Thai cuisine is well-known for its unique blend of flavors that combines sweet, sour, salty, and spicy tastes. It is no wonder why it has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, people also talk about how spicy Thai food is and many are hesitant to try the food because of its reputation for spiciness. It is true that Thais love spicy food, but it is simply not true that all Thai food is spicy.
Thai cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes that often includes fresh herbs and aromatics, such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, which can add complex and flavorful layers to dishes and do not necessarily include chilies. Most of the dishes can also be seasoned according to individual preferences. This means that there is something for everyone in Thai cuisine.
Common Thai dishes that are not spicy
If you're new to Thai cuisine or simply don't enjoy spicy food, there are plenty of mild and flavorful dishes to try. Here are some common Thai dishes that are not spicy:
Pad Thai: A stir-fried noodle dish with eggs, vegetables, and peanuts. It can be made with chicken, pork, beef, but the popular choice is shrimp.
Pad See Ew: A stir-fried noodle dish made with black sweet soy sauce, garlic, and vegetables. It can be made with chicken, beef, or shrimp.
Tom Kha Kai: A creamy coconut milk soup with chicken, galanga, mushrooms, and lemongrass. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Khao Pad: Fried rice with eggs, vegetables, and your choice of meat. It can be made mild or spicy depending on your preference.
Massaman Curry: A mild curry made with coconut milk, potatoes, and beef or chicken. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Normally Massaman is less spicy than other curries, but can be made less spicy or spicier upon request.
Tod Mun Pla: Fried fish cakes made with curry paste and fish. They can be served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Pad Prik King: A stir-fried green bean dish with curry paste (without creamy coconut milk) and your choice of meat. It can be made mild or spicy depending on your preference.
Kor Moo Yang: Thai style grilled pork, typically made with pork neck, shoulder, or belly that is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, ground pepper, cilantro stems, garlic, and seasoning sauce. The meat is then grilled until smoky on the outside but soft on the inside.
Kai Yang: Thai style grilled chicken, made by marinating the meat in a mixture of herbs, spices and seasoning sauce. The chicken is then grilled until it is cooked through and the skin is crispy and charred. Often served with sticky rice, and spicy papaya salad to cool down your mouth.
Khao Kha Moo: A rice dish with a braised pork knuckle or trotter. The pork has been simmered in mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and five spice powder and cooked until juicy and tender, then served over rice.
Khao Man Kai: Similar to Hainanese chicken rice, the dish consists of boiled chicken served with flavorful rice cooked in chicken fat, clear winter melon soup, and a chili sauce.
These are just some examples of Thai dishes that are not typically spicy or can be made less spicy upon request. Other well-known dishes such as Som Tam, Laab or Tom Yam are typically enjoyed with a spicy flavor, but they can also be tailored to suit your individual taste.
Som Tam Salad: A tangy salad with shredded green papaya, tomatoes, and peanuts.
Laab Kai or Laab Moo: A ground chicken or pork salad with fresh herbs, lime juice, fish sauce and toasted rice blend.
Tom Yam Soup: Another popular soup typically made with shrimp, seafood or chicken, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal fish sauce, and lime juice.
How to order non-spicy Thai food
If you are new to Thai cuisine or simply don't enjoy spicy food, it can be intimidating to order from a Thai restaurant. However, there are a few tips and tricks to ensure that you get a dish that suits your taste preferences.
When ordering at a Thai restaurant, it is always a good idea to ask about the level of spiciness. Don't be afraid to ask your server for recommendations or for dishes that are not spicy.
It is also very common to ask your server or vender to adjust the flavors or ingredients to match one’s taste preference – this won’t be considered rude in Thailand. If they tell you the dish cannot be adjusted upon request, then you can choose other non-spicy dishes.
Pay attention to the menu descriptions. Many Thai restaurants will indicate which dishes are spicy or mild, so look for keywords like "spicy," "mild," or "not spicy."
Try to memorize a few useful Thai words for ordering food like ‘Phed Noi or Phed Nid Noi’ (mild spicy), ‘Mai Phed’ (not spicy at all), ‘Mai Sai Prik’ (no chilies in food) when ordering food to make sure they can make it non-spicy. You can read ‘How to order food in Thai’ here.
Tips for enjoying spicy Thai food
If you want to experience the full range of Thai cuisine, there are a few tips and tricks to help you enjoy spicy dishes.
Start with a small amount of spice and gradually work your way up. This will help your taste buds adjust to the heat and prevent you from overwhelming your palate.
Second, balance out the spice with other flavors. Thai cuisine is known for its combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors, so be sure to include other flavors, or non-spicy dishes in your meal to balance out the heat.