Looking to taste the most popular & famous spicy Thai food dishes and recipes?
Maybe you’re on holiday searching for the best food in Thailand offering off the charts hot hot heat!
Or at home ordering popular Thai food take out that tingles and burns your tastebuds.
Perhaps you find yourself in your kitchen curious to cook homemade spicy Thai food recipes for your friends and family.
Our Spicy Thai Food Guide features a list of the top Thai dishes that don’t hold back on their liberal use of fiery chillies!
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Travel To Thailand To Eat The Best Spicy Thai Food Dishes
I love traveling to Asia.
My first visit had me living in South Korea for a year as a teacher and it’s where I was first introduced to fermented vegetables like kimchi.
After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout southeast Asia for 6 months, visiting the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
On my first visit I spent over a month backpacking through Thailand. I’ve revisited Thailand two times since as a food and travel journalist and always love to discover new regional dishes. Over the years I’ve explored Thai destinations such as Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Chiang Khong, Chang Mai, Sukothai and Bangkok.
What I found most fascinating is Thailand’s distinct regional food cultures. Much like the regional cuisines found in Germany, Italy or Spain, each town in Thailand had its own local speciality.
If you’re a fan of spicy Thai food you’ll love this recipe guide showcasing the best food in Thailand that will leave your mouth feeling hot hot hot!
While most Thai recipes incorporate spicy heat (via a combination of raw chilies, dried chilies and chili sauce) you’ll find the largest concentration of flaming hot famous Thai dishes in Southern Thailand.
Eat Spicy Thai Food At Award Winning Hotels in Thailand
- JW Marriott Phuket Luxury Resort
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- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
- Amari Vogue Krabi Luxury Resort
- Phulay Bay Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Popular Thai Food History
Hot climate countries are known for their hot and spicy cuisines. Thailand might take top prize for being one of the most famous countries serving spicy dishes.
They say eating spicy food is supposed to cool you off in hot and humid weather because chillies make you sweat.
Spicy Thai food originated with the people who emigrated from the southern Chinese provinces into modern day Thailand many centuries ago.
Historically there were many Sichuan influences in Thai cuisine, although over the centuries many other influences have affected Thai food. From soy sauce to rice, many of the staples of the modern Thai diet originated in China.
Ancient Buddhist monks brought an Indian touch before Muslim traders influenced the cooking in the south of Thailand. Much later, Thai food was influenced by European cuisine after contact with Portuguese missionaries and Dutch traders.
Thai cuisine is divided into 4 regions: Northern, North-Eastern, Central and Southern. While you can find spicy Thai food served all over Thailand, it’s the cooks of Southern Thailand who serve the hottest dishes.
Southern Thai cooking is most popular outside of Thailand since it is the main tourist region, thanks to it’s beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters.
In Southern Thai kitchens you’ll find a larger use of coconut milk, seafood, and the notoriously spicy Bird’s Eye Chili.
Types of Thai Curry
In Thailand, curry refers both to dishes in Thai cuisine that are made with various types of curry paste and to the pastes themselves. A wet Thai curry is made from curry paste, coconut milk, meat, seafood, vegetables and herbs.
You’ll find unique regional takes on the Thai curry concept in neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Popular Thai curries include Green, Red, Yellow, Panang and Massaman. Most Thai curries are categorized by the colour of the curry paste. The colour of the spicy chilies and other ingredients gives each curry its distinct hue.
Traditionally, all Thai curries were made with the same ingredients except for one ingredient: the chilies. Usually green curry is the mildest, red curry is the hottest and yellow curry falls somewhere in between.
Massaman Curry uniquely influenced Thai cooking thanks to visiting Persian traders. Massaman is a broken translation for Muslim. It originated in the south of Thailand near the border of Malaysia and is a thick sauce with a mild, slightly sweet flavour. Massaman dishes distinguish themselves by the inclusion of several whole spices and peanuts.
Panang Curry is sweeter than its sister, Thai Red Curry. It is named for the island of Penang off the west coast of Malaysia and is often served topped with coconut cream.
Most Thai curry paste recipes are made with spicy chilies, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, shallot, fish sauce, shrimp paste, cane sugar, lime, spices and coconut milk.
You can increase the intensity of homemade Thai curry by adding additional chilies to the fragrant DIY paste.
What Gives Spicy Thai Food It’s Fiery Heat?
Spicy Thai food gets its heat from two ingredients: chili and ginger.
The bioactive ingredient found in chili peppers that causes the intense hot or spicy feeling on the tongue is a chemical called capsaicin. Ginger’s spiciness is caused by the chemical gingerol, that mellows a bit when cooked, but becomes more intense when dried.
The majority of popular Thai food gets its spicy heat from hot chili peppers that are grown locally. The two most popular chillies used in Thai cooking include Bird’s Eye Chili and Prik Jinda, also known as Long Red Chilies.
Join Dobbernationloves founder Andrew Dobson in the kitchen by signing up for a fun virtual cooking class! Classes begin with a cocktail that you can sip while preparing 2-3 recipes that are curated around a unique culinary theme. Check out our current Cooking Class Schedule!
How Hot Is A Thai Pepper?
Thai peppers typically range from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Compare this to a typical jalapeno pepper, which ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units, making the average Thai pepper 15 times hotter than the average jalapeno!
Popular Spicy Thai Food Recipes
When writing a list of the 10 Must Try Tastes in Thailand I sampled some of the hottest dishes of my life at humble Thai street food stands.
I then spent several months putting together a guide to the Best Toronto Thai Restaurants. The yummy research proved Canada’s largest city serves plenty of authentic regional food from Thailand.
If you’re keen to taste the best spicy Thai food order any of the following dishes at your local Thai restaurant or make the recipes at home.
If you’re cooking homemade spicy Thai food you can manage the heat level of each dish by increasing or lowering the amount of chili or ginger in the recipe.
Thai Beef and Pumpkin Curry
If you’re planning a Thai themed dinner, this Beef and Pumpkin Curry recipe is a flavourful and rich main dish.
Most beef curry recipes in Thailand slowly simmer tough cuts of beef like chuck, flank or brisket until they are tender. In this red coconut curry recipe we use high quality sirloin or ribeye which is quickly seared on both sides until medium rare then stirred in with juicy chunks of roasted pumpkin.
Beef and Pumpkin Curry is a spicy Thai food which gets its heat from fresh ginger, red curry paste, and raw chili.
Thai Red Prawn Curry
If you’re looking for spicy Thai food to serve in the summer you’ll love this curry recipe that makes use of your barbecue.
Traditional Thai Prawn Curry recipes typically cook raw shrimp in simmering coconut curry sauce. In our recipe, prawns and fresh pineapple are grilled on a barbecue grill then added to a red coconut curry sauce with crunchy sugar snap peas. The grilling process imparts a barbecue flavour to the popular Thai food dish.
Red Prawn Curry is a spicy Thai food which gets its heat from fresh ginger and red curry paste.
Pad Kra Pao Thai Basil Stir-Fry
Pad Kra Pao, also known as Thai Basil Stir-Fry, is a popular spicy Thai street food dish. It’s often likened to Thailand’s take on “fast food,” as it’s affordable and takes just seconds to prepare.
The history of the dish dates back to Prime Minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s Thai cultural mandates during WWII. Pad Kra Pao and Pad Thai were some of the government promoted dishes in local Thai food contests.
The dish is often served over rice and topped with a fried egg. Pad Kra Pao has evolved to incorporate additional ingredients such as baby corn, carrots, banana peppers, mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
Chiang Mai Noodles “Khao Soi”
Chiang Mai Noodles, also known as Khao Soi, is a traditional dish from Northern Thailand. The hearty dish is served in large soup bowls and features braised beef, red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut cream, shrimp paste, lime juice and flat egg noodles.
Often referred to as “curry noodles,” it’s served by the Muslim community, which is why it is never prepared with pork. The dish was originally influenced by the Chin Haws, a Chinese Muslim community who migrated to Thailand via neighbouring Myanmar.
The dish is served in large soup bowls and typically features chunks of braised beef, fresh egg noodles and a rich and creamy coconut curry sauce. Khao Soi is traditionally garnished with lime wedges, beansprouts, sliced shallots, cilantro and crispy deep fried noodles.
Our favourite spicy Thai food from Northern Thailand gets its heat from red curry paste, long red chilies, and fresh ginger.
Thai Khua Kling Minced Pork & Beef Curry
Khua Kling is an authentic street food dish served in Southern Thailand. Most spicy Thai food experts rank Khua Kling as the hottest dish in the country.
Khua roughly translates to “cooking with little or no water” and Kling means “tossing,” the action created when cooks use a wok to stir fry. Since Khua Kling is a Thai dry curry, you don’t need to use a lot of oil when frying, like you would in other Thai and Chinese dishes.
The dish is traditionally prepared with minced pork but can also be substituted for ground chicken, turkey or beef or a mixture of your favourite ground meats. Our easy Thai mince curry recipe features a mixture of ground beef and pork, spicy red chili, fish sauce, lemongrass and lime leaves.
Gaeng Keow Wan Thai Green Curry Chicken
Gaeng Keow Wan, translates to “sweet green curry” and is a traditional coconut curry from Central Thailand typically served with thinly sliced chicken breast.
Thai Green curry recipes were popularized during the reign of King Rama VI and Rama VII, between the years 1908-1926.
Apart from the chicken breast, the spicy Thai dish consists of coconut milk, green curry paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, Thai eggplant, Pea eggplants and fresh basil.
Nam Tok Authentic Thai “Waterfall Beef” Salad
In the Thai language, Nam Tok Neua translates to Nam Tok “waterfall,” and Neua “beef.” The name refers to the fact that there is still water or liquid, in the meat when served aka juicy medium rare bloody beef steak slices. I don’t know about you, but the idea of sitting under a cascading Thai Steak Salad waterfall is what my dreams are made of!
This classic Thai beef salad recipe features tender strips of steak, shallots, scallions, mint, cilantro, rice powder, fish sauce, limes and spicy Thai chili.
Beef Massaman Curry
Massaman is not a native Thai word. It is generally thought to refer to Muslims, since food writers and culinary historians from the mid-19th century often called the dish “Mussulman curry.”
According to Thai scholar Santi Sawetwimon, Gaeng Massaman originated in 17th -century central Thailand at the cosmopolitan court of Ayutthaya, through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi, from whom the noble Thai Bunnag family descends.
Other theories believe massaman is a southern Thai dish influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine, or that its name comes from the Malay word masam, which means sour.
Massaman is a unique spicy Thai food that features foreign spices like ground cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom.
Gai Pad Med Mamuang Thai Cashew Chicken
Pad Med Mamuang is not an original Thai dish, the recipe is borrowed from traditional Chinese stir fry cooking methods. The popularity of Gai Pad Med Mamuang is rooted in Sichuan cuisines popular Kung Pao Chicken, also known as Gong Bao or Kung Po.
Thai chefs substituted the nuts in the dish from peanuts (China) to cashew nuts (Thailand). Some say the finest cashews in the world are grown in Thailand, mainly on the island of Phuket.
Mamuang means cashew in Thai but there is an interesting translation. The original meaning refers to the Garden of Eden, and the cashew nut looks like a small mango. The resulting pun can mean “mango of paradise”, suggesting culinary heaven.
The popular Thai food gets its spicy heat from raw red chilies.
Grabong Northern Thai Pumpkin Fritters
Grabong, also known as Gra Bong and Thai Pumpkin Fritters, is an authentic street food dish served in Northern Thailand.
The popular Thai appetizer is essentially made of shredded vegetables that are mixed with spicy red curry paste and coconut milk and fried in a rice flour batter. What’s great about Grabong is that unlike Japanese tempura, which uses wheat flour, the use of rice flour makes the fritter gluten free!
Pumpkin fritters were originally cooked as a snack by the Shan people, who called it Khang Pong. In the local dialect the recipe translates to “Khang” pan and “Pong” golden. So Khang Pong simply means “golden fried in a pan.”
The vegetables often used to make traditional Grabong are squash, banana blossom, green papaya, bamboo shoots, taro root and sweet potato.
Thai Pork Rib Soup with Vermicelli Noodles
Thai Pork Rib Soup is one of our favourite spicy Thai dishes to eat when a craving for slippery noodles hits.
The complex dish features a variety of flavours and contrasting textures like crunchy fried shallots, crispy bean sprouts, tender cilantro and juicy pork rib meat.
The popular spicy Thai food recipe gets its heat from dried red chillies and fresh ginger.
Khao Pad Sapparod Thai Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice
Khao Pad, also known as Kao Pad in Thailand, translates to “fried rice,” in Thai. Khao means rice and Pad means stir fry.
Sapparod translates to pineapple in Thai, so Khao Pad Sapparod or Kao Pad Sapparod means “Thai Pineapple Fried Rice.”
Authentic Khao Pad Sapparod is prepared with day old jasmine rice, fresh pineapple, shrimp or prawns, scrambled eggs, curry powder, selection of Asian sauces and chopped vegetables.
The popular spicy Thai food gets its heat from fresh ginger and raw Thai red long chili.
Khai Jiao Thai Ground Chicken Omelet
Khai Jiao is a Thai-style omelet famous for its crispy exterior and light and fluffy pillowy interior.
Often mistaken as a breakfast dish due to the English designation “omelet,” Khai Jiao is typically regarded in Thailand as a rice topper to create a complete lunch or dinner. Thai omelet also can be found at a celebratory Sam Rap, family-style multi-dish feast, to complement a sour dish or take the heat off a hot chili jam.
The most popular variations of the recipe include ground chicken, ground pork, fresh oysters or crab.
Red Thai Pork Curry
Thai Pork Curry, also known as Red Curry Pork or Gaeng Phed Moo, is a traditional creamy coconut stew from Northern Thailand. The decadent dish is typically served in restaurants as a main course or entree with steamed rice.
Traditional recipes feature ingredients like pork shoulder, eggplant, coconut cream, red curry paste, palm sugar, squash or pumpkin, spicy chilies, Thai basil leaves, lime leaves and fish sauce.
Yum Woon Sen Thai Glass Noodle Salad
Yum Woon Sen is a popular dish both inside and outside Thailand.
Woon Sen, or glass noodles are clear noodles made from either mung bean, sweet potato, potato or tapioca starch. Commonly used in Asian cuisine, they are sold in their dry form in packaged bundles; separated into 1 serving bundles for your cooking convenience.
Yum Woon Sen is a fresh Thai salad that uses these clear cellophane noodles, which are known for their ability to absorb a lot of liquid. You only need a little bit of noodles to fill a bowl and satisfy your hunger cravings.
Beyond the mandatory glass noodles, traditional Yum Woon Sen recipes typically feature ground chicken, shrimp or prawns, garlic, carrots, tomato, fresh herbs, spicy chili peppers, fish sauce and roasted peanuts.
Stir-Fried Garlic Basil Thai Eggplant
Stir Fried Thai Eggplant is one of our favourite spicy Thai food recipes to serve as a vegetable side dish alongside creamy curries and fresh salads.
Slender Japanese eggplants are sliced and stir fried with flavourful sesame oil, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, Maggi sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, Thai basil leaves, spicy red chili and scallions.
Thai Glass Noodle Stir Fry Pad Woon Sen
Pad Woon Sen, also known as Thai Glass Noodle Stir Fry is one of our favourite easy meatless recipes to cook at home when craving a tasty vacation to Thailand.
A popular Thai food for noodle loves, Pad Woon Sen features chewy cellophane noodles, flavourful soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, scrambled eggs, peanuts, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and cilantro.
This dish can be made mild or transformed into a mouthwatering spicy Thai food by adding chopped Bird’s Eye Chilies into the stir fry before serving.
Thai Prawn Omelette
This Thai-inspired breakfast omelette is a family favourite egg dish to serve at brunch.
The recipe features freshly cracked eggs, sesame oil, Maggi sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, prawns, bean sprouts, cilantro and spicy red Thai chilies.
Thai Prawn Panang Curry
Panang Curry is the sweeter sister to Thai Red Curry.
Traditional recipes feature ingredients like Panang curry paste, shrimp or prawns, red bell pepper, coconut cream, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime leaves, Thai basil leaves, spicy long red chili and roasted peanuts.
Thai Tamarind Prawn Curry
This tangy seafood curry is a favourite of spicy Thai food lovers.
Plump prawns are cooked in a spicy and sweet tamarind curry sauce then topped with crunchy fried shallots.
Spicy Thai Basil Fried Rice
Thai Basil Fried Rice is one of our favourite spicy Thai food side dishes. This easy fried rice is unique in that it is stir fried with heaps of fragrant Thai basil.
The popular Thai food is commonly served with seafood or meat dishes as well as creamy coconut curries.
Green Papaya Salad Som Tum
There are two popular Thai foods that fit into the salad category and are both hella’ spicy!
Som Tum Thai Green Mango Salad and Tum Mak Hoong Green Papaya Salad are both spicy salads featuring crunchy unripe tropical fruit.
Mango Salad and Green Papaya Salad are both pounded using a mortar and pestle and feature so much firy Bird’s Eye Chilies it will make your lips burn with glee!
Thai Red Curry Prawn Burger
If you’re a seafood or burger fan you’ll love this spicy Thai-inspired prawn sandwich.
The flavourful Shrimp Burger recipe features a creamy ginger lime mayo, cilantro and red curry paste prawn patties, peppery rocket lettuce, red onion slices and soft brioche bun.
Egg Tofu Soup with Pork Meatballs
Egg Tofu Soup can be served mild or spicy depending on your preferences.
The hearty soup features plump pork meatballs, crunchy fried shallots and soft egg tofu slices.
You can transform this recipe for a spicy palette by topping the bowl with chili crisp or finely chopped Thai red chilies.
Phat Prik is a type of Thai curry that is drier than other Thai curries since it is fried in oil and does not contain coconut milk.
The paste is a thick presenting a vivid red colour due to prik chili peppers. Recipes for the curry paste usually include lemongrass, garlic and galangal. The spicy curry paste is then typically stir fried with long beans and sliced beef.
Gaeng Tai Pla
Gaeng Tai Pla is a famous spicy curry from southern Thailand. Its name is derived from tai pla, a salty sauce made from fermented fish entrails, which gives the curry a strong smell and flavour. This fish curry is usually served with fresh vegetables in a separate plate and eaten with steamed jasmine rice.
Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum is a type of hot and sour Thai soup, usually cooked with shrimp. The words “tom yum” are derived from two Thai words. Tom refers to the boiling process, while yum means ‘mixed’.
Tom Yum Soup is the perfect spicy Thai food recipe for those looking to enjoy one of the countries most popular and famous seafood dishes.
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