Thai food is renowned for its quality and diversity — even every street food vendor has its own recipe and delights in his culinary skills. Almost all Thai cuisine seeks a balance between the four flavors — sweet, sour, spicy and salty, though the balance varies from dish to dish.
The sweetness is derived from palm sugar, while the sourness is introduced by lime juice. Spices like chilli pepper, lemongrass, turmeric, galangal and basil are widely used to create aroma. Fish sauce, made from fermented fish and salt, is the special ingredient to enhance taste.
Ingredients of Thai cuisine
An important feature of Thai cuisine is the combination of different flavors, textures, temperatures, and cooking methods in the same dish. Thai people aim to prepare a light yet complex and tasty dish where all the different ingredients are harmonized in a perfect way. As in other Asian countries, rice and noodles are served as the staple.
The most popular type of rice is the long-grain rice, named khao in Thai language. The most common variety is sticky rice, even if in some regions jasmine rice is favored. Noodles, made of rice, wheat and egg, are usually stir-fried or cooked in a soup with toppings of chopped nuts, basil and kaffir lime.
Seeing Bangkok with ease
In Bangkok, our tour guide, Ying, was wonderful. She navigated all the sights with ease, gave us interesting tidbits on Thai culture and history, helped us pick the right food at all the restaurants, and was just a pleasure to be around. We had a great time, and it was so nice to not have to worry about any of the details.More
Diane Elkins, Nov 2023
Thailand -insights, no stress and amazing team
My husband and my Thailand trip was fantastic, stress-free and educational thanks to the amazing team coordinated by Albee at Asia Highlights. The whole team was incredibly accessible, responsive, sensitive to our needs and lovely to work with. End-to-end, the trip was truly remarkable and the knowledgeable and dynamic tour guides and drivers made it especially memorable!More
AndrewsFamily, Oct 2023
Informative & Thorough / Thanks Sharon!
Sharon the advisor that helped me was so thorough & informative and explained the details of the tour including questions about visas and what is included vs what is not included in the tour packages. I would recommend them to explain tour packages that would fit the schedule of your pending travels.More
Chris, Sep 2023
Easy, fast responses
I worked directly with Monica in Asia Highlights. She was incredibly helpful and answered all of my questions quickly. Working with her made the whole process easy and we are so excited for our trip!More
Diana B, Sep 2023
Stress free Thailand
Alisa has organised our 14 day Thailand holiday for 2024 for my family & I. She has been very accommodating & super quick with all of our requests & we cannot wait for a stress free holiday! Thank you Alisa!More
Alana Mitchell, Sep 2023
Family Trip to Thailand-Cambodia
All of our guides were very nice and knowledgeable, but we have a special mention to our guide in Cambodia, Chan, he was very kind with us and it was very amusing. He went the extra mile for us. We really enjoyed our holidays!More
José Antonio Carrillo de la Pl, Sep 2023
Asia Highlights and Sharon
Asia Highlights, specifically Sharon, has been wonderfully helpful as we get ready for a 2024 excursion to Thailand. We are beyond excited, and much of that has to do with the personalized attention that we have experienced with Sharon. She has been extremely responsive, obliging, and focused as she helped us design a tailor made itinerary. All of our questions have been addressed, our needs have been met, and the path has now been set for a very exciting trip.... thanks to Sharon.More
Marcy Hoenig, Sep 2023
I was planning a trip to Thailand to…
I was planning a trip to Thailand to especially see the Lantern Festival this year for our birthdays!! It’s been on our bucket list, but we were completely lost on how to go about planning for our trip. We’ve never really booked tours before but Alisa was extremely helpful, knowledgeable, flexible and efficient in providing all the information we needed to make our decision on the best tours and tickets to purchase. Thank you so much!!More
https://www.trustpilot.com/reviews/64d9a5a4657e4b39f768a21e, Aug 2023
I would definitely recommend Asia…
All of our guides were wonderful (Mr. Bank - Bangkok and Ms. Kai in Phuket & Khao Sok plus antoher guide who assisted in Koh Samui). Sharon took care of tours, private drivers, flights and hotels within Thailand and our trip went off without a hitch. The hotels were great and the transportation always arrived on time and with a clean,More
Guinevere Provance, Aug 2023
WOW! I’ve traveled Asia some & I must say Sharon & Asia Highlights made this trip so much more enjoyable and easyMore
Stephen Hollis, Aug 2023
Alisa has has been great to work with
Alisa with Asia Highlights has has been great to work with. Very friendly and responsive.More
Ana Rausch, Aug 2023
Using Sharon right now to book our…
Using Sharon right now to book our upcoming trip to Thailand. She has booked everything that we asked for. Has answered all of my inquiries, which has been many! Looking forward to having a great girls trip in ThailandMore
Tracy, Aug 2023
Thailand, Singapore, Bali
In Thailand, Tanny and Nori(Suparp), were both incredible! They were both fun, funny, and full of knowledge and made sure we got the full experience. They went the extra mile and always made sure we had cold bottled water and towels to cleanse our hands. In Singapore, Nicole was an absolute gem. She was so kind and knowledgeable and guided us in the right direction to make our day as enjoyable as possible. She helped us choose a top notch local lunch and coffee spot in China Town and taught us so much about the country! In Bali, Emon was an absolute joy. He was very knowledgeable and kind and absolutely made sure we were feeling comfortable and was willing to be flexible with us. He was fun to converse with and made our time traveling between destinations so enjoyable! I cannot recommend Asia Highlights enough! Accommodations, travel arrangements and guided tours were all a breeze.More
Cassi Thunker, Jul 2023
Very supportive ! I have received eticket for Sky Lattern Festival very fastMore
Chi?n Nguy?n Ng?c, Jul 2023
My experience in Chang Mai with Asia Highlights
I greatly enjoyed my experience with Asia Highlights for a trip I booked to Thailand.All of my interests were catered too. My guide in Chang Mai Gemma was excellent.I truly felt the soul of Thailand culture and Buddhism.More
Richard, Jul 2023
A pleasure to plan with
Well, this has been a painless and pleasurable process to find such a wonderful company. I had specific dates and places to be and Sharon worked with me diligently to refine the schedule and costs to suit my travel needs and budget. She informed me of a special tour on the dates I am to be in Thailand and I added that to my previous plans.More
Chris Williams, Jul 2023
Large multi-generational holiday in Thailand
The holiday was wonderful. Our guides, Mr Monchai (Bangkok), and Ms Tipagorn (Tippy) (Chiang Mai) were exceptional. Travelling in a large multigenerational group with many children requires patience and our guides truly understood that. Mr Monchai and Ms Tippy shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. While everyday was busy, having them greet us with patience and a smile truly made this a memorable holiday. The hotels we stayed at were equally wonderful and went above and beyond to celebrate not only my parents 50th anniversary but also celebrate 2 milestone birthdays that occurred. We will cherish this holiday for many years to come. We hope to use Asia Highlights again.More
CL, Jul 2023
I never used a travel agent in my life
I never used a travel agent in my life, but Sharon for Asia Highlights did a phenomenal job helping planning and coordination a family vacation. The best part of working with Sharon was that she maintained an open line of communication and provided answers to my question well within 12-24 hours. Additionally, Sharon was flexible and customized our vacation to my families needs. Overall great experience.More
Antione Barry, Jul 2023
Great company to plan a trip to Southeast Asia!
Sharon Haung has been wonderful to work with! Very patient and accommodating. Responds immediately given time change and is prepared, prompt, and professional.More
Debi Hinerfeld, Jul 2023
We took a 15 days trip (10 days Vietnam and 5 days Thailand …
It was an amazing experience the guides and drivers were there awaiting for us at each airoport for a transfer to the hotels also on time for all the tours all the guides were so lovely , very experienced and spoke very good English , one of the days on tour in Thailand I lost my phone in a temple in Bangkok mr chai went out of his way in a middle of thousands of visitors and managed to find an bring it back to me I found that amazing , also while on a trip I contacted Jason li out tour organizer few time via whatup and he replied and helped on the spot I recommend asiahilights 150% The quality of the service hotels the guides the drivers outstanding From start to finish ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT ????More
SIMO el ghobar, Jun 2023
Herbs & spices
Herbs and spices are probably the most peculiar feature of Thai dishes. Almost every dish presents one or more herbs and spices. The leaves of the kaffir lime are used in many soups like tom yam or curries from central areas. Kaffir lime leaves are usually combined with galangal and lemongrass, giving the dish a fresh and aromatic flavor.
Thai basil is used to add fragrance to green curries, and other common herbs are coriander, spearmint, holy basil, ginger, turmeric, and many more. Larb is an elaborate mix of spices that includes cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, and cinnamon.
Among other leaves used in Thai cuisine, we can find the cha-om (acacia leaves). They can be used for omelets, soups and curries, while banana leaves are mostly used for parcelling up certain kinds of food. Banana flowers, finally, are used in salads or in curries.
Five different types of chili are used in Thai cooking; the smaller the chili, the hotter the flavor. The smallest one is the phrik khi nu suan; the bigger ones are mostly used as vegetables.
Pastes & sauces
Pastes and sauces are extremely common in Thai cuisine, and they are part of its unique flavor. They are usually used as dips for raw vegetables or meat. A sauce used in every region is nam pla, made of fermented fish, usually anchovies. However, there are many variations of this basic sauce. Another popular sauce is pla ra, an opaque sauce more pungent than nam pla.
Kapi, a shrimp paste, is indispensable for making Thai curry pastes. Chili pastes (nam phrik) come in many different regional variations, and they are used to prepare Thai curry pastes (phrik kaeng or khrueang kaeng).
Soy sauce is mostly used for vegetable and meat stir-fries.
Vegetables are usually eaten raw, steamed, or stir-fried. Eggplant is common, and it comes in many varieties like the pea-sized or the egg-sized ones. Cucumbers, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, winged beans, and corn are all commonly used.
Leafy vegetables are eaten as a side dish (most of the time raw, dipped in a fish sauce or in a paste). It will be common for you to find morning glory, Thai basil, water mimosa, Chinese cabbage, yellow burr head, rice paddy herb, etc. Mushrooms are also widely used: especially straw mushrooms and white jelly fungus.
The final mention have the flowers. They can be eaten as vegetables, like the flower buds of the banana; or used to add color to dishes, like the blue dok anchan, the flowers of Clitoria ternatea.
Interesting history of Thai cuisine
During its long history, Thailand has received many influences from neighboring and distant countries. Thailand shares some dishes with Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and some features of its cuisine come from China (especially from Yunnan). The South of Thailand, in addition, presents the influence of India and Malaysia.
Many dishes were introduced by Chinese people during the 15th and the 18th century. Chok Thai (a rice porridge), salapao (steamed buns, known in China as baozi, 包子), fried rice-noodles, and many more, are all Chinese dishes that now are part of Thai cuisine.
During the kingdom of Ayutthaya (15th – 16th century), many traders came to Thailand, bringing with them their own local dishes. Thanks to this, Thailand became familiar with the curries from the cuisines of India and Persia, and with some dishes from Portugal, like fios de ovos, a dessert made with eggs, now known in Thailand as foi thong. Spain brought tomatoes, corn, papaya, pineapple, cashews, and peanuts.
Thai cuisine became known in the West in the 60s, when tourism became widespread throughout the country. Tourists can appreciate the famous street food, especially in Bangkok, nicknamed as "the world capital of street food".
In the past, the government actively worked to promote Thai cuisine abroad with the "Kitchen in the World" project, which aimed to train restaurateurs willing to open a Thai restaurant overseas, and contributed to making Thai food well-known around the world.
Tips for dining in Thailand
When we travel, we want to experience the best of the country and avoid any problems. Most of the time, doing so is really easy: common sense and a little knowledge are enough. Here are our quick tips for eating in Thailand:
- We strongly recommend you try street food. However, when doing so, choose only the best places and watch the vendors prepare the food for other customers before buying it.
- When eating dinner with Thai people, remember to use the spoon with the right hand and the fork with the left one. Use the fork to push the food on the spoon. Do not put the fork in your mouth.
- Thai dishes are meant to be shared. They will be placed in the center of the table, and the host usually orders for everyone.
- Do not take too much food if you are not sure you can finish it.
- Wait for your host (or the oldest person at the table) to begin eating.
Discover Thai cuisines with Asia Highlights
Discover the creative and varied Thai cuisine and let it stimulate your taste buds with the abundance of flavors. Asia Highlights selects local restaurants and organizes street food tours to provide you with an authentic dining experience.
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
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