Having a dinner party and want to make something really special? Do all of your guests love Thai food, or are they at least willing to try it? Here's an easy Thai Dinner Party menu idea for beginners!
It's been a long time since I first tried Thai food, and like many people who grew up in the US, I started out with a mild Pad Thai. Later, I came to appreciate so much more about the cuisine, and that experience opened doors to a whole new world for me. I tried all of the Thai curries I could get my hands on and I could go on and on and on about all of the Thai dishes that I love, but for now we'll stick with this starter's menu to make at home.
This menu brings together a few simple dishes with ingredients you can find at most major supermarkets in the US. The flavors and ingredients are comforting and faintly familiar, while also distinctly Thai.
We'll be making:
There are no crazy ingredients to search for, and no special equipment. There are, however, a lot of ingredients and spices, many of which are pantry staples. Most ingredients are found in your average grocery store. However, if you run into something that you can’t find, keep in mind that all of these items can typically be found in the Asian food section of any major supermarket. But please, venture to your nearest international market if you have one nearby!
Whether you make part of the menu in advance (just under 2 hours) and finish everything just before your guests arrive (just under 2 hours again), or you make this on the same day as your party, which should take about 3 1/2 hours, your guests will definitely go home satisfied and full.
For an appetizer, we're making stuffed Thai Curry Puffs in the air fryer. They're the perfect bite for warming up your guests' appetites and can easily be made vegetarian or not by adding chicken, shrimp, or even beef.
Most restaurants will make these with homemade pastry dough, but for the purposes of making this an easy appetizer to serve, we're using premade and defrosted Filo Dough. Yes, the Filo Dough is going to make these pillow-y pockets nice and crispy!
The filling has just the right amount of flavorful curry spice without being too hot - but be sure to have chili sauce to serve on the side for those who want to heat things up!
When I make a side salad with my dinner, it cannot be boring! This quick Thai Cabbage Slaw Salad definitely makes the cut and will surely make a good impression on your guests.
Thai food has so many amazing flavors to offer, and this Cabbage Slaw Salad incorporates my favorites. It's complex, but yet so easy to make! It's nutty from the peanut butter, its tart from the lime and rice vinegar, and it's fresh from the cilantro and ginger. Throw this together in just 15-20 minutes, refrigerate an hour before the party and it will be ready to serve with your main course.
For dinner, we're having my Not-So Thai Shrimp Pad Thai made with green beans and bell peppers.
I promised there were no crazy ingredients you wouldn't be able to find, and now I'm delivering. Although I prefer to make Pad Thai in a more authentic manner with Mung Bean Sprouts, sometimes they're so difficult to get my hands on. Here, I'm substituting the bean sprouts with French cut green beans and bell pepper. Most major supermarkets now carry Flat Rice Noodles, (also called “Rice Stick” in a Medium or Large width.) I'm even using a premade Pad Thai sauce and just lightly doctoring it up with lime juice and fish sauce (optional) so I can save time looking for extra special ingredients.
Your guests will dote over this Pad Thai recipe that's so simple to make, especially if you prepare most of it in advance!
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If you find Thai food as amazing as I do and want to learn more about it, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of True Thai by Victor Sodsook. Victor was a pioneer of Thai cooks in the United States and incredibly breaks down the ins and outs of Thai ingredients, cuisine, cooking, and food history in this book. I happened to find a copy of this book at my local consignment store for just $1.50, but you can find copies on Amazon for $7-35. It’s filled with timeless, authentic recipes and I was so lucky to find it.
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Difficult Level: 2
Prep Time in Advance: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Cooking Time the Day of: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
For the Air Fryer Thai Curry Puffs
1 medium russet potato, in 1/4" cubes
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
1/4 medium White Onion, diced
1/4 cup Carrot, diced
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon Coriander, ground
1/4 teaspoon Cumin, ground
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric, ground
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Powder
1/2 cup Peas, frozen
6 ounces Coconut Milk, (or 1/2 can)
1 tablespoon All Purpose Flour, (for dusting)
1 roll of Filo Dough, thawed
Vegetable or Avocado Oil, Cooking Spray
For the Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw
The juice of 1 Lime, (or 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari
1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Ginger, minced
10 ounces Shredded Red or Green Cabbage
1/2 Red, Yellow, or White Onion, diced
1 cup Cilantro chopped, loosely packed
Pinch of salt
For the Not-So Thai Shrimp Pad Thai
14 ounces (5mm) Pad Thai flat noodles, (also called Rick Stick)
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3 Eggs, scrambled
12 ounces Raw Shrimp
1 tablespoon Red Thai Curry Powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
10-12 ounces French Cut Green Beans, thinly sliced Green or Red Bell Pepper, and/or Mung Bean Sprouts
8 or 9 ounce jar of premade Pad Thai Sauce
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Fish Sauce, optional
3/4 cup Peanuts, chopped
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
2 whole Limes, sliced into quarters, optional & highly recommended for serving
Chili Garlic Sauce or Sriracha, optional for serving
Day 1: (The day before – 1 hour & 45 minutes)
To prep the curry puffs, bring 4 cups of water to boil in a small sauce pot. Cook the diced potatoes in the boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce them. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large pan to Medium. Add the oil, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, curry powder, cayenne, and turmeric. Stir to combine. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the potatoes, peas, and coconut milk. Stir to thoroughly combine again Cook for another 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat while mashing down the potatoes so that they are smashed with some small chunks of potato still visible. Then set aside and let cool for 30 minutes, (or overnight in the refrigerator.) Put the Filo Dough in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.
To prep the Not-So Thai Shrimp Pad Thai, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil to Medium-High in a large skillet with high sides or a wok. Once the oil is very hot, turn the heat down to Medium-Low and pour the scrambled eggs in. Quickly move the eggs around so they cook light and fluffy. Cook 2-3 minutes or until no longer runny. Store the eggs in an air-tight container in the refrigerator overnight.
*Cut, de-stem, and halve the green beans. Deseed and thinly slice the green pepper. Return the pan's heat to Medium and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook the green beans and/or pepper slices for 6-7 minutes or until cooked through and brightly green. Store the vegetables in an air-tight container in the refrigerator overnight. *If using Mung Bean Sprouts, do not cook them in advance.
Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into the pan. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp with salt, pepper, and red Thai curry powder, if using. Once the pan is hot again, cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side or until lightly pink. (They will be cooked again in the sauce, so they don't have to be fully pink.) Store the shrimp in an air-tight container in the refrigerator overnight.
Day 2: (The day of – 1 hour and 45 minutes)
To make the Cabbage Slaw Salad, whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, sesame oil, and ginger in a medium bowl. Then add in the cabbage, onion, and cilantro. Season lightly with salt. Mix together with tongs to fully incorporate. Keep in the refrigerator, covered, before serving.
To assemble the curry puffs, sprinkle flour on your counter or work surface and unroll the Filo Dough. Split the sheets in half so you have 2 piles of dough that are 8-10 sheets thick each. Using a 4-5” biscuit or round cookie cutter, cut out 6 circles from each pile of dough. Place a very damp paper towel over the circles to keep them moist.
Place 1/2-1 teaspoon of the potato filling onto the center of each piece of dough. Then fold them in half to enclose the filling. If using Filo dough, take a small cup of water and dab the edges of each layer with water using your fingers so that they stick together. If using pastry dough, crimp or roll over the edges to enclose the filling. Place them on your air frying basket, over the drip pan.
Lightly spray the puffs with vegetable oil (2-4 sprays over the tray) put them in the air fryer* on the lower rack and set the temperature to 450F degrees. Turn on the air fryer for 5 minutes. Then flip each puff and lightly spray the puffs again with oil. Return to the air fryer for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve.
To finish the Pad Thai, bring a pot of water to boil while the curry puffs are in the air fryer. Boil the rice noodles according the instructions on the packaging, usually 7-8 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Heat a large skillet or wok with high sides on Medium heat. Add the Pad Thai sauce. The sauce should become thinner as it heats through. Stir in the lime juice. If desired, add fish sauce to thin out the sauce more and add additional authentic flavor. Add in a 1/2 cup of the peanuts as the sauce lightly simmers.
Working quickly, toss in the noodles, beans, eggs and shrimp into the sauce. Using tongs, mix everything until thoroughly coated. (If your noodles are sticking together, pour a few tablespoons of water over them to loosen them up.) Turn the heat to Low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Once the noodles just start to absorb the sauce and turn reddish, plate the food and top with the remaining peanuts, cilantro, and a slice of lime. Serve with chili garlic sauce and/or sriracha on the side to add.