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One of the most popular cuisines is Thai Food. With its exquisite blend of spicy, tangy, sweet and sour flavors; the rich curries and the bold noodle dishes; it’s no wonder so many diners are crazy for Thai! In an attempt to share what we already know about the awesomeness of Thai food, we’re dedicating this FirstBites to a closer look some very tasty Thai menu choices. Let’s go!

Getting Started
shutterstock_100662529_somtamWhile there are many differences between Thai and Chinese cuisines, if you’re a fan of Chinese food, you’ll find some familiar similarities on a Thai menu. The first of which is Tom Yum Goong (also known as Tom Yam Goong) or hot and sour soup. This starter is made with ingredients like lemon grass, dried, crushed chili peppers, lime, and fish sauce. The broth is delicious and the more substantial ingredients range from shrimp or other seafood to an all-veggie mix with rice.

You’ll also want to check out Som Tam, or green papaya salad. Unripe papayas are shredded and mixed with sweet, sour, tangy dressing that has just a bit of kick. It’s served with green beans, sticky rice and peanuts. Som Tam is rumored to be the most popular dish among women in Thailand.

Rice is one of the staples of Thai Cuisine. Sticky rice, a starchier form of the grain that is cooked until it takes on a sticky texture, is popular in many Thai dishes. Many dishes are served with rice or sticky rice including some of the most classic Thai meals like curries. Rice acts as the base for most curries and the two are usually served separately but then combined by the diner to create a soupier dish.

The ingredients in different curry sauces are very similar and the final products are differentiated largely by the color of the chilies used. For instance, green curry is made using green chilies and red curry is made with crushed red chilies. You get the picture. Regardless of the color, they’re all delicious.

Green Curry – Made with green chilies, garlic, kaffir limes, coriander and other spices, then mixed with coconut milk, green curry can be as spicy as red curry, but unlike red curry, it has a sweet undertone that rounds out the dish. Look for vegetables like bell pepper, onion and basil to be served with green curry. Sweet potato also makes a tasty addition to the spicy-sweetness of green curry.

Red Curry – Almost identical to green curry, aside from the red chilies used to make this sauce, red curries match green curries in spice and flavor. Red curries will have a slightly different bite and don’t have the subtle sweetness that green curries contain.

shutterstock_132121877_padthaiPanang Curry – Much more mild than a red or green curry, panang is a great starting place for Thai food novices who want to dip their toe in the curry world without worrying about being overwhelmed by spice. You can always adjust the hotness of your dish by adding extra spice on your own. Just ask your server to bring the spices to your table.

Pad Thai – One of the most traditional and popular Thai dishes you’re likely to find around the world. Done well, it’s a mixture of delicate rice noodles with tangy and spicy bursts of flavor. A sauce made with tamarind paste and shallots, then mixed with bean sprouts chicken, fish, or tofu and topped with crushed peanuts. While Pad Thai is a favorite for many, it’s also one of the least authentically Thai dishes associated with Thailand. The combination of flavors and ingredients is strongly influenced by Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine and would be more commonly served in banana leaves by Thai street vendors, but not in an upscale Thai restaurant.

Pad See-Ew – Literally translated it means soy sauce stir-fry and it’s totally delicious. This dish is made in a VERY hot wok and Ask Your Server - Thai with border
involves frying wide, flat rice noodles noodles, broccoli, and an egg. The chef then mixes this piping hot dish in a mild brown soy sauce and voila! The ingredients are very simple, not overly fishy or spicy and perfect for anyone who is new to Thai or just craving a reliable favorite.

As always, if you’re new to the cuisine, remember to look for ingredients that you know you like and go from there. You don’t have to try the wildest looking option on the menu your first time out of the gate!

There are many, many delicious Thai dishes we haven’t listed here. Whether you love the ones we’ve mentioned or have a few of your own favorites we’ve left out, let us know below!

FirstBites shares pictures, thoughts and advice about the foods and flavors you’ve always wanted to try. Hungry for more? Check out our guides other guides below!