Most Popular Food in Thailand

Thai cuisine is well-known all around the world.

When heading to southeast Asia, you might wonder what the most popular food in Thailand is. Well, look no further. I’ve compiled a list of the most popular food in Thailand based on menus and restaurants that I visited around the country.

Okay, it’s not that serious but seriously, the dishes mentioned are basically at every restaurant that I ever went to in Thailand.

The spelling was always different everywhere I went because the English alphabet doesn’t have exact translations for their vowels and consonants. I noticed that in South Korea as well. Sometimes the English word “fried” in Thai could be pad or phad. The list goes on and on.

Living in Thailand for ten months was great because I got to try some of the top Thai dishes.

It was difficult at times because I eat fish but no other meat, so learning those words in Thai was necessary for me.

Usually, when I said “vegetarian” in Thai, they’d bring out fish, so that’s when I learned that I had to sometimes eat fish, even when I didn’t want it.

If you want traditional Thai food, you must go to a street vendor. Street food will usually have the typical Thai food that tourists and even locals love.

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Yum kai dow and kai jiew

What is Food in Thailand Like?

Well, to put it in one word: mouthwatering. It can also be very spicy, or too spicy for some people.

The traditional Thai dishes that you know and love are ten times better in the country. Trust me.

If you are not a fan of spicy food, I’d say to be extremely careful.

Nid noi in Thai means spicy so if you want something ped nid noi, that means a little spicy.

But don’t worry, they will still put a bunch of chilis in the dish.

I’d say that if you don’t want any spice in your dish, make sure to say mai ped, which means not spicy.

Sometimes, even if I’d say that, they would still put a chili or two. As time went on, I grew to love spicy food; spicy green papaya salad was my favorite!

most popular food in thailand
Pad see ew & pad kra row goong with chai jiew

Here are some Thailand food names, with Thai phonetics and the English definition:

  • Egg = kai
  • Green papaya salad = som tam
  • Mango = ma muang
  • Rice = kao/khao
  • Shrimp = goong/koong
  • Stir fry = pad/phad
  • Turnip = chai po
  • Vegetable = pak
  • Vegetarian = mangsawerat (mang-sa-wee-rot)
  • Water spinach = boong
  • Watermelon = tang mo
Khao Soi

What is the Most Popular Food in Thailand?

Everywhere you go, they will have pad Thai. It’s hard to say what the most popular food in Thailand is when the country has so many succulent dishes.

Some of the best Thai food that I can recommend are:

  • Clams = pad hoi lai
  • Egg fried rice = khao pad kai

Thai fried rice with vegetables and choice of meat.

  • Egg omelet with Chinese radish = kai jiew chai po
  • Drunken noodles = pad see ew

a classic Thai dish with wide rice noodles (guay tiew naam). Usually this dish comes with egg and some veggies too.

  • Fried egg salad = yum kai dow

Fried egg, raw onion, tomato, lime juice, and fish sauce.

  • Grilled fish = pla pao
  • Mango sticky rice = khao niaow ma muang

white rice with mango slices and coconut sauce

  • Pad Thai = Thai stir fry

everyone knows this popular Thai food with rice noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, egg, and your choice of chicken, shrimp, or beef.

  • Papaya salad = som tam

You can get a bunch of vitamins and fiber in with this healthy salad. The main ingredients are unripe green papaya, garlic, tomatoes, chilies, green beans, and peanuts.

  • Shrimp tom yum = tom yum goong

This spicy shrimp soup has a mix of sour and hot flavors. The word “tom” means the boiling process while “yum” means mixed. Of course, you don’t have to get it with shrimp, but that is the most common way to get it.

  • Shrimp yellow curry = pad pong-ali goong

This dish has a bunch of spices with a rich taste and sweet and/or mild flavors.

  • Spicy coconut curry = khao soi

This rich, creamy, sometimes spicy coconut curry noodle soup is made with coconut milk from Northern Thailand- like Chiang Mai. Each province makes it differently. The dish is even served in Laos and Myanmar also has a similar dish.

  • Spicy veggie rice = pad kra prow

Spicy rice with chili and Thai basil are what make this dish. The popular meat to get with this is pork.

  • Vegetable fried rice = khao pad pak
pad pak boong & som tam

What Are Some Must Try Street Foods in Thailand?

Pad Thai is definitely one of the most popular Thai dishes around the world so most places will have this dish.

Other Thai dishes to try in Thailand have to be khao soi, tom yum, pad see ew, and som tam.

Make sure you know some Thai words before ordering at a vendor, especially if you have an allergy or can’t eat a certain type of food. And don’t forget to bring your reusable silverware with you! I bring mine everywhere with me.

You can watch some YouTube videos from ThaiPod101 or you could also get a pocket dictionary to help learn some basic Thai phrases.

Pad Thai

In the town where I lived, Mahachai, Samut Sakhon, they really only had street food, which was great!

The best Thai food that I ever had was street food. So make sure you are adventurous and try it at least once! Even if you don’t like it, at least you tried it.

For me, being able to try authentic popular Thai foods from around the country is one of the best ways to get familiar with the country.

thai food
top left to bottom left: pad pongali goong, pad pak boong, pla pao, ma kheu (some type of eggplant dish), pad hoi lai

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11 Comments

  1. i have only visited Thailand for about a week but it is an understatement to say that the food is insane. i definitely want to try some of these places and foods next time I visit!

  2. I had friends going and they always recommended the food in Thailand and can’t do it but agree after this post! So hungry just by looking at the pictures, can’t wait to visit x

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