Thai food has a reputation for being spicy because much of it relies on the use of fresh herbs and spices, however, Thai food is actually based on a balance between different flavors. Thai people love to have their meals cooked in a traditional way with a good balance of flavors, and one might encounter three to five different flavors in any given dish.

Let’s learn some useful words for describing “Tastes of Thai Food”:

  • หวาน (waăn): sweet
    Various types of sugar are produced in Thailand such as white, brown, palm and coconut sugars. Both palm and coconut sugar is produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds and is usually used in curry dishes and especially in Thai desserts.
    Example:
    คนไทยชอบเครื่องดื่มรสหวานและเย็น
    khon Thai chɔɔ̂p khrwɑ̂ŋ dẁwm rót wɑ̌ɑn lé yen
    The Thais like beverages that are sweet and cold.
  • เค็ม (khem): salty
    This flavor usually comes from sea salt, soy sauce, or fish sauce. Fish sauce is frequently used in all Thai cooking while different kinds of soy sauces are mostly used for soups and stir fry dishes.
    Example:
    คุณชอบทานอาหารเค็มไหมคะ
    khun chɔɔ̂p thaan ɑɑ hɑ̌ɑn khem mái khá
    Do you like salty food?
  • เปรี้ยว (bprîaw): sour, tart
    This flavor is added extensively in Thai salads, soups, dips, and some drinks. It usually comes from tamarind มะขาม (mɑ́ khɑ̌ɑm), lime มะนาว (mɑ́ ńɑɑw) and/or kaffir lime มะกรูด (mɑ́ gruùt), a type of lime which is light green and very sour.
    Example:
    ต้มยำกุ้งไม่เปรี้ยวและไม่เผ็ดมาก
    dtôm yɑm gûŋ mɑ̂i bpriɑ̂w lɛ́ mɑ̂i phèt mɑ̂ɑk
    Hot and sour soup with shrimp isn’t very sour or very hot.
  • เผ็ด (phèt): spicy, hot
    Spicy flavor usually comes from a combination of fresh and dried Thai chilis, black and white pepper, garlic, and ginger. The use of hot spice is seldom absent from Thai cooking, though the degree of spiciness will vary according to personal preference.
    Examples:
    ปกติคนไทยชอบทานอาหารรสเผ็ด
    bpòk gɑ̀ dtì khon Thai chɔɔ̂p thaan ɑɑ hɑ̌ɑn rót phèt
    Thais usually like to eat spicy food.อาหารเผ็ดแต่อร่อย
    ɑɑ hɑ̌ɑn phèt dtɛ̀ɛ ɑ̀ ròi
    The food is hot but delicious.
  • ขม (khǒm): bitter
    Bitter flavors do not dominate in the majority of Thai dishes. Any bitterness you do encounter primarily comes from a few kinds of fruit and vegetables which are believed to have medicinal benefits.
    Example:
    คนจีนชอบทานอาหารรสขม
    khon jiin chɔɔ̂p thaan aa hăan rót khǒm
    The Chinese like to eat bitter food.
  • จืด (jὼωt): bland, tasteless, unseasoned
    This word is used to describe things without much flavor. Not many Thai dishes are tasteless but soups and vegetarian stir fry dishes can sometimes be a bit bland.
    Example:
    คนไทยไม่ชอบทานอาหารจืดและเย็น
    khon Thai mɑ̂i  chɔɔ̂p thaan aa  hăan jὼωt lέ yen
    The Thais don’t like to eat unseasoned or cold food.
  • มัน (man): greasy, oily
    Many typical Thai dishes are made using coconut milk, especially Thai curries. Since coconut milk is high in saturated fatty acids that can lead to high cholesterol, it should be consumed in moderation. Many Thai main dishes and curries are made rich and creamy through the use of coconut milk.
    Example:
    เขาไม่ชอบกินอาหารมัน
    khɑ̌w mɑ̂i chɔ̂ɔp gin ɑɑ hɑ̌ɑn mɑn
    She doesn’t like to eat oily foods.