Or rather, let’s talk about the food of Thailand, since the two are inseparable.
When I think about this place, it’s the first thing that comes to mind, even before its people, the beaches, the Wats, history, and elephants. Which are all glorious, without a doubt. But I still think about the food first.
Thailand is a great many things, of course. I discovered this twelve years ago when I travelled here for the first time. It was my first international trip, and frankly I was a bit overwhelmed with everything – the noise, the confusion, the smells – to really appreciate the food side of things.
For instance, this, the classic Pad Thai.
Let’s talk about the downside of things, first. Here’s a dish that cost us 30 Thai Baht. That’s six cents over a buck for something that goes for $12 to 15 CAD in the better restaurants in Calgary. Perhaps eight bucks in a fast food outlet.
This fact has ruined the idea of Pad Thai for me when not actually in Thailand.; I find is very very hard to pay the local price for this at home. And I can never seem to make it as well as this myself. Here’s how it’s made over here …
This is street food. Starting at 5pm, on many street corners and local markets, you’ll find stands that look like this one, firing up for the evening. This is where you find it and a myriad of other foodstuffs, curries, green onion cakes, savoury waffles, satays… But here, it all starts with a fiendishly hot wok.
Street food in Thailand, or many places I imagine, is both inexpensive and fresh. Think about it; what you see on the cart is the current day’s worth of production. It’s a day old, gathered at the morning markets. In all of my travels, perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve not caught any food borne bug, and I’ve eaten a lot of street food.
Still, we all have our Hepatitis shots, you know, just in case. Twinrix. Highly recommended.
Urban Thai folk don’t much cook for themselves. Oh, I’m sure that they do to some extent, but the urban middle class seem to congregate at the night markets after work to simply buy their dinners from individual stalls. Market shopping, in other words.
Here (above) was out dinner one night (clockwise, beginning in the frying pan):
- Green Curry – Kaeng khiao wan, but with beef (not chicken)
- Crispy Noodles – Mi krop
- Some sort of meringue desert dressed up like a frog
- Rice Noodles – khanom chin
- Crispy Scallion Pancakes
All of this for about 140 Baht, five bucks Canadian.
You can wander the night markets and pick out a different dinner a night for weeks on end, if you’re the adventurous type. There’s still lots to try out.
Here are the sit down food stalls, where we got our Pad Thai. This strip is right next door to the Tapong Night Market, about a kilometre from our apartment.
If you want to eat cheaply, this is the place. Two plates of Pad Thai = 60 Baht.
Best. Meal. Ever.
Which brings us to lunch the next day. After a hard day of motorcycling around the beaches towards Ban Phe, with grumbling tummies, we settled on a restaurant near the beach strip. This is tourist country (westerners) during the week, but on the weekends it fills up with folk from Bangkok, escaping the big city heat. (We’re about three hours drive from BKK).
The food here, we found, was outstanding. Really the best I’ve had ever, and certainly better than any restaurant back home (sorry Thai Boat, Thai Sa-On, Thai Nong-Kai). Huge bowl of Tom Yum Soup with seafood, and huge chucks of fish, squid, prawns, crab) for 100 Baht.
Here was our first restaurant lunch in Thailand (starring La Fille ™):
Starting on the top left, above my beer:
- my Tom yam (Tom Yum), hot and sour soup with seafood.
- La Fille’s Tom kha kai, coconut chicken soup
- Som Tum Mamuang), spicy green mango salad
- Som Tam, green papaya salad
- Khai yat sai, crab meat omelette
This meal, with a big beer and an iced tea for La Petite Fille ™, cost 535 Baht, about $19 CAD.
Perhaps someone could order something similar back home for me and report back on the local prices… 😉