An Introduction to Thai Food

Thailand is one of the most famous countries in the entire world for its cuisine. Spanning from the southern peninsula to the northern provinces, the country offers a diverse blend of insanely delicious food. Here is an introduction to Thai food by Mark of Migrationology, expert on all things Thai, most importantly the food.

The south of Thailand is famous for its spicy curries, heavy use of coconut milk, and fresh seafood. The north and northeastern portion is well known for its veggie filled salads and herbs, grilled meat, sausages, and sticky rice. Bangkok, the largest city, attracts Thais from around the country to create a never ending melting pot of tantalizing things to taste.

From flash cooked stir fries to hand pounded salads, if you enjoy eating, you’ll be in paradise with the variety and quantity of food in Thailand.

Food Culture

I think the biggest reason why Thai food is so delicious, is simply that Thais, just about all of them, love to eat. There’s no denying that local Thais are passionate about their wonderful cuisine; Nearly all conversations and relationships in Thailand eventually lead to food. And since food is such a major part of the culture, so many miraculous flavor combinations have been developed.

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Normal Thai portion sizes of food are considerably smaller than an average Western meal, allowing eaters in Thailand to continually eat small meals and snacks throughout the day, rather than becoming stuffed in a single sitting.

On the go street food can be served on an individual plate over rice, but most Thai meals are enjoyed communal style with friends or family members.

Balance Of Flavors

One of the most important aspects of any Thai meal is getting the right balance of flavor and combination of dishes. For instance, if you go out to eat with 3 or 4 friends, it’s critical to order a variety of dishes that will each offer something different to the taste buds.

If you order a meat based dish, it should be balanced with a green vegetable dish, something spicy, another thing that’s sour, possibly a soup, and maybe a sweet Thai tea or beverage to go with it.

Since Thai food is most often served family style, eating a well rounded meal is a great opportunity to get a taste of many different dishes rather than being stuck with a single flavor. No introduction to Thai food is complete without first introducing you to these staple dishes:

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5 Essential Thai Foods

1. Tom Yum Goong (Sour Spicy Soup with Shrimp)
As you remember, enjoying a Thai meal is all about balancing the flavors, textures, and even coordinating the correct ratio of soups to salad to rich or meat dishes. Tom yum goong, the iconic soup of Thailand, is a herbaceous concoction that bursts with flavor. The broth is a combination of shrimp boiled with galangal (root similar to ginger), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and chillies. Mushrooms and a choice of other ingredients are added to the mix. At the end of the cooking, fresh lime juice is added to give the soup a marvelous sour tinge.

2. Pad Krapao (Stir Fried Holy Basil)
One of the most commonly available dishes in all of Thailand is stir fried meat with Thai holy basil. Shrimp, squid, pork, crispy pork belly, or chicken, are the most common meats to choose from. The meat is then flash stir fried in a hot wok, and seasoned with soy sauce, fish sauce, chillies, and garlic. The final step is to toss in a good handful of fresh holy basil which gives the meat a signature peppery flavor. It’s placed over a bed of hot rice and often accompanied by a fried egg on the side to make it a complete meal.

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3. Kuay Teow Reua (Boat Noodles)
Traditionally served from boat vendors floating in Bangkok’s famous canals and rivers, boat noodles are the most beloved soup noodle dish in Bangkok. The rice noodles are flash blanched in a boiling cauldron of hot water prior to being tossed in a small bowl along with a few sprigs of morning glory vegetable, slices of pork, and often a pork or beef meatball. But it’s the soup that’s most essential, a porky broth that’s thickened with pig’s blood to give it its signature richness and flavor.

See the episode where David tries to eat his weight in noodles in Bangkok’s Boat Noodle Alley

4. Som Tam Thai (Green Papaya Salad)
Som tam, or green papaya salad, is the staple of Northeastern Thailand. Green papayas, which are crispy like cucumbers, are first shredded into small pieces. Palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, chillies, tomatoes, garlic, and a variety of other ingredients available on request (things like fermented crab or fermented oysters), are all tossed together with the green papaya. The ingredients are pounded in a traditional mortar and pestle until the dressing is perfectly sweet, salty, and sour. Som tam is best enjoyed along with Thai sticky rice which is dipped into the dressing for flavor.

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5. Pad See Ew (Fried Wide Rice Noodles)
Noodles, in both soup and fried form are commonly eaten in Thai cuisine. Pad see ew, is a dish that consists of strips of wide rice noodles fried in a scorching hot wok along with sprigs of Chinese kailan (green vegetable) and dark soy sauce. The result is a comforting plate of fried noodles that tastes great when condimented with a few spoons of dry chili flakes and vinegar.

What insights does Joel Bruner of Migrationology share about Thai food? Explore them all here.

Other great dishes of Thailand include…

Duck with rice

Fried fish with tumeric


While Thailand is spectacular for its temples, historical sites, and natural beauty, to me it’s the mouthwatering bounty of Thai food that makes the country so special!

What did you think about Mark’s introduction to Thai food? Leave us a question or comment below!

For more information about Thai food, check out Migrationology’s e-books on Kindle.

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  1. Oh, I flipped when I saw these erailer this week! They are quite fabulous, and I love how you thought of having them on hand to hand out copies of recipes when they are requested (I selfishly envisioned rewriting all the recipes in my recipe box when I saw them- yours was a much sweeter thought!) And I am going to check out your pad thai recipe- yum!

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