Food and Drink in Thailand

Thai Fried Bread

Thai Fried BreadThai food includes a fascinating array of appetisers. Some of these, by themselves are substantial enough to constitute an entire meal. Just like their western counterparts, meat and seafood are commonly featured.

Fried bread is one such interesting dish that on initial impression may appear more appropriate being served at breakfast. But like many Thai foods, first impressions can prove to be quite incorrect.

If this was a prelude to the main dish, it certainly deserved better than being delegated to the rank of a breakfast item.

The aroma of this freshly fried dish was indeed tantalising, There were about ten portions of bite sized golden brown squares measuring about an inch and a half each, all nestling on a bed of shredded salad.

Well-fried bread has no greasy drip and should not be soggy at the base. When prepared well, it should be hot enough yet comfortable when chewed into. It should appear very light to taste in spite of the oil and batter. When bitten into, the crispy flavoured exterior gives way to the very pleasant chewy consistency of the white bread beneath.

A small salad accompanies the fried bread, acting as a pleasant contrast. The diced cucumbers and slivers of carrot in a vinegar-based dressing act as a wonderful counterbalance, adding a zing to this predominantly greasy and possibly heavy dish.

This appetizer with its salad accompaniment is a fine example of how different foods and differing flavours harmonize in Thai cooking. The crunchy salad complements the crispy bread, while the cool sensation of the salad contrasts with the hot bread. The vinegar-based salad dressing provided for yet another contrast against the greasy taste of the fried dish.

Pomelo Salad

pomelo_saladOne fascinating aspect of Thai cuisine is the liberal use of its many exotic fruits in its dishes. Mango, coconut, papaya and even banana are some famous examples.

Pomelo is a large conical fruit about the size of a small coconut. It has a firm peel which allows the fruit to be peeled neatly, like a mandarin orange. Quite strangely, it tastes very much like grapefruit except it is much sweeter and will not make one cringe. The segments, which may be a pale yellow or even pinkish, are laid out like those of an orange or grapefruit and are easily removed to be eaten.

Yam Som – O is a pomelo salad. This curious dish comprises segments of juicy and plump pomelo teased into small morsels. It is tossed with sliced raw cabbage, cooked shrimp and sprinkled with fried shallots. The dish is moistened with some spicy sauce. To top off the experience, the salad is generously sprinkled with freshly roasted and crushed peanuts, which impart a fragrance to this dish which is otherwise mildly spicy.

Like many Thai dishes, the pomelo salad offers a hybrid of tastes and sensation. The cabbage imparts a crispness which is interrupted by the soft and juicy segments of pomelo whose unique taste, whether sweetish or mildly sour, colours the entire dish. The varied texture of the shallots and the crunchiness of the roasted, crushed peanuts, add to the eating sensation.

Nick Lie

Sticky Rice with Mango

Mango and Sticky RiceDo have a go at this rather interesting Thai dessert. It isn’t as dainty as the usual Thai sweets one is familiar with, and quite unusually, it can be more filling than the entire meal. And if one knew just how tasty Sticky Rice with Mango is, one would surely have to leave room for dessert.

What is most curious is the combination of a staple food, rice, together with mango, a Thai tropical fruit, to create this delicious sweet dish.

This popular dessert is served as a large clump of sticky rice, with a sprinkling of yellow beans known as Mung beans. By the side of the plate are sliced chunks of ripe mangoes, to be eaten as an accompaniment to the rice. This dish comes with a small saucer of seasoned coconut milk that is poured over the sticky rice as a rich and so creamy topping.

The sticky rice is steamed with the leaves of a particular plant (Pandan) which imparts a characteristic but lovely fragrance. It has a tinge of sweet since the rice is boiled with some sugar. This coupled with the rich salty, creamy coconut milk, allows for the contrast of tastes which makes Thai food so unique.

Tropical Fruits

Thai FruitTropical fruits are abundant in Thailand. Some are vaguely familiar; others are curious and worrying even to look at. Have you heard of Bael fruit? Most probably not, let alone taste a juice made out of it.

Bael tree is indigenous to Indochina and South East Asia. The fruits have a firm outer surface that turns yellow when ripe. The inside of the fruit has a hard central core and triangular segments, filled with a pale orange, sweet pulp. Seeds enclosed in a mucoid sac are lodged in the pulp.

Ask for ma-tuum or matoom which is the local name of the fruit. The Bael fruit drink is an effective thirst quencher. It tastes rather bland, with sugar added to taste. It created no remarkable impression when I first tasted it.

I would not suggest having the drink together with food because by nature of its very bland taste, drinking it after a mouthful of curry or any other spicy morsel can actually overpower its taste so much that the bael fruit juice can be rendered tasteless.

The very helpful waiter brought me a little sachet of brown Matoom powder from which the drink was prepared. Just the addition of water and ice! I learnt that it was available at herbal and medicinal shops, since bael fruit, considered as having health giving properties, is used variously for digestive, laxative and tonic properties. Quite useful if you are a backpacker!

Try a Thai Set Meal

Thai Set MealOrdering a set meal for dinner may appear to be the lazy way out of ploughing through a foreign menu. But there are certain advantages. One evening, three of us decided on a set meal each at a restaurant in Patpong. The price for each set meal ranged from 255 to 400 baht. Each set meal included FIVE dishes and white rice.”

Unlike Western set dinners, the Thai set did not come with dessert and coffee, which was fine since there wasn’t much room left after the meal. Each of us ordered a different set and yes, FIFTEEN dishes appeared quite promptly. And yes, the table was big enough indeed.

Although each dish was small, there were enough contents for the three to partake, and more. The set comprised a starter ( salad, dressed crab, spring roll ) a soup ( spicy shrimp soup, chicken with coconut soup ) a vegetable dish ( asparagus fried with shrimp, baby corn fried with shrimp ) a meat dish ( fried chicken with chili and cashew nuts ) and a curry ( green curry with chicken, curried pork ).

There were dips and sauces for the dishes, hence more palate-challenging experiences. Since I am no food critic, it suffices to state that the meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We felt we had tasted a wide range and style of Thai food, and this was all the more enjoyable without the tedium of a buffet meal which would normally be where such a wide selection can be sampled at one meal.

So, to the purists who feel that set menus are for the unimaginative, lazy or indifferent, Thai set dinners can alter your mindset. It is good value, exciting and allows a sampling of the foods you’ve always read about but never had a chance to try out. And allows you to pick out that special dish to order at future meals.

Nick Lie – Singapore

And yet another coconut goodie!

Yet another coconut goodieCoconut and its derivatives are used in many aspects of Asian cooking, and this is no exception in Thai foods. Coconut-based foods include coconut rice, curries which use coconut as a milky base for the chillis, fragrant coconut oil, desserts and drinks.

The creative ways in which coconut is used for cooking never fail to amaze. I had ordered a ‘coconut juice’ one night during dinner. Expecting a cool glass of cloudy coconut water, I was surprised when I was brought a glass of thick, milk-white liquid. What I tasted impressed me so much I felt the recipe ought to be shared.

Crack a young coconut; pour the coconut water into a blender. Use a spoon to scrape the tender white flesh from the inside walls of the coconut. Place some scraping into the blender. You may add sweetened condensed milk for a sweeter, creamier drink. Blend the mixture thoroughly with some ice into a smooth thick drink.

Very simple to procure, elegant to create and excellent for the palate!

An Introduction to Thai food

An introductin to Thai foodEvery self-respecting city in the world has a Thai restaurant. Happily, this is the extent of how international and pervasive Thai food has become. Therefore, no trip to Thailand is complete without an appreciation of this great eating experience and this short article hopes to introduce the newcomer to it.

Long before the term ‘fusion cuisine’ appeared in the vocabulary of food lovers, such a culture had already been well established in Thailand. Thai food incorporates other Indochinese food styles. Its larger neighbours especially China and the Indian subcontinent contributed significantly to the evolution of Thai food. Chinese cuisine introduced stir fried dishes and deep fried dishes. Rice noodles, a prominent component of Thai cuisine, is distinctly Chinese. Curries are certainly evidence of Indian influence. The Portuguese are thought to have introduced the use of chilli. There are also regional differences in Thai food, though this may not be immediately apparent.

A simple dish such as a soupy noodle with meat and vegetable slices is commonly eaten as a no frills and quick meal by individuals. Families or groups are more likely to enjoy a more elaborate meal whereby several dishes are ordered and portions shared out. This is ideal when trying out different categories of food e.g. meat, soup and vegetable dishes. Diners have a serving of rice or noodles which act as an anchor dish to which portions from the several dishes are added and eaten.

Unlike Western cuisine where food is served in courses, Thai food is served simultaneously. Shortly after placing your orders, the selected dishes would make their appearance, a colourful and aromatic display. The presence of multiple dishes allows a myriad of tastes and textures, mild or overpowering, to assault the senses all at the same time. Interestingly, as in many eastern cultures, soup is consumed concurrently with the rest of the food.

The culinary experience should be a treat for all the senses. From the colourful and perhaps curious mix of a papaya salad to the pungence of kapi, to the ultimate assault on the tastebuds from a tom yam and concluding with the pretty, dainty dessert snacks, eating Thai food ought to be a sensory experience. An ideal meal should achieve a blend of subtle, spicy, bland and sweet and sour.
  
The concept of ying and yang (simplistically, hot versus cold, warm versus cool, strong versus mild) is clearly featured in Thai cooking. Some dishes are ‘cool’ e.g. salads. They represent refreshment to the palate and the rest of the body. The use of strong chilli or spices, which make the dish fiery and ‘hot’ (in abstract terms, create a burning sensation to the gastrointestinal system) would represent the ‘yang’ component. Soups, traditionally ‘ying’ or ‘cooling’ (since water, even when warm, is considered a ‘cooling’ agent), can be subverted by the strong spices added to it as illustrated in tom yam or curried soups. A ‘ying’ salad may be garnished with strong, fiery spices, hence having a ‘yang’ component and consumed with a mild soup or a curried dish. Hence, Thai food creations exercise a concept of compatibility and harmonization individually and between dishes.
  
Nick Lie – Singapore

Beer and ### and chips and gravy

bscgThose of you of a certain age and gender who hale from the North West of England shouldn’t really need the title explaining, but as I like to be as inclusive as I possibly can I’ll add a bit more information for people who’ve had the nerve not to be brought up in Lancashire or Cheshire. Back in the glorious nineteen eighties, what might loosely be described as a “pop group” called The Macc Ladds thrived on the periphery or should that be the underbelly (or an even more iniquitous part of the anatomy) of the music industry in the UK.

Beer and Sex and Chips and GravyThey did little for the furtherance of political correctness and got proscribed from a number of venues before they even played them. One of their better known tracks (which is rumoured never to have graced the hi-fi system of the Vatican) was/still is called “Beer and ### and chips and gravy”. Out of politeness I’ve omitted the second component of “what a Macc Ladd” wants although if you can’t work it out it starts with “s” and ends in “x”.

Now I know that by mentioning the Macc Ladds, there’ll be sensitive principled caring types with a feel for environmental issues and a concern for the welfare of the less fortunate who’ll be screaming blue murder and rapidly botching together voodoo dolls of me (I’m short, a little overweight have blue eyes and shoulder length brown/black hair if you want my likeness to be accurate), and those who like to become part of their host nation by immersing themselves in the culture and eating the local food will be marking me as an outcast and Philistine by admitting to my need for good honest chipped fried pomme de terre in a rich brown sauce. Now before I continue, and before I die from a million pin pricks, I do actually like Thai food. It’s great.

Phad ThaiI would wholeheartedly encourage those of you making your first visit to Thailand to try as much of it as you possibly can (and I don’t just mean a banana pancake). The most basic explanation I’ve heard of Thai food is that it’s a sort of mix of Chinese and Indian, although to be fair that’s something of an over simplification.

The main thing that characterizes Thai food is the chilli, when you eat in a restaurant virtually every meal will be accompanied by four pots of different types of chilli to liven up your repast. Thai’s like their food spicy and us northerners (if we’re real northerners that is) like it bland, if you’ve tried Thai food in a restaurant back home you’re more than likely to have been served something that’s been toned down for the western pallet, so prepare yourself for something with a little more squeak when you get here.

There are a large number of dishes available in the Land of Smiles, and the ingredients that give Thai food its distinctive zest include lemongrass, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, shrimp paste, garlic and coconut.

There are a huge range of dishes available, generally speaking (and I’m being very general) the stuff in the south tends to have more of a seafood/coconut slant, while the stuff in the north tends to have more of a meat/chilli slant.

Thai breakfast if it’s not fruit, tends to be a dish called Khao Tom, a litteral translation is “rice soup”, which really leaves little room for a description except to say that it isn’t that spicy unless you add too much chilli and is available as Khao Tom “Gai” (with chicken), “Moo” with pork,”nuen” with beef “plah” with fish or “Kueng” with prawns.

Personally I rarely get chance for breakfast in Thailand and I can just see you thinking “Wow what a diligent guy, he’s so busy he doesn’t take a morning meal.” Those of you who know me however realize that I do sometimes take a morning snack known as a “Lay” (ridge cut fried potato) available at 7/11 stores flavoured either as “Extra barbeque” or “nori seaweed”. I have on several occasions been spotted at 6:30 am breezing my way home with a couple of bags of “Lay” after an evening discussing the Premier League in an establishment that as a mere oversight forgot to close it’s doors at 1am.

Daytime dishes vary greatly. If your not keen on spicey stuff Pad Thai’s a safe bet. It’s sort of a mix of fried noodles, vegetables a bit of rice and “gai” or “kueng”, when you get it the granular stuff on the edge of the plate next to the lime is ground peanut. It’s meant to be mixed in along with the lime juice to add flavour.

The curries are also well worth a try I’m not well up on the actual difference in types, but there is Kaeng Daeng (red curry) or Kaeng Keo (green) and Massaman (which has a slightly different flavour) all of which are available as beef, chicken, pork or prawn dishes.

My current favourite, which I find excellent for a hangover or head cold is “Tom Yam”, it’s a spicy soup that can contain chicken, fish or prawn. Broadly speaking there tend to be two types, it can be a clear soup or an opaque dish, usually served with rice. The opaque variety tends to be red in colour and although I could be wrong I’ve a feeling the pigmentation in the dark variety comes from shrimp paste.

If your tongue, the roof of your mouth and other parts of your digestive tract are made like most westerners of human skin, you may want to exercise caution and finish any food order with the phrase “Pet nid noi” it means “a little bit spicy” or “mai pet” which means “not spicey”. However if your innards are made of asbestos, kevlar or the type of heatproof bricks they use to line the test sites at atomic weapons research establishments you might want to try the phrase “pet mahk” which means “very spicey” or “pet mahk mahk”, although when you sit down to bid your lunch a fond farewell, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There’s also a great deal of fried dishes, i.e. fried rice with a meat or fish of your choice or fried noodles (which are sometimes sheets of flat noodles) in a similar style with a variety of sauces. One of my personal favourites is a dish called Laarb. It’s traditionally a dish from the north of Thailand; it can be found in Bangkok/Central Thailand, but rarely so in the south. It’s made of ground meat (of your choice) and seared with chopped chillis, onions and beans. The salads here are also highly recommended as an option for those who wish to maintain an enviable physique. I’d also be doing you a disservice if I failed to mention the different type of food outlets you’ll encounter over here as well. Back home your probably used to restaurants where they come and serve you at the table then you pay and go about your business, or shops where you can buy food (prepared or otherwise) then take it home and do what you want with it.

However in Thailand, what can pass as a restaurant is four Formica tables in the road, an old lady with no teeth, a camping stove and two pans that don’t know what a brillo pad looks like. There’s also a great variety of stalls, handcarts, grilles welded to motorbikes and old women with a six foot bamboo pole with baskets on either end, all of whom are prepared to sell you some form of nourishment.

Most of the stuff is usually fine to eat even off roadside stalls, however as a word of warning be careful of the “street barbeques”, the places that have piles of small satay’s that they grill on half an oil drum filled with burning coals. I used to love the chicken and beef from those places, but curiously seemed to be plagued with bouts of dyspepsia, however since I’ve steered clear of them I can still be described as a “frequent visitor” to Thailand although my visits of another nature seem to have become less and less frequent.

As a word of warning one might be advised to try and stick to static catering establishments rather than the mobile ones which have been known to leave people in hospital. The worst ones I’ve learned from anecdotal experience are the “hot dog stall welded to motorbike variety”. A friend of mine was lying in hospital in Koh Samui where he was receiving medical attention for torn knee ligaments, a dislocated arm and various cuts and grazes, when he had the following telephone conversation with his travel insurance company in the UK.

Agent, “Why are you in hospital Mr xxxxxxx ?” My Friend, “Becuase I’ve had an accident.” Agent, “When did the accident take place ?” Friend, “5:45 am Thai time on the 17th.” Agent, “And what happened ?” Friend, “Well I was riding my motorbike home from a beach party when a catering establishment crashed into me.” Agent, “Where you drunk Mr xxxxxxx?” Friend, “No but the man driving the restaurant was drinking a bottle of whiskey at the time.”

In a similar vein, if you want to make use of this website for cautionary purposes I’d steer well clear of a dish called Som Tam. It’s actually supposed to be very healthy, it’s a sort of salad made with shredded pappaya, chillis, lime juice, chillis, fermented crab meat, chillis, uncooked meat and chillis. It actually tastes quite nice at first, but I dare any westerner to eat more than four or five forkfuls. As with all great designs it is bi functional, it has a medicinal use which medics stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War discovered. Some GI medics stationed in Khorat ran out morphine to treat soldiers who’d recently lost limbs and were clean out of ideas as to how to treat their patients when they saw local ordelies rubbing a concoction on the recently dismembered stumps of the victims. They noticed that the profuse bleeding stopped immediately, the severed veins healed themselves and skin of a harder than usual variety grew over the wound. When asked what they were using the orderlies replied “Som Tam.”

On a serious note, much as it tastes good, and can be a challenge for “chilli heroes” because of the uncooked element in the meat and fish, it can be the cause of some severe discomfort and should only be sampled by the very brave, the very well insured or the severely constipated. No dip into a country’s ingestible delights would be complete without a look at the local liquid refreshments, and I can honestly look you in the eye without wavering when I say, “I’ve done a fair amount of research on the topic.”

The first phrase that comes to mind when discussing Thai liquor, is “all that glitters is not gold.” Look at it objectively; these statements apply to virtually all Thai brand liquid intoxicants. It’s cheap, it’s strong, and it tastes delicious. It has a nice label on that makes me look well travelled. However what they don’t tell you in the brochure is that it’ll give you the hangover from hell. The two main indigenous beers, are Singha and Beer Chang. Singha is brewed by the Boon Rwad distillery and has a very full hoppy taste; it was taken from a German recipe that was used by some German Engineers who were working here in the earlier part of last century. Chang is a much smother drink and both taste very good when chilled however their strengths run at around 6 or 7% proof, which makes them a little harder to manage over the extended periods of immersion that us westerners tend to favour whilst here on holiday. Personally (and you can called me a heretic for this) I prefer the foreign beers brewed here under license such as Heineken and Tiger, they’re 5 or 10 baht more expensive, are less volatile and the morning after are less likely than their local counterparts to see you up before the local judge.

There are two types of people in my opinion who should consider venturing onto Bangkok’s busy streets with a Singhover or Changover, either people with assertiveness problems or those with very hard mates.

It’s rumoured (although not confirmed) that Mother Theresa was once in Krung Thep on an aid conference when she was treated by local dignitaries to the region’s fare. The morning after and 6 big Chang down the line she staggered towards the conference, kicked a beggar who asked her to spare the price of a cuppa around the head then beat him with her stick shouting, “Get a ####### job you lazy ####.”

We all have days where we feel like that, some more than others and its on those occasions that we get strange spiritual urges to seek out the type of food that our forefathers were raised on. It’s no coincidence that complimentary therapists, when helping in the treatment of cancers look at a patient’s lineage and asses the type of food their ancestors were nourished with so they can prescribe the type of diet that they’re genetically predisposed to thrive on.

When I had a little health scare a while ago I went to see a complimentary dietician who after a week or so of DNA testing and family genealogy suggested I should try and survive as far as was solely possible on chips, Hollands Pies, chip shop gravy, salt and vinegar crisps and dandelion and burdock. I managed to adhere rigorously to his suggestions and the proof as they say is in the pudding, with the fact that I stand here proudly in font of you 100 kg in weight and with no foolish delusions towards exercise.

The treatment did have a slight side effect in that it shrunk the waistbands of all my trousers but it was a small price to pay to rid myself of a potentially fatal verouca.

Although I regularly stray from my regime and can be seen eating curry, tom yam, pad thai and fried rice I often feel it my duty to seek out good proper chips, gravy and pies. Now I do actually feel that I’ve been reasonably diligent in my quest for a decent chip supper, but I’d like to throw it open to the readers of KSR.com and see if they can come up with any better establishments than I’ve been able to source.

I must point out that meat pie chips and gravy is more than just a meal. It’s a religious experience. For a northerner it’s got greater spiritual significance than a trip to Mecca (or the Gala Bingo Halls now that Mecca have lost market share).

The food being presented to you is only part of the experience. The person partaking in the sacrament should be if not blind drunk, at least half cut, defineitely not sober, preferably with a couple of betting slips from William Hill in his or her pocket and if not bloodied from a fracas outside a nightclub the recipient of the mana should at least be in the mood for a fight. He must queue up for his food, be abusive to the staff (who will be wearing white and blue checked aprons that have not been washed for 3 months) and complain about the price and size of the portions.

There are few places outside the UK that offer this service.

“The Chippy” on Lamai Beach Rd, Koh Samui fails miserably. OK the chips and pies (made by Big Joe’s English Food Company) it sells are as close to damit as you’ll get to the real thing back home, however the staff are polite. I’ve never seen a fight in there and the food (including chip barms with gravy) is reasonably priced.

I’m told that the Offshore Bar, Soi Nanai in Patong offers a very similar range of food to the chip shops in England, but lacks an offensive owner, does not have a plate glass window to throw queue jumpers through and doesn’t have a calendar, stuck on last months page with a picture of a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales on it.

Pattaya being the strong hold that it is of mainstream British culture has several options for chipsomaniac, my favourite are The Pig and Whistle and Rosie O’Gradies, both on soi 7, they probably fail in offering the fully chippy experience as the food is closer to restaurant standard than necessary, but will leave you with a high cholesterol count and the need to buy some bigger shorts.

There is however one establishment in Bangkok on Sukumvit Soi 23, which bears the signage “Fish and Chips”. It comes very very close to the real thing, almost indiscernably so. The flooring is worn brown lino. The salt cellars have a single grain of rice in them. There are posters depicting Lancashire Life in the early 20th Century. The food is of a standard which could be the envy of any friery in Greater Manchester. The staff there although Thai and diligent have that half shocked, half weary look that says, “That’s the bloke that dropped his trousers and asked me to marry him last week.” and best of all there are fights in the queue.

If anyone has any further offerings that can be put into the hat for Thailand’s Chippy of the Year, I’d be very happy to hear about them. Happy hunting.

As for the Macc Ladds, I’ve heard they all went down Torremelinos although rumours are that one of them isn’t a million miles away.

Cheers

Wan’ a chip luv ?

Dominic Lavin shares his time equally between the United Kingdom and Thailand. A writer, poet and mystic, Dominic is available for small parties and special occaisions. Contact his agent to establish his current schedule. http://www.myspace.com/140525510

Essential Beer Snacks

  It doesn’t take visitors to the Kingdom long to find out that there’s a lot more on the menu here than Tom Yam Gung (Spicy Lemon Grass Prawn Soup) or an often life saving early morning Pad Thai (Thai Noodle Dish) from along KSR. However, while knocking down a few medicinal cold ones on KSR this weekend, I noticed the trouble is that unless it can be seen cooking or there is a picture of some food for visitors to point to, many great Thai beer snacks and dishes are never experienced.
Tom Yam Gung
  It doesn’t take visitors to the Kingdom long to find out that there’s a lot more on the menu here than (Spicy Lemon Grass Prawn Soup) or an often life saving early morning

som_tamHowever, while knocking down a few medicinal cold ones on KSR this weekend, I noticed the trouble is that unless it can be seen cooking or there is a picture of some food for visitors to point to, many great Thai beer snacks and dishes are never experienced.

So what are the Beer Essentials? Well we’ve had a think and have come up with our six of the best most commonly ordered bar food; both veg and non veg, to go with the laughing liquid of your choice.

Som Tam (Spicy Shredded Mango Salad) (veg) is made two ways. Som Tam Boo (with small crabs) and is a little sour or Som Tam Tai (with small dried shrimp) which is sweet.

Both are usually very very spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy) and served cold with raw vegetables and Khao Neo (Sticky Rice). A truly great tasting Thai snack that goes well with just about anything.

moo_yangYam Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Salad) (non veg) 
A more western looking salad dish again made spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy – “Mai Pet”), occasionally served warm and eaten on its own. Goes down a treat and can be made with beef or chicken as an alternative.

Gai Pad Med Mar Muang (Chicken & Cashew Nuts) (non veg)
A dish of small deep fried chicken pieces with spring onions, cashews and sun dried chillies (not spicy) served hot. Compliments any of the above salad dishes really well.

nua_thodMoo / Neua / Gai Thod (Deep Fried Pork, Beef or Chicken) (non veg)
A dish as simple as it sounds. Your choice of either deep fried pork, beef of chicken, not spicy at all, served hot and usually with a sweet chilly dip. A quick excellent snack to have with a cold beer and always tastes like more!

Yam Pla Duk FooPla Duk Foo (Deep Fried Shredded Catfish Salad) (Vegish)
Yeah, sounds a little over the top, but believe me once you’ve mixed up the traditional looking salad with the shredded cat fish and sauce, it’s a taste explosion that’s quite unique. It can take a short while to prepare, but its well worth the wait. Usually served cold, in large portions. A great dish to share with a friend.
 
moo_gai_manowMoo/ Gai Manow
(Grilled Pork/ Chicken in Lime, Chilli & Garlic) (non veg)
Commonly ordered with lean cuts of pork, but chicken breast cuts are a great alternative. Served warm with a few raw fresh vegetables, made a little spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy – “Mai Pet”) and eaten just as it comes. A popular dish found on many Thai tables!

So there you go. The above are just a few Thai delights that you may well be missing out on, and at around 100 Baht a dish they’ll meet anyone’s budget. Enjoy.

And remember…

Keepitreal

The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thai Food

The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
vegetarian_3

A beautiful asset to world travel is the chance to try exciting new foods. Of course, Thailand boasts a famous cuisine; healthy, full of exotic new flavours, intricately spiced. Any traveler worth his chopsticks will tell you it’s some of the best in the world.

But while most people can dive right in to local fare, tourists with dietary restrictions must weather a gamble each time they place an order. As a vegetarian, I’ve endured my share of food slip-ups. People who don’t know about the meat-free food movement often mistake my plea for, “no red meat – bring on the chicken,” or “I just really like vegetables – put some extra ones on top of the meat.”

Luckily, once you overcome small hurtles, Thailand is a vegetarian’s dream. Tasty local fruits and vegetables, delicious tofu, and thanks to Buddhism, some familiarity with meat-free cooking. Below is a guide for hungry vegetarians traveling in Thailand and ready to sample local fare:

Where to Get Food

To find the tastiest Thai food, get off the backpacker trail and go to where the Thais are eating. This can mean night markets, food stalls on the street, or food courts in tiny local malls. Guesthouse restaurants boast English menus and some comforts from home (baguette sandwiches, full American breakfasts). However, unless you pop into a vegetarian cafe, the meat-free options are usually slim. Markets are cheaper, fresher, and the food isn’t catered for western palettes (no diluted spices here!). Also, you can watch the cook prepare the dish before you, so it’s easy to indicate what you do and don’t want in your meal.

Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls.
 
If Thai tofu and fried eggs aren’t your style, pop into a local market (or any 7-Eleven) and load up on nuts and seeds to carry in your bag. Then, you can order lots of veggies at meals and on islands and beaches, guesthouses will offer barbecues with fresh fish. Vegetarians should load up on baked potatoes (a tasty rarity in Thailand), vegetables, rice and eggs. Also, most restaurants will keep their kitchen open during the barbecue, so there’s no harm in topping up your grilled veggies with a noodle or rice dish.
 
Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls
 
What to Say
 
“I don’t want meat” – “mai sai neua-sa”
 
“I don’t want fish” – “mai sai plah”
 
” – with tofu” – “sai tao-hoo”
 
“-with egg” – “sai kao”
 
“with vegetables” – “sai pak”
 
Some Favourite Vegetarian Dishes
 
phad thai -fried noodles, a basic Thai staple (note, to order without shrimp, simply ask for “phad thai jae”)
 
phad see ewe – wide, flat noodles, fried with egg and soy sauce
 
kao phad pak – vegetable fried rice
 
phad pak jae – simple fried vegetables in a mild sauce
 
phad kapow – spicy Thai basil fried with chilies
 
som tam jae – green papaya salad in a tangy, spicy peanut sauce
 
kai yad sai pak – an omelette with vegetables
 
yam kai dow – a tangy salad with boiled eggs, onion, and tomato
 
tom yam hedt – a spicy tomato-based soup made with mushrooms
 
tom khaa hed – coconut soup with mushrooms
 
phad priow waan pak – sweet and sour mixed vegetables
 
For Vegans
 
Vegans fare well in Thailand, because dairy is rarely used in Thai cuisine. Most creamy soups and sauces are cooked with healthy coconut milk. However, eggs are prevalent in main dishes like phad thai. Many Thai noodle dishes use egg for texture. Saying “mai sai kao” to the cook will ensure that your dish is egg-free. To play it safe, vegans should stick to rice dishes with vegetables and tofu.
 
Also, be wary of the soy milk sold in Thai convenience stores. Some brands use soy for the nutrients, but mix it with dairy milk for flavour. If you’re ordering a fruit smoothie or dessert in a restuarant, “mai sai nome” means “no milk.”
 
When looking for restaurants, keep an eye out for Buddhist eateries, which use zero animal products. The signs are bright yellow with bright red lettering, and you can judge by the dishes of other customers whether the vegan food looks tasty (trust us, it usually is).

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.