What To Order... At A Thai Restaurant

By Hazel Last edited 159 months ago
What To Order... At A Thai Restaurant
What to Order Thai.jpg

Thai food is absolutely everywhere: there once was a time when you couldn't find a decent green curry for love nor money and now you can't help but trip over the stuff in pubs, cafes, restaurants and endless Oriental "fusion" canteens. Its suitability for buffets, vegetarians, parties, pub grub and romantic spectacle makes Thai food extremely versatile and popular - and isn't likely to bankrupt the standard London wage-earner.

If in any doubt as to what is Thai when faced with menus of the currently trendy Oriental fusion madness, it is most likely to be the spicy hot stuff, the curries and chilli noodles. It's not all mouth-burning: apart from chillies, Thai flavouring comes from basil, cardamon, coconut milk, coriander, fresh curry leaves, garlic, lemon grass, and lime and lots of fresh chillies, creating dishes that are sharp and fragrant as well as hot on the tongue.

The cooking methods and the tempering effects of the prevalent coconut milk, lemon grass, lime etc. differentiates Thai curries from Indian and Carribbean curries - Thai food can be as fiery but is generally lighter and the sauces are thinner, closer to broths than the thick coatings of a korma or density of a dhansak. Used throughout Thai cookery is Num Pla - the beloved Thai fish sauce that is like a lighter and fishier soya sauce.

All Thai food is served with rice except for the noodle dishes that are eaten on their own or sometimes served as a side dish instead of rice. Chopsticks, spoons and forks are the acceptable dining tools - but though you may know how to eat the stuff, do you know what to eat? Read on for the lowdown on what to order in a Thai restaurant...

First of all, the basics:

Kao / Khao - rice

Moo - pork

Neua - beef

Kai / Gai - chicken

Kaeng - curry

Ped - duck

Pla/Plaa - fish

Goong - prawns

Maphrao - coconut

Takrai - lemongrass

Taohoo - tofu

Soups - Tom

Chiang Mai - clear vegetable soup with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese leaf

Tom Yum Hed / Tom Yum Gai - thin, hot and sour soup with lemongrass and kaffir leaves, served vegetarian with mushrooms (hed) or with chicken (gai)

Tom Kha Hed / Tom Kha Gai - mildly spiced coconut soup with either mushrooms or chicken

Pattaya - mixed seafood soup, usually quite spicy

Yao Wa Rad - clear soup with minced pork and prawn dumplings with vegetables

Salads -

Plah Goong - prawns with lemongrass, vegetables, coriander and chilli

Yum Neua - beef with shallots and herbs, in hot and sour dressing

Gado gado - mixed vegetables with peanut sauce

Thai curries - kaeng

Gang Kaeng - Thai red curry with coconut and chicken (gai), beef (neua), pork (moo), prawns (goong) or vegetables (pak)

Gang Kiew Warn - Thai green curry with coconut, bamboo shoots and green chillies with either vegetables (pak), chciken (gai) or prawns (goong)

Panang - medium spicy curry with chicken or beef, basil and peanuts

Jungle Curry / Gang Bpa - hot and spicy dry curry without coconut milk, usually served vegetarian but also served with beef (neua) or pork (moo)

Massaman - southern Thai curry of slowly braised chicken or beef with peanuts in a rich sauce

Gang Pead Ped Yang - sliced, roasted duck in spiced coconut milk with lychees, pineapple and tomatoes

Gang Gari - mild curry with chicken, pineapple and baby potatoes in coconut milk, served with deep-fried shallots

Stir Fries - Pad

Pad Prig Sod - Stir-fried fresh chillies, garlic, onion and sweet basil leaves with either pork, beef, chicken, prawns or vegetables

Pad Nhomai Farang - stir-fried fresh asparagus with garlic and Thai seasoning with either pork, beef, chicken, prawns or vegetables

Pad Nammun Hoay - beef in oyster sauce with mushrooms and vegetables

Pad Gratiam - pork, beef, chicken or prawns with garlic, pepper and vegetables, served on fresh lettuce

Pad Preaw Warn - Thai style sweet and sour sauce with vegetables, chicken, beef, pork or prawns

Pad Khing - Stir-fried pork, beef, chicken, prawns or tofu (tao hu) with ginger with mushrooms in soy sauce

Pad Himmapan - Stir-fried roast cashew nuts, onion, and roast chilli in soy sauce, with chicken or vegetables


Pad Thai - traditional stir fried noodles with bean sprouts, vegetables, peanuts and either prawns, pork, beef or chicken or served vegetarian

Pad Khee Mao - spicy fried noodles with chicken, chilli and basil

Mee Sua - stir fried egg noodles with chicken, prawns, spring onions and coriander

Drink: light and cool Thai beer, fruit juices or green tea

Restaurant recommendations are too numerous to include here: everywhere in London has a local favourite, a cheap option, a quick option, a pub or cafe that does Thai and a trendy fusion option. Wherever you end up, enjoy!

Last Updated 01 November 2005