A Guide to Thailand’s Regional Cuisines

Going beyond Pad Thai and the traffic light curries

Northern (Lanna)

Long before being part of Thailand, the northern region was an Indianized state centred in present-day Northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries — known as the Lanna Kingdom.

Laap Kua Moo | Credit: thaifoodmaster.com

Northeastern (Isaan)

The Isaan region has long been the poorest and least fertile of Thailand. The land is flat and much arider than the rest of the country, but the dishes are incredible — some genius, even.

Sai Grok Isaan | Credit: Somtum Der

You’d probably have your work cut out for you even finding Jasmine rice in the region.

I wrote about an interesting dish from this region — Gai Tai Nam or “underwater chicken” — using distillation to level-up braising and bring out maximum flavour. If you haven’t ever tried it, I suggest you do — it’s insanely tasty.

Eastern

Often referred to under the umbrella of “Northeastern”, Eastern Thai food is undoubtedly a cuisine on its own — and should be treated as such.

Moo Liang Noodle | Credit: bkkjunk.com

Central plain and Bangkok

The rich and diverse history of the central region is notable in its food. Besides the modern-day capital, Bangkok, the central region is also home to the former historic capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

Pad Kee Mao or ‘Drunken noodles’ | Credit: Leela Punyaratabandhu of shesimmers.com

Southern

Many are familiar with the south and its tourist destinations, but it’s alarming just how overlooked the food is. Blessed with the longest monsoon season, the land in the south is fertile and surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains, forests, and tropical beaches.

Ultra-spicy Khua Kling | Credit: Mark Wiens

There is also a considerable Thai-Muslim community in the south and you wouldn’t be hard-pressed getting your hands on a goat curry or Biryani.

Perhaps the most delicious and intensely flavoured curries are found in the south. Many of the dishes, like Khua Kling, are spicy as hell and use a variety of techniques introduced from neighbouring countries.

Cook and food writer based in Mexico City. Talking food and all its intersections | IG: https://instagram.com/_alexheery

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store