Gaeng Tai Pla
If you attempt to order this curry, don’t be offended when a waiter tells you that it’s extremely spicy – they’re only looking out for you. It features the typical southern Thai ingredients of dried chilies, galangal, turmeric and kaffir leaves, as well as fermented fish innards, fish, pumpkin, eggplant, yardlong beans and bamboo shoots to create a curry that’s salty as well as devastatingly spicy. Persevering through the pain barrier and finishing this curry is sure to elicit wry smiles from those in the restaurant who will have gathered to witness the farang break down from the heat and call his parents for help. Make sure there’s a convenience store nearby because when you’re done you’re going to need a heck of a lot of milk and ice cream to soothe your fiery mouth.
Tom Yum Goong
Thailand’s much loved soup dish Tom Yum Goong thanks to the fried chilli and chili paste that makes for the base of the soup. Throw in galangal and lemongrass, and you’ve got a hot, aromatic dish that’s not for the faint-hearted. Its fiery reddish-orange colour should set alarm bells ringing as to its spice level, and it doesn’t disappoint, with the heat radiating through to all parts of your body. Chicken soup might leave you feel better after a cold, but for a real kick up the back side, try tom yum goong if you’re suffering from the flu – it’s guaranteed to get you moving.
Khao Pad Nam Prik Narok
Translating as “fried rice with chili paste from hell”, despite the ominous title it’s only just scraped into the top. Sun-dried chilies are pounded in a pestle and mortar alongside garlic, palm sugar, shrimp paste and fish pieces, before being fried alongside rice and served. Whilst rice usually offers some respite from the intense chili flavors in Thai cuisine, here there’s no escape, as the rice is coated in this devilish “chili paste from hell”. If you can stomach it, the taste is great but sadly many who visit are left struggling.
A spicy dish with more chili than most can handle. Cuts of beef, pork, chicken or fish are cooked alongside peppers, onions, garlic, and basil and – of course – the bird’s eye chilies. The result? A fiery dish that’ll leave you perspiring and reaching for extra rice in an attempt to dilute the spice. For those who can handle the heat, it’s a delicious dish, but if you’re a little worried, you can always ask for fewer chilies or substitute them for peppers.