Thai cuisine is beloved around the world for its complex balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavours. From the familiar pad Thai and tom yum soup to the obscure regional curries and noodles, Thailand offers a rich diversity of dishes. While it’s easy to fall back on the same familiar ones, some of the country’s best meals are hidden treasures that don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Here are 5 must-try Thai dishes you’ve probably never heard of:

Gaeng Tai Pla

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path Thai curry that packs a punch, try gaeng tai pla. This southern Thai curry starts with a base of thick, pungent mackerel packed in an aromatic turmeric and black pepper-flecked curry sauce made from freshly pounded spices. 

Usually cooked with vegetables like bamboo shoots, eggplant and fresh peppercorns, the mackerel adds a salty, umami blast to every bite. You’ll find gaeng tai pla in markets and curry shops across Thailand’s southern provinces. Just beware of the tiny bones!

Miang Kham

Miang kham is a flavor tour-de-force not often seen outside of Thailand. These small bite-sized parcels start with a base of a betel leaf topped with an addictive mix of lime, ginger, dried shrimp, peanuts, coconut and chili. You take a little of everything, wrap it into an individual parcel in the betel leaf and eat it in one flavorful bite. 

The combination of flavors and textures makes miang kham a perfect starter or snack to enjoy with a cold drink on a hot Thai afternoon. You’ll find street vendors selling the premixed ingredients at markets across Thailand.

Choo Chee Curry

The choo chee curry is a rich, coconut milk-laden curry originating from southern Thailand. Unlike the better known red or green Thai curries, choo chee is tinted a light beige from the reaction of its primary spices, including white peppercorns, mace and cloves simmered until soft and fragrant. 

Seafood is the most common protein, ranging from fresh prawns to mackerel and mussels cooked in the curry until just done. Finally, choo chee is finished off the same way many Thai curries are – with a bold splash of fresh lime juice. The tangy citrus cuts through the coconut milk’s richness in an utterly delectable way.

Thai Lod Chong

Sweet endings reign in Thai cuisine, including the colorful lod chong. Unlike the starchy, chewy Singaporean lod chong, this Thai version features bouncy strands of mung bean thread noodles bathed in sweetened coconut milk perfumed with pandan leaf. 

Lod chong is popularly served as a cooling dessert or snack topped with crushed ice, fresh mango, jackfruit and coconut meat. The interplay of textures and flavors — chewy noodles, velvety coconut milk, tropical fruit, woodsy pandan — makes this the best kind of refreshing treat after yet another electrifying Thai meal.

Sai Ua

Sai ua, a garlicky Northern Thai sausage, is one of the fieriest in all of Thailand. Unlike the sweetened bulk sausages found in most of the country, sai ua packs a double chili punch from fiery fresh chilies and chili powder blended into pork and herbs. 

Grilled over hot coals with a few sticky rice balls as its sidekick, the burn of sai ua is part of its addictive appeal that draws fans from across Thailand. One of the best places to try it is at Chiang Mai’s evening street food markets alongside other northern classics like khao soi curry noodles and nam prik ong chili dip.

Final Words 

From little-known seafood curries to ancient preserved teas, Thailand offers a lifetime’s worth of incredible flavors still undiscovered by most outsiders. By diving deeper into Thai food beyond the usual suspects, you’ll discover a whole new world of extraordinary dishes from Thailand’s diverse regional cuisines waiting to thrill your tastebuds in surprising new ways.