Thailand is world-famous for its mouth-watering cuisine. Whether you like it spicy, salty, sour, sweet or all of it in one bite, the MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2020 has it all. We’ve asked the local Thai and international inspectors for the top 10 Thai dishes that impressed them during the 2019 Thailand restaurant inspections, making the cut for the MICHELIN Guide Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket & Phang-Nga 2020 selection.
Top 5 Thai Dishes From the Notebook of Our Thai Inspector1. Khao, Bangkok (One MICHELIN Star) - Crab Roe Relish with Mackerel
Inspector’s notes: It’s hard to find a good Thai relish dish these days and Khao’s relish made of chillies and crab roe served with fresh vegetables accompanying a piece of perfectly fried local mackerel was one of the best I tasted...It reminded me of what grandmothers used to cook. Overall, the dish was nicely balanced and contained all the Thai flavours you’d expect: spicy, salty, sour and a little bitter sweet in the end.
Inspector’s notes: One of the best satay dishes I’ve eaten. The chicken skewers are marinated in coconut milk and spices then grilled to perfection and served with two homemade dips. The peanut dip is rich in peanut and spices with a nice creamy texture and subtle flavours of sweet and salty. The sweet and sour dipping sauce is made with vinegar and syrup topped with fresh cucumber, shallot and chilli. The dipping sauces had a nice balance of sweet and sour flavours which created a good contrast with the meat.
Inspector’s notes: This is the best fish tom yum soup in Thailand for me. The chef finds a good balance of tom yum flavours: sour, salty, spicy and a little sweet at the end. All flavours were harmonious with the fish being very fresh and well cooked. Great technique in extracting the aromatics from the many Thai herbs used, which is often difficult to do.
Inspector’s notes: A tough Thai dish requiring fresh ingredients and hard to balance. The dip is made from Thai anchovies, fresh chilli and raw mango which is mixed by mortar and pestle with Thai shrimp paste and seasoned with lime juice and fish sauce.
The dish is bold tasting with strong heat coming from the fresh chilli at first. The chilli heat is later harmonised by sourness from lime juice and raw mango along with saltiness from the shrimp paste and anchovies.
Inspector’s notes: This was the dish that surprised me the most this year and not what I was expecting. The squid was cut into strips and mixed with a sauce that had a perfect combination of sour and spicy that tasted like a Thai spicy salad.
On top of that, the chef added crispy lemongrass for fragrance which also enriched the squid flavour even more.
The big surprise here is the squid ink purée which I thought would be a bit bitter, but on the contrary, it was flavourful providing sourness, saltiness and spiciness. A pleasant dish full of flavour and texture indeed.
Top 5 Thai Dishes from Our International Inspector1. Methavalai Sorndaeng, Bangkok (One MICHELIN Star) – Roasted Duck Red Curry
Inspector’s notes: A very fine red curry, the duck was finely sliced and superbly tender, pieces of pineapple were beautifully sweet and cut through the richness and fattiness of the duck. Lovely layers of light spice and flavour with a fine consistency to the coconut-based sauce which was topped with a little coconut cream, plenty of fresh kaffir lime leaves and vibrant red chillies. Quite simply a flavour explosion!
2. Krua Ya, Chiang Mai (MICHELIN Plate) – Pad Thai
Inspector’s notes: This carefully made Pad Thai contains fresh prawns, lovely noodles of just the right consistency and crisp peanuts. The flavour of the tamarind paste comes through beautifully and the egg wrapper thin and very slightly crisp. The dish is finished off with the freshest ingredients, bringing back memories of my travels in Thailand during the 1980s.
3. Baan Somtum Sathorn, Bangkok (MICHELIN Bib Gourmand) – Thai Papaya Salad
Inspector’s notes: Lovely freshness, finely sliced papaya, with a delicious well-judged punchy dressing delivering a superb mix of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours. Such superb value for money at only THB80 and encompassing all the flavours of Thailand.
Inspector’s notes: The durian was wonderfully ripe, full of flavour and with a beautiful sweetness. The bed of sticky rice is cooked just right with grains falling apart nicely.
The coconut cream is smooth with a lovely balance and appealing sweetness. A memorable dessert featuring the ‘King of fruits’ which simply deserves the utmost respect.
Inspector’s notes: A memorable curry, especially as I was offered the entrails and feet (the best bits). Ensure to opt for the regular spicing which delivered on flavour with lots of pea aubergines, sliced red chillies and a delicious creamy sauce with great depth, flavour, balance and spice.
Combined with the rustic, juicy free-range chicken pieces, this dish was satisfying and highly authentic.
*Please note that the dishes listed may not be the same as pictured or be available due to seasonality and the time of inspections.