Andy Ricker first visited Thailand as a backpacker in 1987 and became entranced with its food, culture, and people. Since then, the Michelin-starred chef has spent several months traveling there and in neighboring countries each year, eating, cooking, studying the cuisine, and bringing it stateside. A two-time James Beard Award winner, best-selling cookbook author, and chef/owner of Brooklyn’s Pok Pok NY (as well as five other Thai-themed restaurants in Portland, Oregon), Ricker is Thailand’s first official culinary ambassador. He shares his top ten dishes for you to seek out.
Laap (aka Larb or Laab)
This minced meat “salad” is worth repeat sampling as you travel, since countless variations abound in the north and northeast – all driven by local spices and cooking traditions.
Kuaytiaw Khua Kai
Fresh, wide rice noodles fried in pork fat with chicken and cuttlefish. You’ll find the best in alleyways in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown.
Phak Bung Fai Daeng
“Red fire water spinach” is a stir-fried dish of water spinach, fermented soybeans, chilies, garlic, and seasoning sauces, often served streetside by vendors who throw the flaming contents of their wok through the air to a waiting plate.
This Chiang Mai noodle dish with Chinese Muslim origins is made with coconut milk and, most famously, chicken – though the beef version is Ricker’s personal favorite.
Thailand’s only indigenous noodle is a fresh, fermented rice vermicelli, typically topped with curries. Each region has its own version, from nam ngiaw in the north to the south’s nam phrik.
Khao Mok Kai
The Thai Muslim version of chicken biryani, found wherever minority Muslim communities in Thailand make their home.
Plaa Phao Kleua
Grilled, salt-crusted whole fish served with lettuce, herbs, and a spicy-sweet dipping sauce. Look for roadside vendors selling it to locals heading home from work.
This boat-noodle dish of pork and beef packs a punch. It originated in Ayutthaya, once the capital of Siam, and is now one of Thailand’s most popular noodle dishes.
Khao Tom Kui
Typically devoured late at night or early in the morning, these small bowls of rice soup or just plain rice are served with an array of Chinese-Thai dishes such as jap chai (boiled vegetables), pet rom khwan (teasmoked duck), and muu pha lo (stewed five-spice pork) and a spicy dipping sauce of chilies, cilantro root, garlic, and lime.
Fried chicken: Every culture has its version, and Thailand has many. They’re all delicious – especially the famous recipe from the southern city Hat Yai.
This article is sponsored by Tourism Thailand. originally published by Virtuoso on June 2018.