Over the last few years, Thai food in Denver has been increasing in popularity. Generally thought of as a healthier option than heavy, fried Chinese dishes, Thai food offers a wide range of flavors and textures. While Thai menus are extensive, there a few standout items that prove to be consistent favorites.
- Drunken noodles: Thai dishes often utilize hearty, healthy rice noodles as a base and this dish is a good example of that. Drunken noodles are flat, chewy noodles in a sweet, savory brown sauce with vegetables and a protein like shrimp, chicken or tofu. This dish is often garnished with fresh Thai basil leaves for a pop of flavor. This dish is a great option for picky eaters as it can be made with little to no spice and has a mild flavor.
- Tom Yum Goong: A sour, sweet and spicy broth flavored with lemongrass, ginger, lime and spices is perfect for a cold day. Perhaps a better cure for the common cold than traditional chicken noodle soup, this Thai favorite boasts juicy tomatoes, fragrant onions, silky mushrooms and meaty prawns for a healthy dose of vegetables and protein. Vegetarians can easily eliminate the prawns or substitute it for tofu. Vegans can do the same, but should also ensure the broth does not have fish sauce in order to make it a viable option.
- Panang curry: While there are numerous different types of Thai curries hailing from different regions of Thailand, this sweet, creamy curry variety is one of the milder options. Made with coconut milk, ginger, curry paste, lemongrass, kefir lime and spices, this curry reigns supreme on Thai menus. For those who prefer a little more spice, this dish, as well as other curries, can be made at different levels of spice. In panang curry, this is where the coconut milk really shines. A silky balance to the chili, it provides a delicious sauce that can be further calmed when served over rice.
- Pad Thai: This list wouldn’t be complete without the tried and true favorite, Pad Thai. Even those who are unfamiliar with Thai cuisine have likely heard of Pad Thai. These chewy noodles coated in a sweet, peanut sauce are mixed with eggs and a protein of choice. The dish is often garnished with scallions, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime wedges. For those who are new to Thai cuisine, Pad Thai is a great way to introduce Thai flavors.
A note about spice levels: When ordering Thai food takeout, customers can usually choose to customize the level of heat and spice in most dishes. Beware, Thai levels of hotness are often considered spicier than normal. For example, even a lover of spicy food should be wary of “Thai-hot” level dishes, which can lead to a runny nose, watery eyes and a scorched tongue. Generally those who are new to Thai cuisine should choose the mild version of dishes until they can assess their sensitivity to Thai chilies.
No matter the dish you choose, modern Thai food offers delicious flavor profiles you’re sure to love.