Typical Thai Meals & Eating Habits
Bangkok Eating Experiences
Imagine a plate of freshly-steamed Jasmine rice, served with luscious spicy shrimp soup and creamy chicken green curry. You're torn between the colourful and spicy papaya salad garnished with crisp vegetables on your right and a delectable dish of 'Pad Thai' on your left. Don't forget to leave some room for a delectable selection of Thai 'kanom' (dessert) or fresh tropical fruits. Treat yourself with the sweet-smelling sticky rice topped with succulent mango - very much worth the few extra pounds you'll be gaining in the process!
Above is an example of a typical Thai meal, which consists of a soup and/or curry dish, a salad, a fried dish and desserts. Normally there would be a mix of spicy and mild dishes for 'balance' and to neutralise tastes. Also, a Thai meal is served all at once, as opposed to serving dishes in courses. It's also noteworthy that Thais don't particularly mind having spicy food in the morning. Different kinds of curry on top of rice with a fried egg, accompanied by 'prik nam pla' (sliced chilies in fish sauce), are common for breakfast. Due to their busy lifestyles, most city dwellers prefer something quick and easy like 'kao niew moo ping' (grilled pork with sticky rice), the equivalent to sandwiches in the West, or something light like 'johk' (rice porridge). Lunch will be something a little heavier and dinner is often shared among family and friends. And, in between, 'snacking' is common.
It's not entirely true if you've heard that Thai people tend to eat all day. Generally, they eat three main meals a day just like the rest of the world, but they have a habit of 'gin len' ('snacking') between meals. The whole spectrum of hawker food from savoury 'look chin ping' (grilled meat balls), sweet roti pancake wrapped around sweetened condensed milk with a choice of banana or egg and fried bugs, to freshly-squeezed orange juice, fresh fruits, and frittered bananas are available, at incredibly low prices, virtually everywhere in the city.
Thai people love sharing food. If you go out for lunch or dinner with Thai friends, you are most likely to be asked whether you'd like a single dish or dishes to share. To share or not to share, that is a question entirely up to you. To make things easier, it helps to observe or ask other people in your group what style they're going for. If they've decided on sharing, then you should join in the fun.
Most popular Thai Dishes & Snacks
Kaeng Khieo Wan Kai
'Kaeng khieo wan kai' is an excellent blend of fragrant coconut cream and green chili paste with chicken and Thai aubergine, a perfect dish for those who want something a little creamier.
Mango & Sticky Rice
Satisfy your sweet tooth with specially-prepared sticky rice and ripe mango bathed in coconut cream. The aromatic sticky rice combined with melt-in
your-mouth mango and smooth coconut milk make a delighful dessert - an ideal complement to a hot day.
A delicious between-meals snack, 'moo satay' is broiled marinated pork on skewers with spicy peanut dip and cucumber salad. Beef and chicken variations are also available.
A staple in 'aharn taam sung' food (made to order), 'pad kaprao' is spicy stir-fried chicken (or other meat) with sweet-smelling holy basil leaves. A fried egg on top and a sprinkle of 'prik naam pla' (sliced chili in fish sauce) are highly recommended.
One of the most famous Thai dishes, 'pad thai' is stir-fried rice noodles with egg, peanuts, dried shrimps, tofu, bean sprouts, tamarind juice, and, sometimes, squid and shrimps. If you want to try the best 'pad thai' in Bangkok, don't bother with its rip-off version sold on Kaosan Road. There's one proper 'pad thai' restaurant not too far from there called 'Thipsamai'. It's everything authentic 'pad thai' should be - simply the best!
Originally from the Northeastern part of Thailand (Isaan), 'som tum' is a spicy papaya salad withpeanuts, dried shrimps, tomatoes and sometimes with crab and 'Pla Ra' (fermented fish). 'som tum' is the locals' favourite and there are stalls on every corner of Bangkok specialising in this spicy treat. Best eaten with grilled chicken and sticky rice.
Tom Yum Goong
This dish probably doesn't need much introduction, as it is after all Thailand's national dish. 'tom yum goong' is an aromatic hot and sour soup with shrimps and mushroom (sometimes with other seafood too). Containing a lot of herbs, it's tasty as well as healthy - an absolute must!
Tom Kha Kai
Another coconut-milk based dish, 'tom kha kai' is chicken in coconut milk soup with Siamese galangal (a herb of the ginger family). The smoothness of coconut milk and the subtle spiciness from the galangal make for a wonderful, tasty contrast.