Thai food is not just about the wonderful blend of fragrances, spices and fresh ingredients. Check out these 10 delicious thai food recipes.
Thai food is a very unique cuisine that is not comparable with others. It can be spicy, chilli-hot, or acidic. Each dish carries its signature flavour.
The Thai pride themselves for having a cuisine that harmoniously combines both old Eastern and Western influences. Long ago, Thai food mainly used aquatic animals, plants, and herbs as ingredients, and the traditional cooking methods were stewing and baking.
When the Chinese started migrating to Thailand, stir-frying and deep-frying methods were adopted. Later, in the 17th century, Thai food evolved as it was slowly influenced by cooking styles brought in by the influx of traders or migrants from Portugal, Holland, Japan and France.
Believe it or not, chilli was not a traditional ingredient. It was only in the 1600s that it was first introduced by the Portuguese missionaries, who acquired a taste for it in Latin America and brought it with them to South East Asia.
So, what makes it so healthy? Many of the spices and herbs in Thai ingredients have medicinal values. Here are 10 mouth-watering and healthy Thai food recipes and foods you should try:
#1 Spicy Papaya Salad
Also known as “som tam,” this is one of my favorite appetizers. It’s a salad made with unripe papayas and chopped chillis dressed with lime juice and fish sauce. Some versions include roasted peanuts and dried shrimp, both of which complement this salad very well. This dish originated from the north-eastern countryside of Thailand, but it is now easily in found in restaurants around the country.
Green papaya is packed with vitamins and enzymes. The enzymes work as a replacement for stomach acid, which is vital to the digestive process. As a result, as an appetizer, this salad helps to prepare your stomach to digest the dishes that follow.
If you want to try making it, here is a simple recipe that serves 4. You will need:
- 1 small, green/unripe papaya
- ½ cup of roasted peanuts (or cashews)
- 1 red chilli, sliced with the seeds removed
- a handful of fresh basil
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 tbsp of fish sauce
- 3 tbsp of lime juice
- 1 tsp of liquid honey
- 1 cup baby shrimp, cooked
- 1 cup bean sprouts, blanched
- 1 cup tofu, cubed and fried
Peel the papaya, slice it in half, and spoon out the seeds until clean. Next, grate the green papaya (not too fine) and place the grated papaya into a salad bowl. For the dressing, mix the olive oil, fish sauce, lime juice, and liquid honey together. Pour the dressing over the grated papaya and toss well. Add the sliced red chilli and fresh basil and toss again. Sprinkle the roasted peanuts/cashews on top before serving.
#2 Versatile Red Curry Paste
This paste is not for the faint-hearted. It is not just the chillis that sound threatening, but the myriad of flavour-filled herbs and spices that go into it. Also called “prik gaeng ped,” this curry paste is used as a basic ingredient for many Thai dishes. It can be used in soups, curries, and stir-fries.
I like to make mine based on Mark Wiens’s recipe as the amount of spices and herbs that he uses are perfectly suited to my taste buds. Here are the ingredients for his recipe:
- 8 dry red spur chillis
- 3 tsp of white pepper corns
- ½ tsp of cumin powder
- ½ tsp of coriander powder
- 10-15 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp of fresh coriander roots
- 1 tbsp of lemongrass, sliced
- 3-5 shallots
- 1 tbsp of galangal, sliced
- rinds of ½ kaffir lime
- ½ tsp of shrimp paste
- ½ tsp of salt
#3 Chicken Fried with Red Curry Paste
The Thai call this “gai pad prik.” It’s a dish that is considered to be street food. This dish is definitely not as mild as the salad, as it is prepared using the red curry paste listed above. Be warned: On a scale of 1 – 10, this would be an 8 or 9.
#4 Tom Yam
Ahh, just the thought of this makes my mouth water. The English call this “sour Thai soup.” Tom yam kung, or tom yam goong, is the version that contains prawns and straw mushroom. This soup is so appetizing that you just can’t stop eating it despite your eyes tearing and your nose running.
The basic ingredients of this soup are similar to those of the red curry paste. The taste is mostly derived from a combination of the flavors from lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, shallots, and fish sauce. This soup is very healthy because it does not involve any frying. The ingredients are boiled in the soup, so all their healthy goodness is absorbed into the soup.
Some people have it as a starter to kick-start an awesome Thai meal. In my country, this is served as a main dish with fragrant steamed white rice as a side dish.
I have read that this soup can help to reduce the risk of cancer. Studies have shown that the Thai seem to suffer less from digestive tract cancers compared to other nationalities. Researchers believe that this is due to the ingredients used in tom yam, which inhibit cancerous tumor growth more effectively than other foods.
#5 Pad Thai
I’m sure that this dish does not need any introduction. I’ve never come across a Thai restaurant that does not serve this.
A one-dish-meal, pad thai’s main ingredient, the flat-noodles, are made from rice, which contains lower carbs than flour-based noodles. Other typical ingredients are onions, green onions, bean sprouts, and fried tofu seasoned with fish sauce during the stir-frying process. Some versions might be on the sweeter side as the chef might add sugar. Crushed peanuts are used to garnish the dish before serving.
I like to squeeze some lime juice over it, and then mix it well before digging in. The tangy taste works very well with it.
#6 Laap or Larp
This is a refreshing meat salad that has Laotian origins. The Thai in the northern regions usually use either pork or chicken, which is seasoned with spices like cumin, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and ground dried chillis. Apparently, this dish can be eaten raw, but I have never tried this version.
#7 Green Curry
Another one of my favorite dishes, this herbal yet spicy hot curry is like no other curry. This is due to the combination of herbs used in the green curry paste, balanced with the taste of fresh coconut milk.
In most Thai restaurants, chicken is the meat ingredient of the green curry dish. However, I find that fish or seafood work very well with green curry, too.
#8 Water Morning Glory
We’re not talking about the purple flower. This is a leafy plant with hollow green stems and delicate leaves that is semi-aquatic and can be found all across South-East Asia. It is called “pak boong” in Thai, and is sometimes referred to as water spinach.
This vegetable is usually stir-fried with garlic, oyster sauce, shrimp paste, or red chilli paste. It’s easy to eat, and some studies have found that it can help in lowering blood sugar levels.
#9 Thai Fried Rice or Khao Phat
This unpretentious rice dish is typically eaten as a one-dish lunch. It consists of Thai rice fried with eggs, onions, and some herbs. Some fancy restaurants might add crab meat or prawns.
Some people like to have this dish as a side dish with other Thai curry dishes. Personally, I like it served with the stir-fried water morning glory with chilli and shrimp paste.
#10 Mango Rice Pudding
Last but not least, I must mention this heavenly Thai dessert. The rice pudding is made of glutinous (sticky) rice cooked with sweetened coconut milk. It is then served at room temperature or chilled with ripe mango.
So, has your mouth started watering yet?
I hope you enjoy this list of introductory Thai food recipes – especially if you’re new to this cuisine. If it gets too spicy hot, a good tip is to have a glass of cold milk handy as this will neutralize the burn of the spices. Good luck and enjoy.