan is a sausage made from salted ground pork, chopped garlic, and glutinous rice. The sausages are left to ferment for several days before grilling, giving them a distinct flavor.
One of Thailand’s more popular salads, som tam is made from unripe papaya mixed with lime, chili, salt, fish sauce, and sugar. Traditionally, the ingredients are pounded together with a mortar and pestle.
Kor moo yang
Not the most complex dish in terms of ingredients, kor moo yang is seasoned and marinated charcoal-grilled pork neck. Another Isan dish, it’s typically served with a chili-based dipping sauce.
Khao nia mamuang
A dish served at both restaurants and street stalls while mangos are in season, khao nia mamuang is made from sweet sticky rice and mangos. The glutinous rice used in this dish is typically sweetened by adding coconut milk.
Kaeng khiao wan
A dish seen both in the West as well as Thailand, kaeng khiao wan is a central Thai dish meaning “sweet green curry.” The dish’s base comes from coconut milk and green chilies, from which it derives its name.
Roti kluai khai
Seen in street stalls, roti kluai khai is a type of “pancake” filled with banana and egg (which are fried inside the roti). The food is often sweetened with condensed milk and sugar, or topped with chocolate syrup.
Tod man pla
Tod man pla is a dish consisting of deep-fried minced fish mixed with red curry paste, long-beans, and kaffir lime leaves. It’s typically served with a sweet dipping sauce.
Khanom tom is created by boiling glutinous rice flour, sugar, coconut cream, and other ingredients. After being boiled, the balls are rolled in grated coconut. The dish is served as a street food.
The inspiration for Red Bull, Krating Daeng is a sweet (much sweeter than its world-famous counterpart), non-carbonated energy drink found in Southeast Asia. The beverage’s ingredients include water, cane sugar, caffeine, taurine, inositol, and B-vitamins.
Known as Thai iced tea in English, cha yen is a strong Ceylon tea. Mixed with a multitude of ingredients, cha yen is sweetened, chilled, poured over ice, and served with milk. It’s often seen consumed from a plastic bag.
Thailand’s number-one selling beer, Chang’s alcohol by volume is over 6% when brewed for local consumption. When exported, that figure drops to 5%. It’s not uncommon to see the beer being consumed from a 640ml bottle.