Thai Food Terms You Must Know

thailand thai food terms

Love Thai food, but are unfamiliar with the Thai language? Then you’ll need to learn some basic Thai food terms. But first, let’s cover a bit of background about Thailand.

Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) along the north and west, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south.

Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is known to be very flavorful with strong spices. Traditional Thai food has a distinct flavor that comes from several commonly used ingredients: nam pla (Thai fish sauce), coconut milk, red or green curry paste, vinegar, chilies, limes, garlic and fresh herbs. It is common that Thai dishes have a balance of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy flavors.

There are four main regions of Thai cuisine: Northern, Northeast, Eastern/Central and Southern. Each has a distinct style and flavor. Northern Thai food tends to have a milder overall taste with spicy, salty and slight bitter flavors and is accompanied with sticky rice. Northeast Thai food has much more distinct spicy and sour flavors. Much of the flavor comes from a fermented fish sauce called pla raa. Eastern and Central Thai food covers the cultural hub of Bangkok and is represented in most Thai restaurants around the world. Its complex, balanced flavors are found in the widely popular pad thai and tom yum soup. Southern Thai food has a strong Malaysian influence and potent spicy and sour flavors. Plenty of seafood is used in Southern Thai cuisine due to its relatively easy access to the ocean.

Thai food terms

Expand your international dining vocabulary with these basic food-related words translated from English to Thai.

meat – เนื้อ (neụ̄̂x)

  • pork – เนื้อหมู (neụ̄̂x h̄mū)
  • beef – เนื้อวัว (neụ̄̂x wạw)

poultry – สัตว์ปีก (S̄ạtw̒ pīk)

  • turkey – ไก่งวง (kị̀ ngwng)
  • duck – เป็ด (pĕd)
  • chicken –  ไก่ (kị̀/ko kai)

seafood – อาหารทะเล (xāh̄ār thale)

  • fish – ปลา (pla)
  • shrimp – กุ้ง (kûng)
  • oyster – หอยนางรม (h̄uy nāngrm)
  • shellfish – หอย (h̄uy)

meatless/no meat – ไม่มีเนื้อ (mị̀mī neụ̄̂x)

  • vegetables – ผัก (P̄hạk)
  • fruits – ผลไม้ (p̄hl mị̂)
  • eggs – ไข่ (k̄hị̀/kho kai)
  • tofu – เต้าหู้ (têāh̄ū̂)
  • nuts – ถั่ว (T̄hạ̀w)
  • rice – ข้าว (K̄ĥāw)
  • vegetarian – มังสวิรัติ (mạngs̄wirạti)
  • vegan – มังสวิรัติ (mạngs̄wirạti)

drinks – เครื่องดื่ม (kherụ̄̀xng dụ̄̀m)

  • water – น้ำ (N̂ả)
  • alcohol – แอลกอฮอล์ (xælkxḥxl̒/ancohol)
  • beer – เบียร์ (Beīyr̒)
  • wine – ไวน์ (wịn̒/wyne)

other eating/dining-related terms

  • yes – ใช่ (chı̀/chai)
  • no – ไม่ (mị̀/mai)
  • good – ดี (dī)
  • yummy – อร่อย (xr̀xy/arroy)
  • eat – กิน (kin)
  • cook – ปรุงอาหาร (prung xāh̄ār/prung ahan)
  • I’m hungry – ฉันหิว (C̄hạn h̄iw)
  • I’m full – ฉันอิ่มแล้ว (C̄hạn xìm læ̂w)
  • more – มากกว่า (mākkẁā)
  • less – น้อยกว่า (N̂xy kẁā/noi kwa)
  • only – เท่านั้น (Thèānận/taw naan)
  • please – กรุณา (Kruṇā/karunaa)
  • thank you –  ขอบคุณ (K̄hxbkhuṇ/kaw coon)
  • baked –  อบ (xb/ko)
  • fried – ทอด (thxd/kaad)
  • grilled – ย่าง (ỳāng)
  • roasted – คั่ว (khạ̀w/kooa)
  • steamed – นึ่ง (nụ̀ng)
  • hot – ร้อน (R̂xn/raan)
  • warm – อบอุ่น (xbxùn/huahoon)
  • cold – หนาว (H̄nāw)
  • bitter – ขม (K̄hm)
  • salty – เค็ม (khĕm)
  • spicy – เผ็ด (p̄hĕd)
  • sweet – หวาน (h̄wān)
  • allergic – แพ้ (Phæ̂/pe)
  • restroom – ห้องน้ำ (H̄̂xngn̂ả)

Watch this video to hear how letters and words sound in Thai.

Thai food to try

Interested in learning about other cuisines around the world? Discover food terms from other countries here.

Hello! I'm Kristina

Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.