Most people outside of Thailand only know a few Thai dishes, usually the ones available back at home like pad Thai, spring rolls and a few curry dishes. Visitors here are often surprised to learn that Thai cuisine is much more complex and varied than what you’ll find in the typical Thai restaurant abroad. Here are five delicious Thai dishes you might not have heard of but should try if you get the chance.
This popular northern Thai dish is a thin, coconut milk-based curry soup served with wide wheat noodles, meat and a sprinkling of fried noodles on top. The curry is more fragrant than spicy and is typically made with star anise, cinnamon and cardamom. Khao Soi is found all over the Chiang Mai area but is tougher to find in other parts of the country.
These thin, layered pancakes most likely originated in India but have become a staple food in southern Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Roti can be served to accompany a savory curry dish, stuffed with meat and rice, or filled with fruit or other sweet stuff for dessert. A favorite street snack all over Thailand is roti covered in sweetened condensed milk.
There are two popular types of Thai sausage, Isan sausage made with fermented pork and rice, and northern Thai sausage flavored with Thai herbs and spices such as lemon grass, Kaffir lime and cilantro. The idea of fermented pork may be off-putting to some, but don't let it dissuade you from giving Isan sausage a taste. The flavors are subtle and very satisfying.
Khao Yum is a fresh rice salad from southern Thailand flavored with toasted coconut, fragrant herbs and fish paste. It’s typically served unmixed, with the herbs, vegetables and fish surrounding the rice. There isn’t a healthier or more interestingly flavored dish in Thailand!
Nam Prik is the generic name for a dozen or so different dips served with crackers or cut vegetables. The exact translation is “chili water” but though some nam priks resemble spicy curries in texture and flavor, others are milder fish or shrimp-based dips and are served warm with rice crackers.