Have you ever stared down at a menu in a Thai restaurant and wondered how the eff do I say that? You are not alone. In restaurants here in America, and even more so at street vendors in Thailand, I have watched many people struggle to pronounce their order and eventually just give up and point.

The Thai language is tonal and relies on the use of five tones. As a non-native speaker, it is really difficult to pick up on the correct pronunciation. Whats worse is that Thai restaurants in America inconsistently translate the dishes to English. If you're tired of ordering the wrong thing or you just want to impress your waiter, you need to learn how to actually pronounce your order at a Thai restaurant without embarrassing yourself.      

1. Pad Thai - ผัดไทย

pad thai, chicken, shrimp, sauce, pasta, rice, vegetable, noodle
Kayleigh Kearnan

Pad Thai seems straight forward enough, but I can't even count how many times I've heard people order "pad thigh". It's pronounced "Pad Tie". Pad refers to any dish that is stir-fried in a wok and Thai is referring to it being "Thai style". It is insanely popular among foreigners, but there is so much more that Thailand has to offer.

2. Som Tam - ส้มตำ

pad thai, chicken, shrimp
Johnna Green

Som Tam is often called papaya salad on Thai menu's in America. While it is most often made with green papaya, it can also be made with mango. This dish is best served family style with sides of Gai Yang (grilled chicken), Kor Mu Yang (grilled pork neck/shoulder), and Khao Niao (sticky rice).

3. Pad Krapow Moo - ผัดกะเพราหมู

Stir-fried pork with holy basil is another dish that begins with "pad" and "krapao" refers to the holy basil. This dish is most often served with pork (moo), but you can also order it with chicken (gai), shrimp (goong), or my favorite, crispy pork (moo krob). Pad Krapao Moo is typically pretty spicey, so you should definitely order it with a fried egg (khai dao) on top.

4. Pad See Ew - ผัดซีอิ๊ว

Pad See Ew is stir-fried wide noodles with Chinese broccoli, egg, and your choice of meat. See Ew translates to dark soy sauce, which the noodles are stir-fried in. Next time you order this, ask for a side of vinegar with Thai chilis (prik nam som) and drizzle it on top!

5. Pad Kii Mao - ผัดขี้เมา

The English name of drunken noodles hardly does this dish justice. The literal translation of Pad Kii Mao is 'drunk as shit stir fry' and let me tell you, it is definitely delicious when you are drunk as shit. You can find this dish at practically every street vendor in Thailand.

6. Gaeng Keow Wan - แกงเขียวหวาน

Helena Lin

"Gaeng" refers to any dish that is a curry. "Keow Wan" specifies that it is green and sweet. Green Curry is best with chicken, but you can order it with shrimp (goong) or seafood (talay).

7. Cha Yen - ชาเย็น

beer, ice, tea, coffee
Shen Swartout

If you ever find yourself wondering the streets of Bangkok with a serious "chang-over", you're gonna want to know how to ask for this delicious sweet treat. Thai tea is "cha yen". Cha means tea and yen means cold - memorize this and never forget it!

8. Khao Niao Mamuang - ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง

Khao Niao Mamuang, or mango and sticky rice, is a beautiful mouth-watering combination of flavors and textures. This is not the same sticky rice (khao niao) mentioned above. The sticky rice used in this dessert is made sweet by mixing it with coconut milk and sugar. The yellow mangos are extra sweet and juicy and the mung beans sprinkled on top give it a little crunch. 

These eight dishes are pretty standard menu items at Thai restaurants across America. Navigating any menu in a foreign language can be daunting, but learning to pronounce your Thai order is deliciously rewarding.