Thai cuisine is well known for its spiciness, with Som Tam (a spicy papaya salad) being a famous example. In fact, however, the secret to Thai food is a balance of five flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy.
Some Thai dishes have a careful blend of all these tantalizing tastes. Others are served with something to help deal with the overpowering spiciness.
For example, Tom Yum Goong, which is sour and spicy, is often paired with an omelet or rice. This could be the reason rice is always part of a Thai meal.
As well as many herbs and spices used in Thai food, fish sauce is often used in a similar way salt is, as it mellows the taste. This means vegetarians will have to take this into account and be more careful when choosing food in Thailand.
Northern Thai meals usually feature sticky rice, Nam Prik (spicy chili paste), fresh vegetable, and soup, northeastern Thai meals are famous for their spicy and sour dishes and an essential condiment Pla Ra (fermented fish sauce), while traditional southern foods are well-known for their herbs and spices.
There is also a lot of Chinese influence. Many Chinese restaurants and fusion foods exist in Thailand side by side with the authentic Thai cuisine restaurants.
There is a great variety of Thai food for you to try, both main dishes and desserts. You can also try local foods, which are different in each part of the country.
Story by Laurence Civil & Wanida Tardivel
A host of chefs have reinvented traditional Thai cuisine with amazing results
Bangkok now has a great number of next-gen extremely talented young Thai celebrity chefs. They are all passionate foodies who have sought to learn from the best. The result is a structured, disciplined approach to sourcing the best ingredients, using the most appropriate cooking techniques and modern artistic plating.
For a very long time, Thai ingredients have been underappreciated; Thailand is among the best places on earth for the finest ingredients. Sourcing only quality ingredients from local farmers who grow their produce with love and care, chefs combine them with modern cooking techniques to turn them into extraordinary creations.
As these restaurants have to compete with a huge array of affordably priced street food, it’s a major challenge to make an upscale Thai restaurant profitable in Bangkok. Thais regard their cuisine as a holy grail, it’s not to be messed with. Having said that in recent years there has been a move towards elevating the Thai dining experience. This has gained global acceptance and is reflected in the number of Bangkok-based Thai restaurants listed on Asia’s 50 Best, Bib Gourmand, Michelin Restaurants in Bangkok
Bo Ian (Essential Thai), is an eco-friendly restaurant influenced by street food, refined royal cuisine and home-cooking traditions with great stories attached. It aims to be a zero-waste restaurant. Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava and Dylan Thomas met in London while working at David Thompson’s Nahm. In 2009 they opened Bo.lan, rated 19th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017. They serve the combined five elements of a Thai meal – salad, dip, stir fry, curry and soup – to offer an authentic dining experience. Read more
Located in the neighbourhood where Chef Ian Kittichai grew up, it’s set on the ground floor of a 1920s Perankan style villa, the former residence of a Director of the State Railway of Siam. Thai home-style comfort food prepared with modern techniques and premium ingredients. Read more
Le Du actually comes from a Thai word – “ฤดู”, a synonym for the word “season” in Thai. The name reflects their emphasis on seasonal produce. The restaurant is a modern Thai-inspired eatery offering four courses and tasting menus featuring the extraordinary agricultural bounty of Thailand. Read more
This is as good as it gets. The restaurant was listed in Michelin Guide Bangkok and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Nahm emphasises the strong, fresh flavours of traditional Thai cuisine, headed by chef Pim Techamuanvivit. Chef Pim delivers tastes and textures in dishes of all varieties, whether savoury or sweet, meats, seafood or vegetables. The authenticity of her food is the result of painstaking research for authentic recipes and then sourcing the best ingredients without compromise.
The chef draws inspiration from traditional recipes and then re-interprets them in his own way; making the most of modern techniques, artful presentation and some personal twists. They use less sugar and fish sauce than other Thai eateries, and the taste can come across as Mediterranean but is an uplifting re-interpretation of Thai food. Read more
Surrounded by a picturesque lotus-pond with air-conditioned terraces overlooking the water, guests are spoilt both by the choice and the tranquil atmosphere. The extensive à la carte menu offers a selection of the finest dishes from all over Thailand, prepared just as they were meant to be enjoyed through the ages. Read more
After travelling in southern Thailand Henrik Yde Andersen returned to his native Copenhagen to open Kin Kin in 2006. A year later it became the second Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. In 2009 he brought his style of Thai food to Bangkok, opening Sra Bua by Kin Kin at Siam Kempinski Hotel. Deconstructed classical Thai dishes served in a contemporary Thai setting. Rated 21st on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 list. Read more
This impressive, modern Thai restaurant is named after the famous Thai dessert that pays homage to the shape and aroma of the golden apple. With only the finest natural and native ingredients, herbs and spices used, take your palate on a journey across Thailand as you sample authentic dishes inspired by the distinct cooking styles of the north and south.
The latest Thai fine dining restaurant by Chef Noom Thaninthorn Chantrawan, who uses only high quality local ingredients, 100 per cent Thai with no imported ingredients at all. For lunch they offer an a la carte menu while for dinner, just a choice of three set menus: ancient, classic and innovative. Proud of their Thai culinary heritage, they innovate without compromising.
Born in Brussels from Thai-Belgian parents the Blue Elephant redefined the art of Thai dining. It very tastefully combines Thai hospitality, cuisine and antiques. The restaurant is set on the ground floor of the Thai Chine Building facing Surasak BTS, which started life as the Bombay Department Store in 1928. Read more
From San Francisco where the brand was founded to Bangkok. Dark wood furniture and hues of gold create the feel as if you were dining in a palace. The restaurant serves Thai food with a molecular twist. Exquisitely plated yet with fire in the taste. Read more
It may sound strange but expat Jarrett Wrisley, a former American travel writer, serves regional Thai food in a Thonglor shophouse just 5 mins walk from the BTS. The soul food concept is that both food and the setting should be comfortable. He gets both right with a team of great chefs, welcoming ingredients, honest cooking and serious cocktails. Read more
Ruan Urai, Michelin Star Guide
Set in the grounds of The Rose Hotel the name means “The House of Gold”. A century old golden teak house, recently restored in Ayuthaya, the former residence of the herbal medical doctor to King Rama V. Filled with Asian antiques and Thai crafts to create an intimate residential feel.Out of respect to the original owner the food uses herbs and spices that gives an abundance of flavours combined with medicinal qualities.
Dishes are more contemporary in their presentation with many presented on black slate. Here they take a simple dish and refine it while respecting the authenticity of the taste served in a contemporary presentation. A perfect example being Mieng Bussabong a variation the more familiar Meing Kham, meaning to eat many things in one bite, originating in India. The bettlenut leaf wrapping had been replaced by an open lotus petal filled with non-traditional salmon and lotus seeds with usual mieng condiments of diced shallot,fresh ginger, garlic and lime still in its skin, and Meing Kham sauce. Read more