good THAI eats
Hello! I'll be visiting Thailand in a couple weeks, and I was wondering what your take on the essential Thai foods are -- items you would suggest I get at carts and in sit-down restaurants. I saw a link below about food in Bangkok (where we'll be visiting, too), but I was hoping for a more general take on great not-to-missed sorts of Thai treats and dishes to be had in the area.
A caveat..no red meat (family doesn't eat it), and nothing we would be able to get in the States (ie. pad thai). But other than that, we love all sorts of foods, including sweets!
One more thing --- are there any dried foods, candies or the sorts that you suggest I buy to bring back??
Thanks in advance!
I would agree with Curt, and go so far as to say go ahead and try the dishes you recognize from back home too, so that you can see just how different they are prepared here. A good example actually is pad thai. I actually quite like it when made well. There's a certain vendor near Chan road in BangRak which I love. Not too sweet, and you don't even need to season it, it's perfect out of the wok. Another good example is green curry. In the US it's thick and sweet. Here it's thin and spicy. I also recommend food courts at malls. You can see things already made there, and just pick stuff that might look good/interesting. I recommend MBK, it's a good place to start. Try the desserts in coconut milk too, by the entrance.
You'll have no problems avoiding red meat. Most dishes use pork or chicken (is pork red? it's kinda white right?) . If you're unsure, just ask. But don't ask a yes-or-no question, cuz if Thais don't understand you, they'll just say yes. 'Is this dish made from pork?' "yes", 'does this dish have alien meat?' "yes". Better to ask along these lines, "What meat is this?"
Do you like to cook? If so, I always recommend people bring back a big bag of fresh curry paste. It's really cheap ($3 a kilo?) and fresher than anything you can get in the US (even homemade). You have to get it at a fresh open air market. Try Aww Daaw Gaaw at Chatuchack. It's a good intro market. Be careful it doesn't explode in your bag. You can get dried fruits here too I think. I get away with bringing this home to JFK no problem. But then again, I don't declare it. :)
My best advice is, if you don't know what it is, or if it looks good, try it. Food is insanely cheap here, and even if you can't eat it all (or don't like the taste) you're not spending much to try it.
"But don't ask a yes-or-no question, cuz if Thais don't understand you, they'll just say yes. 'Is this dish made from pork?' "yes", 'does this dish have alien meat?' "yes"."
This is a great observation!
Sometimes, around tourist areas, you'll get a yes answer just to sell you something.
But in general, they say yes out of politeness.
Thais will say 'yes' to simply keep the conversation flowing.
'Yes', or 'uh huh', often means '"I have know idea what you just said, but please continue..."
Even though the dish might be common in the States, there's a good chance it will seem different in Thailand (although I wouldn't like pad thai no matter how different it was!).
Besides not "catering" to foreign tastes, the small carts, stalls and shops usually stick to one dish.
This usually means they do it very well!
Some of the dishes in my links are not typical Western Thai fare.
You might spot a few dishes of interest.
Thailand is swarming with food courts.
Here you can wander around and spot unusual items that might interest you.
Thais love seafood, chicken and pork.
Beef isn't so much a staple like here in the States.
re: Curt the Soi Hound
Great link! I notice that a lot of the foods focus on rice/noodles and meat, and either in soup or sauces poured over them, or a medley of foods cooked together.
I have a question - what is suki? It looks like Chinese hot pot! :)
And I was surprised to see a Mexican restaurant from your list..and above all, it's label is "from Los Angeles." I'm from LA, so that was kinda funny...
It seems to me the sweets focus on ice cream? Are there any others to look for? And, are there any snacks I should buy to take back to the States?
Thanks so much, Curt!
Just so you know, there is a treasure trove of information on eating in Thailand on the old International board, along with what has been posted here since this board was created. Some of the recommendations for specific places may be outdated, but you will certainly learn a lot of the foods to look for. Before my trips, I have always combed through and copied many of these posts and they have served me well.
The only thing I'll add from my last trip: mad props for the mangoes with sticky rice vendor at the mouth of Suk soi 38, on the right as you enter the soi. There's another one across Suk, two doors down soi Thong Lo, that seems somewhat known, but in a side-by-side taste comparison, the one on the soi 38 side had the edge. I had forgotten how amazing this dish can be.
Being from Southern California myself, I had to find some Mexican.
Although not comparable to anything around LA, Senor Picos is at least variations on a theme.
But, I wouldn't head there since Mex is something you can get at home.
Yes, MK suki is a hot pot.
What I like about Mk is their sauce.
You use it as a dip and also add it to your own bowl.
MK is a healthy alternative to some of the heavier fare.
There are all kinds of sweets and snacks.
Thai fruit can keep you busy.
It's usually served up with a suger/salt/chili dipping packet.
There is dried, candied fruits.
The classic khanom burong, the tiny tortilla looking things.
As you wander, you will not go far without someone selling some edible.
You'll just have to look around and decide what will be worth bringing back.
Much of the Thai sweets are fresh, making the Department Agriculture take note at LAX.
We always bring coconut taffy back to the States without problems.