Dining Out: Thai

by in Dining Out, December 25, 2009

Shrimp Pad Thai
With lots of spices and fresh ingredients, Thai can be a great choice, but as with any cuisine, there are some high-calorie dishes to avoid. Next time you’re craving Thai, check out our tips before you place your order.

What’s On The Menu?
Thai food is about a balance of hot, spicy, sour and sweet flavors. Dishes often feature fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, rice, noodles, chilies, lime and coconut. Of course, you may know that, but will you be able to pick it out on the menu? Many dishes are listed in their original language (did you know kaeng means “curry” and moo means “pork”?), so studying up before you go can’t hurt. Here’s a Thai food guide to help you make sense of some of the more common terms.

Proceed With Caution
A popular stir-fried noodle dish at American Thai restaurants, Pad Thai and other fried noodle and rice dishes are prepped with lots of oil. Ask your server to go extra light on the oil or skip these dishes all together. Many menu items also come with extra salty or sugary sauces — ask for them on the side for light dipping.

Soups and sauces made with coconut milk or nuts will be high in fat. Coconut milk and coconut oil are higher in saturated fat, which is less healthy for your heart. Watch out for curry dishes made with coconut milk (or at least limit your portions) — especially if you’re watching your cholesterol. Too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels. Speaking of high fat, pass on other deep-fried dishes such as Crab Rangoon or coconut shrimp — or at least order one serving to share with the table.

Smarter Picks
For a light and tasty start, go for seafood summer rolls, which are filled with fresh veggies and wrapped in delicate rice paper. Grilled chicken and steak satay are also a lean protein-packed choice (just go easy on the dipping sauces).

With your meal, include soup or salad to curb your appetite so you don’t scarf down your entire main (portions are often huge). Hot and sour vegetable soup, Tom Yum Goong (soup with chili, shrimp and mushrooms) or a salad like Som Tum made with green papaya are all lower in calories but have big flavor.

Here are some good options for your main course:
Thai Chicken: Chicken and spices served with veggies and rice
Num Tok: Marinated grilled beef over greens with lime and mint
Pra Ram Long Song: Steamed veggies and chicken breast with peanut sauce (on the side)
Basil Tofu: Tofu, Thai basil, vegetables and rice
Goong Kra Tiem: Garlic shrimp with vegetables and rice

TELL US: What’s your favorite Thai dish?

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