7 "Thai" Foods No One Eats in Thailand
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 300,000 people of Thai descent living in America today, with Southern California being the home to the world's largest Thai community outside of Thailand itself, as noted by the Thai Community Development Center. Along with culture and family values and a dedication to excellence in education and professionalism and more, Thai immigration has also brought America a lot of great food.
According to The Manual, there are some 5,000 Thai restaurants in America these days, so chances are good that you're not far from an order of Gaeng Daeng, Tom Yum Goong, or Pad Krapow Moo Saap right now. Just know that the Thai foods you have come to know and love in America may be virtually unknown in Thailand. For just as other cultures have put their mark on American culinary experts like the, say, the hot dog, as per Asia Society, so too has American influence altered many a "Thai" dish.
Here are seven "Thai" foods no one eats in Thailand.
Pad Thai is one of the most popular Thai dishes in America. It's also very popular in Thailand. But the version you'll usually get in the former is vastly different than what you'll get in the latter. American Pad Thai usually features sliced carrots and peppers, which you'd never see in an authentic Thai preparation, according to Food Republic. Furthermore, American Pad Thai almost always lacks the Chinese garlic, chives, and dried shrimp essential to a traditional preparation of the dish.
In America, many Thai restaurants will serve you a little scoop or two of ice cream to finish off your meal. And while tasty, this is not a traditional treat in Thailand—not the actual cream part of the ice cream, anyway. In Thailand, ice cream is almost always made with coconut milk, not dairy milk, according to Tasty Thailand. So while you can still count on delicious frosty treats there, know they will be distinct from what you get here.
Creamy coconut soup
Soups are hugely popular in Thailand, sold by the bowlful in restaurants and by the bagful by street food vendors, as relayed in Trip Advisor. But one of the soups you may well love most in all of Thai cuisine found in America does not exist in the same form in Thailand: Thai coconut soups tend to have a much thinner (albeit no less flavorful) broth than American Thai soups, which are often made extra creamy to satiate the American palate, via Far and Wide.
Vegetable fried rice
Fried rice is popular in Thailand (not to mention the world over, because it's delicious) but the fried rice you get there differs from "Thai" fried rice often served in America in two notable ways. First, in America, the fried rice you get at a Thai restaurant often has peas, carrots, green onions, and other veggies chopped up and mixed in, whereas in Thailand it's often just rice. Second, according to Dinner at the Zoo, in Thailand fried rice is flavored with fish sauce or oyster sauce, while in America it is often flavored with soy sauce, which is not even a traditional Thai ingredient.
While a staple vegetable in many American Thai dishes, broccoli is rarely seen served in Thailand, and it was even rarer (or totally absent) from the cuisine in decades past, says Far and Wide. However, the vegetable known as Chinese broccoli is quite common in authentic Thai cooking. Chinese broccoli is a leafy green more like spinach or kale, though.
Curry with Sticky Rice
Google the words "curry with sticky rice" and you will get dozens and dozens of recipes. Take a look, though, and you'll note that the sources of these recipes are not traditional Thai chefs. This makes sense because according to Eating Thai Food, curry is never served with sticky rice in Thailand; rather it is served with steamed white rice. (This is not to say that sticky rice is not highly popular in Thailand, it's just eaten with other dishes.)
While you can find spring rolls in Thailand, you'll have to search for them and ask for them, they are not simply included with almost every meal you order as is so often the case in America. And the traditional Thai "spring roll" looks little like the little tubes of flaky dough you get here. Called Por Pia Tod in Thailand, according to Asian Food Network, the Thai take on these eats is a much larger fried roll that's more entrée than snack or side.
A previous version of this article was originally published on March 30, 2022.