January 4, 2015
Here are just a few of my favourite Street Thai Dishes with luck it will give you an idea of what to look for if you are ever lucky enough to eat Thai food straight from a street vendors cart. For all the people who would flinch from the prospect of eating street food do note it is some of the safest and freshest food money can buy and unlike the fast food outlets all around the world Thai street food is always accompanied by mind blowing aromas, sounds, sights and flavours.
The name is generally thought to refer to Muslims and has its origins in Southern Thailand. The dish has a relatively mild taste and is a far cry from the fiery flavours of most other Thai curries. The main ingredients are; massaman paste, meat (beef, duck, chicken, goat, pork or tofu), coconut milk, onion, peanuts, potatoes, Star anise, palm sugar, bay leaves, along with fish, chili and tamarind sauces. The peanuts (or cashews) give it its most prominent flavour and aroma, while the massaman curry paste (nam phrik kaeng matsaman) is made from spices that are not frequently used in other Thai curries; cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg and mace. All in all this curry is an unusual dish in the Thai arsenal of food flavours and its smooth mild taste should suite the less adventurous of palates.
Eaten all around the world this simple traditional Thai dish comes in many variations, but usually comes with noodles dressed with tofu, onion, bean sprouts, and the one ingredient that gives this meal its unique flavour: peanuts. It is then down to the individual to add their own choice of finishing touches, by way of fish sauce, sugar, chilli powder, and more crushed peanuts. While it is one of the easiest meals to cook the variations of the dish means you are never likely to eat the exact same meal twice.
Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
A popular dish served typically with a wedge of lime, a few whole spring onions and few slices of cucumber. One of the simplest of dishes of which you can add almost anything from prawns, crab, pork, or chicken with the addition of basil, fried egg, chilies, fish source, garlic and any number of vegetables. In this easy to cook meal you can turn this unassuming dish into a banquet served on a single plate.
Tom Yam Goong
With its generous use of fragrant herbs including lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots this meal has all the memorable smells of Thailand, with the additional kick coming from fresh chilies and fish sauce. It can be eaten with seafood, pork or chicken. The flavor sums up Thailand in a single meal, Spicy Hot and Sour, full of dazzling aromas subtly blended with a rich combination of culture and history.
Tom Kha Gai or Thai coconut soup (literally “chicken galangal soup”)
Is a spicy and sour hot soup with coconut milk and is found in both Lao and Thailand the only real difference in the two countries ingredients is in Lao the dish traditionally contains Dill weed, which is a common herb used in Lao cuisine, while in Thailand you will find coriander is used instead.
The dish can be made with seafood (tom kha thale), mushrooms (tom kha het), pork (tom kha mu) or tofu (tom kha taohu) and contains the following ingredients; galangal, chillies, palm sugar, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.
The flavor is spicy and sour and a far mellower form of ‘Tom Yam’, as with its fiery sister it sums up in one dish the combination of all the many flavors and aromas that go into most Thai food.
Gai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan (Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts)
This is the Thai version of the Chinese (Sichuan) style fried chicken with roasted peanuts nuts, known as Kung Pao chicken. In the Thai version we start with fresh, moist, unroasted cashew nuts. The nuts are deep fried until golden brown before the other ingredients of pre-marinated chicken, onion, bell peppers and sometimes carrots are stir-fried with whole dried chillies, a pinch of tapioca floor, sweet soy sauce, white vinegar, garlic and the mandatory palm sugar, the nuts are then returned to the stir fry and the dish is served with chopped spring onions. Don’t forget while the cooking process will have transferred some of the sting from the dried chillies to the rest of the dish it is never wise to eat the dried chillies that are served within the dish as they will still hold a fiery punch. The combination of the somewhat sticky chicken and the cashew nuts is a real winner.
Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng (Stir-fried Morning Glory)
Certainly not just for the veggies amongst us, even if the thought of green vegetables are a real turn off for you, you may still find a liking for this savoury dish. Morning glory is a semi aquatic, tropical vegetable and is also known by many other names including water spinach and swamp cabbage. This hollow insignificant looking vegetable with small leaves is found in cuisines through-out East and S/E Asia But what you may not know is that in the USA the vegetable is a federal noxious weed, and it can be illegal to grow, import, possess, or sell the plant without a permit. If that was not strange enough the King Of Spain’s personal physician who worked in Mexico between 1570 and 1575 noted that the local Aztec’s and their priests were using morning glory seeds (ololiuqui) to produce both intoxicants and hallucinogens “to commune with their gods.” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2006/05/whats_the_story_morning_glory.html
Here in the more enlightened Thailand the vegetable is lightly stir fried on a very high heat so it remains crispy and is cooked with lots of garlic and fresh chillies and a dash of oyster and fish sauce, along with a smidging of palm sugar. A great little dish that is a welcome guest at any table.
A mouth tingling dish where ginger rules supreme. A fantastic yet unusually, almost chilli-less Thai dish with the addition of the following ingredients: Huge amounts of grated ginger, boneless chicken, various mushrooms, and assortment of vegetables, onions, chilies all fried together in perfect harmony with a splash of oyster, fish and soy sauces and of course palm sugar, to which is sometimes added Lao Khao (Thai Rice whiskey). This dish with its distinctive ginger taste and aroma is the perfect accompaniment to the likes of Gai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan (Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts) and Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
Khao Tom Moo (Rice Soup with Pork)
The dish is made with boiled rice served in a light broth, usually with minced pork, but the dish can come with chicken, fish or tofu. It is often eaten by Thai people as A breakfast meal (especially by the country folk who start their day at first light), as it is warm, mild and filling, without being too heavy. The diced pork is gently cooked in the broth, then the rice is added along with galangal powder and white pepper, once the rice has simmered for 10-15 minutes fish sauce is added and the food is served in bowls to which you get to add a choice of fried garlic, pickled jalapenos, green onions and coriander to suit your taste.
Kao Niew Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
Not much to say about this ever so simple dish, in truth it is a desert that should appeal to most people, how could you not like fresh ripe succulent mango laid on top of the contrasting somewhat chewy ‘Sticky Rice’ and the whole treat topped with a drizzle of deliciousness coconut cream syrup. The end result is a dish that dazzles your senses.
There are so many great (and not so great) weird and wonderful Thai dishes that this short post could never hope to cover them all, the real beauty of eating Thai food from a street vendor is that the portions are quite small, you get to see the food being cooked right in front of you and whether you like the end result or not the price is so cheap it is no great loss if you find you cannot face what you have bought.
Green papaya salad-som tam (Thai: ส้มตำ, pronounced [sôm tam])
Is a spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya. While it has its origins from Lao it is eaten widely in S/E Asia. The dish combines the main tastes of Thai cuisine: sour lime, fiery hot chili, salty savoury fish sauce and sweetness added by palm sugar. The ingredients of Garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes and shredded papaya are mixed and pounded in a motor and served cold. There are many regional variations including adding peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab
The dish is a great divider some simply cannot get enough of it while others avoid its tongue blistering taste like the plague.
For more on the not so common Thai dishes click here
For more on Thai dishes that can kill you click here
For more details on Thai dishes click here.