Thais who are surprised that I enjoy their spicy foods such as som tam and lahb are positively shocked when I list jungle curry (gaeng ba) among my favourites. This is one dish even some Thais find too spicy. Consider yourself warned!
Thai name: Som Tam Tua Kaek
There are those that would insist that som tam can only be made with green papaya, but in fact Thais have created an almost infinite number of variations on the dish, using a variety of fruits and vegetables. This one offers an interesting way to dress up a simple vegetable like fresh green beans.
In Thai: Som Tam Mama
Instant noodles - often called Ramen noodles in the US - are a very popular light meal or snack in Thailand. While they may be something you thought you left behind when you left college, chances are you never ate this well back in school.
This can be a nice and easy side dish, or a way to quickly dress up tuna for a light meal. Tuna seems to offset the spiciness of the chilies, so this salad may not be as hot as it might seem from the recipe.
Use whatever type of lettuce you prefer. I like red coral but regular iceberg works nicely as well.
Glass noodle salads (yum woon sen) are one of the most common yum salads you'll find in Thailand. They can be quite light, but with a sweet and tangy taste. A bit of ground pork is the most common meat, but you can also add a few shrimp or some cooked squid if you like. You can also leave out the meat entirely for a vegetarian version.
This is one of my old favorites. The taste is rather unusual and quite extraordinarily spicy. I must admit to taking a bit of perverse pleasure in watching western visitors not familiar with Thai cuisine dig into moo manao on the assumption that a 'salad' - especially one served cool - will not be too spicy.
Although the name of this dish implies that the main ingredient is chilies, it's really the onion that provides much of the taste and flavor of the recipe. This is one of the first Thai recipes that I ever learned to make, way back when I lived in the USA. I've shown the traditional pork as the meat component, but it works just as well with beef. You can easily get thinly sliced pork loin in any supermarket in Thailand, but elsewhere you may have to slice it yourself. It helps if you partially freeze the meat first.
In Thai, this dish is called Gaeng Hungleh, and it's also called "Chiang Mai Pork Curry", this dish is a specialty of northern Thailand. It originated in the foods that the Burmese bought with them when they occupied the Lanna kingdom, which had its capital in Chiang Mai, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Unlike most Thai curries, it uses only the tiniest bit of coconut milk, and some versions of the recipe use none at all.
Minced meat salads called larb are a very popular "country" food among the Thais. The dish is mostly identified with the regional cuisine of north-eastern Thailand, which the Thais call Isan, but Chiang Mai has its own variation, which can be a bit more like a soupy curry than the Isan style, which is usually rather dry by comparison.