A look into the global food phenomenon

Thai Curry

Thai cuisine is one of the top loved cuisines in the world, and Thai curry is an integral part of the cuisine, serving as an end dish as well as a curry paste for other dishes. Mainly made with curry paste, coconut milk, the Thai curry dishes come in many varieties with meat, seafood, chicken, veggies, fruits, herbs and more. But despite the varieties, one thing is certain the taste, aroma, texture, and look are exquisite across all variants.

It's not a surprise that Thai cuisines are influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisines; hence some of the dishes look similar if not identical. Thai curries have distinct flavors; they usually keep a balance between contrasting flavors such as sweet, bitter, sour and salty. They have bright colors, pleasant aromas and a silky smooth texture that is perfectly complemented by flatbread, noodles, rice and more. 

Here is a look at the phenomena of Thai curry dishes and what sets them apart from their counterparts.


Thai Curry Rice


Thai Curry in a nutshell

Thai curries are known to have many variants, but most of their base is similar as they are made from curry paste having the same ingredients, which are shrimp paste, chilies, onions/shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, coriander/cilantro. However, the curries are added with additional spices such as pepper, coriander seeds, cardamom, cumin, or other ingredients to make curries different from one another.

After the base paste is created, coconut milk ideally or any other liquid agent (such as lime juice in the northern region of Thailand) is added to make the broth creamy and bring out the final curry look the dish.

The best thing about Thai curry/paste is that they can be freshly made or bought from the supermarket for readily use and add elements to make a great Thai curry dish. So following are items that make an ordinary Thai curry paste into an exquisite mouthwatering appetizing curry dish.


Thai curries are known for having many elements in them from spices to meat to veggies and more; highlight the key components of Thai curry dishes; here are some as follows;

Broths are an integral part of Thai curries, they are made with utmost passion and attention, and one of the broth's core components are shrimp paste and Fish Sauce. Fish sauce is not only used as an ingredient for broths but as condiments too. Both the elements are essential as they add sweetness, tanginess, saltiness, and at times bitterness to the dish. Similarly, lime juice is used in almost all Thai curry types to balance out the flavor by adding sourness to the dish.

As an island, Thailand has an abundance of seafood and coconut; hence, it is not a surprise that most curries have coconut milk in them or some sort of coconut element to thicken the broth turn it into a curry.

Thai curries are available in both veg and meat versions, though commonly Thai curries are made with pork, chicken, freshwater fish, shrimp, and meat, they are also accessible in veggies, such as Thai eggplant, yardlong beans, pumpkin and more. Fruit and flower curries are a thing too; in fact, many Thai curry dishes have a mix of all these ingredients that complement one another perfectly and provide nutrition as well as an enhanced pleasant aroma.

Herbs are intrinsic to Thai curries; they enhance the flavors, appearance and have health benefits, the most commonly used herbs are Fresh kaffir lime leaves, finger root, and Thai basil are some of the most common ones. Dried herbs are also used, but they are cooked in the broth, unlike the fresh herbs added at the end or as a garnish. Both ways are essential but have different taste and place them in the Thai curry dishes.


Thai curry ingredients



Thai curries are ideally eaten with different rice variants; in central and southern regions of Thailand, jasmine rice is preferred and northern region, sticky rice. Thai curry dishes are eaten in different ways across the globe, too; some have it with flatbread (roti), some have it as is, and some with noodles, usually glass and egg noodles.


Thai curry side dishes



Thai cuisine may take longer to cook than other cuisines, but that is because all their ingredients release their flavors properly and blend with one another to give a cohesive balanced taste and aroma.

Every step is integral in making the Thai curry dish; hence the cooking is not rushed. The cooking method for the broth leading to curry is the same, but steps can be changed with the end ingredients to make it different from one another.

1. Firstly, the oil is to be heated, and the curry paste is stir-fried
2. While the curry paste is sizzling, whether vegetable oil or coconut oil is added and stirred for a few minutes.
3. Then spices and dry ingredients are added
4. After the mixture is simmered, coconut milk or any thick agent is added to make the curry more palatable, thick and rich
5. Then the choice of meat/chicken/fish/vegetable is added and is cooked on slow flame
6. And the end of the cooking process, dry herbs and sauces are added.
7. Additional ingredients can be added to give the dish a distinct taste, aroma and appearance.


Thai curry cooking


The variants of Thai curry (Color-wise)

Thai curries come in various types, and every curry dish has its variant. As mentioned earlier, curry paste is essential for the curry dish, the paste carries most of the weight in terms of appearance, taste, aroma and nutrition, but since there is a wide variety, it can get a bit confusing in terms of deciding which one to go for. An interesting part about Thai curry dishes is that their colors are a signifier for their spice level, so the following is a breakdown of Thai curries from most to least spicy.


This color Thai curry is the hottest version you will find, made with heaps of fierce green chilies; the paste gets the color from the chilies as well as cilantro, kaffir lime, lemongrass. The paste has a creamy texture from the shrimp paste and has shallots, garlic, galangal that adds prominent base flavors. To make it a specific Thai curry dish, other ingredients are added.


Less hot but definitely on one the species curry base Thai cuisine has to offer, made with red spur chilies, the color indicates its spice level. However, the curry made in this color have a different paste making process; it has a slow cook procedure and keeps the curry paste moist throughout.


Yellow colored curry is one of the most common and preferred curry variants; it is not too spicy or not too bland, gives a kick that is bearable and heavily enjoyed. This curry is the least oily amongst the lot and gets its colors from dry ingredients.


Orange curries are the least spicy; they are more of the tangy side of the spectrum, harnessing the sour side more than sweet. This colored Thai curry is usually made without coconut milk and uses turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin, and kaffir lime, at times, tomatoes but use food coloring as well for distinction.


Thai green curry


The variants of Thai curry (Influence-wise)

Thai curry is often compared to Indian curries or even Chinese, and it is understandable, due to the rich history Thailand has, with numerous invasions and migrations, the influence on their cuisine was inevitable. Before we jump into how some countries influenced certain Thai curry dishes, it is important to point out the difference Thai curries has with Indian curries, with which they are compared extensively.

1. Thai curries mostly use coconut milk, an agent to make their curries thick and rich in texture; it gives them a fresher, milkier and soupy look, which Indian curries don’t have; they use peppercorns or tomatoes for their curries.
2. Lemongrass and kaffir lime are the staple ingredients of Thai curry and rarely used in Indian curries.


During the British reign in Asia in the late 19th century, British taste preference was incorporated with local Thai dishes to please their palette. Since the British don’t have the stomach for spice, the curries made for them very flavorful but very mild. The British Thai curries mainly were made with dried spices, like cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. To add a Thai take, bay leaves, lemongrass was added too, along with coconut milk or fish sauce or shrimp paste.


British Thai curry food



These curry types are commonly known as Penang curry, influenced by the Laos cuisine; this curry is rich in flavor and thick yet silky in texture. They are slightly salty and sweet and a prominent peanut flavor. Their curry paste is made with coconut milk infused with shrimp paste, galangal, chilies, lemongrass, coriander roots, seeds, cumin, and garlic.


Most commonly known as Massaman, this type of curries originated in central Thailand during the reign of Ayutthaya. This type of curries has an exotic flavor as it uses imported extra ingredients like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and bay leaves.


Massaman curry


The Best Non-Veg Thai Curry Dishes of all time

Thai curries are a global phenomenon, and through they come in veg options too, there is no denying the charm non-veg curries have, every region having their variant, non-veg Thai curries are a treat to the palette. From tradition to contemporary to fusion, Thai curries never let the taste buds down; here are a few of the best Thai curry dishes.


This creamy, gourmet style aromatic curry is incredibly flavorful and pleasing to the eye; however, it is spicy and cannot be handled by everyone. Though the creamier it is made, the lesser spice level but either way, it’s a delight to have. This curry particularly has sweet notes to it as it uses heaps of palm sugar, lime juice, and coconut milk. It is made with tender pieces of chicken to shrimp and has vegetables such as eggplant added to it for texture and taste. Garnished with Thai basil fresh kaffir lime, this Thai curry is delicious and served with rice or flatbread.


Shrimps green curry



Meaty Thai curries are exquisite, to say the least, but paired with red curry, the taste and experience elevate extensively. Available in a; type of meat, pork, chicken, seafood and more, this Thai curry is made with fish sauce, sugar, bamboo shoots, and Thai basil. It is also made in a vegetarian version too with tofu, eggplant, pumpkin and more.


Red Curry Beef



Being one of the most famous Thai curry dishes, it encompasses freshwater fish fillets simmered in any rich coconut curry sauce depending on the preferred spice level. Served with fresh vegetables and pretty green garnish, the curry never fails to woo the taste buds.


Thai Curry Fish



This thick soupy stew is a perfect blend of flavor; being on a little sweet and salty side of the spectrum, this curry is best paired with either beef or chicken and fresh veggies. Not spicy at all, it is served with ideally flatbread but goes well with rice and glass noodles too.


Beef Panang Curry



From chicken to beef to mutton and even seafood, Massama curry flatters every meat but works exceptionally well with beef and lamb. The meat is treated with precision and care as its juicy, tender and melts in the mouth. This curry is not only is a fan favorite amongst the locals but tourists too. With variant color, flavorful taste, delightful texture, and exquisite aroma, no one can go wrong with this Thai curry order.


Lamb Massaman Curry


The Best Veg Thai Curry Dishes of all time

The wide range of Thai curry cannot be completed without a vegetarian option, catering to everyone's needs; Thai curries have an exceptional range of veg curries, but amongst so many, the following stands out the most.


This curry comes in different spicy level, silky smooth curry, delightful aroma and exquisite taste. The curry complements the veg ingredients perfectly and pairs best with tofu, potato, pumpkin, and eggplant. This classic vegetarian Thai curry may contain shrimp paste and fish sauce but can be asked to be excluded—all in all, a great dish to indulge in.