So I received requests for recommendations of Thai dishes from the central region. There are a variety of dishes in the central area of Thailand, as the center is the main connecting area with other regions and is also home to the capital where the king and his royal family live. So there is a lot of culture and history in this area. I won’t be able to recommend all the popular central Thai dishes, but today I’m going to give you the Top 10 dishes you must try when you’re in central Thailand. This list is actually a collection of recommended dishes from a vote I did with our Thai friends here at Thaiger.
The first dish that I guess everyone already knows!! Pad Krapao
Pad Krapao or Spicy Basil is a minced meat dish that is mixed with basil. You can select the meat you like there, however, depending on the fancy of the restaurant, some restaurants may only have chicken, pork or beef as an option. But technically any meat can go into a Pad Krapao, for example, squid, fish and shrimp are common Pad Krapao meat options. This dish is served with basil, red peppers, green beans, garlic and bell peppers. It’s even more perfect when you top the dish with “Kai Dao” or fried egg in Thai.
Spicy basil on rice is considered a comfort food for Thai people. It is very easy to find this menu at any Thai Street Food stall or restaurant. “Pad Krapao” was probably born during the reign of King Rama VII. The Chinese who lived in Bangkok at the time created it by adapting its original Chinese taste to a Thai taste, using Thai ingredients such as basil, chili and fish sauce.
Next is “Keng Keaw Wan”
Keng Keaw Wan or Thai green curry is another one of our most popular Thai dishes that I have already recommended in the previous 2 minute Thailand session. It is a central Thai dish but there is no record of its origin. It can be assumed that green curry was likely to occur from 1909 to 1926 during the reign of King Rama 6 to 7.
The main protein used in this dish is often “Luk Chin Pla Glai” (fish balls), chicken, pork and beef. The other ingredients of the dish are coconut milk, green curry paste, palm sugar and fish sauce. Thai eggplant, pea eggplant, kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves. Thais love to serve it with steamed rice or traditional Thai rice noodles known as khanom chin.
The third is “Tom Yum”
“Tom Yum” is also a popular dish which was also featured in the previous 2-minute session in Thailand. Everyone knows him mostly as “Tom Yum Kung” which has shrimp in the dish. but other popular meats that Thai people also used to cook for this dish are Pla (fish), Talay (seafood), PlaMuk (squid) and Gai (chicken). We have 2 types of Tom Yum. The original is Clear Soup or “Nam Sai”. but if you want to cook “Tom yum nam khon”, just add coconut milk or evaporated milk in the soup. The first record of ‘Tom Yum’ in Thailand was found in a document from 1888, dating from the reign of King Rama V.
Next is “Tom Ka Gai”
Looks like a coconut milk curry. It is usually cooked with chicken and mushrooms. The curry has a cloudy white color. There are various herbs similar to Tom Yum, such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, lime, chilli, and is garnished with cilantro. It tastes sour, salty and greasy. Some historians speculated that it was adjusted from “TomYum”, but it tastes milkier and sweeter.
The fifth is Keng Te Po
“Keng Te Po” is a type of red curry. And it has coconut milk, morning glory, and pork belly as ingredients. It is a traditional dish from the central region where “Tepo” fish has been added as a source of meat. But these days it’s more common to put pork belly instead. This happened in King Rama2 file. The taste has a perfect balance between the acidity of tamarind juice and is also a bit salty with a hint of sweetness. It also has a unique scent coming from the kaffir lime leaves used in the dish. It’s a delicious dish not to be missed but it can be a bit hard to find these days.
The sixth is “Keng Som”
It is a sour soup mixed with vegetables. His name is “Keng Som”. “Som” in Thai means “sour” in the ancient Thai language. The most popular meats used in this particular soup are fish and shrimp. We add various vegetables to the soup, such as morning glory, cauliflower, raw papaya, Chinese cabbage, etc. So sometimes we call it “Keng Som Pak Rum” and “Pak Rum” in Thai means mixed vegetables. It is also eaten with “Cha-om Kai” which is an omelette with senegalia pennata. Sometimes we combine it in the dish, “Cha-on Kai” will absorb the soup, and the taste will be more delicious!! We also have “Keng Som” in the southern style, but some Thai people prefer to call it “Keng Leuang”. Because the color is yellow (Leuang in Thai means yellow) because they add turmeric in the mix. This southern dish is much spicier than the central style.
Next is “Khao Kluk Kapi”
The “Khao Kluk Kapi” is mentioned for the first time during the reign of King Rama V in 1907. The true royal recipe must always include “grilled fish”. but it has been removed to facilitate preparation. Khao Kluk Kapi is a dish that incorporates rice from the bottom of the pot or rice from the night with shrimp paste. The dish is served with Hom Dang (shallots), Kung Hang Tod (fried dried prawns), Kun Chiang Tod (fried Chinese sausages), Prig Tod or Prig Hun (fried chilies or grated chili), Kai Jiew Foy (grated omelet), Tua Fak Yao (long beans), Ma Moung Dib (raw mango), Ma Now Hun (lime slices) and Mhoo Wan (sweet pork). Before eating, do not forget to mix all the ingredients together first.
The next one is Keng Paneang
“Keng Paneang” is a heavy curry that is salty and has subtle sweet flavors. It was influenced by the Indian style of curry. But the Thai version contains Thai herbs and ingredients. The meats in the dish are mostly variations of beef, pork, chicken, or duck. The recipe first appeared in the book, published in 1890 where it was described as “Gai Panang” which used a whole chicken loaded with spices and coconut milk before grilling it. But now a simpler way of cooking has been invented, by cutting pieces of meat and cooking it with spices before putting it in coconut milk, which makes preparation easier these days. If you like rich and creamy curry, I highly recommend this dish!
The ninth is Keng Phed
“Keng Phed” is similar to “Keng Keaw Wan”, but Keng Ped mainly uses red chili peppers for the paste and coriander seeds for a more grassy taste. It contains a mixture of coconut milk as the main ingredient of the curry. It is popular to cook with chicken, beef, pork, catfish or shrimp. But the most popular is the grilled duck red curry which we called “Keng Phed Ped Yang”. The special ingredient of “Keng Phed Ped Yang” is tomato and pineapple. I ate it every week when I was a kid. This dish is my favorite!!
The last one is “Hor Mok”
“Hor Mok” is an ancient food that is popular in all regions of Thailand, but it is different from region to region. In central Thailand it is made from red curry paste and creamy coconut milk will always be added on top. The most common version of Hor Mok is probably Hor Mok Pla (Hor Mok with fish) but nowadays there are many other variations like seafood, prawns, salmon, etc. Meat is usually mixed with spice paste and seasoning, then vegetables will be added. in a banana leaf bowl before putting all the mixed ingredients in the leaf and adding the toppings before steaming. The vegetable base is mainly composed of noni leaves, basil and cabbage. The taste is so delicious with hot steamed rice!!
There are more dishes from central Thai cuisine that I haven’t mentioned in this episode, but they are also popular like Pad Thai which is probably the most famous dish in Thailand.