Thai cuisine is like an exotic cousin of our homemade Chinese, usually found hiding in some unwanted corner of the regular Chinese restaurant’s menu. Thai food still seems unfamiliar and unknown to the Indian diner’s palate. Familiar as we are to the Chinese cuisine, which we have also partly transformed and gladly adapted according to our Chinjabi tastes, why is Thai food treated like an adopted baby?
Thai food has flavors and aromas which are very close to our Indian tastes. Abundantly spicy, yet interestingly sweet and somewhat sour- this is literally what defines Thai food. With ingredients such as coconut, lemongrass, fish sauce, and lime at its core, we take to Thai food just as a fish takes to water. People from Thailand share an open secret to what really makes their food so distinguished from the rest. Thai food is just an ideal combination of sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and bitter. These flavors are what make the cuisine really unique and different.
This is why Thai cuisine is simply awesome- though it will still take some time for Thai food to come into the mainstream Indian dining circuit. Though some of us may already have heard of some of these dishes, it is important to familiarize ourselves with some of the lesser-known ones as well. Take your time, go through this list and learn the Thai names of the dishes too! By the time you’re done- Thai will have become really popular throughout the country. Remember- you heard it first on #GoodTimes!
1. Spicy Green Papaya Salad aka ‘Som Tam’
In spite of being a simple salad, this dish has some interesting ingredients which make it stand apart. Shredded raw papaya mixed with garlic, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and peanuts makes an interesting base for the salad. The salad is then dressed with some lime juice, palm sugar, and crushed chillies. An interesting mélange, right? Try it and see how much you’ll love its salty-sweet taste!
2. Red Curry aka ‘Gaeng Daeng’
Thai Red curry is the one thing people would be familiar on this list with. Made from red curry paste, smooth coconut milk, basil leaves, and kaffir lime leaves, this curry is sweet yet tingly on the taste buds. There are both chicken and vegetarian versions, however, the traditional Thai version is had with meat and accompanied with rice. The ‘red’ of the curry comes from an eclectic mix of various kinds of Thai chilli.
3. Green Curry aka ‘Gaeng Keow Wan Kai’
That is a difficult name for a simple-sounding curry, right? Made from bamboo shoots, coconut cream, eggplants, coriander leaves, and lots of sweet basil- this recipe is a must-try. There is a green curry paste that also goes into it which is made from green chilli, shallots and cilantro. And it is different from its red counterpart in so many ways! Try it out yourself to find out.
4. Spicy Shrimp Soup aka ‘Tom Yum Goong’
Yes, this is what the ‘Tom Yum’ soup was originally meant to be. A shrimp soup with loads of lemongrass, chilli, lime leaves, fish sauce and crushed peppers- this soup is very satisfying. Its bold, refreshing zingy taste and flavourful aroma is appealing not just in terms of its taste, but also its smell! How can some dish be so spicy, sour, hot, and sweet at the same time?
5. Thai Style Pan-Fried Noodles aka ‘Pad Thai’
Peanuts, bean sprouts, onions, eggs, chicken, and noodles all come together for this interesting noodle recipe. The unique thing about these noodles is the interesting flavouring of chilli and fish sauce, and the flatness of the noodles. You can choose from a range of small, thin, or wide noodles and they would still qualify for this recipe. Tofu and vegetables may also replace chicken, and this dish would still be equally tasty!
6. Fried Rice aka ‘Khao Pad’
Fried rice is a typical street food dish eaten in Thailand for lunch or an evening snack. Thai fried rice with shrimp, a little bit of egg, some onions, fish sauce, and some herbs and nothing else- this dish is simple and does not pretend to be anything else. And, what’s more- you can customize its dressing according to your taste and make it spicy or less spicy. Another variant of this would be the exquisite Jasmine rice whose aroma is overpowering over anything else, which is served only on special occasions as an accompaniment to a main dish.
7. Chicken in Coconut Soup aka ‘Tom Kha Gai’
It isn’t just the name of this dish that’ll roll off your tongue- but the dish too! Who thought some simple chicken cooked in a coconut-based curry could ever be so tasty? Unlike its spicier cousin, the Tom Yum, this recipe is actually much more tender with ingredients like shallots, lemongrass, and a Thailand-specific version of the ginger called Galangal.
8. Stir-fry Chicken With Cashew Nuts aka ‘Kai Med Ma Muang’
If only there was a dish in Thai without peanuts, you say? We have it ready for you. Chicken is stir-fried with some soy and fish sauce, and sautéed onions, shallots and cashews are added on the top. Because where there’s Thai, there has to be crunch and spice and a combination of a dozen other flavours.
9. Creamy Coconut Curry Noodle Soup aka ‘Khao Soi’
Essentially a Northern Thai dish, but inspired from the Burmese, Khao Soi is the one dish everyone must have tried from this list. It is made from a coconut-based curry to which noodles are added along with a choice of chicken, pork or some vegetables. The noodle soup is garnished with mustard greens, shallots, lime, and ground chillies fried in oil as per your preferences for spicy or less spicy!
That was definitely a lot of information for a single day! Digest the flavours of Thai on your palate, and we’ll be back with more.