Prepare to be taken on a Thai food adventure through the U.S. with our new video series: Thailicious America! Across the U.S. are various destinations with special dishes from each region of Thailand. In Thailicious America, we uncover some of the country’s best Thai dishes representing Thai regions, including Isan (Northeastern Thailand), Southern Thailand, Northern Thailand, and Central Thailand.
You may know some of the Thai classics, such as Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, but Thai food goes far beyond this. A typical dish in Thailand includes five main elements: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. Take a look at some of the flavors by region that we will be tasting when visiting some iconic Thai restaurants in the U.S!
The two primary flavors found in the Northern region of Thailand are bitter from herbs and a savory salty flavor. Sticky rice, or Khao Niaow, is a staple in the north and northeastern regions. One of the most common dishes paired with sticky rice in Isan is Papaya Salad.
In Isan, many dishes are boiled or grilled instead of fried. Popular dishes in Isan are Papaya Salad, sticky rice, hot soup, and charcoal-grilled meats. The presentations are simple yet packed with flavorful ingredients.
Meals in Central Thailand often consist of multiple dishes such as soup, a fried dish, a spicy salad, curry, and vegetables. Thai people enjoy their meals family-style with shareable plates.
In Southern Thailand, intense flavor and spice are in most dishes. Seafood is abundant in this region of Thailand, and the curries are very popular.
Join us on our tasting journey through Thailand in the U.S. in Thailicious America.
Thailicious America: Somtum Der’s Gaeng Om Gai (Isan Thailand)
Originally opened in Bangkok in 2012, Somtum Der traveled to the U.S. to share the uncompromising flavors of Isan (Northeastern Thailand). This cozy NYC restaurant shares the Isan culture of food with dishes such as fiery papaya salads, tender grilled meats, and Isan sausages.
The first Somtum Der in East Village, Manhattan opened in 2013, followed by the second location opening in Redhook, Brooklyn, in 2019. The Brooklyn location has a charming outdoor environment for you to enjoy the flavors of Thailand in sunny NYC.
Somtum Der got its name from the famed Thai dish of Thailand, Somtum, or Papaya Salad. Inside Somtum Der NYC, the atmosphere is warm and inviting with a Somtum Bar where the chef uses a mortar and pestle to pound papaya salad. Adorning the ceilings are special light pendants made out of bamboo baskets originally used to cook sticky rice!
Thailicious America Episodes
In the Isan episode, we try a Northeastern Thai-style chicken soup with local herbs called Gaeng Om Gai!
We joined Chef Yim in the kitchen to make the famous soup, Gaeng Om Gai, an authentic Isan dish filled with herbs, chicken, and vegetables. This dish is chef recommended as it shows the authentic culinary culture of Isan and tastes absolutely delicious! We wish you could smell it!
Gaeng Om Gai
2 cups of water
200 grams of chicken thighs bone-in and skin-on (cut into bite-sized pieces)
3 tbsp of “Khao Buea” (Khao Buea is a blend of “Khao Kua” Thai roasted rice powder, shallots, and lemongrass)
2 Thai eggplants (cut into bite-sized pieces)
3 Thai red chiles (thinly sliced)
½ tsp of sugar (or to taste)
2 tbsp of “Plara” (Thai fermented fish sauce)
1 tbsp “Nam Pla” (Thai fish sauce)
Thai local herbs (all cut into bite-sized pieces)
3 stems of fresh dills (ผักชีลาว)
50 grams of Sawtooth Coriander (ผักชีใบเลื่อย)
2 stems of spring onions
80 grams of green cabbage
To make “Gaeng Om Gai” Isan/Northeastern Thai style chicken soup w/ local herbs
- First off you boil the water
- Then add the chicken thighs bone-in and skin-on
- Add “Khao Buea” (ข้าวเบือ) which is a blend of Thai roasted rice powder, shallots, and lemongrass (aka ข้าวคั่วหอมแดงตะไคร้) to add the aroma/thickness texture to the broth
- In goes Thai eggplants (these take some time to cook / cook until they turn translucent)
- Some Thai red chiles (more/less depending on your preferred spiciness)
- Some sugar (more/less to taste)
- Then add “Plara” (Thai fermented fish sauce/”Plara” is a big part of Isan Thai cuisine)
- And “Nam Pla” (Thai fish sauce) Fish sauce lends an umami flavor to every dish it touches and is a beloved ingredient in many Thai dishes.
- Then add a bunch of Thai herbs such as fresh dills (ผักชีลาว), Sawtooth Coriander (ผักชีใบเลื่อย), spring onions (ต้นหอม), green cabbage (กะหล่ำปลี)
- Bring it back to boil until everything is cooked and smell just right
- “Gaeng Om Gai” is best served hot with a side of Thai jasmine rice.
While at Somtum Der, we also tried a spread of dishes, including Suea Rong Hai with Khao Ji (Thai Grilled Sticky Rice), Duck Larb, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der (Der Styled Deep Fried Chicken Thigh), Thai Papaya Salad with Salted Eggs, and a refreshing Lemongrass Herbal Drink.
Somtum Der has many more dishes with a menu of over 50 exquisite plates you must try when visiting NYC!
Thailicious America: Fish Cheek’s Coconut Crab Curry (Southern Thailand)
Named for the lean, tender cheek meat of a fish, a delicacy in Asia, Fish Cheeks resides in NoHo, NYC, focusing on Thai seafood. The Southern region of Thailand inspires the dishes with a modern take on traditional Thai dishes. The diverse ingredients include dried birds-eye chili, tamarind, makrut lime, and Sichuan peppercorns, to name a few.
Thailicious America Episodes
In the Southern Thailand episode, we enjoy Kaeng Pu, a Southern Thai coconut crab curry!
Owner Khun Jenn, and co-owner and chef, Chef Ohm, saw the lack of Thai seafood in NYC, which inspired them to open this seafood-focused restaurant. Every couple of months, Fish Cheeks changes its menu with a few new dishes.
We joined Chef Ohm in the kitchen to make a delicious Coconut Crab Curry! What makes this dish so special is that Chef Ohm uses a mortar and pestle to make their own Thai curry paste! The dish is absolutely divine; you can almost taste it through your screen! While at Fish Cheeks, we also enjoyed a refreshing Lime Paloma with Thai-style Oysters served with crispy shallots and spicy seafood sauce. In addition, we had Khua Kling and Grilled Branzino wrapped in Banana Leaves!
Coconut Crab Curry
Ingredients for the curry paste:
1/4 ounce sea salt
1/2 ounce long dried red chili
1/4 ounce dried Thai bird’s eye red chili
1/2 ounce fresh Thai bird’s eye chili
1/4 ounce garlic
1/2 ounce fresh galangal
1 ounce lemongrass
1 ounce wild ginger
1/2 ounce fresh turmeric
1 ounce shrimp paste
Ingredients for the curry:
24 ounces coconut milk
8 ounces chicken stock
1 1/2 ounces shallot
1 ounce fish sauce
1 ounce palm sugar
1 ounces peeled lemongrass stalk
1 ounces tamarind concentrate
1/2 ounces fresh galangal
4 fresh makrut lime leaves, plus 2 finely chopped
3 1/2 ounces crab meat
2 betel leaves, coarsely chopped
1. Make the curry paste: Mash everything together with a mortar and pestle. Start with the top ingredient and then work your way down. Do not move on to the next ingredient until the previous one becomes a paste. All ingredients should be mashed into a smooth paste.
2. Make the curry: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk, chicken stock, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, galanga, and 4 makrut lime leaves to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes, then strain, discarding solids.
3. Add in the crab, coconut curry, betel leaves, and 1 finely chopped makrut lime leaf and bring to a simmer. Make sure to constantly stir to prevent scorching the bottom of the pot.
4. Pour into a bowl (1 cup per serving) and garnish with the remaining finely chopped lime leaf. Serve with rice.
Thailicious America: Lan Larb Chiang Mai’s Zha Jein (Northern Thai)
Located in SoHo, NYC is a charming restaurant known as Lan Larb Chiang Mai serving authentic Northern Thai dishes! Chef Kate, born and raised in Chiang Mai, brought the unique flavor of his family’s recipes to NYC with complex and distinctive flavors. There are exquisite Thai dishes you can’t find anywhere else in the city, such as Zha Jein, Northern Thai style beef tartare. We can’t wait for you to try it!
Thailicious America Episodes
In this Northern Thailand episode, we’re trying this delicious specialty of Lanna Thai dish called “Zha Jein” (Northern Thai Style Spicy Beef Larb) that you probably never heard of!
“Zha” means raw and “Jein” means meat. Traditional “Zha Jein” is eaten raw but for this recipe we stir fried the meat. Chef “Kate”, born and raised in Northern Thailand and owner of Lan Larb Chiang Mai, joined us in the kitchen to show us how to make this quick and easy dish using Northern Thai style spicy chili and herb called “Prik Larb”.
While at Lan Larb Chiang Mai, we also tried a table full of flavorful dishes including Short Rib Hung Lay, Larb Kua, Sai Oua, Nam Prik Num, and Khao Soi, and of course, we had to wash it all down with a refreshing Thai iced tea!
10 ounce flank steak
2 tbsp of “Prik Larb” (Northern Thai style spicy chili & herb)
1 ounce of pork blood (optional)
2 tbsp of shallot
2 tbsp of mint
2 tbsp scallion
2 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp of lemongrass
2 tbsp sawtooth herb
2 tbsp canola oil (or any high smoke point oil)
2 tbsp garlic
½ tbsp salt
- Slice flank steak (room temperature) into thin layers
- Mix the sliced steak with all the ingredients in a bowl, i.e. Prik Larb (helps get rid of the funky smell of the meat), pork blood (optional to add thickness), shallot, mint, scallion, cilantro, lemongrass, and sawtooth herb.
- Place your wok over high heat, add oil and garlic and stir-fry all the ingredients on high heat for 30 sec. to 1 min. Try not to over cook as the steak can get tough.
- Add a little bit of salt then mix everything together (Northern Thai food mostly uses salt instead of fish sauce).
- Put into a plate and garnish with saw tooth herbs
- Add some sliced cucumbers or your favorite side veggies
- Zha Jein is best served hot with a side of Thai sticky rice
Stay Tuned for More Thailicious America!
Our journey continues throughout the U.S., with new episodes coming out every two weeks. Stay tuned for more flavorful experiences on Thailicious America!