Tag - thai food

Food and Drink in Thailand

Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand

Thai food: colourful, inexpensive, full of flavour, often spicy and always available – you just can’t beat it. There are five flavours which make up every Thai meal – hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Thai people are very passionate about their food, and love nothing more than sitting down to a huge meal with family or friends. Usually, several dishes will be ordered at one time for people to share. Most visitors quickly become hooked on trying the hundreds of Thai dishes, which can be anything from extremely spicy vegetable salads, rich curries or incredibly sweet deserts.

Although each dish is different there are certain ingredients that are essential for Thai cuisine. Almost all dishes contain nam pla, a pungent and strong tasting fish sauce as well as shrimp paste, a combination of ground shrimp and salt. Most Thai dishes contain a range of chilies and spices as well as curry pastes, soy sauce, dried shrimp, Thai pepper, and roasted chili paste.

Vegetarian food can be found if you know what to ask for. If you tell a waitress you are vegetarian (mung-sawirat), they will usually be able to suggest vegetarian dishes. Fish and seafood is easy to find.

Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes which should not be missed.

Breakfast is very different to what is served in western countries and can take a little getting used to. There are two main breakfast dishes, Jok, a kind of rice porridge with pieces of meat, ginger and herbs and Khao Tom, a Thai style rice soup.

In Thailand, main meals can be eaten at any time of the day and are often enjoyed 3, 4 or even 5 times a day.

Khao Pad literally means friend rice and is very popular. It is usually made with chicken, beef, shrimp or pork.

Pad Thai is pan fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg mixed with chicken, seafood, or tofu. Look out for carts selling this incredibly cheaply on Khaosan Road.

Tom yam is rather spicy and sour soup with meat. With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung with seafood. Eat this dish with rice to reduce the spiciness.
Tom kha gai is hot sweet soup with chicken and coconut milk.

Rad na is wide rice noodles in a thick gravy-like sauce with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood.

Khao pad naem is found in the Northeast and is fried rice with fermented sausage.

Pad see ew is noodles stir-fried with thick soi sauce, fish sauce and pork or chicken.

Gai Pad Khing is chicken stir-fried with sliced ginger.

Red curry or gaeng phet meaning ‘hot curry’, is made with large amounts of dried red chillies.

Green curry or gaeng khiew-waan, meaning green curry, is made with fresh green chillies and Thai basil, chicken or fish balls. This dish is spicy, rich and creamy.

Massaman curry is an Indian style curry which is not quite as spicy as the Thai alternatives, containing roasted dried spices, chicken and potato.

Pad pak ruam – stir fried vegetables, great a vegetarian option or side dish.

Som tam is a fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them. Som tam poo is made with salted black crab, Som tam Thai has peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara is from north eastern part of Thailand with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.

Larb are very spicy sour salads containing meat, onions, chillies, roasted rice powder and garnished with mint.

Yam is the name for any type of sour salad, such as those made with glass noodles.

There are a large selection of deserts available, all sweet and many involving banana or another fruit and coconut cream.

Kao niao ma muang is the world famous sticky rice and ripe mango.

Kao niao Durian is sticky rice and durian in coconut milk.

Gluay buad chee is banana in coconut milk.

Make sure you try Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea and Kah-Feh Yen – Thai Iced Coffee. Very sweet and creamy, they can be a good way to cool down.

Although beer is widely available, most Thais choose to drink whiskey, sharing a bottle between the group and adding water and ice.

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.

Surprise in the City

Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City

I have lived in Bangkok for several years and like to think that I’ve sampled most of what the city has to offer. I’m usually among the first to visit a new bar or restaurant and the person my friends turn to for travel advice.

So when my family visited during my birthday and told me they were going to show me a new side of the city, I was more than slightly skeptical. For the past few days I had been playing tour guide to these Thailand newbies, and now it was their turn to take the lead. They were, however, completely right. On the evening of my birthday we took a taxi to River City Pier No.2 next to the Phra Pinklao bridge on the far side of the river.

My father disappeared into the River City Shopping Complex and reappeared a few minutes later with tickets and a triumphant smile on his face. Taking my arm, he ushered me down to the waters edge, where the Chaophraya Princess cruise ship was waiting. I had often seen this boat and others like it gliding along the Chaopraya River in the evenings, but it had never occurred to me to go on a trip. It was just for tourists, surely.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I stepped aboard the cruise ship not knowing quite what to expect and was immediately soothed by the light saxophone music playing in the background. This ship was elegantly decorated in oriental and occidental styles and felt slick and sophisticated.

We were led to the top deck, which was large and had a large number of tables and chairs placed around the edge. After being seated we were each presented with a ‘welcome drink’ fruit cocktail and told that the cruise would start in just a few minutes.

There are many other families and couples on the deck and the air is charged with excitement and expectation.
At 8pm we began our journey, gliding down the Chaophraya River towards Taxin bridge. On the way we pass the famous sites of Wat Arun, The Grand Palace, Bang Khunprom Palace and the Kanlayanamitr temple. Although quite familiar sights for me by now, I have never seen them from the middle of the river at night. All the sites are illuminated, giving them a magical quality.

Cruising serenely down the river has an enchantingly relaxing effect. Gone are the heat and crowds that can make this trip somewhat stressful during the daytime and there is a cool breeze coming from the river.

Before long it is announced that the international buffet is open. Everyone grabs a plate and charges to the center of the deck, where there are dozens of dishes to choose from; anything from fresh seafood and sushi to spicy Thai curries and steaks cooked to order. Everything is presented stylishly in large silver tureens and both looks and tastes wonderful. It’s not often that I get the chance to combine my favorite Thai and western dishes and we all dine happily while a beautiful female vocalist sings in the background.

Just as we are finishing our meal the boat turns around and makes its way back along the river. Now knives and forks are replaced with cameras as people snap away at the unique views of some of Thailand’s most beloved sites.

Once again I am encouraged to play tour guide and reveal some interesting ‘facts’ about the things we pass, although this time it is pure parody. Unless, that is, Wat Arun really is the birthplace of Indiana Jones and also Thailand’s oldest radio tower.

After two hours we return to the River City Pier. Our journey is at an end. My father turns to me, grinning expectantly and I have to admit that he’s done it. For those of us who think we know the city well take note: there is always some wise guy with a guidebook and a fresh perspective ready to make us eat our words. All with the best of intentions, of course.

Information:

Trips on the Chaophraya Princess Cruise cost 1,350 baht for adults and 1,000 baht for children under ten. The fee includes a welcome drink, international buffet, live band and a two hour boat trip.

For more information and booking visit www.thairivercruise.com.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she teaches English at Rajabhat Suan Dusit. Kay has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

I first tried Pad Thai several years ago in a restaurant in London. It was my first experience of Thai food and I had no idea what to expect. Shortly after ordering, I was presented with a plate of thin noodles, vegetables and tofu, topped with group peanuts and lime. The dish was beautifully presented and it seemed a shame to demolish it, but I was glad that I did. The food was delicious; full of rich flavours, interesting textures and just a little bit spicy. For me it was love at first bite.

When I first arrived in Thailand I was delighted to discover that the Pad Thai I had enjoyed in London for 5 pounds UK could be bought for as little as 20 Baht – 35 pence! Not only that, but the delicious dish can be sampled right on Khaosan Road, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere while you eat. Of course, the price varies according to the quality of ingredients and where you eat it, but a large serving of Pad Thai made with quality ingredients can be bought for 40 or 50 Baht, which is about 1 pound.

I quickly discovered that the ingredients, flavours and presentation of Pad Thai dishes vary significantly between restaurants and areas. Before long I had sampled the dish at most of the restaurants in my area of Bangkok and found my favourite places to eat.

I have found that the tastiest Pad Thai is located not in fancy restaurants but in small, traditional Thai restaurants or from carts on the street. Eating on the street also provides the opportunity for people watching, always a welcome diversion.

One of my favourite places to eat and watch the world go by is on Soi Rambhutri in the heart of Bangkok’s Banglampu. Here, the blend of Thai people, seasoned travelers and hapless tourists makes interesting and often comical entertainment.

One of the very first people I met in Bangkok was Tip as I was wandering down Khao San Road looking for refreshment. The vibrant Thai woman drew me to her with her bright smile and the mouth-watering aroma coming from wok and told me to sit at one of her folding tables next to the curb. I watched as she tossed noodles, sauce, vegetables, tofu and dried shrimp into her wok, talking animatedly with a friend as she cooked.

Within minutes, Tip had produced a large plate of Pad Thai. It smelt great and was very tasty – slightly spicy with the deliciously contrasting textures of chewy noodles and crisp vegetables. Tip stood watching me eat, smiling broadly when I showed my appreciation.

When I finished eating, Tip told me that she had been cooking Pad Thai at her stall for over 15 years. The stall was given to her by her husband’s parents as a marriage present. Tip gradually bought the tables and chairs from her profits and has gradually been adding little touches to personalise the stall.

“I don’t make much money,” Tip told me. “But I am very happy. I can talk to many foreign people and practice speaking English every day.” Tip told me that the best part of her job is watching people enjoy her food. “Everybody likes to enjoy,” she said with a broad smile.

Noodles were first brought to Thailand by Chinese immigrants. They also brought chopsticks and woks, essential equipment for enjoying Pad Thai. However, Thai people traditionally eat rice three times a day and noodles were overlooked for a long time.

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Luang Phibunsongkhram; introduced Pad Thai and made it a national dish during World War II. Thailand was faced with a rice shortage and budget crises at this time and the Prime Minister promoted the eating of Pad Thai to combat the problem.

Today, Pad Thai is enjoyed all over Thailand and indeed all over the world. It is loved by Westerners because it is not spicy like many other Thai dishes and can be eaten at any time of the day or night.

In Bangkok, many Westerners consume Pad Thai after a few beers. As veteran backpacker Dan states; “You can’t beat Pad Thai. It’s cheap, tasty, and the women who cook it are easy on the eye, too!”

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!