An Easy Guide To The 5 Flavors Of Thai Food

Original blog post:

Whenever we think about the flavors of Thai food, what usually comes to mind are the lightly prepared dishes that strike the perfect balance between taste, texture, and aroma. However, as with many other Asian countries, Thai cooking is also known for its use of coconut milk, herbs, spices, and taste improvers like seasoning powder, lime juice, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. The masterful combination of these ingredients helps the dish to have a strong smell and unique look that is truly appetizing and will make you ask for one more cup of ข้าว (pronounced as kâao) or rice! Let’s learn more about this in the next section below.

Did someone ever asked you คุณหิวไหม (kun hǐo mái) or are you hungry? Well, suppose you are walking the streets of Bangkok. In that case, your stomach will definitely start to growl because of the never-ending lines of restaurants serving popular recipes like the spicy ต้มยำกุ้ง (Tom Yum Goong), delicious ข้าวผัด (Khao Pad), and tasty ผัดไทย (Pad Thai). What makes all of this Thai food enticing is that the locals make use of authentic and fresh spices that will surely stimulate the taste buds of first-time eaters of Asian food.

So, whether it is your first time or you are just planning to try out the Thai cuisine, learning more about the basic flavors used in their food will help you get a grasp of what to expect… and trust us, you won’t be disappointed! So, read on below to find out more.

The Basic Flavors Of Thai Food

When it comes to Thai cooking, do remember that many of these รสชาติ (rot-chaat) or flavors are mixed together to create an even more unique flavor. For instance, the traditional Thai crab omelet does not only exhibit the creaminess of the egg, but it also adds in umami (in the form of soy and oyster sauce), saltiness (with some sea salt), spiciness (red chili and white pepper). It even adds a dash of sour lime juice.

The same powerful combinations can be found in their noodle-based dishes, which show the right balance between sweetness, spiciness, and aromatics. Thanks to the extensive use of sweet-sour lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, and other ingredients (like cinnamon, galangal, soy sauce, and white peppercorns), everyone will surely fall in love with the Thai cuisine.

Sweet — หวาน

Pronounced as waan, the locals of Thailand have a really sweet tooth, and you will find that many of the street vendors actually specialize in sweet-tasting delicacies. Whether it is for cooking dishes, drinks, or baking, the Thai people enjoy using palm sugar, coconut sugar, stevia leaves, natural syrup, and crystalline sugar. Furthermore, since the country is also a fanatic of กะทิ (ka-ti) or coconut milk, the naturally sweet taste of the coconut meat and condensed coconut milk are also used in many dishes.

Example Thai Dishes:

  • ขนมสอดไส้ — Khanom Sod Sai (Coconut cream-filled banana leaves)
  • ไอติมกะทิ — I-Tim Kati (Coconut ice cream)
  • ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง — Kâao niao ma muang (Mango sticky rice)

Salty — เค็ม

Pronounced as “kiem” by the locals, common Thai food makes use of sea salt, shrimp paste, curry paste, and fish sauce (fermented fish known as nam pla). There are also instances wherein the salty taste is brought about by seasoning powders and sauces (like oyster and mushroom). For health-conscious individuals, please do note that Thai cuisine relies on the use of sodium to the point that a single serving of a soup can easily rack up 3000mg of sodium right away.

Example Thai Dishes:

  • ผัดผักบุ้งไฟแดง่ — Pad Pok Boong Fai Deng (Stir-friend Morning Glory)
  • ก๊วยเตี๋ยวเป็ดตุ๋น — Kuay Teaw Ped Toon (Thai Duck Noodle Soup)
  • หมูยอ — Moo Yor (Thai Pork Sausage)

Sour — เปรี้ยว

Pronounced as “bprîiao”, the sourness in Thai food is reflected by ingredients like sour lime, tamarind, white vinegar, lemon basil, raw green mango slices, sour pineapple, green papaya, or other fruits.

Example Thai Dishes:

  • ผัดเปรี้ยวหวาน — Phad bprîiao waan (Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry)
  • ต้มข่าไก่ — Tom kha kai (Thai Coconut Soup)
  • ตำมะม่วง — Tum Ma-muang (Thai Green Mango Salad)

Bitter — ขม

Produced by the locals as “khom,” the bitter taste is also a huge thing in Thai cuisine and can be seen in the form of raw leaves, bitter melon/ bitter gourd, and okra. While it is very rare to see a purely bitter recipe, a huge number of recipes use ingredients that are bitter to create a more flavorful taste. One of the favorites is the Thai basil which has a strong flavor perfect for a lot of traditional recipes.

Example Thai Dishes:

  • แกงคั่วมะระหมู — Kheng khuua mara muu (Thai Pork Curry With Bitter Gourd)
  • ยำมะระกุ้งสด — Yam mara kung sod (Bitter Melon Salad With Prawns)
  • มะระผัด- Mara phad (Bitter Melon Stir-Fry)

Spicy — เผ็ด

Pronounced as “phed,” “spicy” is one of the most highlighted concepts among all the flavors in Thai cuisine. In fact, the spiciness level is much different from what the Westerns are accustomed to, so be sure to have a glass of milk ready if you are planning to order a portion of spicy curries.

Example Thai Dishes:

  • คั่วกลิ้ง — Kua Gling (Pork Stir-Fry with Curry Paste)
  • แกงส้ม- Gaeng Som (Thai Sour-Spicy Fish Curry)
  • ไก่ผัดพริกแกง- Gai Pad Pirk Gɛɛng (Stir-fried Chicken In Red Curry Paste)


Now that we know the common flavors that make Thai food truly exquisite, please note that the locals also use additional ingredients like vegetables, ginger, garlic, long pepper, coconut sugars, chili peppers, and lots of onions. As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you were able to learn everything there is to know about Thai cuisine and that you’ll find the push that you need to step out and try this food out.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to satisfy your taste buds more, we highly recommend that you check out our other food-related posts, including the most popular desserts, food, and drinks. In addition, you should check out the Ling App by Simya Solutions, an all-in-one platform that teaches you the basics of the Thai language. If you are tired of relying on translator applications and would love to connect with the locals authentically, then this app is definitely what you are looking for.

So, what are you waiting for? Download it today in the Playstore and Appstore to try it out and start speaking Thai like a real pro today!




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