Nowadays, many of you will have experienced Thai food in a local Thai restaurant at home. But trust us, you need to try the real thing! Not only is the food different (and better) but theres also something about dining with the sand in between your toes and a Mai Tai in hand that just cannot be matched!
As major foodies ourselves, we like to encourage the volunteers on our project in Phuket, Thailand to experience as much of this culinary culture as possible during their volunteer vacation. But in the meantime, we’ve included a few ideas and recipes to tickle your taste-buds….
What is it? Thailand’s crowd pleaser – noodles are dressed up with tofu, bean sprouts, onion, ground peanuts and more. .
Quick Culture: The dish first became popular because Luang Phibunsongkhram, the prime minister during the late 1930s and 1940s, wanted to reduce Thailand’s dependency on rice so that they could increase rice exports! Pad Thai was promoted to encourage Thais to eat, make and sell rice noodles instead!
Travel Cheat: If you can’t make it to Thailand just yet but want to try this at home, we love this recipe by shesimmers.com for her detailed instructions and beautifully shot video!
What is it? This gorgeous meal is a combination of coconut milk, potatoes, roasted peanuts, bay leaves, sugar, cinnamon, and tamarind sauce. You can choose between beef or chicken, pork, prawns, tofu. Theres something about the cinnamon and soft potatoes that we just cant get enough of!
Quick Culture: Massaman in Thai means “Muslim”. There is no official state religion in Thailand, but the king is required by law to be Buddhist. Approximately, 95% of Thais are Buddhists. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand, but only make up about 4% of the population.
Travel Cheat: If you promise to one day to go to Thailand and try the real thing, we’ll let you try it at home with this recipe here
Tom Kha Gai
What is it? In our opinion the most refreshing soup, tom kha gai is made from coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal (ginger -asian style)’ and chicken. Perfect for those who don’t like too much spice, we love!
Quick Culture: Gai means chicken in Thai – surprisingly useful to know!
Travel Cheat: Recipe here!
What is it? Spicy papaya salad. This delicious vegetable dish comes from northeast Thailand but has become popular everywhere. Its interesting to note the slight regional differences, varying from sweet to sour.
Quick Culture: This dish originates from Laos, and therefore can be referred to as Som Tam Lao, or Som Tam Thai, depending on the your preference. You will have to try both to find your favourite!
Travel Cheat: We love this dish with barbequed chicken and sticky rice, but if your on a health-kick this mango and papaya recipe here is also delicious.
Gai Med Ma Moung (Chicken Cashew Nuts)
What is it? You all will have tried Chicken and Cashew Nuts, perhaps without even knowing you had Thailand to thank for it. A great Thai meal when you’re feeling perhaps less adventurous, it is most delicious with pineapple and plenty of ginger.
Quick Culture: The finest cashews in the world are grown in Thailand, mainly on the island of Phuket. If you love cashews, the Cashew nut factory on Phuket is a must for all-you-can-eat cashew sampling !
Travel Cheat: we love this recipe here.
Mango Sticky Rice
One of my personal absolute favourites the dessert, mango sticky rice! Constantly craving this dish, I have tried many at home but nothing has ever matched the real Thai version. This dish left such an impression upon me that I seek it out at every Thai restaurant back home.
What is it? Sticky rice is a short grained rice that sticks together when cooked. It is great for making into bite sized balls and then dipping into your favourite sauce. But it is even better when cooked with sweet coconut milk, topped with fresh ripe mango, and drizzled with even more sweetened coconut milk.
Quick Culture: Mangoes are best in Thailand from April through June
Travel Cheat: Simple recipe here
Fresh Spring Rolls
What is it? A lunchtime favourite, and much healthier than the deep fried variety. Fresh spring rolls consist of finely chopped raw vegetables, fresh shredded herbs, and optionally shrimp, wrapped in a sheet of rice paper and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.
Quick Culture: These delicious bites are originally chinese and vietnamese, but still taste great in Thailand!
Travel Cheat: You can make your own with this great tutorial here
What is it? This curry has the most fantastic flavours; lemongrass, galangal, cumin, coriander and chili. Predominantly filled with coconut milk, this curry is rich and filling!
Quick Culture: Panang curry originally comes from Malaysia, but can be found all over Thailand.
Travel Cheat: Recipe here
Tom yum soup
One thing comes to mind with Tom yum soup – YUM.
What is it? Stalks of lemon grass, galangal, keffir lime leaves, and chili are typical flavours to encounter but it can vary. The soup is typically made with fish or chicken and the lack of coconut milk in this dish makes it a much lighter alternative to other Thai dishes. A favourite lunch-time snack!
Travel Cheat: We searched pinterest and found this great 15 minute tutorial here
Red or Green Curry
A must-try in Thailand as the two main curry options.
What is it? Green curry is typically sweeter, while red curry is filled with spice.
For more culinary inspiration, visit our ‘Tasty Thai Traditions’ pinterest board and for more information on our volunteer project in Thailand, please visit our website. You can work in one of two child care centres on the island of Phuket with vulnerable children from Phuket town and Patong Monday to Friday – leaving the weekends free to explore the nearby islands and, of course, all the lovely Phuket beaches!