It may not be one of the first cuisines that people think about when walking about the best food that this world has to offer, but Thai food is often high on many people’s lists. It would definitely make it on my top three, and living in Thailand, I learned about so many new dished that never make their way on to the menus of the Thai restaurants invading America.
You are guaranteed to see pad thai and pineapple fried rice on many of those menus and those are regular staples on many of the menus in Thailand, and yes, these are tasty dishes, but when I discovered all of the other ones available out there, I realized that many American had no idea the culinary delights they were missing out on.
When eating Thai meals, it is important to recognize that it is a family affair. Many dishes are ordered at a Thai restaurant ant they are brought out and placed in the middle of the table. A heap of rice is put on your plate and then you dig in, passing dishes around and trying a bit from each culinary delight. When I was at a restaurant I knew I was eating, but there were a couple times where the meals were designed for us at some of the hotels we stayed at and I was introduced to a couple new dishes in the process.
There are a lot of dishes that can found everywhere in the country such as somtam, a spicy green papaya salad, or tom yum soup, a spicy shrimp soup with a hint of coconut milk. They can be found from the southern beaches to the northern mountain with the only thing that each dish has in common is the fact that the word, spicy, is used in the description of the dish.
There are some regional dishes as well. My favorite would have to be a northern Thai dish called khao soi. It is a rich brown curry usually served with pork, but you can find options with chicken if that is what you prefer. It is topped off with fried rice noodles to give the dish the impression of a mountain filled with winding mountains which is what the name of the dish actually translates to. This is one of those menu items that I don’t think will be found in the United States at a Thai restaurant because it has not made its mark on the rest of Thailand yet. There were a couple of places in Bangkok where I could find a good imitation of this dish, but the best version remained at the small stalls, and mom and pop establishments in Chiang Mai.
The curries are delicious out in Thailand, and can be made to order with varying levels of spice. They can be served with rice or roti, a flatbread designed to scoop out the sauce, meat, and vegetables hiding just below the surface. It became a joke with my friends when we talked about how this option would be taken away when we traveled back to the United States. The Thai restaurants would only have names on the menu such as red curry or green curry, and not even allow their guests to attempt the name of the dish. I am sure I will find a version of my favorite, panaeng curry, but I will just have to hope that is what it is until it arrives in front of me, and I am sure it will never reach that level of spice that I had become accustomed to in Thailand.
There is always the street food as well. This is the main way that most people eat in Thailand. They go down to the main street in their part of Bangkok and look at what food options are available and pick the one that they are most interested in. I will admit that it is a little nerve wracking the first time you do it because you do not know how fresh the food is you are picking up, but there is a trick to finding the best food. Watch the crowd for a bit. See where most of the people go, and then you know that they are moving through their supply fast enough that the food will be fresh by the time you order, and it must be good if so many people are eating there.
Thailand is not just a great spot for its own cuisine, but it also specializes in all the other styles of food as well. They do a great job as well. If I got bored with Thai food all of the time and as long as I was in the bigger cities, I could find Italian, Mexican, Bar-b-q, Korean, Japanese, and Swiss. They put a little twist on it to make it their own, but the food was just as good as if you were getting it in the country where it originated.
I would have to say that they did breakfast the best. There is nothing better than going to a good breakfast place and having them make a fantastic meal for you, and in downtown Bangkok, there is an endless supply of them. I would always want to go back to the one that I just enjoyed, but would rarely do it because I would find another one that would be just as good or maybe even a little better.
The point being is that Thailand is a foodie’s paradise. They know how to cook out there, and combined with the pandemic, it made it a struggle to stay in some form of shape without having to buy a whole bunch of new pants. I will find the food like this again in other places, but nobody will be able to do Thai food like they do in Thailand, and for that reason, it will be one of the things that I will miss the most about that country.