Thai Food vs. Chinese Food: What Set Them Apart?

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Choosing between Thai food and Chinese food can be a pretty challenging task. Especially for those who have never been to both countries to travel, it is even more difficult.

If you want to renew your family meal by adding Asian dishes to your menu, you should probably read this post. Of course, since they are both in Asia, there may be a certain influence between the two culinary cultures of Thailand and China.

To compare Thai food and Chinese food, there are many differences in diversity, taste, spices, ingredients, presentation, etc. Let’s dig into the details in this article.

Thai Food And Chinese Food

Thai Food: Typical Culinary Culture In “Lands Of Golden Pagoda”

Thai cuisine is influenced by many cultures from neighboring countries such as Myanmar, India, China, and Indonesia. However, Thai cuisine still has a unique feature that creates its own brand.

Spices and Aromas

Referring to Thai cuisine, people will remember the contrast but full of harmony between diverse spices and aromas. Each dish clearly shows its own unique flavor that is unmistakable.

It must be said that the chefs in Thailand are artists in mixing spices to create extremely delicious and attractive dishes. When used in cooking, all spices and flavorings are measured to perfection and create a balance of all in the same dish.


The two most commonly found flavors in Thai dishes are sour and spicy. Therefore, the favorite spices of Thai people when cooking are lemon, chili, and lemongrass. In addition, Thai people also take advantage of herbs to create more diversity for the culinary culture of this country.


Another point that makes Thai cuisine different is the variety of different types of fish sauce. This is a unique point that no one can imitate.

Presentation Of The Dishes

Not only rich in flavor, but Thai dishes are also especially eye-catching in color to help stimulate the taste buds of users. When Thai dishes are served, anyone can’t wait to taste them.

Thai Green Papaya
Green Papaya Salad – A dish with full flavors of Thai cuisine.

Chinese Foods With Diversity Spanning Each Region

As a country with an extremely large area spanning many different climates, foods from Chinese cuisine are also extremely diverse and rich.

Spicy Level

Although being Chinese people, there are people who eat spicy food very well, but conversely, there are also people who cannot eat spicy food even a little bit. That is the difference due to the region where they live.

In places with cold weather, people often eat very spicy foods to help keep the body warm. And over time, this will form a culinary culture of the whole region.

On the other hand, in places where the weather is more pleasant, people prefer more frugal and less spicy foods. In China, they divide cuisine into eight different schools of culinary. That’s enough to see how diverse the culinary culture in this country is.


But there is one feature that characterizes regular Chinese cuisine in general: the flavors of the dishes are often intense. Chinese people are extremely fond of grilled, fried, steamed dishes and hot pots.

Because of these typical processing methods, the most commonly used spices in Chinese dishes are onions and garlic. These spices will press the flavor of the dishes and are extremely fragrant.


Chinese cuisine is also known for its starchy fast foods such as dumplings, noodles. If you often watch Chinese historical dramas, these dishes must be familiar, right? And these traditional dishes are still kept to this day and even developed. All create a distinctive feature of Chinese cuisine.

Presentation Of The Dishes

The Chinese pay a lot of attention to the presentation of their dishes. All dishes are decorated very delicately before being served. When enjoying Chinese cuisine in restaurants, you will be satisfied in both taste and sight. This is a strong point of Chinese cuisine.

Szechuan Style Spicy Tofu
Mapo Tofu – A dish that makes Chinese food different.

The Key Differences Between Thai Food Vs. Chinese Food

Although China and Thailand share some cultural and culinary characteristics due to the same Asian region, the cuisines of both still have their own distinct and easily recognizable features.

Thai FoodChinese Food
DefinitionReflects balance in the use of spices in Thailand Reflects Chinese cooking methods
DiversityInfluenced by many neighboring countriesDiversity in the taste of regions
Spicy LevelHigh level of spicinessLess spicy
Usage of OilLess amount of oilUse lots of oil
SpicesVarious spices and herbsDried spices
TasteSour and spicyFrugal and starchy
IngredientsFresh ingredientsPreserved ingredients
Preparation MethodSalads and soupsGrilling and steaming
SaucesA variety of fish saucesSoybeans sauces
Top specialtiesTom Yum, Pad Thai, Som Tum,...Dumplings, Hot pot, Tofu,...

Diversity: Although influenced by the cuisine of many countries, compared to Chinese cuisine, Thai dishes cannot be as diverse. That is why it is said that China is the cradle of Asian cuisine.

Taste: Thai food is characterized by sour and spicy flavors, while Chinese food is more diverse. But overall, Chinese food is still lighter and more frugal. Thai food is often richer than Chinese food, thanks to the herbal flavors. In addition, Chinese food is often greasy compared to Thai dishes.

Spices: Both cuisines make good use of the variety of spices in their cooking. But Thai dishes have a superiority thanks to the combination of other herbs that create a distinct flavor.

Ingredients: In fact, in Thailand, people always use fresh ingredients for cooking. In contrast, China prefers dry and frozen ingredients.

Preparation Method: Thai food stands out with salads and soups. Meanwhile, the way to prepare Chinese dishes is more diverse and strong in grilled and steamed dishes.

Sauce: Thailand features a variety of fish sauces made from many different ingredients. On the other hand, the Chinese like to dip their dishes with soy sauce to create a mouth-watering taste.

Thai Food Vs. Chinese Food: Which One Is Healthier?

Thai Herb Basket
Fresh ingredients are usually used in Thai food.

For the record, most of the dishes in Thailand use fresh ingredients in processing. Add to that a combination of herbs that are beneficial to human health.

Meanwhile, Chinese dishes tend to favor starchy dishes such as dumplings or greasy hotpot dishes. It is also common to store foods by drying them and using them after a long period of storage.

Not only that, most Chinese dishes are often seasoned with a lot of additives and sugar. This will help the food taste better, but it will be very unhealthy in the long run.

With that said, the Chinese often use a lot of oil in cooking. Deep-fried foods contain a large number of calories. If you eat them in an uncontrolled way, it can lead to the risk of obesity.

Thus, if no term of taste, it can be seen that Thai food is healthier than Chinese food. It would help if you understood that I am looking at the big picture. If you make a one-to-one for each dish’s comparison, it will be very lame, and the results will not really be objective.

That’s not to say that Chinese food is full of unhealthy foods. If you know how to choose carefully, you will still find yourself healthy dishes from Chinese cuisine. At the same time, Thai cuisine is not all about healthy dishes. It all depends on how you choose your dish.

Thai Food Suggestions

I will suggest some healthy Thai dishes, such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, Chicken Larb. These dishes use fresh ingredients and are very safe for health. You can use it with complete confidence.

On the contrary, there are also precautions when eating iconic Thai food to avoid turning good things into bad things. In Thai cuisine, rice is an important part. However, you should avoid eating foods containing rice in the evening to ensure the digestive system not being overactive.

Chinese Food Suggestions

If you already know why Chinese food is often unhealthy, you will easily find a solution to this problem. In terms of ingredients and processing, limit the use of starchy ingredients and try changing processing; you will get the dishes you want.

For example, dumplings, instead of deep-frying, you can completely turn them into steamed dumplings. The food still retains the original taste while ensuring your health.

As for the ingredients, instead of just eating fried beef, you can add vegetables to make beef and broccoli. This will help you balance the nutrition in the dish.

As another example, stick with the grill method, but instead of grilling greasy meats, you can substitute salmon. Salmon contains a lot of nutrients that are good for your health.

Featured dishes representing the two countries’ cuisines After learning about the similarities and differences between Thai food and Chinese food, you will probably want to know a few specific dishes to these two cuisines. The answer will be right here.

Attractive Dishes That Cannot Miss When Referring to Thai Cuisine

The sour and spicy dishes have created their own brand of Thai cuisine in the world. Let’s see what’s special.

Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)

There won’t be a Thai not knowing this tasty Thai starter called Tom Yum soup. It’s so popular that you can find this Tom Yum soup anywhere and anytime in Thailand. All ingredients blended in a large bowl with beautiful colors captivate every diner.

A detailed guide to making Tom Yum Goong from the Thai people herself. Try it now!

Watch this video: Tom Yum Goong Recipe

Khao Pad (Fried Rice)

Khao Pad is really a dish that can fill your hungry stomach. Initially, this dish was created by taking advantage of cold rice leftover after a meal.

However, later on, it officially became a favorite dish of many people. The most important thing about this dish is that the rice has to be delicious enough.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a noodle dish mixed with a sweet and sour sauce that is so familiar and loved worldwide. The dish uses a special type of Thai noodles that are thin and flat.

The flat noodles stir-fried with the right ingredients and seasoning will make you unforgettable. This is also a typical dish that is very popular with tourists when coming to Thailand.

Pad Thai is not the only noodle dish that you can come across in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Shan Khao Swe, a famous dish that comes from Burma, is also very popular among the locals here in Thailand. This dish comes in two versions: one dry and one with broth.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)

Tom Kha Gai in Thai means chicken and galangal soup. Galangal root is not an easy ingredient to find. Except for the ingredients, this dish is actually quite easy to make.

The way to cook this dish is similar to how to cook Tom Yum. However, the biggest difference is the coconut milk in this dish. Coconut milk creates the characteristic fat and aroma of the dish.

Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)

It can be said to be a snack that I absolutely love. A snack is full of flavors of Thai cuisine. All the sour, sweet, spicy, crunchy flavors are subtly and harmoniously mixed. The feeling when putting it in your mouth will be extremely explosive.

Chinese Dishes That Make You Remember Forever

The variety and richness of Chinese food are reflected in the cooking method. The following dishes will give you a few suggestions.

Peking Duck

Referring to China, it is impossible not to mention this famous Peking duck. The shiny yellow-brown covering the outer skin looks attractive. Thin crispy skin covers the moist and tender duck inside. What a perfect dish!

When serving, this dish will be cut into slices. And it is often served with pancakes with garlic and cucumber sauce. This helps you not to get bored when eating and creates new flavors.

Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is a dish that makes a strong impression on those who try it for the first time, I mean just smelling it. A pungent taste will hit your nose when you taste this Mapo tofu.

The dish is dyed with the red color of chili, combined with the spicy taste of Sichuan pepper. Wait! Sichuan? That’s right. Just hearing this name, you can imagine the spiciness of the dish.

You will often find this dish in Chinese restaurants anywhere in the world. Soft tofu wraps the minced meat inside, and the spicy sauce is tongue-tipping. It’s great with hot rice!

Spicy mapo tofu recipe for a cold day. Why not?

Watch this video: How to Make Authentic Chinese Mapo Tofu


Dumplings are a traditional dessert usually made on New Year’s Eve in China. The most familiar fillings are pork and cabbage. The sweet taste of boiled dumplings will make you fall in love.

You can eat it as soup. Or you can also make a cup of dipping sauce consisting of soy sauce and a little sesame seeds to eat with. Both ways are very delicious.

Steamed Stuffed Bun

The steamed stuffed bun is a traditional Chinese breakfast that has existed for a long time. In fact, you can substitute different fillings according to your taste. But the key to making this dish successful is the dough for the crust.

This dish can be your choice if you want to start your days with some savory food because of its convenience. You can even finish your breakfast on the way to work.

Hot Pot

Whenever I gather with friends, hot pot is the first thing that comes to my mind. You just imagine it as a buffet table where you can comfortably eat what you like on the table.

If you ask how many types of hot pot there are in all, unfortunately, I cannot answer this question. There are many different types of hot pot in China, not to mention distinct versions when they are spread to other countries.

When the weather turns cold is when I crave hotpot the most. Maybe it’s because I crave the feeling of gathering with friends when eating hot pot together and keeping memories together.

Have You Chosen Your Favorite Between Thai Food And Chinese Food Yet?

It is undeniable that the culinary culture of both Thailand and China is extremely diverse. However, each cuisine has its own unique characteristics that are not mixed with each other.

I have made a lot of comparisons between the two countries’ food based on different aspects. Have you chosen your favorite food yet?

As for myself, a person who cares a lot about health, I will lean more towards Thai food due to its fresh ingredients. Of course, you don’t have to give up one just to choose the other. You can vary between different dishes in your family menu.

How about you? Let me know your favorite culinary style right in the comment section. Thanks a lot!

Thai Food Vs Chinese Food
Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer


Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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