Monthly Archives: June 2018

Eating & Ordering Thai Food (as Thais do)

Eating & Ordering Thai Food (as Thais do)

Thai food is eaten with  a fork and spoon. Even single dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or  steamed rice topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices or chunks obviating the need for a knife.  The spoon is used to convey food to the mouth.

Ideally, eating Thai food is a communal affair involving two or more  people, principally because the greater the number of diners the greater the number of dishes ordered. Generally speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their  own individual plates of steamed rice, three diners four dishes, and so on. Diners choose whatever they require from shared dishes and generally add it to their own rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with other  dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes are “balanced” by bland dishes to avoid discomfort. 

The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet and sour, and is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose and palate. A typical meal might include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry sauce), a fried dish (fish with ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on a bed of lettuce, onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice) and a variety of sauces into which food is  dipped. This would be followed by sweet desserts and/or fresh fruits such as mangoes, durian, jackfruit, papaya, grapes or melon.

Thai Street Food

Thai Street Food


One of the joys of Thailand is all the wonderful food sold by street vendors. A top 10 list of dishes that are even better to buy from street vendors than from restaurants is offered. There is a great variety of food, it is easy to find, and many vendors ensure the food is clean and of high quality at a low price.

Thailand is well-known as “the land of smiles.” Thais are friendly and well-known as “food lovers.” Many say “Thais love to eat. Thais eat several meals per day.” In response to these comments, I have to say, yes, Thais love to eat but we eat 3 meals per day just like the rest of the world. The difference is that Thais love to snack. Our snacks range from fresh fruits to deep-fried food. In Thailand, it is so easy to find food. Street vendors are everywhere. If there are people, there are food. One of the greatest joys of living or traveling in Thailand is the abundance and variety of food.Street vendors, street food, roadside stands, food stands, food stalls or whatever you would like to call it, simply involves something mobile that allows an owner (or a cook in most cases) to push them around, from home and back. Many people may think that street food is not clean, but in fact with many vendors it is clean. And many of the owners are unpretentious. The owners push a cart from home to their selling location and then back home and clean the cart every night. Street food offers an incredibly cheap price and some offer incredibly good taste. Sometimes it is even better than a famous restaurant.Some street vendors offer such good food that you will have to wait for a table along the street. Particularly in these cases, street food is not only for poor or middle class people – you will often find a businessman or wealthy people ordering the street food. Do not expect a menu from a street vendor because there are not any. Most street vendors only offer one dish, just their specialty. Street food offers a wide variety of choices – curry, fried rice, noodle dishes, stir-fried, salad, fresh fruits, desserts, etc. Basically you name it. You might be able to even find grilled lobsters in China town at a reasonable price. Of course, I cannot forget to mention all the bizzare food like deep-fried frogs, deep-fried birds, deep-fried grasshoppers, etc.The following are the top 10 street food dishes that I think are better than what restaurants have to offer. In other words, you should buy the following food from a street vendor rather than from a restaurant.

  • Som Tum – Spicy shredded green papaya salad with peanuts and tomatoes
  • Larb – Spicy minced meat with chopped shallots, onions, chilies and coriander
  • Khao Mun Gai – Steamed chicken with rice cooked in chicken stock and garlic
  • Jok – Rice porridge with ground pork, fresh ginger and green onion (some may add egg)
  • Lad Nah – Stir-fried thin or wide rice noodles with light gravy bean sauce and Chinese kale
  • Hoi Tod – Fried oysters in batter with egg on a bed of beansprouts
  • Pad Thai – Stir-fried medium rice noodles with egg, dried shrimp and fried bean curd sprinkled with peanuts (served with beansprouts)
  • Satay – Slivers of chicken or pork grilled on a stick, served with sauce and cucumber
  • Khao Moo Daeng – Chinese-style red pork with rice, boiled eggs and cucumber
  • Khao Tom – Rice soup with a selection of meat and vegetable side dishes

There is so much more street food than I can list here. The above 10 dishes are those I particularly think are better to buy from a street vendor. One of the greatest joys of living in Thailand is the opportunity to try out food from different places at a reasonable price. I grew up in Bangkok and I have to say that Bangkok has bad traffic. I mean very bad traffic. You can literally sit in a car or a bus for hours and hours. Even though people in Bangkok live with bad traffic, most people will travel a long way through heavy traffic just to eat street food. I have to say I was among them.Another type of food vendors that I want to mention are not on land, but instead on canals (called Klong in Thailand). Along Klongs, you may find sellers paddling their boats selling fresh fruit and vegetables, noodle dishes, curries, etc. just like street vendors. The quality can be just as good as the street vendors.Street food can be as good as restaurant food. It is fresh, cheap and good. Part of the fun of living in Thailand is the chance to find street food that is even better than food in restaurants. Some street food may not be as clean, but in many cases, vendors do a good job of making sure the food is clean. There is certainly food for working class people, and food can be found in a wide variety of locations. Next time when you smell some mouth-watering food, stop by and give it a chance. You will not only experience good food, but friendly people as well.

Thai Coconuts – What More Could You Want?

Thai Coconuts – What More Could You Want?

Abstract: There are so many uses for coconuts. Building on some interesting basics about coconuts, this article touches on many delicious uses of coconuts in Thai food, as well as some cultural context. Some key health benefits as well as many non-food uses are also outlined.

Coconuts are the seeds that grow coconut trees. Given time, a coconut will sprout and take root. The juice and flesh of the coconut provide water and fertilizer to grow the young new tree. Coconut trees are grown throughout Thailand on raised beds with irrigation canals on each side. In some places, trained monkeys even harvest the coconuts. Coconuts provide juice to drink, flesh for eating or for making coconut milk, and play a role in many non-food items as well.

Coconut trees are treated as propitious in Thailand. They are often included in gardens along with other trees that include the word “ma” – for example, ma muang (mango), ma la gor (papaya) and ma prao (coconut) – to bring good luck and basic prosperity. Oil from coconuts is produced by first drying the flesh for several weeks and then pressing it. Sugar is made from sap of the seed pods of the coconut. Sap is boiled and set, and a light brown sugar (palm sugar) results.

Fresh coconut milk is widespread in Thailand. Thais often buy it freshly pressed (the first pressing yields creamy coconut milk, the second is more like water with nutrients). Coconuts are sometimes roasted which concentrates the sugar to make the flavor sweeter. Coconut milk is used in some Thai soups and curry dishes (such as green curry, massaman and panaeng curry) and can be a key ingredient in harmonizing a tasty flavor and consistency.

Coconut milk is used to make the sauce poured on mango with sticky rice. It is also used with black sticky rice desserts. In Thailand, one also often finds for dessert what appears like a buffet choice: many containers gathered together of freshly prepared fruits as well as items like lotus seeds or corn. The customer selects from some of the containers and these are put together over crushed ice and a fairly sweet liquid containing coconut milk. Speaking of desserts, another favorite is coconut ice cream – contrasted with making it from dairy products, a delicious version can also be found which is made from coconut milk and cream. It is slightly icy and some versions include small pieces of sweet coconut meat. Some Thai restaurants in the US have this. And of course on cooking, second best to fresh coconut milk is canned coconut milk.

In Thailand, one can also buy young coconut from stands on the street where the vendor will chop open the coconut for you and you can enjoy the fresh coconut and juice. There are a variety of other tasty snacks and appetizers as well. There are many examples of Thai food with coconut, which combine potential health benefits with enjoyable snacks and dishes. Coconut contains substances such as lauric acid known for benefits such as anti-microbial effects. Two other positives are that coconut oil does not contain trans fatty acids, and most of its saturated fat consists of medium-chain fatty acids rather than long-chain, which means it gets digested and used more easily and is less likely to be stored long-term as fat.

Interestingly, the fat and oil of coconuts contain many beneficial aspects. In addition to antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal functions associated with lauric acid, natural coconut fat helps normalize body lipids, protects against liver damage, and perhaps most importantly, improves the immune system’s anti-inflammatory response. Good saturated fats also contain micronutrients and vitamins that are vital to metabolism. Coconut milk helps balance cholesterol and metabolism, and provides valuable fatty acids. The positive aspects of coconut and palm oil generally are likely part of the reason Thais have such a low rate of heart disease.

There are non-food uses from the coconut tree as well. Dried shells are used in making kitchen utensils such as spoons, as well as other household items such as lamps. Some musical instruments are also made with the shells. The fibrous outer layer of the coconut is also used for fuel as well as roofs. It is also a component for cosmetics and soaps.

Thai medicine also makes use of the coconut (tree, leaf, shell, juice). To conclude, suffice it to say there are a rich variety of food and non-food uses for coconuts!