Where your favourite Thai dish comes from?
Thailand is one of the most fascinating countries to travel to.
The country is divided into four principal food regions that each encompass their own unique dishes, inspired by different climates, cultures and traditions.
Age-old recipes that date back to when the country was formerly known as Siam, that have since then fuelled Thailand’s wealthy cultural identity, and inspired us to make these incredible flavours accessible in kitchens all over the planet!
1. North East (Isaan)
Known for its spicy and sour food, this region serves up some of the hottest and most intense dishes in the country, they are the centerpieces of Thailand’s gastronomy!
Famous for its grilled meats which they marry seamlessly with a range of fiery sauces or condiments, then accompanied with equally as zesty salads and generous amounts of sticky glutinous rice designed to take the bite out of the spiciness.
It is not uncommon to find some peculiar and exotic items on the menu as another Isaan delicacy are edible insects, namely grasshoppers, crickets and ant eggs.
Not for the faint-hearted ...
2. Lanna (Chiang Mai)
Chiang Mai is one of the the main cities in the North and the epicentre for Lanna cuisine, which refers to the flavours and delicacies developed by Lanna Thai people who historically inhabited the Chiang Mai region.
The region sees plenty of rain in the year which reaps bountiful amounts of flora. This climate is reflected in the style of cooking, Northern delicacies rely heavily on the diversity of herbs.
A cuisine dominated by red and yellow coconut-based curries which require a number of spices. Served in a number of variations such as Kaeng Hung Le (spiced curry), Kaeng Hoa (fried curry), and Khanom chin Nam Ngiao (spicy rice noodles).
The food is marginally less spicy than other regions, Northerners prefer a more subtle mild spice. The fieriest items on the menu are usually in the form of a red chilli dip called Nam Prik Num or Nam Prik Ong. Served with an assortment of vegetables that you can dip into the sauces.
3. Central Thailand (Bangkok)
Central Thailand encompasses Bangkok, the capital of Thailand and a popular food hub in Southeast Asia.
Because of the city’s prime location, surrounded by major rivers and smaller waterways, the fields are incredibly fertile, so harvests are always plentiful, and the city never has any shortage of river fish! And because for generations the city was the main arrival and departure point for travelers by ship, the city has benefited from influences from other countries and cultures, in particular China.
Dishes from Central Thailand are the ones that tourists and visitors usually identify as ‘Thai food’.
You would have probably heard of Tom Yum Gung (spicy and sour shrimp soup), Pad Thai (stir fried noodles), Gaeng Kiew Waan (green curry).
4. South Thailand (Phuket)
Southern specialities share the same distinct flavours as some of the most popular Malay and Indonesian dishes, but all whilst keeping its sour and spicy Thai roots.
This includes Massaman, a stewed curry that highlights the heat of chillies and is produced using spices that are popular in both Southern Thailand and Malaysia.
Coconut trees and seafood are the principle ingredients in this region, the combination of which makes the food famously salty and strong tasting.
Because of the proximity to the sea, Southern recipes tend to include less meat than in other regions, including Kaeng Tai Pla (fermented fish curry) and Kaeng Som Pla (hot and sour fish soup). Even their sauces and pastes are mostly concocted using fresh shrimp paste (Kapi) or dried fish.
Though you may find a lot of these dishes all over Thailand, if you look more closely into the origins of each one you will be able to trace them back to one specific region.
We hope that by following this guide you will be able to distinguish the rich diversity of Thai cuisine, learn about its geography, and understand where we’ve borrowed our recipes from to bring you Thailand in your kitchen!