Thai food is fast becoming one of the most popular types of cuisine in the UK, although it is still trying to shake off the stigma that all Thai food is very hot and spicy. Of course this is just not the case, as Thai cuisine is made from a subtle blending of flavours so you can choose from very hot, hot and mild dishes.
If you've never tried Thai food before then you'll soon discover it is unique among the cuisines of Southeast Asia, as it has the consistency of Chinese food (without the complicated sauces) and the spiciness of Indian food (without the use of dairy products and curry powder). There are now hundreds of Thai restaurants across the UK, where you can sample this increasingly tasty international cuisine option.
Thai restaurants - Flavours to savour
The unique taste of Thai cuisine is made from delicate fusion of many different ingredients and spices, including lemongrass, basil, coriander, ginger, garlic, tamarind, galangal and kochai. There is a special skill in blending these ingredients, as the Thais are in fact blending five flavours - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and hot, and that is why your taste buds are in for a treat with each mouthful.
There are many different dishes associated with Thai cuisine but perhaps the most well known are the Thai green and Thai red curries. In UK Thai restaurants the green curry tends to be the hottest, although in Thailand, you'll probably find that the red curry is a touch spicier than the green. Just about every Thai dish is served with rice or noodles, while seafood is also a popular ingredient in many Thai dishes.
When it comes to eating a traditional Thai meal you'll find there are various elements to it, typically soup, salad, curry and rice and various appetisers and sauces, which makes Thai food both filling and diverse.
Thai restaurants - First visit food
Although Thai cuisine has its own distinct flavour, the food is similar to both Chinese and Indian cuisine so if you like either of these you will probably like the food served in a Thai restaurant.
If you are heading to a Thai restaurant for the first time then you'll want to sample a number of dishes to get a true flavour of Thai cuisine. The most popular, and most famous, Thai dishes are red and green curry, but on your first visit you are probably better going with the milder red curry. For starters why not try chicken and coconut soup, Thai fishcakes and sweet chilli dip or chicken satay with peanut sauce.
Get a feel for Thai restaurants
Thai restaurants tend to have plenty of traditional Thai décor, so expect to see orchids, woodcarvings, bamboo furniture and soft lighting in a Thai restaurant near you. The waiters and waitresses will probably also be well dressed in authentic Thai costume, but the atmosphere tends to be quite lively with music playing in the background.
If you are planning a romantic meal at a Thai restaurant mention this when you book, so you get a table in the corner away from the lively bunch!
Find Thai food in the UK
If you're looking for a top quality Chinese restaurant, then why not check out these beauties in London, Manchester and Edinburgh:
Nahm, London - The first Thai restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star, this place is hugely popular with Londoners and visitors alike, and serves a wide selection of authentic Thai cuisine.
Thai on the River, London - With great views of the river, this restaurant serves Thai cuisine in minimalist surroundings. The menu is a la carte in the evenings and buffet-style on Sunday lunchtimes.
Siam Orchid, Manchester - Said to be the first Thai restaurant opened outside of London, and certainly the oldest in Manchester, this restaurant offer authentic cuisine in a great atmosphere. And once the eating is over, you can head upstairs and join the karaoke.
Muang Thai, Edinburgh - One of the Scottish capital's most popular eateries, this restaurant serves traditional Thai cuisine in a soothing and chilled-out atmosphere with candles, soft Thai music and friendly staff.
Things to look out for at Thai restaurants in the UK
There are a number of things to look out for when choosing a Thai restaurant or eating in one. Firstly, why not look for a Thai all-you-can-eat-buffet restaurant, where you can help yourself to everything on the menu for a set price.
Traditionally, there is no order in which courses are served as everything tends to be laid out at once. But in Thai restaurants in the UK, you will probably be served your soup and appetizers before the main course of meat or seafood curry with rice. A Thai meal usually ends with a bowl of fresh fruits or desserts.
It is also worth knowing that Thais eat with a fork and spoon, but not a knife
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