Ever since we got to Thailand, one of the most popular questions I get from people back home is about the food. Is it good? Is it like the food in the Thai restaurants in the States? Is it really spicy?….etc, etc. And the answer to all of those questions is: sometimes.
Since I am a committed vegetarian at the moment, I have tried really hard to avoid the chicken, pork, beef, and just plain mystery meat. I think? I have succeeded. Because I eat fish/seafood, I have been able to survive. Actually, if it weren’t for that, I really wouldn’t have survived. I thought that because Thailand is a buddhist country there would be an abundance of vegetarian food, but–like most assumptions, I was wrong!!
Most Thais actually eat noodles, chicken, and rice with everything! When you walk down any typical Thai street, you find a food stall selling at least one if not all of these things…One of my favorite parts of the day is early in the morning when we walk down our street to school and pass a food stall grilling up chicken. It’s so very Thai…always makes me smile.
As for Matt and I, we have come to LOVE a few dishes here. We get them regularly, (everyday). One that is really healthy and CAN be really spicy is som tom thai:
It is shredded papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, the Thai version of green beans, shredded carrots, these weird tiny dehydrated shrimps, and of course: hot chilis!
Our favorite Thai beer is Chang, mainly just because it is the cheapest:
But, if you go out to a restaurant, you’ll typically see Thais eating something like this:
This is called “American” fried rice. You’ll notice it has hot dog wieners in it. Pretty much anything with a hot dog wiener in it is called “American” over here…I guess we deserve that.
Another wonderful thing in the food world is the fruit. You can get amazing fresh fruit on the side of the street for 10 baht, which is like 25 cents.
One of my favorite dishes to have is Tom Yam Kung. “Kung” is the Thai word for “shrimp”. Tom Yam is a spicy soup (can get pretty spicy), but I think it is like a bowl of health. If I ever think I am getting a cold, I immediately eat some of this soup. It has mushrooms (Thai mushrooms, a little different, but good!), lemongrass, chilis, bay leaves, shrimp, and other forms of deliciousness I’m not sure of…
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are pretty much the same for Thais. That’s why the food cart on our street starts cooking chicken at 5:00 AM, because people eat chicken for breakfast. The other day I was teaching an 8:30 AM class, and one student was eating an entire corn on the cob in the back of the class. I called him out, and everyone thought he was in trouble, but basically I was just impressed that someone could have corn on the cob for breakfast…
So, Thai food isn’t necessarily what you would expect based on the shwanky Thai restaurants (although you can find that here, in bigger cities for a big chunk of change), but we don’t have anything to complain about in the food department. We have found some dishes that we will undoubtedly try to recreate when we get home, and some that we will avoid if we ever see them again (ha!). But the coolest thing about the Thai food is that we are still discovering it! There’s so much food I see here that I’m still not sure what it is…today my students made me try some sweet treat. We tried to figure out how to translate it…but decided there is no way to. It is some sweet, gooey, sticky stuff (but not rice) wrapped in banana leaves and cooked…
banana leaf ooey-gooey
Just don’t eat the white mystery meat balls….