With so many native delicacies and iconic dishes, three staple dish categories you will always find around Thailand are salads, stir-fries and curries. Due to the warm climate, salads are essential in Thai cuisine; however, the use of salad is very different to our western world. Commonly used in Thai salads are raw vegetables and unripe fruits, meats, and lots of herbs, with the common adornment of crunchy nuts, seeds or fried shallots all balanced for colour, texture and flavour. One of the most famous is a Waterfall Beef Salad – roasted and ground rice is tossed through fresh mint and coriander with grilled beef. Topped with fried shallots, all doused in a zesty sauce of classic Thai flavours, including lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, fish sauce, lime, chilli and palm sugar. Another refreshing hit throughout Thailand is the mega-hot Papaya Salad made from shredded green papaya, mint, coriander, lime and loads of fresh chilli. Salads are commonly eaten as dishes in themselves with hands and balls of sticky rice.
Due to their fast, easy cooking method and flexible ingredient list, stir-fries are very popular throughout Thailand. A protein like chicken or beef is tossed through a searing hot wok with fresh vegetables and flavours like sweet Thai basil, freshly chopped chilli, garlic, galangal, fish, or oyster sauce. Another popular stir-fry dish we’re very familiar with within the West is the super-popular staple – Pad Thai. Soft rice noodles are wok-fried with chicken or prawns, preserved turnip, and egg, all coated in a sauce of tamarind, soy sauce and palm sugar, then topped with pops of texture and flavour peanuts, shallots, chives and of course – fresh chilli and lime.
Curries are at the heart of Thai cooking—one of its most coveted – Massaman Curry. A heady paste of garlic, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, chilli and aromatic spices of cinnamon, coriander, clove, nutmeg, cumin and cardamom creates the perfect flavour foundation. It is simmered away with large pieces of beef or lamb in coconut cream until rich and thick then garnished with crunchy peanuts. A reasonably mild curry, this super-rich, sumptuous dish is the perfect balance of sweet, savoury, and warming.
Thais adore fresh tropical fruit that is bountifully grown in their hot, humid climate when it comes to after-meal sweets. However, they also enjoy handmade sweets like Luk Chup, made from mung bean paste, sugar, and coconut milk. These tiny, sweet morsels are often formed into the shapes of fruit and vegetables and hand-painted with food dye – an actual work of art!
Every hawker stall in Thailand at any time of the day will no doubt have black sticky rice with coconut milk. Soaked black sticky rice is cooked with sugar and served with a sweet palm sugar syrup and coconut milk – a super-sweet treat that’s a favourite among locals.
Standard, drinks served from Hawker stalls around Thailand include pink milk – a refreshing ruby-hued iced milky tea sweetened with condensed milk. If sweet and creamy isn’t your thing, Thai lemon tea is a perfect refresher for a hot afternoon in Thailand. A typical morning pick-me-up is O-Liang – meaning sweet black iced coffee – a sweet start to the day in Thailand.