Thailand can be divided into four culinary regions: Northern, northeastern (known as Isaan), central (including Bangkok), and southern Thailand — all with their own unique flavors influenced by neighboring countries such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The Chinese cuisine is also a major influence throughout Thailand.
When talking about Thai food, its four essential flavors are often mentioned: Salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. Balancing these flavors creates a culinary sensation loved by people all around the world. Here’s what to eat from north to south via Isaan and Bangkok.
Northern Thai food, or Lanna food, is different than the food many foreigners associate with Thailand. The traditional food up north is milder, salty and sour, but rarely sweet. Some famous dishes include Khao Soi, Kaeng Hang Le, and Sai Ua also known as Chiang Mai sausage.
A bowl of Khao Soi served in Chiang Mai.
Khao Soi is a curry and coconut based noodle soup topped with crunchy noodles and cilantro. Popular not only in northern Thailand but also in Burma and Laos, this quick-to-make dish is rich in flavors and reminds me a bit of Massaman curry.
Although it can be nice to sit at one of the seafront restaurants along the tourist strips with a Singha beer waiting for the Tom Yam Goong to hit the table, I prefer going local. My best food experiences in Krabi has been in places outside the hustle and bustle serving genuine local food. I highly recommend trying at least one of these restaurants on your trip to Krabi, but count on paying more than the random sidewalk restaurant — it’s so worth it!
Bankolek Riverside, Ao Nang
When holidaying Thais from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand want to experience genuine southern Thai food in Krabi, there are some obvious choices, and Ruan Thip is one of them. The menu is filled with delicious food like spicy and sour curries, seafood, stink beans, coconut soups and the signature dish kha moo tod which is a deep-fried pork leg.
A Thai-Muslim family has run Roti Chaofa on Chao Fa Road in Phuket Town, next to Siam Commercial Bank (where my wife worked before moving to Norway) for over 30 years. This breakfast-and-lunch place is very popular among locals, and when my wife worked at SCB, she often ate here paying less than 50 baht. Below are some Thai dishes that should be prepared by a Muslim.
Last year we visited Chinatown in Bangkok for the first time and had an amazing food experience which I also wrote about on my blog. This year we decided to come back, and although it was not quite as good as last year, it was a lovely evening spending many hours just walking around taking in the atmosphere, ordering something to eat whenever we felt for it. Below is what we ate.
Rolled rice noodle soup with crispy pork belly
Where I’m from, you grab a kebab or pizza on the way home after a night out drinking. In Bangkok, things work a bit different. Here, it’s common to stop by a streetside restaurant and order several dishes before going home.
It’s pretty simple; fry some minced pork with a combination of ingredients typical of Thai cuisine and something magical happens in your mouth. Below are three of my favorite minced pork dishes.
Moo Pad Krapow
Nakhon Si Thammarat, the largest province in southern Thailand, is located on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula with Krabi to the west. My wife studied traditional Thai dance here when she was a young girl and still visit the town from time to time when some errands need to be done.
Most recent, she needed to meet a dermatologist, and before we went back to Krabi, she wanted to show me Kopi 1942, which is a famous breakfast place in the center of Nakhon Si Thammarat Town serving old-style coffee, traditional tea, dim sum and other Chinese/Thai food.