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A Complete Guide to Famous Thai Recipes

When you’re craving deep flavored dishes, with all-in-one flavor elements, Thai cuisine is one of the best options.

Born as the result of both eastern and western food influences, Thai recipes are now one of the world’s most famous. By offering a wide variety of dishes with different flavor profiles, Thai food is unlike anything most people have tried before.

When you dine where Thai food recipes are utilized, you’ll expect not only delicious but healthy dishes that are full of vegetables and light ingredients, We promise that Thai food will become your favorite (and healthiest) dining option.

Since it is a varied cuisine with many influences, there are several cooking methods used differently depending on the dish being prepared.

From steaming to deep frying, these cooking techniques offer up a variety of different colors and textures that create the Thai recipes that are loved by diners all over the world.

Some of the essential ingredients in Thai cuisine are chiles, fish, sauce, and fresh herbs. All of these elements make Thai food an attractive gastronomical proposal to people in Europe and the US while being easily adaptable to people’s palates.

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Introduction to Thai Recipes

When thinking about Asian cuisine, we mostly think about Chinese and Japanese cuisine, with their spring rolls and well-known sushi.

However, within Asian cuisine, there are many differences and varieties of flavors and textures, making Asian cuisine, in general, an entirely new gastronomical world to discover.

Today, Thai cuisine is one of the most famous cuisines in the world. And since the tourism explosion in Thailand in the mid-80s, Thai food has established a foothold as one of the world’s leaders in culinary arts. Also, it is considered one of America’s favorite dining options.

Thai recipes are mostly varied, light, and colorful having different elements due to the vast influences it has acquired over the years.

Some say that Thai food originated from those who emigrated from the southern Chinese provinces into modern-day Thailand many centuries ago. Even experts have claimed that there were many Szechwan influences in Thai cuisine.

Despite the origin of inspiruation for Thai food, there is no question that there are a lot of cultural and regional influences that have shaped what we know today as Thai cuisine.

For example, Buddhist monks brought Indian ingredients, and southern Muslim states influenced the cooking in the south of Thailand. On the other hand, Thai cuisine also has a European influence, after contact with Portuguese missionaries and Dutch traders.

Thai recipes are known for having sour, sweet, salty, and spicy ingredients added to dishes. As a result, you get a full-flavored dish that hits all the right notes.

One of the things that most Thai recipes have in common is that the dishes are made with several varieties of vegetables and a lot of herbs and Thai spices. That’s why Thai food, in general, is considered not only healthy but tasty as there is no skimping on flavor.

thai cuisine
Vietnamese bowl cuisine

Famous Types of Thai Food

Like any other country, Thailand is divided into regions where food and recipes change from one region to another. Due to the diverse geography, this leads to the development of regional differences in its style of cuisine.

Today there are four different types of food in Thailand.

Northern Thai Cuisine

Thai food recipes in the north are usually milder when compared with the rest of the country. Sticky rice is the preferred ingredient, being traditionally kneaded into small balls by hand.

Also, neighboring Burma to the north, influenced dishes like Kaeng Hang Le, a pork curry flavored with tamarind, turmeric, and ginger

Northeast Thai Food

Laos was a huge influencer in the northeast region of Thailand. Thai recipes coming from this region are highly spiced, and like other northern recipes, sticky rice is the preferred companion.

In the past, there were a lot of meat dishes in this region but because of historical events where food was sometimes scarce in the villages, the main source of protein was shrimp and freshwater fish. To extend their shelf life, both shrimp and fish were fermented.

Central Thai Cuisine

Central Thai food is a mixture of the north and south cuisine, but unlike these two regions, Jasmine rice is preferred over the sticky variety.

One of the main things that make Central Thai cuisine special is that it is home to what is called royal cuisine. Experts claim that central Thai food recipes were created at the royal palace, and that is why they typically display much more elaborate meals and are together with complex techniques.

Southern Thai Food

When referring to the most known Thai recipes abroad, Southern Thai food is the chosen one. Southern Thai is the main tourist region of the country.

Ingredients like coconut are widely used in many recipes, and it even replaces some ingredients in popular dishes in this region. Also, we can see a bigger influence of seafood in these dishes. When it comes to appetizers, cashews from local plantations and coconut flesh are some of the most used to prepare them.

Thai food

How Thai Cuisines are Prepared

Thai cuisine is one of the richest and most complex cuisines in the world, because of all the different elements within it. When it comes to preparation, Thai recipes are mostly quick and easy to prepare. However, there are about six main cooking techniques used in Thai cuisine to prepare these delicious dishes.

Steam or “Neung”

If you want to dive into healthy and light cooking techniques, steaming is one of the best options. It is a very clean and healthy way to cook your vegetables, proteins, and carbs.

Steam is the process of using the vapor caused by boiling water. When steam touches the ingredients it cooks them so they are moist and soft.

Steaming is considered a very clean and healthy approach to cooking as it uses no oil. Another great advantage of steaming is that it helps maintain most of the nutrients, as opposed to frying or boiling.

Grilling or “Yang”

Grilling is a worldwide popular way to cook meats, and in Thailand it is one of the preferred cooking techniques. To cook meat using this method, it is directly exposed to the heat or wrapped in leaves such as banana leaves and placed on a grill. The grill is usually sitting on top of heated coal or charcoal to produce the heat.

Today, grilling may look a little different but the technique has stayed essentially the same. Electric grills have gained popularity among the Thai people making it an easier way to grill at home.

What we love about grilling is that it produces a delicious smoky flavor which is a signature taste in Thai fish and chicken.

Stir Fry or “Pad”

This cooking technique consists of cooking ingredients at high heat using a wok and an oversized spatula.

Oil is needed to get the ingredients to stir fry, while it is heated in the wok. The ingredients are then mixed and tossed together, this way they are cooked to a beautiful golden brown color and soft texture on the inside.

Vegetables are particularly popular when cooked in a wok as it helps keep the nutrients in tender, crispy vegetables.

Stir-fry is considered one of the easiest and quickest cooking methods for Thai food recipes.

Stewing or “Toon”

When having big or not as tender cuts of meat, stewings is the way to go. Stewing allows meat to cook for longer periods on low heat. The result is juicy and tender meat ready to serve.

You can also use stewing for heavier and denser recipes that need long and deep cooking time to get the dish done. Stewing can also be used to prepare medicinal broths as the meat juices and all nutrients are maintained and held within the stew.

Deep Fry or “Tod

When looking to obtain a crispy delicious texture, deep frying is the best choice. Even though it’s not the healthiest cooking technique, the texture it gives to ingredients is desired by many.

For deep frying, a large pan or big wok is essential, as well as a significant amount of oil heated to a very high temperature. Once heated, the ingredients are submerged in the boiling oil until they are crispy and golden brown.

One of the most popular dishes in Thai cuisine is the spring roll, “poh pia tod”, which is cooked using this method.

Common Ingredients and Spices in a Thai Recipes

As mentioned before, Thai cuisine is the result of a mix of several gastronomical influences, different ingredients, colors, and textures which make Thai food recipes a must-try.

Another thing to love about Thai recipes is that no matter what flavors you enjoy, there is something for everyone and every diet. Whether you’re vegan, a meat lover, or just are into healthy food, Thai cuisine offers a huge variety of dishes most people can enjoy.

One interesting fact about Thai food recipes is that dishes contain an all-flavor profile, as you can find salty, sour, spicy, and sweet elements in one dish.

Here are some of the most common ingredients used in Thai food recipes.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine as it is used in several recipes and preparations. It is also known in Thailand as nam pla.

Fish sauce is made from runoff from barrels of anchovies. And when adding even just a few drops to dishes it will give them a subtle flavor.

When you add fish sauce to seafood dishes, salads, curries, and marinades you’re adding just a little something extra to them.

To make a comparison, fish sauce is in Thailand as soy sauce is in China and Japan, Thai food wouldn’t be the same without fish sauce.

If you’re looking to buy fish sauce in your local supermarket, check the label as it should contain only anchovies, salt, and water. And due to the amount of sodium, use it sparingly as a little goes a long way.


Thai cuisine is also known for the use of fresh or dried chiles in its recipes to provide heat to dishes. There are many chile options to choose from and expert Thai chefs like to experiment with the levels of spiciness, flavor, and color they can add to food.

Some of the most used varieties of chiles are the fresh cayenne chiles, which are used in curries, and the fiery hot Thai “bird” chiles are used in sauces and stir-fries.

On the other hand, dried red chiles are commonly used to make curry paste and add heat to soups and stir-fries. Chiles are capable of adding many different flavors and textures and can also be used in almost any type of dish with great success.

Coconut Milk

Used in Thai curries, and many other recipes, Coconut milk is a required component in many Thai dishes. It is made by rinsing the oils out of coconut flesh with warm water.

Fresh coconut milk is hard to obtain and modern Thai chefs have turned to using canned coconut milk. However, the canned coconut milk version does not hold the richness of the higher fat versions of traditional coconut milk.

Fresh Herbs

In some cases, fresh herbs can be substituted by dried herbs, as we get a very similar flavor from it, but in Thai cuisine, it does make a difference.

Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, Thai basil, and Vietnamese coriander add distinctive flavors to everything from salads to curries to fried rice. In Thai recipes, dried herbs are frowned upon because of the texture, flavor, and girth that fresh herbs add to Thai dishes.

Curry Paste

Curry paste is also a must-have ingredient in Thai food recipes. Most curries are of the red and green curry varieties. You can easily find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

The red curry pastes have notes of coriander root, galangal, and lemongrass. Green curry is flavored with fresh green chiles, and red curry dried red chiles.

Conclusion: Why Thai Food is So Popular

Thai cuisine has become one of the most important cuisines around the world. With many Thai restaurants across America and Europe, the love for Thai food has come to stay.

And since its arrival to the western about fifty years ago it has done nothing but gain in popularity, and love from diners worldwide.

The intense flavor of Thai cuisine is only one of the factors that make people easily adapt to the signature Thai dishes loved in Thailand. And due to that same unique flavor, people in countries like the US are so attracted to Thai recipes, it just tastes so good.

The flavor explosion provided by the combination of sweet, spicy, and sour is enough to make you love Thai food from the first bite. Also, because of the extensive use of fresh herbs in preparations, it gives each dish layer upon layer of zingy freshness and intense aroma.

Thai cuisine has captivated people’s palate all over the world, and their beautiful colors and intense flavors can now be found on every corner in big cities, ready to offer you a unique dining experience.


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