Thailand has golden temples, white sand beaches, beautiful blue waters, and lush green mountains. I am not here for any of that. My sole mission is to eat everything…or at least as much as I can in my limited time here. After a “short” seventeen hour ride from California, I landed in time for breakfast and hit the ground running. Here are some of my best eats in Thailand from a previous local:
1) Street Food. Don’t be afraid. I know what many guide books say but…live a little! Thailand has the BEST street food in the world. Please to you other countries, don’t even try! Not one word! From classic Thai dishes to Italian pastas, Thais want to eat everything and will try anything. And the best place to have a little something of everything is along the streets with bustling stalls, serving hot, homemade food. There are fresh coconuts, fried dough, custards, rotis, curries, rice dishes, barbecued meats, noodle soups, fried sausages, papaya salad, grilled fishballs, sliced fruits, coconut ice cream, Thai drinks, and on and on and on. To be a street cart vendor means you are good at what you do. With so much competition they can only stay in business if they make only the best X in the area. What’s best is that you cannot beat the price. These street vendors will sell a full meal with a dish of rice with your choice of “entree” for what translate to $1 under current exchange rates. Sweets and goodies for about 50 cents or less. Try going to an area recommended by your local hostel or hotel that is safe and known for good food preparation. Checking out these street food areas and markets is a great food experience to add some culture and excitement to any trip to Thailand.
2) Fruit. Any and every fruit you see, you should eat. Due to many customs restrictions and environmental pest concerns, many fruits cannot be bought overseas. While in Thailand, its a great joy to be able to enjoy the myriad of fruits offered here and its highly recommended. Besides the crazy shapes and colors, eating new fruit in Thailand opens up the senses to new tastes and smells. Though there are too many types of fruit to even try to mention here the best to my taste buds are: rambutan (golf ball sized furry/hairy red fruits with lush sweet, juicy white pulp around an inedible nut), mangosteen (deep purple thick skinned fruit tuffed with round green leaves at the top, sliced to find perfect white fleshy drops that are sweet and tangy), dragonfruit (fluorescent pink skinned fruit with a varied of colored insides from white, magenta, or yellow with tiny black seeds, beautiful to slice into and enticing to eat), and in season mangoes (aka as heaven’s goodness dropped from above). For the more adventurous there is also the taste from heaven, smell from hell durian. This large, sometimes basketball sized, oblonged fruit has a very thick outer covering that has to be hacked open. Thais and others used to this fruit find the smell pleasing and appetizing while many foreigners, well, want to puke at the smell. The taste is distinctive, strong and rich, with a smooth, semi-slimy texture that many find irresistible.
3) Seafood. This will be the freshest and most delectable seafood you have ever eaten and will eat in your life. Here is the way it works in Thailand: sail boat out, catch fish, mussels, horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, sea cumbers, cockles, prawn shrimp, rock crab, eels, mantas shrimp etc, sail boat back in, give to restaurant on the beach, eat. One word: Yum! Thais do not dip their seafood in butter but usually have a variety of sauces accompanying the meal. Individual sauces go with different types of seafood to better enhance their flavor and taste. Pictured here was a mini seafood feast of grilled tiger prawns, grilled cockles, aromatic steamed mussels, shrimp stir fried with fava beans, and grilled fish.
4) Spicy. I know this isn’t a food per say but its a taste worth mentioning. Thais are notorious for their love of spicy food. Though you may find looking at a bottle of Tabasco too much, one night, armed with a bottle of milk and a bowl of ice cream, give yourself a little fire in your mouth. Ask for your favorite dish you’ve had here, with the lowest level of spiciness possible. You may find a tiny explosion of happiness and flavor in your mouth, enhanced by the heat. At the moment you think you cannot handle it anymore, take a large swig of milk, fan your face, wipe your sweat, and relax. Then take your next bite. 🙂
For those whose palettes cry out for flavor, spice, curios, and amazement then Thailand is the place to have your tongue experience blinding pleasure and mind numbing pain. It’s a world of food and worth a escape into an unknown culinary adventure.
You can check out my other thoughts on my blog, http://annafrankel.wordpress.com.