As is the case with most types of regional and/or ethnic cuisine, there are two distinctive types of Thai fare.
Most of us are most familiar with the Bangkok style, featuring dishes that place an emphasis on sweet and tangy elements. Then there’s the “northern” style of Thai food, which utilizes hearty herbs and spices, stews, and curries sans coconut.
The northern style is the specialty of the most acclaimed Thai restaurant in Las Vegas and its 2011 James Beard award-winning chef, Saipin Chutima. Recipes for Chutima’s Lotus of Siam restaurants are based on those of four accomplished cooks: both of her grandmothers and both of her husband’s grandmothers.
Interestingly, both styles of Thai cuisine pair beautifully with one wine variety in particular: Riesling.
Specifically, German Riesling.
Depending on the dish and its level of spice, the best German Riesling pairing partner may be dry, off-dry or semi-sweet. Fortunately, Lotus of Siam has a staff that’s trained to recommend the right wine for accompanying a specific dish.
Sadly, few Thai restaurants take wine as seriously as Lotus of Siam. If they even offer wine, it’s likely to be a cheap “house wine” that does nothing to enhance the food, and may even detract from it. In those types of restaurants, I recommend sticking with water.
Other wine varieties that can be successfully paired with Thai food include Gruner Veltliner (especially from Austria), Gewurztraminer (especially from the Alsace region of Germany), and Sauvignon Blanc (especially from the Marlborough region of New Zealand).
If all else fails — or if none of those varieties happen to be available — you can always fall back on the recommendation for most spicy cuisine: sparkling wine.
If you love Thai food and are planning a Las Vegas escape anytime soon, make plans to visit Lotus of Siam. The original location is presently closed for remodeling, but a second location is up and running and even more convenient for those staying on the Las Vegas Strip.
It’s a great place to experience a slightly different take on Thai food, and to learn about pairing Thai cuisine with wine.