Thai cuisine is undoubtedly one of the most popular in the world. If you live in a big city, you can easily head over to your local Thai restaurant to satisfy your Pad Thai cravings. However, as most expats would agree, there are so much more to Thai food than just Pad Thai or Tom Yum Goong. The options available at food courts in Thailand are endless. Below are some of the ‘easy-dishes’ commonly enjoyed by Thais that are lesser known and somewhat difficult to find at Thai restaurants abroad!
Hainanese Chicken Rice (Khao Mun Gai)
Although not exactly Thai in its origin, this dish is everywhere in Thailand. Most local places (i.e. not food court) that offer this dish specializes in it, as in that’s all there is on the menu. Rice is cooked in Chicken Broth, giving it a fattiness that distinguishes it from regular rice. You can choose how you like your chicken cooked; boiled, grilled, or fried. The real highlight is the sauce which is a little salty and spicy. Hainanese Chicken Rice is often served with chicken broth.
BBQ Pork Rice (Khao Moo Daeng)
Khao Moo Daeng translates to red pork rice in Thai, and it literally just that; rice and BBQ red pork. Although the dish appears to be pretty straightforward, the composition of the dish can really make or break the taste. The thickness of the pork, the texture of the sauce, and even the quality of the rice all make a huge difference. Similarly to Hainanese chicken rice, most local joints that sell BBQ pork rice specialize in it as well. This dish is also served with broth, and diners have the option to add extra crispy pork as well.
Roasted Duck Rice (Khao Na Ped)
It looks very similar to BBQ Pork Rice and you might even find them at the same vendor, but authentic ones are actually very different. What distinguishes Khao Na Ped is the sauce, which is a lot less thick and sweet compared to Khao Moo Daeng. The quality really makes a difference here as high end franchise would tell you.
Braised Pork over Rice
Ultimate fatty dish, but it’s just so so worth it. Pork shank is braised for hours then served with marinated eggs and vegetables over rice. The pork just melts in your mouth, and you almost forget about all the workouts you have to do afterward. Some people like theirs with extra “Khagi” which is pork feet, but even some Thais wouldn’t eat that so it’s really just personal preference.
Rad-Na is another very common Thai-Chinse noodle dish where wide rice noodle is slightly fried then smothered in sticky, thick sauce with your choice of meat and Chinese broccoli. What distinguishes good and bad Rad-Na is the quality of the noodles and the texture of the sauce. Rad-Na is served with standard Thai condiments (dried chili, sugar, vinegar, fish sauce).
Stir-fried basil Over Rice (Pad-Kra-Pao)
Pad-Kra-Pao is to Thais what Pad-Thai is to foreigners. It’s arguably the most common dish in Thailand. There is a joke among Thais that Pad-Kra-Pao is something you order when you don’t know what to eat. Although this menu seems to be available at Thai restaurants abroad, the taste is very different as sweet basil is often substituted as Thai basil is expensive overseas. Order a side of fried egg to complete this dish.
Hoi-Tod (Fried Mussels Omelette)
The translation of “omelette” is quite misleading as this dish is very different that your traditional egg omelette. Mussels or oysters (or both) are mixed with flour/egg paste then deep fried. Hoi-Tod is served on sizzling hot plate with bean sprouts and green onions. Also fatty, but so so delicious!