Did you know
Thai dishes reflect the influence of China in its use of the wok, noodles, and tofu as well as India in its many curries. What sets it apart is the lightness of the dishes, liberal use of aromatics and strong interplay of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.
As such, you will find liberal use of herbs; lemon grass, cilantro, basil, mint, and items such as nam pla (fish sauce), galangal (ginger family), tamarind, kaffir lime, shrimp paste and palm sugar. Thai curries are typically coconut milk based.
Thai chili peppers feature in many dishes and are quite a bit spicier than jalapenos so definitely ask your server if you are don't enjoy very spicy food.
What to eat
Tom yam is the quintessential Thai dish, a soup that is sour, salty, spicy and fragrant. The prawn version is the original but it's often offered with chicken and with coconut milk too.
Pad Thai is the next well known dish; thin rice noodles stir fried with eggs, onions, and beansprouts, topped with fish sauce, finely grounded peanuts, and chili powder. In the mood for something different? Try the basil noodles.
Thai curries are commonly categorized by color; green, red and yellow. They typically have the same base and are differentiated by the prominence of green or red chillies and turmeric, respectively. Try the panang curry for something milder in taste.
Thai desserts are typically coconut based and not often offered in American restaurants because they take long to make. So if you see something on the menu, try it!