Some people assume that all Thai food is spicy, and if they don’t like spicy food… well, they won’t want to try Thai. But Thai food isn’t always spicy. It doesn’t have to be. Although the cuisine is known for having the perfect combination of hot and sour, sweet and salty flavours, there are some dishes that have very little chilli heat in them at all, for example, and others still that, if you ask for them to be made mild, they will be.
So there is no excuse – everyone can try (and love!) Thai food!
Spice is just one part of Thai cooking, and doesn’t represent the cuisine as a whole, but if you want to be safe when ordering, there are some dishes to look out for. Remember, it’s usually the addition of red hot chilli peppers that make a dish spicy, and many dishes will include ginger, garlic, or other herbs and spices instead (or as well as) chillies. That way, you can still enjoy the taste of the meal without it being too hot to enjoy.
A useful phrase to remember (if you want to stay authentic) is ‘mai sai prik’. This means ‘without chilli’. Whoever is making your food will definitely know you aren’t keen on chilli if you mention this when ordering.
If you’d rather not worry the chef and simply pick something less spicy from the menu, then it is best not to order anything that has the word ‘yum’ in its name. Yum, roughly translated, means ‘spicy salad’, and it’s going to be hard for even the best Thai chefs to remove the spice from these dishes. It’s best to opt for something different.
Something like see krong moo (grilled spare ribs), massaman (beef or lamb with shallots and coconut milk), or even pad see-ew (stir fried noodles) would be absolutely fine. These dishes don’t tend to come with any chillies anyway, and don’t forget you can always ask for your food to be made non-spicy, just in case.