A Critique Of Thai Cuisine

“Pad Thai is only popular with the foreigners,” said Pia, my Thai classmate. “I would rather eat something else.”

For some reason the renowned Pad Thai noodle dish has become the emblem of Thai cuisine… outside Thailand. Yet like Pia has suggested, there’s so many other dishes to try.

So with no kitchen in my room or apartment complex, I had almost four months to try every single Thai dish available on the market. I’m not saying that I covered them all. Not even close. But I did come to appreciate is how effectively Thai people use peanuts, basil, curry pastes and chillies. Despite the warnings about how hot Thai food can be, most chefs can easily moderate the heat and you’re left with a good range of Thai food options:

Krapow aka Thai Basil Chicken. Rather than Pad Thai, my good friend Pia, will more likely order Krapow. This is one of the go-to dishes for Thai people. It’s such a simple dish consisting of basil, garlic and soy sauce with either minced chicken or pork. This saucy rich mixture, is added to rice and possibly a side of egg to make for a satisfying meal.
On the JS scale: 8/10

Green Curry. One of the most common curries you’ll find. You can find this everywhere you go, whether it’s accompanying rice, slathered over pasta or simply mixed in with vegetables (like in the picture on the right). Often it will be listed next to red, yellow and panang curry and is usually the hottest option between them all. At the end of the day, all the curries taste great, and in my opinion there’s no major stand out between them, apart from…
On the JS scale: 7/10

Massuman Curry. My favourite curry on the market! But this one falls in the same category as Pad Thai. It doesn’t seem to be much of a favourite amongst Thai people themselves. I love peanuts, so any dish that cleverly adds peanuts into its mixture has me sold.
On the JS scale: 9/10

Tom Yum This is the most famous soup of them all in Thailand. Yet I have a love, hate relationship with the dish. It’s so packed with flavour, including lemongrass, lime leaves, ginger, chillies etc. that it’s too hard to eat. Taking a spoonful of the delicious soup, you’ll bite down on a solid piece of ginger, crunch through a piece of lemongrass and pick out a lime leaf from your mouth. If you have the patience to sort through your food every bite, you’ll be rewarded with a hearty soup, full of flavour. However, if you just want to satiate your hunger, you might need to opt for an easier Thai dish.
On the JS scale: 4/10

Tom Kha. We have that “Tom” word again. Tom means boiling or soup. So here’s another soup on the list. Most of the ingredients are very similar to that of Tom Yum, the only difference is the kha, meaning coconut. A rich coconut milk is added to the mix and the lime leaves are replaced with lime juice. In my opinion, this makes for a better soup. If you enjoy a soured coconut taste, this is the Thai soup you would prefer.
On the JS scale: 6/10

Khao Soi. Since we’re talking about soups, I’m going to mention my absolute favourite -Khao Soi. It’s a little different to the rest, originating in the north of Thailand and commonly eaten in Laos and Myanmar, this soup could almost be considered a curry. With a thick red curry paste, coconut milk, bok choy and plenty of other delicious edible ingredients, your mouth will be filled with flavour. The only negative comment I can make about the soup, is if you’re eating every last drop, you will be left with a food coma for the next hour or so.
On the JS scale: 9.5/10

Pineapple Fried Rice. Enough with the soups, this is a rather simple Thai rice dish, presented creatively. Just as its name suggest, whip up your regular fried rice and toss in a can of pineapple pieces in their natural juice. While I’m not a huge fan of Hawaiian pizza, with its iconic pineapple, the sweetness of the pineapple in this dish adds a nice touch to the whole meal.
On the JS scale: 7/10


Pad Thai. I’m not ignoring the dish completely. It always was and still is my favourite Thai meal. In fact, it still is my favourite dish of all time. I absolutely love the combination of noodles, peanuts and fish sauce. While you can find a great version of this anywhere in the world, a Thai lady on the streets of Thailand, really knows how to pack in the flavour for the perfect balance.
On the JS scale: 10/10

Som Tum aka Papaya Salad. This is the one dish you’re warned about. Here you really will need to clarify your spice tolerance. Being a cold dish, you will feel the flavours of the lime juice, fish sauce and of course the chillies. I consider this dish a salad, so ordering one plate never quite fills you up completely.
On the JS scale: 7/10

Thai Pasta. While it sounds Italian inspired, there’s no escaping the Thai flavours. With red chillies mixed in and fish sauce sprinkled on top, prepare your mind for Thai. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was expecting Italian flavours that tricked my brain into thinking it wasn’t great the first time or I just didn’t enjoy it. I did give it a go a few times but it never quite hit the spot like Pad Thai or a rich tomato-based Italian pasta.
On the JS scale: 4/10

Sautéed Morning Glory. Also referred to as water spinach, this was my main source of veggies over my four months in Thailand. It was a bit of hit and miss. Sometimes it could be seriously drowned in oil, which just defeated the purpose, or other times I was lucky and it had a good balance of fish sauce, oil, salt and the healthy flavours of the morning glory.
On the JS scale: 7/10

Bread. An odd mention to our list of diverse Thai foods. Since I haven’t mentioned any desserts, I will start with bread. Rice and noodles are the popular (and only) options for mains, so bread is often left for dessert. The use itself is so simple. A thick slice of bread slathered in, chocolate or caramel or condensed milk, or any form of sweetness you can think of. While it sounds (and looks) super simple, I waited 20 minutes for four bread rolls drowned in condensed milk, over in China Town in Bangkok.
On the JS scale: 6/10

Mango and Sticky Rice. The renowned dessert of Thailand. Despite Thai friends telling me that there’s such a range of desserts on their menus, I never experienced much variety. I must admit though, their fruits made up for it! Being a tropical country, there was plenty of variety in that area, and mango was the tastiest of them all. You could find mango anywhere on the streets and a mango and sticky rice dish was usually a couple of meters away.
On the JS scale: 8/10 


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