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Thai Food: What the Locals Actually Eat in Thailand

The food scene in Thailand is buzzing, to say the least. With a wealth of options for foodies to explore and a whole new excuse to plan a visit - as if you needed another! - there's a reason you've noticed so many Thai restaurants pop up in your neighborhood or near your place of work.


As a local resident of Thailand myself, genuine Thai food is obviously quite easy for me to track down. But even first-time visitors will be amazed how accessible it is to find delicious and authentic food, everything from street food to the highest echelons of fine dining, Thailand has it all.


Thai street food vendor perparing a local noodle dish with artistic flare and delicious flavors
Thai food should be an experience in itself, enticing the senses. Don't miss these hidden culinary gems

One thing that I always tell my friends when they visit "The Land of Smiles" is that they should never miss out on trying something new during their trip. Thai cuisine is known for its spicy dishes, characterized by the perfect blend of flavors such as sour, sweet, savory, and salty. These notable characteristics of Thai food is one of the reasons why a lot of people have made it their top choice when it comes to satisfying their food cravings.


Here I will be sharing some dishes that many Thai people actually eat pretty much every day. Be prepared to have your mind and tastebuds blown. Let's see if we can bring you a whole new experience when enjoying Thai food in Thailand!


Miang Kham (Betel Leaf Wrap)


First on the list is Miang Kham, it's a Thai appetizer which contains ingredients such as dried shrimps, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, roasted peanuts, dried coconuts, chili, and sweetened shrimp sauce all wrapped in a betel leaf. This is a dish that locals love to eat as a snack and can usually be found already wrapped and on a stick.


Miang Kham is a perfect example of how Thai dishes can incorporate different flavors in just one bite. This food is a personal favorite of mine, and I would usually eat this as a snack while shopping around the numerous night markets in Thailand.


A simple snack and a firm local favorite in Thailand, Miang Kham is the perfect blend of flavors in one bite including dried shrimps and fresh shallots wrapped in betel leaf
Miang Kham might be the perfect example of how Thai dishes incorporate different flavors in a single bite!

Khao Soi Noodles (Northen Thai Coconut Curry Noodles)


Thai people love to eat noodles and it does not matter whether it is a sunny or chilly day (hey, 70 is chilly in Thailand!), noodle dishes bring comfort to all the tummies of Thailand. Khao Soi is a thick and creamy curry noodle dish that originates in the Northern part of the country, right up to the border regions with Laos or Myanmar.


This coconut-based soup is eaten with egg noodles, braised chicken, and topped with pickled mustard greens, shallots, fried egg noodles, and a squeeze of lime. Khao Soi noodles might be a little spicy but it is tolerable for non-spicy eaters. This noodle soup is at the top of my favorite noodles list and never fails to keep my tummy warm especially on rainy days.


Modern take on Khao Soi northern thai noodles
Modern take on Khao Soi, a style noodle from Thailand's northern regions

Massaman Curry


Massaman Curry is another Thai dish that is often overlooked by visitors to Thailand. It was even recognized by CNN as the world’s best dish in 2021 and deserves its own recognition in this article. Massaman curry is a Thai curry soup made with various spices and massaman curry paste.


Massaman curry paste is made with chilis and peanuts. The soup has its distinctive peanut taste, which is my favorite, and will leave you wanting more. It is usually made with chicken, potatoes, and carrots. Every time I eat Massaman Curry, I always make sure to eat at least two plates of rice and drench the curry sauce all over it.


Larb


Larb is another dish often overlooked due to its spicy heat. Larb is a kind of meat salad, for lack of a better name, and got its influence from Thailand’s neighbor to the north, Laos. It consists mainly of minced or ground meat, such as pork, beef or chicken, but it also contains a delicious blend of chilis, different herbs, lime juice, fish sauce, and a unique toasted ground rice for an exquisite crunch.


The first time I tried Larb I remember thinking it was quite spicy, even by my standards as a local! However it wasn't long before I found myself craving the sour and spice found in this flavorful dish.


Pla Kapung Neung Manao (Steamed lime fish)


If you've never tried a dish with a whole fish, then you should definitely try Pla Kapung Neung Manao, or Steamed Lime Fish, as a unique culinary experience. This is a classic dish that can be found in any seafood restaurant in Thailand as it is pretty easy to prepare.


The ingredients used are simple, but the taste is unique. The steamed fish is topped with a sweet and sour sauce, filled with cilantro and chilis. You'll quickly find yourself addicted to the sour flavour, wanting to eat some more. I would suggest this is a great sharing dish to enjoy with friends or family, make sure you're getting the freshest fish for the best experience.


Pla Kapung Neung Manao (Steamed lime fish) a classic Thai dish for sharing
A steamed, whole barramundi or sea bass

Guay Tiew Ruea (Thai Boat Noodles)


Another noodle dish has made it to my list, and it just shows how the local Thai people love to eat their noodles in different ways and to make the most of available ingredients. Try and keep your mind open on this one, it's tasty and truly reflects local tastes, especially in and around Bangkok.


Guay Tiew Ruea is a noodle dish flavored and thickened with cow’s blood and is usually served in a small bowl. This dish used to be a specialty exclusive to vendors who sold from their small boats along the busy canals of Bangkok. It's now so popular you can find it just about everywhere along the Victory Monument area in Bangkok. I love eating Thai Boat Noodles due to its small portions and I can easily eat up to 5 to 7 bowls of this noodles dish!


A floating market in Bangkok, very much like the original home of Guay Tiew Ruea, a Thai dish known in English as Thai Boat Noodles
Like the floating markets, life on one of the canals has spread beyond the boats in Bangkok

Moo Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)


The last Thai classic food that has made it to my list is Moo Ping. Moo Ping is a grilled pork skewer and is usually eaten with sticky rice and nam jim (that's a chili sauce). The meat is marinated overnight and grilled fresh in front of you, which makes eating it more fun and can feel a little more genuine and authentic.


If I am unsure of what to eat for breakfast, my go-to meal is having 2 to 3 sticks of moo ping with a pack of sticky rice. I also use the sticky rice to soak up the meat juice from the BBQ for that added flavor. On any given morning you will find stalls selling moo ping and see plenty of Thai people buying it on the way to their work.


It's a culinary adventure, take it all in


Armed with my introduction to what Thai people really eat, don't forget to try some of my suggestions alongside your Pad Thai or Tom Yum Kung when you next visit Thailand. You'll have a more rounded culinary experience and even more to talk about when you share with your friends & family when you return home!


Have you tried any of these authentic dishes yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 Comments


Shy Bredewold
Shy Bredewold
May 14, 2022

I've been to Thailand quite a few times but I'll be honest, I've only had a few of these. Thanks for sharing! While I think I've had larb, I'm not certain - is it traditionally a dry dish or does it more often come with a sort of sauce or soupy presentation?

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Shy Bredewold
Shy Bredewold
May 28, 2022
Replying to

Thanks, I'll definitely remember not to order from any place with a wet dish!

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