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Page updated: 2017-05-29

Sawadee kha, Sawadee khrap

Food

Home - Travel stories - Food - Food


 

Introduction

If you think about eating in Thailand, you might think at the real Thai cuisine.
But THE real Thai cuisine does not exists; every region has it's own distinct dishes and flavours.

Compared to the Netherlands, Thai people have other eatinh habits. The food is served as soon as the kitchen has prepared it, courses, like we know in western cuisine, hardly exist in Thailand.
Some Thai restaurants offer startes, main dishes and deserts, but when we eat at home with Thai people, we never do that.

In Thailand, Going out for a meal is very cheap, and if you don't want to prepare your own food, you can but a meal everywhere. Very often proparing your own meal is more expensive.

Cooking in Thailand

The way food is prepared in Thailand is very often different from the way it is done in the western world. Very often a wok is used. In a wok, food is cooked very fast, on a very high temperature.
A wok is also be used to deep-fry food.
Ordinary post and pans are used as well, for instance for the preparation of Thai curries, dishes with a lot of herbs and condiments. Slow cooking is not used in Thailand as a way to prpare food, at least, we never heard of it.
Herds and spices usually are grinded with a mortar and pestle, both made of granite. In north-eastern Thailand for some dishes a earthenware mortar and a wooden pestle is used.

There is no gas mains in Thailand. Very often people use bottled gas for cooking.
Charcoal is alse a very often used for cooking. The charcoal is put into a earthenware barbecus, about the size of a 10 litre bucket. On top is a pan, or a wok, but you can also use a gridiron. It look's like it's very simple to cook this way, but is is very difficult te regulate the temperature. But somehow, people in Thailand can do that very well.

Before prepaption, the ingredients are often cut or chopped in small pieces. Small pieces make in possible to prepare a dish in a short time, because the food is done very fast. Not every ingredienst is cut to paices, fish for example, is very often fried in one piecs.

Spicy

It is often said that Thai food is spicy, very spicy.
And some dishes are spicy, a lot of chilies and other spices are used. The cook decides hove spicy a dish is.
But not everyone in Thailand likes to eat spicy food. A lot of people just can't stand spicy food. So when you order a meal, and you say "mai phet", I don't want is spicy, nobody thinkts that is strange.
Very often there is a small jar with chilies or chili sauce on your table. This way, you can make your meal as spicy as you like.

Central Thailand

Allthough you cannot say THE Thai cuisine exists, dishes from central Thailand are very commonly known.
In Thai restaurants abroad, most of the time dishes from this region are on the menu.

Dishes from centraal Thailand usually are not very spicy. Curries with meat, chicken or fish, with coconutmilk are very common.
Salads, yam in Thai, are very popular. Thai salades are not, like in the Netherlands, dishes with a lot of vergetables, yams are light, sometimes spicy dishes, a lot of ingredients can be used, meat, fish, chicken, vergetables, eggs, ....
Vegetables are often served as a side dish, cooked, steamed or uncooked. Sometimes vegetables are mixed with chily paste.
People in central Thailand usually eat ordinary rice (khao suai).
A few well known dishes are:
Kaeng khiao wan, green curry, made with coconut milk, fresh green chilies, Thai basil and chicken or meat balls. This curry can be a bit spicy.
Phak bung fai daeng, stir-fried morning glory with yellow beans and soy sauce. Somtimes the cook will add som green chilies, just for fun. This dish is prepared in a spectectular way, a wadjang is overheated, the vegetables and other ingredients, make the vegetables burn a moment, ready. Within a minute!
Phat kraphao, chopped beaf, pork, shrimps or chicken, stir fried with chilies and bai kraphao.
Tom yam, a spicy hot sour soup with chicken (tom yam gai), fish (tom yam pla) or shrimps (tom yam goong). Sometimes coconut milk is added.

North-east Thailand

North-east Thai cuisine is different, very different. North-east Thailand, usually called Isaan, is a totally different area, a highland with poor soil. The population is more related to Laos than to Thailand.
The dishes from north-east Thailand are often very spicy and a lot of chilies are used.
You can buy Isan dishes everywhere in Thailand, this food is very popular.

Larb, spicy mince meat, made with meat, chicken or fish, is a well known dish, just like nam tok, grilled meat that is cut into thin slivers mixed with herbs and spices. Kai yang, grilled chicken is also very popular, in Isan people know how to grill a chicken.
But the most famous dish is som tam, a spicy salad, with thin slivers of unripe papaya as main ingredient.
Coconut milk is almost never used in curries from Isan, but they contain a lot of vegetables. We like these curries very much.

In the Isan cuisine, ingredients are used, that are not common in other parts of Thailand. Examples are pla ra (fermented raw fish) and meang da (a giant water bug

People in north-east Thailand usually eat sticky rice (khao niao).

North Thailand

We don't know very much about north Thai cuisine.
We have tried a few kinds of, and spicy sausages. The curries we have eaten are simular to the cussries from north-east Thailand, but with different kind of vegetables. And off course other herbs are used.

A few well known dishes are:
Kaeng khae, a curry, without coconut milk, a lot of herbs, and vegetables, like chaom, and meat (chicken, beef or pork).
Nam phrik num, a sambal with large green peppers, unions, garlic, coriander leaves, lime and fishsauce.
Nam phrik ong, a sambal with dried peppers, porkchop and tomatoes.

South Thailand

Just as with the food from north Thailand, we don't know very much about southern Thai cuisine. We are familiar with gaeng massaman, a curry with beef and potatoes. And recently, with the help of an Indian colleague of Tom, we discovered khao mok khai, rice with chicken.
The ex-wife of one of Pia's uncles is originating from south Thailand. And sometimes she cooked for us, not much chillies, but very, very spicy.

A few well known dishes are:
Kaeng massaman is a curry, often prepared by Thay muslims, with beef, potatoes and herbs.
Kaeng tai pla is a thick, sourish curry with a lot of vegetables like bamboo, eggplants, shrimp paste (trassi), and often roasted fish or salted intestines of fish. We like this kaeng, Pia learned to cook is from Noi, a friend who comes from north-east Thailand, not from the south.

Fastfood

Thai people like fastfood and they eat it very often.
On almost every streetcorner in Thailand, you can buy food. Very often small portions, prepared in no-time, consumed in no-time. Kuai-tiao nam (noodle soup), loog chin (little meat balls), saté, deep-fried pieces of chicken, khao phat (fried rice), phat thai (fried noodles), tod man (fish of shrimp cakes)....
And also a lot of Western fastfood. Hamburgers, pizza's, donuts, chicken, all major Western fastfood chains are very clearly visible in Thailand; in all major cities, but also near petrol stations.
And of course chips, with all possible flavours, colors, forms.

Influences

Thai cuisine has been influenced by food from other countries, mainly the neighboring countries.
In the beginning af the 20th century, a lot of people from China came to live in Thailand, and as a result stir-frying, using a wok and eating all kind of vegetables in now common practise in Thailand.
But also countries that had commercial ties with Thailand influenced Thai cuisine. During the Ayuthaya-period Portugal was an important business partner, there was even a Portugese trade mission in Thailand. And a lot of very sweet dishes from Portugal are now also very popular in Thailand.

Eating habbits

Having a meal in Thailand is not the same as having a meal in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands it is common practice to eat together, at a table, everyone begins to eat at the same time, everyone is leaving the table at the same time. Very often you begin to eat at the same time every day. A lot of people in the Netherlands, specially older ones, have been raised this way.
In the traditional Dutch kitchen a meal has more than one course: a starter, a main dish and a dessert. And if you eat in a restaurant you may have even more courses.

This is not the you have a meal in Thailand (and not only in Thailand).
You start eating when you are hungry, Thai people like to eat, so most of the time somebody else is hungry as well. And if you decide you are hungry, just join in for the meal. And if you are not hungry anymore, just do something else. While people are eating, someone is always preparing something else to eat, this goes on till nobody is eating anymore, or until there are no more ingredients left. People who join very often bring in some food.
Very often the food is on a mat on the floor, the people sit on the floor around the food. There are even restaurants where you have to sit on the floor.
There are no separate courses in Thailand. Every dish is put on the mat on the floor, and everyone takes some of the food. Sweets are usually served last, but this is not a rule.

If you are eating in a restaurant, the same is happening. All dishes are on the table, during the meal more dishes are ordered, people come, people go.
And even in a restaurant, it is not unusual to bring in some of your own food. Very often this is only wiskey or wine, and sometimes you have to pay a small amount. But sometimes people bring in their own dishes; hardly ever a problem.
The restaurant staff is usually very attentive. If your galss is almost empty, it will be refilled, if the bottle is almost empty, they will bring a full one. If you don't want anything, you must say so.

In Thailand it is not very important what a restaurant looks like. A fancy restaurant means you have to pay a lot of money, it does not mean the food is good. In a simple restaurant, on the sidewalk, you can enjoy a delicious meal.
For Thai people it is very important the food is good and clean, and is a restaurant is crowded, it means the food is good.


Disclaimer

When we write about a place, we write about what we saw and did there, and what we think about it; no more and no less.
This is not a travelguide (we are not complete), and it is neither an advice to visit or not to visit a place. Other sites can give you that information.
Our opinion about a hotel or restaurant is not ment to be a (positive or negative) review, you can find that information on other sites.
It is our description of a situation on a certain moment, influenced by our mood.