Find the perfect pairing for your next Thai meal at home
One of our favourite travel dishes we have brought home to our own kitchen is Thai Curry; Green Curry, Red Curry, Massaman Curry, they are all winners in our household.
Thai curries have distinctive flavours; sweet, sour, hot, salty. The predominant ingredient they all have in common though is curry paste, which usually includes a combination of chillies, onions, garlic, lemongrass and shrimp paste, as well as many other fragrant elements giving each its distinct colour and flavouring.
Whilst you can control to some extent the spiciness of your dish by the extra ingredients you add, such as whole dried chilies, much of the heat is there in that curry paste already.
Certainly, not all Thai food is spicy, but our focus in this article is on perfectly pairing your drinks to those spicier Thai dishes; you do not want the drink to overpower dish but sit in harmony with those beautiful Thai flavours.
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What is traditionally drunk with Thai food?
Whilst you’ve probably knocked back a Singha or two with your curry in Thailand, most Thai natives are unlikely to drink alcohol with their food. They would prefer a traditional tea or jasmine-infused water.
But, I know, I know, I subscribe to the theory of wanting something to cut through the burning sensation that a fiery curry can leave on the pallet. No amount of water is going to shift that chemical reaction of capsaicin!
Thai meals are normally enjoyed with various courses served together, so you will find both salty and spicy as well as quite sweet dishes in one sitting – picking just one perfect accompaniment (let alone which dish to dig into first) can be tough!
Here’s our guide to perfect pairings to try next time you are putting on a Thai night, or struggling to choose from a Thai menu.
Generally, you are looking for aromatic or fruity white wines and light, cloudy beers.
Best Beer with Thai Food
Our favourite beers with Thai food include:
IPA (Indian Pale Ale)
IPA’s have a citrusy aroma and pair perfectly with heavier, aromatic dishes. They would be the perfect accompaniment to Yellow Curry (kaeng kari) and Green Curry (kaeng keaw wan), drawing out the flavour of the kaffir lime leaves.
A spicy curry can make even a fairly bland Lager come to life (hence why you probably thought Singha didn’t taste half bad one you drank it in Thailand!). Lagers are slightly dry and bitter but bubbly and give the palette a refreshing break between mouthfuls, albeit the low alcohol content you are not doing much to cut through the spice.
Whitbier (bière blanche)
Best classified as Belgian wheat beers, these beers have a slightly citrusy taste and a fresh, frothy texture (a good example is Hoegaarden). These work wonderfully with the lemongrass flavour that Thai dishes are synonymous for.
Best wine with Thai Food
You’re best sticking with off-dry styles of white wine with Thai food. Look out for blends – anything with a combination of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and Riesling is likely to please most, though if you are getting down to specific dishes there are some that suit spicier or creamier dishes better than others.
Not normally a huge fan of sweeter white wines? Remember they will lose a little of their sweetness when paired with spicy foods and can really help bring out the flavours as well as quell that curry burn (more effectively than beer as they have a higher alcohol percentage).
Rieslings can have an edge over their slightly drier counterparts when it comes to your Thai curries. A fruity New Zealand or Californian Riesling can not only work well with strong and creamy coconut-milk based sauces but also works well with Thai-spiced seafood, salads and stir-fries.
Another varietal to try is spätlese styles of Rieslings from Germany. You can also try an off-dry Chenin Blanc.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Pinot Gris has that little touch of sweetness and muskiness that pairs perfectly with a spicy Thai dishes, try a New Zealand Clare Valley Pinot Gris, or an aromatic French Alsace.
You will find Gewürztraminer with it’s more rose petal and tropical fruit aromas can work well with a Thai Curry.
A much sweeter late harvest Gewürztraminer can be very good with intensely sweet Thai desserts.
My usual go-to white wine for almost any occasion, though the above wines are probably the slightly better fit. If you’re not a fan of the more aromatic whites though, this one still works well with Thai seafood, salads and stir-fries.
You will notably see the absence of any red wines as a Thai pairing. They can work well with more tomato-based Indian curries but they are not so suitable with the more fragrant Thai curries.
If you really want a red, stick with something unoaked and with less tannin and more acidity, such as a Pinto Noir or Beaujolais from France.
Note when you are in Thailand, wines tend to be a lot more expensive than beer. There is a developing wine scene in the northeast of Thailand, but generally, wine is imported unlike locally brewed beers including Singha, Leo and Chang.
Other beverages to consider with your Thai dishes
As we mentioned above, alcoholic drinks wouldn’t be considered “traditional” Thai beverages. Though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’ve enjoyed a fruity cocktail or two with my Thai food, just as much as a beer or wine….
Some great non-alcoholic considerations for your Thai menu include:
Exotic fruit juices
Most tropical fruit juices go well with Thai food, especially those made from or including mango, papaya, passionfruit and lychee.
Thai Iced Tea (Cha Yen)
I think this is one of those you love it or hate it drinks! A Thai Iced Tea combines tea with sugar, topped with condensed milk and served over ice. Some will add further coconut milk or evaporated milk to give it a lighter appearance – and a making it a great accompaniment with your spicy food.
I consider this more of a kid-friendly alternative to alcohol and iced teas if you are avoiding caffeine too. It is made from fresh hot milk and colourful syrup, then mixed with ice. They are easy to pick up from street stalls in Thailand, though we’ve not attempted our own homebrew yet!
Not neccessarily one to drink with your meal, it will do little to help cut through the spiciness but can be a lovely note to finish your Thai evening on, with or after desert.
However you like your Thai dishes, there’s always a perfect drink to suit!
Let us know if you have found a particular favourite pairing in the comments below, we’d love to hear your experience
Mama Loves A Drink advocates quality over quantity. Always drink responsibly!