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All You Need to Know about Thai Salads

All You Need to Know about Thai Salads

If you’ve been to Thailand or have dined in a Thai restaurant, you must have encountered Thai salads in one form or another.

Thai salads are usually called “Yum,” meaning “mix.” There are hundreds of variations of Thai salads, but they commonly consist of pounded green papaya, tomatoes, beans, fish sauce, lime, chillies, and dried shrimp. 

But even with the many types of Thai salads, each one has a defining characteristic.

Join us as we explore the top Thai salads in existence today and explore their unique characteristics and cooking methods. We’ve included recipes that are authentic and taste just as good back at home as they do in Thailand.

What are the different variations of Thai salads?

Thai salads are a staple in Thai and fine dining restaurants, and buffets. They’re light, fresh, and bursting with flavour. 

Typically made with a combination of meat, seafood, and vegetables, Thai salads are often dressed with fish sauce and lime juice.

But what makes one salad different from another? Well, there are actually several versions of Thai salads. 

Here, we’ve picked some of the best Thai salads Thailand has to offer. So if you’re craving some spicy, tangy and fresh food in a hurry, these are the salads you don’t want to miss.

1. Som Tam

Som Tam
Image source: iStock

Som tam, a classic Thai salad, is made with green papaya and topped with dried shrimp, peanuts and dried chilli. It’s spicy and sour at the same time – a result of a dressing made of lime juice or tamarind paste mixed with fish sauce. 

The texture is soft but crunchy from the shredded vegetables and roasted rice powder which gives it an addictive taste that you’ll want to eat again and again!

2. Laab (Larb)

Laab (Larb)
Image source: iStock

Larb is a spicy salad that comes from northeastern Thailand and can be served as an appetiser or main dish. It’s made with ground meat, herbs, and spices. A mixture of the meat, fish sauce and lime juice makes up the dressing for this dish.

The meat of choice for larb is usually pork or chicken but you’ll often find it made with beef, duck or goat as well. Other ingredients in larb include mint leaves and cilantro while some restaurants add shallots to their recipe as well. 

Larb is typically served over lettuce instead of rice because it’s meant to be eaten by hand.

3. Yam Som-O (Pomelo Salad)

Yam Som-O (Pomelo Salad)
Image source: iStock

Yam Som-O is usually made with the fruit of the pomelo, which is a large citrus fruit, but sometimes you can find this salad made with grapefruit or orange.

It’s often served as an appetiser or side dish in Thai restaurants and homes, but it can also be eaten as a main course.

The dish is typically made with thinly sliced ingredients, including green onions (also known as scallions), cucumber, cabbage, cilantro, mint leaves and bean sprouts. 

These ingredients are all combined with fish sauce and lime juice before being served over lettuce leaves.

4. Yum Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Salad)

Yum Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Salad)
Image source: iStock

This salad is served with grilled pork and can be served in a variety of ways. 

It’s a great dish to order as an appetiser, but it can also be enjoyed as a main course. Some restaurants serve it with a spicy peanut sauce for dipping, while others use sweet chilli sauce or soy sauce instead. 

However, you can also make it with beef or even tofu if you want to go meatless.

5. Yam Neua (Thai Beef Salad)

Yam Neua (Thai Beef Salad)
Image source: iStock

Yam Neua Yang Thai Salad is a popular dish from Thailand that is made with grilled beef and sliced onions, served on top of a bed of lettuce and other veggies.

The dish is similar to a traditional Thai beef salad, but it has more meat and less dressing. The meat is usually served raw and thinly sliced, but if you prefer your meat cooked, you can ask for it to be prepared in this way.

The salad is often seasoned with fish sauce and palm sugar for added flavour, as well as chilli peppers for those looking for a spicy kick!

It’s important to note that Yam Neua Yang is not an authentic Thai dish; it’s instead a fusion of Thai ingredients combined with Western flavours like cilantro and tomatoes (which are not traditionally used in Thai food).

6. Yam Pla Duk Fu (Crispy Fish with Green Mango Salad)

Yam Pla Duk Fu (Crispy Fish with Green Mango Salad)
Image source: iStock

Yam Pla Duk Fu is one of the most popular Thai dishes, and its popularity has spread to other countries. The dish is made with crispy fried fish, which is usually served with a spicy dressing. 

The fish can be cooked in many different ways, but it usually has a crispy texture that contrasts well with the soft texture of the salad.

On the other hand, the green mango Thai salad is often used as a garnish for the crispy fish, but it can also be eaten on its own as a side dish or appetiser. It’s often served cold or at room temperature, but it can also be served hot if you prefer.

7. Yam Ma Muang

Yam Ma Muang
Image source: Thai Food Online

Yum Mamuang is a salad made with shrimp and mango, served with a spicy-sweet dressing. A popular dish that can be eaten as part of a main meal, it’s also perfect for those lazy afternoons on the beach when you don’t feel like cooking.

The salad is composed of rice noodles, fresh mango slices and fried shrimp tossed in a sweet chilli sauce. The dressing consists of palm sugar, tamarind juice and fish sauce—a combination that gives it just the right balance between spicy and tangy.

8. Yam Hed Ruam

Yam Hed Ruam
Image source: Rachel Cooks Thai

Yam Hed Ruam is a Thai dish made from mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and lime. 

For meat eaters, this nutritious vegetarian meal is equally wonderful. It’s simple to prepare because the components are readily available in most shops.

Additionally, you can find this in some vegetarian restaurants’ menus.

You can also customise the dish to your preferences by varying the amount of chilli, lime, soy sauce, or sugar in the dressing.

If you’re looking for something to add some flavour without adding too many calories or carbs then this might be the perfect option for you!

9. Yam Talay (Thai Seafood Salad) 

Yam Talay (Thai Seafood Salad)
Image source: iStock

Thai seafood salad is a delicious and healthy dish that’s perfect for summer. It combines a variety of seafood, including shrimp, squid, and mussels, with fresh vegetables like cucumber, mint leaves, and carrots. 

Yam Talay is served cold and dressed with a spicy dressing made from fish sauce, lime juice and chilies.

There are many different variations of this dish. Some recipes include crab meat or even prawns while others use fried tofu instead of seafood. 

It’s also common to add peanuts as well as long beans or green beans to the salad.

If you’re not confident in making one for yourself, try ordering at some seafood restaurants.

10: Yam Kai Dao (Fried Egg Salad)

Yam Kai Dao (Fried Egg Salad)
Image source: iStock

Yam Kai Dao is a Thai dish that’s usually eaten for breakfast. It’s made with eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and green onions—and it’s fried in oil until it’s crispy on the outside.

The dish has a few different names. You may have heard it called “fried egg salad,” and that makes sense because it’s basically an egg salad sandwich with all the ingredients fried together. 

However, if you’re looking for an authentic Thai name, you’ll want to call this one “yam kai dao.”

What are the four key ingredients of Thai salad dressings?

What are the four key ingredients of Thai salad dressings
Image source: iStock

Thai salads are a staple in Thai cuisine, and for good reason. They’re full of flavor and easy to make at home! 

The key ingredient that sets them apart from other Asian cuisines is their dressing. Here are four essential ingredients that go into making the perfect Thai salad dressing:

1. Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce
Image source: iStock

Fish sauce comes in many different varieties and textures as well. The more fish sauce you add to your dressing, the stronger your salad will taste. 

It is an essential ingredient in Thai salads because of its pungent flavour, but it’s also very versatile—you can use it as a marinade or even to help tenderise meat when cooking.

In addition, it’s made from fermented fish and salt so this ingredient has a strong aroma that some people may find off-putting. 

For those who want a more traditional flavour profile from their fish sauce, look for brands that use anchovies in their production process. These types of sauces tend to be darker in colour and have more intense flavour profiles than others do.

2. Lime Juice

Lime Juice
Image source: iStock

In Thai cuisine, lime juice is a common ingredient in salad dressings. Not only can it help your salad taste fresher and more zesty, but it can also be added to other dishes like rice or stir-fry!

Lime is a great way to add flavour to any food or dish that needs a little extra zing. 

In Thailand, you’ll often see lime wedges placed on the side of plates when eating out. The acidity in lemons also helps brighten up flavours in Asian cuisine by cutting through richness from sauces and marinades (like fish sauce).

If you want your dressing recipe to have an extra spicy kick then try adding garlic or ginger too. This will give it an extra spicy kick without making things too overwhelming.

3. Chilies

Image source: iStock

Salads in Thailand are a staple of the cuisine and can be slightly to extremely spicy. Depending on the type of salad, fresh or dried chilies are added, producing either a strong chilli punch or a more muted, gradually intensifying background heat.

It’s not just chile peppers that bring spice to Thai salads—you’ll find plenty of additional ingredients that deliver some real heat like chilli flakes.

Chilli flakes are more than just spicy. They can also boost metabolism, help with blood circulation, and provide many nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium.

If you’re interested in adding chilli flakes to your salads or other meals- but don’t want them to be too hot for your taste buds- then just add about 1/2 teaspoon instead of the full amount.

4. Sugar

Image source: iStock

Lastly, sugar brings balance to a dressing by adding sweetness to offset the other tastes. In Thailand, a salad is not complete without something sweet on it.

In its simplest form, a Thai salad dressing can consist of just three ingredients: fish sauce (nam pla), lime juice and chilli flakes. This combination makes for an incredibly tasty but overpowering dressing that will leave your mouth tingling with heat and numbness. 

However, it’s possible to add some sweetness and lower the heat level by adding some sugar in small quantities at first until you find the right balance for your taste buds.

What are the four common types of Thai salads?

What are the four common types of Thai salads
Image source: iStock

Thai salads are a perfect example of the country’s cuisine, which integrates the best of the old and new. A Thai salad is a mixture of fresh vegetables and herbs, often with meat or seafood, drizzled with a tangy dressing.

There are many variations on this traditional Thai dish but the most common are the following.

1. Yam

Image source: iStock

The yam salad is a Thai dish that is made with yams and other vegetables. It has a sweet and spicy flavour, and can be served as an appetiser or eaten as a meal.

You can very much mix anything with this dressing, from meats and eggs to noodles and vegetables, and even leftovers from your fridge. 

The majority of traditional yams are prepared with a protein as the primary component and are balanced with certain crisp vegetables, such as onions or Chinese celery, as well as others, such as tomatoes. 

Fresh herbs like cilantro and scallions are generally added to a yam to offer it a bright finish.

2. Tam

Image source: iStock

The tam salad is a classic Thai dish that can be made with papaya or pumpkin. It has a sour taste and is often served with seafood. 

The tam salad can be eaten raw, cooked or both ways, so it’s nice to have on hand when you’re in the mood for something light but filling at the same time.

Fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, garlic, fresh chiles, and palm sugar are the components of the basic tam dressing.

3. Laab and Nam Tok

Laab and Nam Tok
Image source: iStock

Both are spicy dishes made with minced meat, herbs and spices, but they’re eaten differently. 

Laab (pronounced as larb)is a salad made with chopped or ground meat (usually pork), dry-roasted rice powder and a handful of herbs like lemongrass and cilantro. It’s typically eaten with sticky rice. 

On the other hand, Nam tok is another popular spicy salad made from grilled beef (or sometimes pork) and served over steamed vegetables like cabbage or lettuce leaves; it’s usually eaten on its own because it doesn’t require additional carbs. 

The best thing about both dishes? They’re super simple—you can prepare them at home if you want!

4. Pla

Image source: NYT Cooking

Pla thai salad is a Thai dish that combines shrimp, cucumber and lettuce. It’s typically served cold and can be eaten as an appetiser or a main dish.

It’s made with pieces of fish, small shrimp, and vegetables in a delicious soy-based sauce. The dish is traditionally served with sticky rice, but it can also be prepared using other kinds of rice or noodles.

The most common type of fish used in pla thai salad is tilapia, but you can also use cod or salmon. Small shrimp are also commonly found in this dish, as they add texture and flavour to the overall dish.

FAQs about Thai Salads

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