When travelling, the first thing on my mind is always food. Who are we kidding, the only thing ever on my mind is food! However, when beginning to plan my journey to Thailand I had an array of dishes jotted down that I was just dying to get my hands on. Not only was I pleasantly surprised to find that all my expectations would be met. But once I dipped into some of the staples such as pad Thai, I was ready to move on and try new authentic dishes. The following foods have now become some of my favorite dishes. Going off the beaten path you can find local specialties that will blow your taste buds along the way.

Som Tam

The most impressionable dish I’ve had while traveling through Thailand, is now my all-time favorite food: som tam. It’s also probably one of the most well-known dishes due to its notorious spiciness. I first came across this dish in the Chiang Mai district. It was so hot and spicy, I was literally sweating from every pore in my body! But don’t sweat it, there is a way to tame the heat and avoid my rookie mistake, when ordering, simply ask the person preparing your dish to make it “a little spicy” or “ped nit noi”. Just a fair warning, if you think you can handle the heat [laughs], I thought I could too, and being of Hispanic descent it even took me by surprise! Thai people love their food spicy, way spicier than most, even more than that of my jalapeno-loving country, Mexico.

In addition to being incredibly delicious, som tam has many health benefits associated with it. Green papaya, the main ingredient in this tasty dish, has essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins such as Vitamin A, C, and E; contains active enzymes: Papain and Chymopapain, which in combination with its high fiber content is a one, two punch that is great for aiding digestion, cleansing the colon, burning fat, and overall supporting a healthy metabolism. It also has a higher potassium content than your average ripe papaya. Potassium is one of the major electrolytes in the blood, which effectively stabilizes blood pressure. So not only will you be eating a flavorful and satisfying meal, but also reaping the benefits it has to offer.

Photo of a delicious Som Tam

Khao Soi

If noodles are more your style, another dish that has swept me off my feet while is khao soi. I first tried this dish at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and for 35 baht, roughly 1 USD, I couldn’t resist the flavorful temptation. Although common in this area — the dish originates in Myanmar – it is also found in Northern Laos and has also been adapted here in northern Thailand too. So you can find variations of the dish depending on the area you are in.

The dish itself is rich, flavorful, and full of texture. If you’re looking for something different yet tasty this is definitely a dish to try. Khao soi is soup-like, made with boiled egg noodles that are fried in oil, meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk, it is then topped off with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, and ground chilies.

As always, I like to taste my food first before adding any extra chili or condiments, to simply take in the true flavor. For most Thai dishes, I find that the flavor is almost always perfect with nothing extra added, but occasionally to turn things up a notch, and because of my slight obsession with chili, I toss in some more chili to elevate my khao soi to extreme deliciousness. But if spiciness is not your forte, do not despair, with nothing additional added khao soi is still really delicious, you might even eat two bowls!

Nice photo of a Khao Soi


Alongside the unique food dishes you will find across Thailand, you are also bound to run into some unique fruits that may not be found in your country. A few of my favorites are longans and mangosteens.

Longans are found all over Southeast Asia. The word Longan comes from the Catanese word meaning “dragon’s eye”, the fruit has a black seed in a translucent pulp. This fruit is related to the lychee, however unlike lychees, longan have a drier sweetness and are not as difficult to peel and eat. Longans sell for about 35-50 baht (1-1.50 USD) per bundle at the local market.

Mangosteen is a fruit native to Thailand, I personally had not heard of or seen these fruits prior to my visit to Thailand. But once I’d experienced the sweet combo of strawberry, peach, and vanilla flavors, with just the perfect hint of tartness, I was sold! It’s one of my absolute favorite fruits! I particularly like to add them to my smoothies for a heavenly explosion of flavor.

Photo of pineapple, mangosteen, and green mangoes

On the other hand, you can find some familiar fruits at your local market as well. Fruits such as pineapples and mangoes are native and grow wild in Thailand.

Green mangoes are found all over Thailand. These grow everywhere in the Isaan Province and finding a tree to pick them off of is often no difficult feat. I even have a mango tree growing in my backyard! The taste of the green mango isn’t as sweet as the mangos found in Central America, but are amazing nonetheless. At our local market, they can be bought in a bundle 5 for 20 baht (0.65 USD).

Pineapples, are also found in our local area, they are smaller than the pineapples found back in the US, but are just as sweet and just as juicy. The typical deal we strike up with our pineapple vendor is 6 pineapples for 50 baht which is roughly 1.50 USD. Correct me if I’m wrong but that to me is a sweet deal.

Not your Average Snacks

A bag of banana chips, various fried insects (ants, scorpions, and spiders), and lotus seeds

Banana Chips

Back in the states, I was a sucker for crispy and salty snacks. I couldn’t quite catch on to the chips and flavors here in Asia but the one thing that really satisfied my craving for something crispy and salty was fried banana chips. At the canteen in our local school, the vendor prepares three different batches that I rotate through so I never get bored; original, barbeque, and paprika. Now before you knock it, TRY IT! I know banana and barbeque or banana and paprika don’t exactly go hand in hand but they are phenomenal! I may need to learn how to either replicate these or smuggle a ton back home with me.

Ants, Scorpions, Spiders

If you’ve been anywhere near Khao San Road you definitely know Thailand has some interesting snack choices. The most notable are fried silk worms, crickets, scorpions, and spiders. I have not tried all the aforementioned, but out of the bunch crickets were my favorite, they were drenched in a vinegary sauce, were crisp and crunchy. Scorpion had to be my least favorite. It had somewhat of a stale taste to it.

Lotus Flower Seeds

Trypophobians look away! This trypophobia-inducing snack is actually another one of my favorites. After a lotus flower has bloomed and its leaves fall off this is left at the base. The seeds in the base are edible but in order to eat the seeds you must fish them out of the “head” and then peel off the protective skin layer of the seed, the inside is not only delicious to eat but also has some interesting health benefits. I may have just found the fountain of youth here in Thailand. Lotus flower seeds contain an anti-aging enzyme, which is believed to repair damaged proteins. In addition, lotus flower seeds have a low sodium and high magnesium content making them suitable for those with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Regardless of where you find yourself in Thailand, you’ll have some amazing food options along the way. There is so much to try! So have a go at some of these amazing dishes, fruits, and snacks. Than hai aroi na kha!

Samantha Garcia

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