10 Classic Thai Dishes cover

10 Classic Thai Dishes

Thai cuisine is a vibrant culinary tapestry, woven with centuries of tradition, culinary skill, and rich, diverse ingredients. Its origins are deeply rooted in the country's history, heavily influenced by neighbouring countries, including China, India, Laos, and Malaysia, resulting in a blend of flavours that are as diverse as they are delicious. We hope our selected Thai dishes can demonstrate this!

Key ingredients such as jasmine rice, coconut milk, fresh herbs, fish sauce, and an array of aromatic spices are quintessential to Thai dishes, creating a remarkable blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavours. These intricate flavours have a powerful way of telling Thailand's story, offering insights into its climate, geography, culture, and history.

While traditional Thai food relies heavily on fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, modern Thai cuisine has not shied away from embracing global influences. Thai fusion food has seen a rise in popularity worldwide, innovatively blending traditional Thai flavours with modern culinary trends.

NOTE: When cooking these recipes at home, feel free to adjust the proportions according to your liking. However, do remember the principle of Thai cuisine and aim for a balanced taste.

Also, many of the dishes are served with jasmine rice or sticky rice, which are a good base for the flavours. In Thai cuisine, rice is more than just a side dish; it's considered the heart of any meal.

These Thai recipes have been adapted for people cooking outside of Thailand, so some ingredients have been replaced with more commonly available ones. Still, the essence of the dishes should remain the same.

Now, let's embark on a culinary journey through our selection of some of the most iconic specialties!

Our Selection of Thai Dishes:

  1. Pad Thai
  2. Som Tam
  3. Miang Kham
  4. Tom Yum
  5. Larb
  6. Panang Curry
  7. Pad Kee Mao
  8. Khao Soi
  9. Nam Tok
  10. Pad Kahprao

1. Pad Thai

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The classic Pad Thai!

Pad Thai, a stir-fried noodle dish, is considered Thailand's national dish. While its exact origins remain debated, some historians trace it back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1350-1767), suggesting it is a Thai interpretation of Vietnamese noodle dishes introduced by Chinese immigrants. During World War II, the Thai government promoted Pad Thai to reduce rice consumption due to shortages.

This dish features thin rice noodles stir-fried with a medley of ingredients, including eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, and a protein, such as shrimp or chicken. It's flavoured with tamarind paste, fish sauce, garlic, and chillies, creating a harmonious balance of tangy, sweet, and savoury. Pad Thai has a robust flavour profile, with a slight smokiness from stir-frying at high heat.

To enjoy Pad Thai at home, first, soak the rice noodles. Then stir-fry your protein and set aside, followed by the noodles, which you'll toss in a tangy tamarind and fish sauce mixture. Add the eggs, bean sprouts, tofu, and return the protein. Garnish with crushed peanuts, fresh lime wedges, and cilantro. Enjoy this stir-fried marvel fresh off the pan, savouring each flavourful bite.

Recipe to cook Pad Thai

Ingredients:

  • 200g thin rice noodles
  • 200g protein (shrimp or chicken)
  • 100g tofu, cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Red chilli flakes, to taste
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Cooking Steps:

  1. Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 20-30 minutes until they soften.
  2. In a large wok or skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and sauté garlic until fragrant.
  3. Add the protein and cook until it's done. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  4. In the same wok, add the tofu and cook until browned.
  5. Push the tofu aside and crack the eggs into the wok. Scramble them lightly.
  6. Drain the noodles and add them to the wok. Stir quickly to keep them from sticking.
  7. Mix the tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar in a bowl. Pour this over the noodles.
  8. Add the cooked protein, bean sprouts, and green onions. Stir everything together until well mixed and heated through.
  9. Serve the Pad Thai garnished with crushed peanuts, a wedge of lime, chilli flakes, and fresh cilantro.

Tips:

  • Pad Thai is best enjoyed immediately. The lime wedge adds a fresh, citrusy twist – don't forget to squeeze it over your dish before eating.
  • If you can't find tamarind paste, you can use a mixture of lime juice and brown sugar as a substitute.
  • Remember, the key to a good Pad Thai is the balance between sweet (sugar), sour (tamarind), and salty (fish sauce).

2. Som Tam

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A national treasure

Originating from the Northeastern region of Isan, Som Tam is a refreshing green papaya salad that epitomizes Thai food's bright, bold flavors. This national treasure is one of the most popular Thai dishes. It emerged from the Lao influence on Isan cuisine and gained nationwide popularity in the 20th century.

Som Tam comprises shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, string beans, and peanuts pounded together in a mortar and pestle, releasing the ingredients' essential flavours. It's dressed with fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, and bird's eye chillies, delivering a fiery, sweet, sour, and salty punch. It's crisp, light, yet remarkably vibrant and intense.

To prepare Som Tam, start by coarsely grinding garlic and chillies in a mortar. Add beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice. Pound lightly before adding the shredded papaya and tomatoes, bruising them to absorb the dressing. Serve with sticky rice or grilled chicken, allowing the spicy tanginess to complement other dishes.

Recipe to cook Som Tam

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium unripe green papaya, shredded
  • 1 cup string beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 bird’s eye chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts

Cooking Steps:

  1. In a mortar, pound garlic and chillies into a paste.
  2. Add string beans, tomatoes, fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar. Pound lightly to bruise the ingredients and mix the flavours.
  3. Add the shredded papaya and peanuts. Pound lightly again just to mix everything together.
  4. Serve immediately.

Tips:

  • The green papaya should be quite firm. If you can't find one, a good substitute could be green apples or cucumber for their crunchiness.
  • Som Tam is usually enjoyed with sticky rice or grilled chicken.
  • Be cautious with bird's eye chillies; they are quite spicy. Adjust the number of chillies based on your heat preference.

3. Miang Kham

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The King of apperitizers in Thailand

Miang Kham, or "one bite wrap," is a popular Thai appetizer with roots in Northern Thailand. This dish is a delightful bundle of contrasts, combining various flavors and textures in a single bite.

Miang Kham includes a variety of ingredients wrapped in a betel leaf: diced ginger, shallots, fresh lime, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, and diced bird's eye chillies. Each component is carefully arranged on the leaf before it's drizzled with a sweet-salty sauce made from palm sugar and fish sauce. The result is an explosion of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, all contained within a pleasantly bitter betel leaf.

Preparing Miang Kham involves assembling the ingredients on the leaf, folding it into a small parcel, and drizzling the sauce on top. This bundle is consumed in a single bite, treating your palate to a burst of contrasting flavors and textures.

Recipe to cook Miang Kham

Ingredients:

  • 20 Betel leaves (or lettuce if not available)
  • 1/4 cup Shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Ginger, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Coconut, toasted and shredded
  • 1/4 cup Peanuts, roasted
  • 1/4 cup Dried shrimp
  • 10 Bird’s eye chillies, chopped
  • 1 Lime, cut into small cubes
  • For the sauce: 1/2 cup Palm Sugar (or brown sugar), 1/2 cup Fish Sauce, 1/4 cup Shrimp Paste, 1/4 cup Tamarind Paste

Cooking Steps:

  1. Prepare the sauce by mixing palm sugar, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and tamarind paste in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until well combined and set aside.
  2. Arrange all the ingredients on a plate.
  3. To serve, place a small amount of each ingredient on a betel leaf, top with a spoonful of sauce, wrap it up, and enjoy.

Tips:

  • Miang Kham is traditionally eaten in one bite, so make sure not to overfill your leaf.
  • Betel leaves can be replaced with lettuce, spinach, or any other edible leafy green if they're unavailable.
  • This dish is all about contrast and balance, play around with the quantities of each ingredient to suit your palate.

4. Tom Yum

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Hot & Sour at its best

Tom Yum, also known as hot and sour soup, is a famous Thai soup known for its distinct hot and sour flavors. Originating in Central Thailand, this dish's roots can be traced back to ancient times when it was a simple, spicy, and sour fish soup.

One of the Thai dishes you can find in most local restaurants. Tom Yum is typically made with shrimp (Tom Yum Goong) but can be prepared with other proteins. The key ingredients are lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and bird's eye chillies, which infuse the broth with a bright, tangy, spicy depth. Mushrooms and fresh lime juice add earthy and citrus notes, while fish sauce provides a salty umami flavor.

To prepare Tom Yum, first, boil water with lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Then add the protein and mushrooms. Once cooked, season with fish sauce, lime juice, and chillies. Serve piping hot, and savor the invigorating, spicy-sour broth.

Recipe to cook Tom Yum

Ingredients:

  • 1 liter Water
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, sliced
  • 3 slices Galangal
  • 4 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 200g Shrimp
  • 200g Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 Bird's eye chillies
  • 3 tablespoons Fish sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar

Cooking Steps:

  1. Boil the water in a pot, then add lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Once the water is infused with the herbs, add shrimp and mushrooms. Cook until the shrimp turn pink.
  3. Season with fish sauce, lime juice, chillies, and sugar. Adjust the flavors as needed.
  4. Serve hot.

Tips:

  • Tom Yum is best enjoyed fresh. The heat from the chillies and the tang from the lime juice make it a great comfort food.
  • For a vegetarian version, replace the shrimp with tofu and the fish sauce with soy sauce.
  • If you can't find fresh galangal, you can use galangal powder or fresh ginger as a substitute.

5. Larb

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Simple and intense

Originating from the Isan region and Laos, Larb is a minced meat salad recognized as the national dish of Laos. Despite its humble appearance, Larb is packed with complex flavors, embodying Isan cuisine's characteristic boldness.

Larb is traditionally made with minced pork, chicken, or duck, cooked and mixed with ground roasted rice for a nutty crunch. The meat is flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, chillies, and fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, and spring onions. It's tangy, spicy, salty, and fresh, served with a side of vegetables and sticky rice.

To make Larb, start by dry roasting uncooked sticky rice until golden, then grind into a coarse powder. Cook the minced meat, add fish sauce, lime juice, chillies, and the roasted rice powder. Stir in the herbs, adjust the seasoning, and serve with fresh vegetables for a refreshing crunch.

Recipe to cook Larb

Ingredients:

  • 500g minced pork (or chicken or tofu)
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked sticky rice
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 dried red chillies, ground
  • Fresh vegetables for serving

Cooking Steps:

  1. In a pan, dry roast the sticky rice until golden, then grind into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, cook the minced pork over medium heat until fully cooked.
  3. Season the pork with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and ground chillies.
  4. Add the roasted rice powder, shallots, mint, cilantro, and green onions. Mix well.
  5. Serve with fresh vegetables.

Tips:

  • Larb is traditionally eaten with a side of sticky rice or raw vegetables.
  • Feel free to adjust the amount of lime juice, fish sauce, and chillies according to your preference.
  • For a vegetarian version, replace the pork with tofu and fish sauce with soy sauce.
  • If you can't find sticky rice, you can use any kind of rice – the idea is to add a bit of texture to the dish.

6. Panang Curry

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Mouth watering curry!

Panang Curry, named after Penang island in Malaysia, is a rich, creamy curry popular in Central Thailand. This Thai-Malay fusion dish emerged in the 19th century when Thai cuisine absorbed various Malay culinary influences.

The star of Panang Curry is the curry paste, made from dried chillies, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime peel, coriander roots, cumin seeds, garlic, and shrimp paste. The paste is sautéed in coconut milk, then simmered with a protein, typically beef, and seasoned with fish sauce and palm sugar. The dish is garnished with kaffir lime leaves and red chillies. It's less spicy than other Thai curries, with a sweet, nutty, and creamy profile.

To prepare Panang Curry, first, make the curry paste by blending all the ingredients. Sauté the paste in coconut milk, add the protein, then more coconut milk. Season with fish sauce and palm sugar, simmer until the protein is tender, and finish with torn kaffir lime leaves and chillies. Serve with jasmine rice, letting the creamy, rich curry soak into the grains.

Recipe to cook Panang Curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (400ml) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Panang curry paste (substitute with red curry paste if unavailable)
  • 500g protein (chicken, beef, or tofu)
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • Fresh Thai basil for garnish
  • Steamed jasmine rice for serving

Cooking Steps:

  1. In a pan, heat up half of the coconut milk until it starts to simmer.
  2. Add the curry paste and stir until it's well combined with the coconut milk.
  3. Add your choice of protein to the pan and cook until done.
  4. Add the rest of the coconut milk, bell pepper, fish sauce, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve the curry over steamed jasmine rice and garnish with Thai basil.

Tips:

  • Panang curry is usually thicker and less spicy than other Thai curries. Adjust the amount of curry paste according to your spice tolerance.
  • Feel free to add other vegetables like zucchini or peas to the curry.
  • For a vegetarian version, replace the protein with tofu and the fish sauce with soy sauce.

7. Pad Kee Mao

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Drunken balanced intensity…Yum

Pad Kee Mao, or "Drunken Noodles," is a spicy stir-fried noodle dish with uncertain origins and one of our favourite Thai dishes. Some suggest its name derives from its popularity as a late-night snack after drinking, while others believe the name represents its fiery spice level.

This dish features broad rice noodles stir-fried with protein, usually chicken or shrimp, and a medley of vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and Thai basil. It's seasoned with a fiery mix of soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, garlic, bird's eye chillies, and dark soy sauce. Pad Kee Mao is intensely flavorful with a balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and umami.

To cook Pad Kee Mao, stir-fry your protein and vegetables, then set them aside. In the same pan, stir-fry garlic and chillies, followed by the noodles. Toss them in the sauce mixture, add the cooked protein and vegetables, and finish with a handful of Thai basil. Enjoy this dish hot, preferably with a cold drink to balance the heat.

Recipe to cook Pad Kee Mao

Ingredients:

  • 200g wide rice noodles
  • 200g protein (chicken, shrimp, or tofu)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cooking Steps:

  1. Soak the rice noodles in warm water until they soften.
  2. In a wok, heat the oil and sauté garlic, chillies, and onions until fragrant.
  3. Add the protein and cook until done.
  4. Add the bell pepper, softened noodles, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and dark soy sauce. Stir until well combined.
  5. Add the Thai basil leaves and stir just until they wilt.
  6. Serve hot.

Tips:

  • Pad Kee Mao is usually spicy. Adjust the amount of bird’s eye chillies according to your spice tolerance.
  • Try not to overcook the noodles. They should be soft yet still have a bit of bite.
  • If Thai basil leaves are hard to find, you can substitute them with sweet basil leaves.

8. Khao Soi

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The main course

Khao Soi is a coconut curry noodle soup hailing from Northern Thailand, influenced by Burmese and Chinese Yunnanese cuisines. This dish is a popular street food in Chiang Mai.

The dish features egg noodles in a rich, fragrant broth made from curry paste, coconut milk, and a protein, usually chicken or beef. It's topped with crunchy fried noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, and chili oil, creating an addictive mix of textures and flavors. If you into Laksa, you will love Khao Soi too.

To make Khao Soi, boil one portion of noodles and fry another. Prepare the curry by frying the curry paste, add the protein until cooked, then pour in the coconut milk. Simmer until the flavors meld together, serve over the boiled noodles, and garnish with the fried noodles and condiments. The creamy curry, tender protein, and crunchy toppings make for a comforting, hearty meal.

Recipe to cook Khao Soi

Ingredients:

  • 200g egg noodles
  • 500g protein (chicken or beef)
  • 2 tablespoons Khao Soi paste (substitute with red curry paste and a teaspoon of curry powder if unavailable)
  • 1 can (400ml) coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro, lime wedges, pickled mustard greens, crispy fried noodles

Cooking Steps:

  1. In a pan, heat up half of the coconut milk until it starts to simmer.
  2. Add the Khao Soi paste and stir until well combined.
  3. Add your choice of protein and brown it in the paste.
  4. Add the rest of the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Cook the noodles as per the package instructions.
  6. Serve the curry over noodles and garnish with cilantro, a lime wedge, pickled mustard greens, and crispy fried noodles.

Tips:

  • Khao Soi is a meal in itself and doesn't require any sides.
  • You can make your crispy fried noodles by frying some of the noodles in hot oil until they puff up.
  • If you can't find pickled mustard greens, pickled cucumber or sauerkraut can be used as substitutes.

9. Nam Tok

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Tangy and spicy

Nam Tok, translating to "waterfall" in Thai, is a grilled meat salad originating from Northeastern Thailand. The name derives from the juices that drip from the meat while grilling, resembling a waterfall.

Nam Tok is typically made with beef or pork, grilled, then thinly sliced. The meat is mixed with ground roasted rice, shallots, mint, cilantro, and dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, and chili flakes. It's meaty, tangy, spicy, and refreshing, commonly enjoyed with sticky rice or raw vegetables.

To make Nam Tok, first grill the meat, let it rest, then slice. Toss with the ground rice, herbs, and dressing. Adjust the seasoning and serve with a side of your choice. The combination of grilled meat, fresh herbs, and tangy dressing makes for a satisfying, flavorful dish.

Recipe to cook Nam Tok

Ingredients:

  • 500g beef steak
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked sticky rice
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 dried red chillies, ground
  • Fresh vegetables for serving

Cooking Steps:

  1. Grill the steak to your preferred level of doneness, then let it rest.
  2. In a pan, dry roast the sticky rice until golden, then grind into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  3. Slice the grilled steak thinly, catching any juices that run out.
  4. In a bowl, mix the sliced steak and its juices with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and ground chillies.
  5. Add the roasted rice powder, shallots, mint, cilantro, and green onions. Toss everything together.
  6. Serve with fresh vegetables.

Tips:

  • Nam Tok is traditionally eaten with a side of sticky rice or raw vegetables.
  • Adjust the amount of lime juice, fish sauce, and chillies to suit your taste.
  • If you can't find sticky rice, you can use any kind of rice to add a bit of texture to the dish.

10. Pad Kaphrao

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A locals favorite

Pad Kaphrao, or Thai Basil Chicken, is a popular street food dish in Thailand. This simple, quick stir-fry delivers a powerful flavor punch, embodying the essence of Thai cuisine in every bite.

A local favourite among Thai dishes! It consists of minced chicken stir-fried with Thai holy basil, garlic, bird's eye chillies, and seasoned with oyster sauce, fish sauce, and a touch of sugar. It's served over rice with a crispy fried egg on top. The dish is hot, garlicky, and fragrant, with a characteristic anise-like aroma from the holy basil.

To prepare Pad Kaphrao, first stir-fry minced garlic and chillies, then add the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked, add the sauces and sugar, followed by the holy basil. Serve over jasmine rice with a fried egg on top. The combination of spicy chicken, aromatic basil, and runny egg yolk creates an irresistible, homely dish.

Recipe to cook Pad Kaphrao

Ingredients:

  • 500g ground chicken (or pork or tofu)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups Thai basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Steamed jasmine rice for serving
  • Fried egg for serving (optional)

Cooking Steps:

  1. In a wok, heat the oil and sauté garlic and chillies until fragrant.
  2. Add the ground chicken and cook until it's done.
  3. Season with fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir well to combine.
  4. Add the Thai basil leaves and stir just until they wilt.
  5. Serve over steamed jasmine rice with a fried egg on top (optional).

Tips:

  • Pad Krapow is often spicy. Adjust the amount of bird’s eye chillies according to your preference.
  • The dish is typically served with a fried egg on top. The runny yolk adds a rich creaminess that complements the spicy chicken.
  • If Thai basil leaves are hard to find, you can substitute them with sweet basil leaves.

Thai cuisine shows the country's rich history, diverse influences, and culinary creativity. Try these ten Thai dishes to discover the rich food culture of Thailand and its unique flavours. Traditional or modern, each dish carries a piece of Thailand's heart, served to you on a plate.

Enjoy the process of cooking as much as you enjoy the food. Thai cuisine is not just about eating good food; it's about sharing and celebrating life. Whether you're cooking for yourself or for a group of people, make sure to pour your love and passion into each dish. After all, that's the true secret ingredient in any recipe. Buy pre-made sachets of Thai seasoning at local supermarkets in Thailand to easily make authentic Thai dishes at home.

From fragrant curries and soups to delicious stir-fries and salads, Thai cuisine offers a plethora of dishes to explore. We hope that these recipes inspire you to bring a piece of Thailand into your kitchen and immerse yourself in the vibrant flavours of Thai cooking. As for us at KohPlanner, we are just getting started. We will be posting more savoury Thai dishes for you soon.

Happy cooking and enjoy the journey!

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