Of the 20,000 Thai restaurants overseas, 50% of them are in the US and Canada.
There is a rising love for Thai food in North America. Thai food is light, healthy, delicately fragrant and full of vegetables. It’s not necessarily fiery hot.
Now it’s common to see a Thai restaurant or two in every city and even smaller towns. Years ago, most Thai food in the US was far from authentic. Chefs feared that Westerners would send the food back if it was cooked traditionally.
So they began to cater to the palette of Americans. In other words, they made everything sweet. Some chefs from Thailand even admit to not eating the food on their American menu.
Thai food in America has followed the trend of Chinese food. The American version is far removed from the food eaten by Chinese people in China and even in America.
But it is possible to find authentic Thai restaurants near Tacoma. Read on for the ways you can tell if a restaurant cares about the end product or is just catering to the masses.
Look at the Size of the Menu
One of the signature qualities of Thai food is that it is made from fresh ingredients. If you walk into a Thai restaurant in Tacoma WA, scan the menu. If you see more than 20 items on the menu, go elsewhere.
It’s not possible to keep fresh ingredients for that many different dishes. That means that the products are frozen, canned or past their freshness date.
An Abundance of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk in curries such as green curry is delicious. Yet they are a regional dish from Southern Thailand. If a menu has coconut milk in every dish, something is not right.
Look at Heat Levels
Some Thai food is very spicy. However, some dishes are not.
A telltale sign of the best Thai food in Tacoma is if the restaurant lists how spicy each dish is, without the option of choosing how spicy you want it.
When restaurants let you choose the heat level, you are less likely to have an authentic dish. However, if the heat level is set, the food is more likely to be true to how it was intended.
If you can’t handle the heat, choose something else on the menu.
Don’t Expect Everything to be Spicy
Not every Thai dish is meant to be spicy. Some are sweet and some are sour. Kuai-tiao nam is made with a clear pork-based broth. Kao mun gai is a fragrant non-spicy chicken and rice.
Traditional Thai food is about a fusion of various flavors. However, if you really want to feel the heat, ask for your food “phet mak” (extra spicy.
Beware of Peanut Sauce
In Thailand, every dish doesn’t come smothered in peanut sauce. In fact, it is most often served in a little bowl for dipping various satays.
If a restaurant menu has peanut sauce on each dish, it’s probably not a restaurant you want to eat at to enjoy true Thai cuisine.
Only Serves Thai Food
One of the easiest ways to find the best Thai food in Tacoma is to search for restaurants that only serve Thai food.
Many restaurants serve Asian cuisine from various countries. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that the cooks don’t specialize in Thai food exclusively.
If you want authentic Thai cuisine, your best bet is to choose a restaurant that focuses just on Thai food. After you eat, head over to the Narrows Bridge for an evening stroll.
Look for Forks
You might be surprised to learn that in Thailand, people eat with forks, not chopsticks.
The reasons Thai restaurants in Tacoma WA and elsewhere started providing chopsticks was because American customers kept asking for them!
Traditionally, Thai people ate with their hands. King Rama III wanted his people to be more civilized in the 1800s. He implemented several Western customs such as sitting on chairs and using cutlery.
Thai people hold a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left. Then, they scoop the food into the spoon with the fork. Try it next time you are having Thai in Tacoma.
It’s a lot easier than trying to get rice to your mouth with a chopstick.
No Crab Rangoon on the Menu
Crab rangoon is a small little wonton appetizer. It is a wonton paper stuffed with a mixture of crab meat, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and spices. Then it is baked or deep fried.
While yummy, this is not a Thai dish. Nowhere in Thailand serves this morsel. Natives likely haven’t ever heard of crab rangoon.
It is common in American Thai restaurants because restaurant-owners quickly found out that Americans like deep-fried, gooey, cheesy bite-size items.
If you are hunting for the best Thai food in Tacoma, avoid restaurants that have this item on the menu.
Thai Food for Vegans and Vegetarians
You might think that Thai food is a simple choice for vegans and vegetarians. But beware, even dishes that have tofu, aren’t necessarily catered to dietary restrictions.
Fish sauce, shrimp sauce, and oyster sauce are common in many dishes. Even if they have no other meat in them. If you are vegan, you’ll have to confirm with your waiter to make sure there are no animal products in certain dishes.
Best Thai Restaurants Near Tacoma
We hope you found this guide to finding the authentic Thai restaurants near Tacoma insightful.
One final tip for finding delicious Thai food in Tacoma is to talk to your server or the cook. If they are from Thailand, ask what their favorite dish on the menu is. Or what they would serve their family.
You might just discover a new favorite item you might not have ordered otherwise.
Check out our list of the best Tacoma restaurants. Keep this list handy so you can enjoy good food each time you go out to eat.