Thai food in Thailand is mostly unique to the different geographical regions of the country and can be divided into the following:
- Central Thai cuisine
- Northeast (I-San) Thai cuisine
- Southern Thai cuisine
- Northern Thai cuisine.
Central Thai Cuisine
Central Thai cuisine is the type of cuisine originally introduced into Thai restaurants all over the world, including the signature Tom Yum Koong (spicy prawn soup). Central Thai cuisine is generally light, fresh and of medium spiciness. The curries, red, green, yellow, Massaman and Panang are also central Thai dishes. Other popular central Thai dishes are:
- Pad-Thai noodles
- Thai style fried rice (a Chinese influence)
- Tom Kaa Kai, a Thai chicken soup in coconut milk spiced with Thai ginger (Galanga).
I-San is a Thai word meaning northeast. Most people in this region speak Lao (the language of neighbouring Laos). The cuisine here is unique to this region and only recently has it been introduced into Thai restaurants overseas. The cuisine of northeastern Thailand is slightly more spicy than the Central Thai cuisine and is traditionally accompanied by glutinous or sticky rice. A popular I-San cuisine in Thailand and in Thai restaurants today is the spicy Som Tum or Papaya salad. Variations of Thai spicy salads are mostly northeastern cuisine influenced.
Northern Thai Cuisine
Northern Thai cuisine is inspired by the foods and flavours of Burma and Yunnan Province in China because of northern Thailand’s geographical location. Examples of a popular northern Thai dish is Khao Soi, a delicious dish of boiled and crunchy noodles in a northern style mildly spicy curry broth.
Southern Thai Cuisine
Southern Thai cuisine is the spiciest of the lot, with coconut, turmeric and other exotic spices. Southern Thai cuisine has yet to be introduced into mainstream Thai menus in restaurants overseas, perhaps because of its high level of spiciness.