Top 15 Most Popular Thai Foods:
1. Som Tum
The most popular Thai food is Som Tum, without a doubt. This spicy and sour salad made from green papaya is packed with chillies and the sourness and high level of spiciness are so addicted to Thai, that many will eat it at least once a day. There are a few versions of Som Tum to be found, but if you’d like to try this popular Thai dish yourself, we recommend you to try Som Tam Thai as other versions contain ingredients that most foreigners don’t like, such as Pla Ra, which is fermented fish. As Som Tum is made from scratch in a mortar, foreigners are always asked how spicy you want it to be. For those who can’t handle spiciness, ask for maximum one chilly, although no chillies at all are common for foreigners as well. If you're planning to visit Bangkok, have a look at our article about the best Som Tam in Bangkok.
2. Pad Kra Pao
The second most popular Thai dish is Pad Kra Pao, a stir-fry dish that can be seen as the Thai equivalent of the hamburger. Why can you compare it with the hamburger? It’s because it’s Thai fast food, as Pad Kra Pao is served within minutes. When ordering, you can choose between a variety of proteins of which minced pork and chunks of chicken filet are the most common, although other versions with seafood or crispy pork are common too. What makes Pad Kra Pao so delicious is the saltiness, sweetness and spiciness this stir-fry has. Pad Kra Pao is usually finished with a Thai fried egg, which is a fried egg with a sunny side up and the combination of this running egg with the spicy stir-fry and steamed rice is incredibly tasty. When visiting Thailand, there is a big chance that you, like many other foreigners and Thai, get addicted to the taste of Pad Kra Pao. If you’re planning to visit Bangkok, have a look at our article about the best Pad Kra Pao in Bangkok.
3. Tom Yum Goong
The most popular Thai soup is Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup with mushrooms and prawns. The soup itself is packed with herbs such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, which gives it that distinctive oriental flavour. Usually, when you eat Tom Yum Goong in a restaurant, it’s served in a larger bowl as it’s common to share the food you ordered with each other on the table. There are two versions of Tom Yum soup, namely Tom Yum Nam Khon and Tom Yum Nam Sai of which the first one, Tom Yum Nam Khon, is the most popular one. The difference between those two soups is that Tom Yum Nam Khon is made with a dash of (coconut) milk, which makes the soup nicely creamy. If you’re planning to visit Bangkok, have look at our article about the best Tom Yum soups in Bangkok.
4. Guay Teow
Guay Teow is the collective name of a bowl of noodles and there are countless versions to find in the Thai cuisine. Guay Teow are among the most popular Thai foods you can find as they can be found on every corner of the street and are served within minutes for just a little bit of money. In fact, Guay Teow is most likely the most popular Thai food option for lunch. To recommend each and every noodle dish would be too much work, but luckily we wrote an article about the best noodles in Bangkok where you can find more than twenty amazing noodles (soup) dishes. Keep in mind that these restaurants are often jam-packed during lunch hours, so it’s recommended to visit these places after two o’clock in the afternoon.
5. Laab Moo
Laab is yet another Isaan-dish on this list of most popular Thai dishes. The Isaan region is the north-eastern region right next the Cambodian and Laotian border that is famed for its cuisine. Dishes such as Som Tam, Nam Tok, Moo Tod Daew and many more all come from this part of Thailand. These highly fragrant dishes with often raw ingredients such as raw garlic, raw onion and raw herbs can be overwhelming for foreigners at first, but once you get used to the taste, you basically become addicted to it.
6. Khao Soi
One of the most popular Thai foods among foreigners is Khao Soi. But not only foreigners love to eat Khao Soi, but Thai do also love a bowl of this curry as well too. Khao Soi is a Northern Thai curry with a distinctive yellow curry. As Khao Soi has Muslim roots, the curry has many different flavours compared to typical Thai curries such as Red Curry and Green Curry. Khao Soi is also not that spicy but can be better described as fragrant. Inside the curry you find noodles, but the curry is also topped with crispy fried noodles. Most of the time, Khao Soi is served with a chicken leg or with beef, with a few exceptions here and there. You can add some shallot, pickled greens and chilli according to your flavour, the equivalent to salt and pepper in the Western cuisine. If you plan to visit Chiang Mai, check out our article about the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai to taste this hugely popular Thai dish.
7. Yum Talay
Yum Talay is a spicy and sour, lukewarm Thai salad that can be found at almost every Thai restaurant. As you might have noticed, the Thai word “Yum” is in both Yum Talay as in Tom Yum Goong, another popular Thai dish we recommended earlier. That’s because Yum means Spicy and Sour. Whenever you see the word Yum in a dish, you can expect spicy and sour flavours. There are different types of Yum salads, such ass Yum Mango, Yum with Fried Egg and Yum with Beef, but the most popular one is Yum Seafood (Yum Talay). A mix of seafood that includes prawns, mussels and squid are drenched in a sour and spicy dressing and served with raw onion, tomatoes and cilantro. When you combine all this, you get a real flavour explosion in your mouth with different types of textures thanks to the variety of seafood. In other words, another highly recommended Thai dish you should try when you’re in Thailand.
8. Moo Tod Daew
Moo Tod Daew is yet another popular Thai dish from the Isaan region and is deep-fried, sun-dried pork strings served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. As the pork is sun-dried first, the texture of the pork changes completely into something chewy. Then, the pork is deep-fried shortly, which gives it a salty flavour and a crispy outside. Moo Tod Daew is especially delicious when you eat it with sticky rice. The pork is only flavoured with garlic and pepper and is non-spicy, making it an excellent comforting dish to try when visiting Thailand.
9. Khao Pad
Khao Pad is Thai Fried Rice and is among the most popular Thai foods as it’s comforting, quick to make and a great idea for left-overs. But don’t worry, when you order fried rice in restaurants or at street food stalls, the Khao Pad is made from scratch and not from left-overs. There are dozens of variations of Khao Pad from Crab Fried Rice to American Fried Rice and even fried rice served in a pineapple. You can find versions that are made with the curry paste of popular Thai dishes such as Red Curry Fried Rice and Tom Yum Fried Rice. When visiting Thailand, trying Khao Pad is an excellent choice as it’s a non-spicy dish that suits the Western taste palette.
10. Khao Moo Grob
Khao Moo Grob is a Chinese-influenced Thai dish that is usually served at really local eateries or street food vendors. Moo Grob, which is crispy pork, is an interesting and delicious ingredient that you can find in many noodle and rice dishes and because of the crunchiness, a popular choice of protein. Khao Moo Grob is crispy baked pork served with a sweet gravy. The combination of crispy, salty pork with sweet, non-spicy gravy is what makes this dish so popular and delicious. Like many popular Thai dishes, Khao Moo Grob is served within minutes, making it ideal for a quick bite.
11. Khua Kling
The Southern Thai cuisine is known for its spiciness and we admit that this popular Thai dish is spicy too, but not as spicy as for example Gaeng Tai Pla, another Southern Thai signature dish. Khua Kling is a dry curry, meaning that the curry paste is not softened with coconut milk and palm sugar. It does means that Khua Kling is spicier than your regular curry, but also have deeper flavours. Khua Kling is a fragrant, herby dried curry that’s served with a variety of fresh veggies to dip the Khua Kling in. When visiting the southern parts of Thailand, we highly recommend you to try this amazing speciality.
12. Hoy Tod
Hoy Tod is a guilty please as this is not your type of popular Thai food that you want to eat every day as it’s greasy and not really healthy. But this crispy oyster omelette is so satisfying that you must try it when you visit Thailand. There are two different types of Hoy Tod, namely one gooey version and one crispy version. The difference between these omelettes is the batter, and personally, the crispy version is the tastiest one. You can also choose between mussels and oysters, of which we believe oysters are the tastiest option. Hoy Tod is a non-spicy, savoury dish that is often served on a sizzling hot plate and flavour-wise it’s friendly for the Western taste palette. If you plan to visit Bangkok, check out our article about the best Hoy Tod in Bangkok.
13. Nam Tok
Nam Tok is yet another popular Thai dish from the Isaan region and has many similarities with Laab when it comes to flavours. However, the big differences are the type of meat and dressing. Nam Tok is made with grilled pork neck, a part of the pork that is a little bit greasy. Where in the Western cuisine the fat parts of the meat are cut off by the butcher or the chef, in Thai Cuisine (and other Asian Cuisines), the fat is considered a delicious, soft part. Nam Tok is covered in much more dressing compared to Laab, as Laab is often served relatively dry. Because of the large amount of delicious dressing, it’s perfect to dip your steamed or sticky rice in it.
14. Nam Phrik
Nam Phrik is a spicy dip made with common herbs such as chillies, garlic, lime, fish paste and shallots and is usually served with either a variety of fresh vegetables or with fish, poultry and meats. The idea behind this dish is that you dip the assorted veggies or the fish, poultry and meats in the spicy dipping sauce. Each region in Thailand has a different type of dip and the level of spiciness vary enormously. In the Northern Thai cuisine, Nam Phrik is not that spicy, but more herby and served with assorted vegetables, which is a huge taste explosion in your mouth. In the Southern parts of Thailand, the dipping sauces become much spicier.
15. Deep-Fried Sea Bass with Spicy Mango Salad
For everyone who likes deep-fried fish, you must try the deep-fried sea bass with spicy mango salad. Every seafood restaurant in Thailand has this popular Thai dish on their menu. The fish is thinly coated and served with a spicy mango salad. The combination of this sour and spicy salad with the greasiness of the deep-fried fish is what makes this Thai dish so popular. The sea bass is sliced in half, making it easy to eat the fish filet without eating the fish bones. You can find this seafood dish at every Thai seafood restaurant. If you're looking for amazing seafood restaurants, check out our articles about the best seafood in Bangkok, the best seafood in Chiang Mai, the best seafood in Kanchanaburi, the best seafood in Ayutthaya or the best seafood in Pattaya.
As you might have noticed, Pad Thai is not listed in our article about the most popular Thai food. That’s because Pad Thai is not as popular among Thai as you might think. Yes, Thai do eat Pad Thai, but it’s mostly eaten by foreigners. The reason why many foreigners think Pad Thai is such popular Thai food is because of a PR-stunt during a rice shortage and to boost nationalism. For more popular Thai dishes, check out one of the following relevant articles:
Best Thai food for beginners
Best vegetarian Thai food
Best Thai food for kids
We've published an in-depth article about Bangkok Street Food that covers every aspect regarding this popular topic. The article is partly focussed on Bangkok but contains plenty of general information about street food in Thailand. If you're planning to visit Thailand, it's an absolute must to have a look at our street food guide (completely free). Or check our article about the best food in Bangkok.
There you have it, the most popular Thai food. All these foods can be found in our food app TopTravelFoods. The app will help you find the best food in Thailand, instead of only recommending good restaurants at popular destinations. This way, you won’t miss out legendary restaurants and you can enjoy the local Thai cuisine to the fullest. You can filter on vegetarian Thai foods only. The app is available for both iOS and Android and is completely free. If you're on a desktop, you can start searching for vegetarian food in Bangkok or many other cities such as Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Koh Larn, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi and Sukhothai.
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