Here’s a list of the best spiciest Thai dishes – essential reading for any would-be visitor to Thailand – the Land of Smiles.
Gaeng Tai Pla
It’s a southern Thailand double, with gaeng tai pla romping home to take first place in the list of spiciest Thai dishes. If you attempt to order this curry, don’t be offended when a waiter tells you that it’s extremely spicy – they’re only looking out for you. It features the typical southern Thai ingredients of dried chillies, galangal, turmeric and kaffir leaves, as well as fermented fish innards, fish, pumpkin, eggplant, yardlong beans and bamboo shoots to create a curry that’s salty as well as devastatingly spicy. Persevering through the pain barrier and finishing this curry is sure to elicit wry smiles from those in the restaurant who will have gathered to witness the farang break down from the heat and call his parents for help. Make sure there’s a convenience store nearby, because when you’re done you’re going to need a heck of a lot of milk and ice cream to soothe your fiery mouth.
Gaeng Kua Kling
Another south of Thailand specialty, kua kling is a dry curry that takes no prisoners when it comes to its spicy taste. It’s much simpler to create than a lot of Thai dishes; a curry paste consisting of chilli, pepper, lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, galangal, salt, and shrimp paste is added to meat that’s roasting in a pan, and mixed together until it’s cooked. Available with either pork, chicken, fish or beef as the meat and served along with rice, there’s no foreigner-special version of gaeng kua kling, with every version you find in the south of Thailand sure to knock your socks off. Are you up to it?
Isaan’s firely papaya salad som tam takes the bronze medal in the list of Thailand’s spiciest foods – though depending on where you eat it or who prepares it, it could just as easily have taken the gold. The unripened papaya is tangy in taste, and served with a pounded mixture of salt, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut sugar and – of course – a liberal handful of fiery hot chillies. The presence of these diverse ingredients works tremendously well, creating a dish that’s balanced in flavour – though more often than not incredibly intensely spicy. Folks in Isaan will eat it as though it’s a bland as boiled rice, but visitors to Thailand will undoubtedly be left sweating and in agony – don’t say we didn’t warn you.
If you don’t see gaeng som, you’ll certainly smell it. This notorious orange curry from the south of Thailand has a distinctive spicy smell that will singe the hairs up your nostrils. A thin, soup-like curry, gaeng som gets its spice from the shrimp paste and bird’s eye chillies that are used and its sourness from the presence of tamarind, which also lends to its distinctive colour. Usually containing fish or shrimp, it’s served typically alongside boiled white rice, but be careful – the runny nature of the curry can quickly lead it to saturating your rice, leaving you with no escape from its considerable heat.
We’re getting seriously hot now as we enter the top five, and the lesser-know tom laeng. Pork bones are boiled until the meat is soft and coming away from the bone, along with spring onions and copious amounts of green chillies. On first glance, the clearish broth with meat and green vegetables floating in it might look like your nan’s homemade chicken soup, but don’t be mistaken – it’s incredibly hot, and bound to be the next Thai dish you see plastered all over social media. Eat at your own peril.
(To be continued)
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