Food style varies from region to region whether this is due to the weather or the ingredients available you can find many styles within a cuisine. Thailand is no stranger to this concept as their food greatly varies yet remains consistent with the flavor profiles of Thai cuisine. Read this blog to learn about the different regions in Thailand and the food that is native from each region.
- Northeast region
Also commonly known as Isan is famous for its grilled meats like Gai Yahng (BBQ chicken), Moo Yahng (BBQ pork), Tiger Tearless (Steak) and their common use of sticky rice, as well as strong fermented salads especially Som Tom (papaya salad) and heaped plates of fresh vegetables and herbs to pair with their meals. It’s also the easiest regional variety to find outside of the region (or overseas) and most popular amongst Thai people as it is a comfort food of sorts. Spicy, sweet, sour and salty are all flavors you will find in an Isan dish.
The cities in Thailand that are considered Northeast would be Udon Thani and Khon Kaen. Udon Thani especially is known for its food and Isan style sausage.
- Northern Region
You might have heard of Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai these are the popular cities in the Northern region that are at the center of Northern food delicacy. Also known as Lanna cuisine, you may find familiar dishes such as the delicious Khao Soi (curried noodles). This region appreciates flavor and texture contrasting elements which is easily seen with the Khao Soi dish curry and tender meat along with crispy noodles.
This regions food is heavily influenced by the countries that share a border with the North, such as Myanmar (Burma) and Laos – although Laos has more of an influence on Northeastern (Isan) cuisine.
Best to start the meal with Nam Phrik Ong / Nam Phrik Num (chilli dips), Sai Ua (Northern curried sausage) and Khaep Mu (crispy pork rind) served with an assortment of lightly boiled vegetables. Notice again the combination of textures: the soft chili dip with the crispy pork rind and the option to eat vegetables with it.
- Southern region
This cuisine is the least well known and understood of Thailand’s food groups, Southern Thai food is characterized by its spice and sharpness. It has the most powerful curries and chillies so it really can pack in some heat.
Just like the North, Southern Thai cuisine shares flavors from its neighbors, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. There is a large Muslim influence on the food in this region and you can find a delicious mesh between the two cultures in the preparation of seafood and meats and the use of lots of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves for flavor. A popular dish you can find in many Thai restaurants is Massaman, a stewed curry of meat and potatoes.
- Central Region
Last but not least is the most known cuisine within Thai food, when people think about Thai food and Thai restaurants they are probably thinking of food from the central region. With well-known dishes; such as, Phad Thai and curry pastes involving the staple ingredients of chillies, garlic, galangal, lemongrass and shrimp paste.
The Central Region is also home to jasmine rice, this is Thailand’s top export and found globally. It’s also the birthplace of Green curry, and the equally loved Tom Yum.
Hopefully after reading this you have learned some new things about Thailand and the rich cuisine of Thai food. After reading this guide I encourage you to try all the region’s foods which most Thai menus have elements of all these dishes. If you are in the greater Seattle area our restaurant Thai Ginger offers a variety of dishes from all the different regions. Check out our menu here.