Thailand is a famous and incredibly popular tourist destination for all sorts of reasons. It’s probably best-known for its stunning beaches and happy people, also being known as ‘the land of smiles.’ But after spending a lot of time in the country over the years, I believe that Thailand’s main asset is its food. Seriously, this country has an exceptionally diverse range of absolutely world-class food. In fact, its capital (Bangkok) is sometimes referred to as the ‘Street Food Kingdom.’
I don’t know what it is exactly about Thai food that makes it so great. Maybe it’s the weather, giving Thais the ability to grow so much exotic, fresh produce year-round. Or maybe it’s got more to do with the different landscapes, giving access to a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood to be experimented with.
Whatever it is, they’re doing something right, because the food is absolutely sublime. Combine this with the legendary hospitality of its people, and you’re in for a treat.
I remember that, during the time I spent as a volunteer in Thailand, I was regularly offered invitations to join families for dinner 3 or 4 times just on my short walks through town. Whenever I accepted the offer, I would inevitably come home several hours later with a full belly (and usually a little intoxicated), without having spent a penny.
Experiences like this are not just an opportunity to try some excellent local food, but also offer a real insight into Thai culture and family life. This can add a huge amount to your travels, and help you understand the country on a deeper level. It was also through these experiences that I was exposed to many amazing Thai dishes that I would never have known about otherwise. Everyone has heard of some dishes, like Pad Thai and Green Curry, but most people don’t know about the massive range of Thai snacks on offer. Here are a few of my favorites so that you can try them too on your next trip to Thailand.
This is easily one of the most satisfying dishes I know of. However, is not exclusive to Thailand, since there are variations of it in a few other Asian countries, such as Indonesia. In every case, it is essentially marinated meat smothered in a curried sauce that is usually peanut-based. The type of meat can be anything but is generally chicken, beef or pork.
As with many Thai dishes, it has an ingredients list as long as your arm, made up of a massive array of herbs, spices, and vegetables. It also takes a pretty long time to make, as the meat needs to be marinated properly before being cooked. This all means that, while it tastes amazing, it’s probably a good idea to get this in a restaurant or from a street vendor rather than cook it yourself, as it’s a hugely complicated dish to make (unless you’re a Thai mom, of course).
This is a classic Thai street food. It can be found all over the country but is less common on menus in tourist-oriented restaurants.
Hoi Joh is sort of a seafood meatball, consisting of crabmeat, shrimp, minced pork and fermented bean curd (trust me, it tastes better than it sounds). They may also have different combinations of other flavors, such as mushroom and herbs. The balls are deep-fried and wrapped in tofu sheets, and usually served with a fresh salad made up of ingredients like cucumber and lettuce. It also goes very well with a dipping sauce such as soy or sweet chili.
For such a small dish that can be picked up very cheaply, it packs in a lot of different ingredients and has a rich, complex flavor. Also, as with a lot of street foods, you are unlikely to ever find the exact same recipe twice, so every time you try it, you’ll have a distinct gustatory experience.
Thung Thongs are little bundles of deliciousness that resemble something between a spring roll and a dumpling. Again, they can have a whole range of ingredient combinations depending on who makes them and which area of the country you are in. Nonetheless, mushrooms, ground pork or chicken, fish sauce, chilies, shrimp, water chestnuts, garlic, and onion will generally make up the core of the recipe. Balls of this mixture will then be wrapped in wonton/spring roll pastry, tied up with strands of chive and then deep-fried. Thung Thongs go great with a dipping sauce.
TAKEAWAY: The name of this snack roughly translates to “golden basket”, while in English they are also called “Thai money bags”. This is because of their appearance, similar to little ancient moneybags. That’s why, in Thailand, when someone gives Thung Thongs to another person they are wishing him or her to have riches and wealth. This kind of ritual of eating these small food pockets usually takes place during Thai New Year (or Songkran) festivities .
Med Mamuang Zong Kruang
If you’ve been to Thailand before, then there’s a good chance you’ve come across this one in some form or another. It is cooked cashew nuts, dressed with chili and spring onions.
The creaminess of the cashew nuts is perfectly complemented by the sharper and fresher flavors of the chili and spring onion. This makes it a super-quick and energy-rich Thai snack, ideal for when you’re on the go. The combination can also be used as a core component of full meals, as it goes very well with noodles, rice, chicken, peppers, and many other foods.
This is the simplest example of a Thai snack on the list, but that’s exactly what makes it such as an excellent bite. It’s quick, easy, tasty and cheap. There is not a market in the country that won’t stock Gluay Charb, so once you’ve got a taste for it, you’ll be able to get your fix easily at any time.
The dish is so simple that it only consists of bananas, sugar, and oil. The bananas are sliced and fried, making them crispy. They’re then dusted with sugar to make them like a kind of sweet banana chip.
This list of Thais snacks contains just a tiny selection of the vast variety of foods available in Thailand. To get the most out of your trip, be sure to experiment with as many different street foods and local restaurants as possible to get an authentic taste of this country.