Dining Out: Thai

How to choose healthy dishes when enjoying this cuisine

Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy-Sour Dressing

Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy-Sour Dressing

Lee Harrelson

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Thai flavors are hot, spicy, sweet, sour, and aromatic, with hints of both Indian and Asian cuisines. Some common ingredients include chile peppers, rice and noodles, nam pla (fish sauce), sugar, lime and other fruits, fish, chicken, and fresh vegetables.

Best bets:

  • Thai chicken: Chicken sautèed with onions, mushrooms, pineapple, scallions, and chiles, served in a pineapple. Request that the chef prepare the dish without nuts.
     
  • Poy sian: Seafood sautèed with straw mushrooms, napa cabbage, bamboo shoots, onions, and string beans.
     
  • Gai yang: Grilled marinated chicken served on fresh cabbage with a sweet (fat-free) chile sauce and steamed rice. No fat is added to cooked meat. Ask for the sauce on the side.

Surprise thumbs-down to:

  • Pad thai: The noodles in this dish are stir-fried with lots of oil to keep them from sticking to the pan. Ground peanuts and egg add to the fat count.

Tips for the savvy Thai diner:

  • Skip nam prik (a spicy peanut sauce) and sao nam (which contains coconut); both are very high in fat. Healthier sauce choices include those made with basil, chiles, and lime juice.
     
  • Go easy on the nam pla and soy sauce, which are both high in sodium.
  • Ask if the chef is cooking with lard or coconut oil; if so, you should request vegetable oil, which contains less saturated fat, instead.
     
  • Don't be afraid to ask for more vegetables and less protein in a dish.
     
  • When you order, remember that the spiciness of a dish can be adjusted to your tastes.

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