Thai food is one of my favorite types of food, and I am not alone in that opinion – you can find restaurants that specialize in Thai food nearly anywhere in the world. Thai food is renowned for its exotic flavors and rich spices no matter where it is served. However, to truly experience the full flavor of Thai food, you really should hunt down its origins in Thailand, the only place you are going to find real Thai food.

If you get a chance to visit this wonderful country there are five foods in particular you must try while you are there. I will discuss in detail what kind of ingredients each dish includes includes and what flavors you can expect from each.

The way Thai food is served in Thailand often differs rather significantly from the way it is served elsewhere in the world. A typical meal includes a clear soup, followed by a steamed or fried dish and then by an array of salads. Mixed in between these foods will be lettuce, chilies, mint, ginger, curry and lemon juice. Finally, the meal is topped off with a sweet dessert or fresh fruit such as papaya, grapes or melons. Most of the dishes are prepared with some blend of spicy and sweet and sour taste, providing a subtle mix of rich flavor.

Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum Goong or Spicy Shrimp Soup

The first food you must try while visiting Thailand is Tom Yum Goong or Spicy Shrimp Soup. This is probably the most popular Thai soup in the world, but only in Thailand can you get the very best. It is a clear, delicate soup with flavorings from lemon grass, galangal root, kaffir lime leaf, lime juice and hot chili pepper. This soup provides a wonderfully unique taste range from sour to spicy; it is light but still satisfying.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai or Thai Curry Noodles

The second type of must-try food in Thailand is Pad Thai, or Thai-style fried noodles. This is considered the main signature dish of Thailand and is becoming one of the most popular Asian dishes in America. There are hundreds of variations of Pad Thai, so the specific type you try will depend on where you go within the country. Generally it consists of thin noodles, bean sprouts, onion and eggs, often with samplings of fish sauce, sugar, chili powder or ground peanuts mixed in. This is truly a classic Thai meal that will leave you wanting more each time you eat it.

Thai Red Curry

Gaeng Daeng or Red Curry

Gaeng Daeng or Red Curry is the third dish you need to try while you are in Thailand. This is the most popular curry dish made in Thailand. As with Pad Thai, it varies in taste and spiciness depending on where it is made. However, it generally includes some type of meat, red curry paste, coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. Red Curry has very rich, memorable taste, and its many versions make it a dish that you should try as often as possible.

Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Kai Med Ma Muang or Chicken with Cashew Nuts

The next dish in Thailand that you absolutely must try is the Kai Med Ma Muang or Chicken with Cashew Nuts. This is another dish that is popular in America because of its wonderful array of flavors. In addition, it is a fairly simple meal, so if you wish you can make it at home after your trip. It simply contains chicken mixed with cashews, soy sauce, onions, chilies, pepper, carrots and mushrooms, topped off with a hint of honey for sweetness.

Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Kai Med Ma Muang or Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Finally, the last dish you should try in Thailand is Som Tum or Spicy Green Papaya Salad. This unique dish is simultaneously spicy, sweet and sour, a truly memorable experience for your taste buds. The salad contains garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes and papaya. You will normally eat this salad alongside some type of meat dish and a side of rice, but it can be the perfect complement to any meal.

Although you should not miss these five dishes during your Thailand trip, do not make the mistake of limiting yourself to only those. I truly believe the richness and flavor of Thai cooking cannot be fully appreciated from just five dishes, so enjoy the opportunity to sample as many different dishes as you can.

Read more about Thai food in our guide to food and drink in Thailand.

Contributed by Kari Holton

Gaeng Daeng