TL;DR – Time to step up your Thai food game.
When people think of Thai food, there is a 99% chance that Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong will be at the top of their list. Singapore is blessed with an abundance of Thai restaurants in every neighbourhood and mall. Also, not forgetting our very own ‘Little Thailand’ at Golden Mile Complex. In short, it’s safe to say that Singaporeans love our Thai food. The misconception is that Thai cuisine is only made up of only Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong? Really?!
There’s so much more to the Thai cuisine than these two well-known dishes and here are 10 Thai dishes we absolutely recommend!
(*This list has been divided into 5 dishes each from the Central and Northern Thai cuisine.)
Central Thai Cuisine
1. Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai is the twin of the Tom Yum soup. It is a mild, much tamer version of Tom Yum. This soup combines, crushed shallots, finely sliced pieces of galangal, the fiery, hot birds-eye chillies, stalks of fragrant lemongrass, springy oyster mushrooms and tender-pieces of chicken. The addition of the creamy, coconut milk helps to mellow the heat from the chillies and the addition of kaffir lime leaves, limejuice, palm sugar and fish sauce makes the soup perfectly balanced. You won’t regret ordering this creamy bowl of deliciousness!
Try it at: Thai Affair at Central & Pasarbella
2. Pad Kra Pow
Pad Kra Pow is one of the many one-plate dishes available all across Thailand. It can be eaten at any meal — breakfast, lunch or dinner. In fact, this dish is like the comfort food of Thai people especially when they don’t know what to order or cook. It is typically stir-fried in a super hot wok with some minced chicken (pork or beef), chopped birds-eye chillies, a handful of holy basil leaves, some sugar and soy sauce. The dish is often topped off with a crispy, runny fried egg. One thing to bear in mind is that most Thai people love this dish to be tongue-numbingly spicy so if you can’t take the spice, be sure to let the vendor know ahead of time! #justsaying
Try it at: ParaThai at OneKM
3. Pad See Ew (Stir-fried noodles w/ Soy Sauce)
Contrary to the name, this dish is definitely not eww! Voted the most popular street food of Bangkok, it is absolutely delicious. There are slight differences between Pad See Ew and Pad Thai – the latter is nuttier and sweeter in taste, where as Pad See Ew is slightly saltier, with a char-grilled, smoky-flavour from the hot wok. It is commonly made with the wide, flat rice noodles, proteins (chicken, pork, beef), Chinese broccoli (kai lan) and egg – sort of like our hor fun!
Try it at: THAI Street Food at Amoy Street Food Centre
4. Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
Som Tum or better known as Spicy Green Papaya Salad, is a love-hate relationship for some people because of how viciously spicy it can be. Nonetheless, it is still undeniably packed with an intense umami-flavour, which keeps you coming back for more. The key ingredients are shredded raw papaya, lots of chillies and garlic, cherry tomatoes and green beans. The ingredients are then pulverised inside a pestle and mortar, releasing a punch of sour, sweet and spicy flavours. There are many variations across the region and some people add in peanuts, dried shrimp, salted crab or bplaa raa (fermented fish sauce). In the North Eastern region of Thailand, Som Tum is eaten together with sticky rice and perfectly char-grilled meat.
Try it at: Som Tam (yup, that’s right) at Orchard central
5. Yum Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Salad)
The colourful, spicy glass noodle salad is known as Yum Woon Sen in Thai and it is a popular dish to have together with several other dishes. It is made by combining some mung bean noodles, sliced onions, Chinese celery, dried shrimp, cherry tomatoes, minced meat (chicken or pork), crushed roasted peanuts, red chillies and tossed in salty-tangy-sweet dressing. The flavours are both refreshing and explosive in this dish!
Try it at: Gin Khao at Sentosa Cove & One Raffles Place
Northern Thai Cuisine
6. Khao Soi (Northern Thai Curry Noodles)
Khao Soi (Northern Thai Curry Noodles) is a rich, creamy coconut-based curry noodles packed with loads flavour from a mix of aromatics, served over soft, springy egg noodles, tender boiled chicken and topped with crispy egg noodles. The dish is completed by the colourful additions of onion, chilli, pickled cabbage and lime. The difference between our Singapore Laksa and Khao Soi is the paste and the ingredients it is served with, the former is made from a base of Rempah (a Malaysian-style spice paste) and the latter is made by combining two types of curry powder (red and yellow) with wet and dry aromatics.
Try it at: Thai Noodle House at Coronation Arcade
7. Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiao (Northern Spicy Tomato Noodles)
‘Kanom Jeen’ means, fresh rice noodles and ‘Nam Ngiao’ is a spicy, tangy tomato-infused broth. The dish is traditionally served with chunks of pig blood curds, minced pork balls, mixed in together with rice noodles and topped with a light, translucent tangy tomato and spice-infused pork broth. The condiments and fresh ingredients on the side totally compliment the dish, and it consists of some crunchy bean sprouts, sliced lime, crispy pork crackling and pickled cabbage.
We can’t seem to find this dish in Singapore, you’d have to go to Chiang Mai for it!
8. Gaeng Hang Lay (Northern Thai Pork Belly Curry)
The intensely reddish-orange Gaeng Hang Lay is an mildly-spicy yet decadent, melt-in-your-mouth stewed pork-belly curry. The curry tastes slightly fruity (from the chunks of pineapple infused) with hints of tangy, tomato-flavour. The curry has a bit of Burmese-influence by the infusion of tamarind, turmeric, garlic and ginger. The melding of aromas and flavours within the dish are extremely complex. It is best eaten together with a plate of steaming hot and fragrant Jasmine rice.
Again, you’d have to fly to Chiang Mai or try cooking it yourself.
9. Kaeng Khanun (Green Jackfruit Curry)
This light, curry-soup is perhaps almost equivalent to the ever-so-popular Central Thai dish, Tom Yum Soup. Similar to the Tom Yum Soup, Kaeng Khanun is also a hot and sour soup, which infuses the fruity-flavourings of a young, unripe jackfruit and cherry tomatoes. Although it is often served with hunky, chunks of pork, it can also be eaten as a vegetarian or vegan option without the meat. Interestingly enough, the exotic jackfruit has been hailed as the ‘next’ meat substitute because of how similar the texture and taste resembled meat. Like other curry dishes, Kaeng Khanun also be eaten together with Jasmine rice or more commonly in the North, sticky rice. A lesser known Thai secret is that some of the locals love to dip pieces of sinful-crispy pork rind into it and allowing the crispy rind to soak up the goodness of the curry.
Here’s the recipe, with almost step-by-step pictures too.
10. Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage)
Just so you know the Sai Oua ain’t your typical bratwurst — in fact this particular one is bursting with intense Thai flavours and a spice kick that will make you go back for seconds! Sai Oua is the combination of classic Thai ingredients; lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, red chillies, galangal (ginger), tumeric, garlic, fish sauce and pork mince. It has such a truly unique flavour that once you’ve tried Sai Oua, you probably won’t wanna eat regular sausages again!
Get it from: The Thai supermarket at Golden Mile Complex