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Thai Food Terms

A Guide to Thai Food and Cuisine

Thai shrimp and other assorted dishes

Don't know your tom kha kai from your tom yam kung? Have no fear. Whether you're dining at a five-star hotel restaurant or an authentic eatery, our guide to Thai food terms will arm you with the necessary culinary lingo to negotiate any menu.

Kaeng (or Gaeng): large and diverse category of dishes; loosely translates as "curry"
Kaeng massaman: a variety of coconut-milk curry
Kaeng phed: a red, coconut-cream curry
Kaeng som: a hot-sour curry
Kapi: fermented shrimp paste; vital ingredient in nam phrik, or dishes flavored with hot chili sauce
Kai (or Gai): chicken
Khai: egg
Khao: rice
Khao suai: white rice
Khao phad: fried rice
King: ginger
Kung: prawns
Lab (or Larb): dish of minced meat with chilies and lime juice
Mu: pork
Nam: sauce
Nam pla: fish sauce
Nam phrik: a hot chili sauce
Nuea: beef
Ped: duck
Phad: fried
Phad king: fried with ginger
Phad phed: fried hot and spicy
Phad Thai: pan-fried rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, eggs, peanuts and bean sprouts
Phrik: chili pepper
Pla: fish
Sriracha: spicy chili condiment named after the city of Si Racha where it was first produced
Tom: boiled; often refers to soup
Tom kha kai: chicken coconut-cream soup flavored with lemongrass and chilies
Tom yam kung: hot-sour shrimp soup flavored with lemongrass, lime and chilies
Yam: flavored primarily with lime juice and chilies, resulting in a hot-sour taste; usually 'salads' but can also be noodle dishes or soup
Yam pla: raw fish spiked with lime juice, chili, lemongrass, mint and fish sauce

(Updated: 09/04/13 BLS)


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