Food in Thailand
One of the draws of Thailand is its food. Curries are very popular - Thais use a lot of coconut, ginger, lemongrass, red and green chilies, fresh coriander, lemon or limes. Thai curries tend to be lighter than Indian curries. Fish sauce, or naam plaa, is frequently used for flavouring. There is a strong Chinese influence with fried rice, rice noodles, and stir fries on restaurant menus. In the south, fresh seafood is sold on the islands. Green papaya salad made from grated unripe papaya with spices and lemon is very refreshing. Sticky rice sometimes confuses tourists - squeeze a ball of rice in your fingers and dip it in your curry to soak up the juices. Rice is khao which is pronounced like 'cow'. Fried rice is khao pad and sticky rice is khao niaw. Saucers of fish sauce with chillies floating it are served as a seasoning. Dishes which are cooked with chillies and aromatic basil are very popular. These are spicy but tasty.
Food in Thailand is mainly created around the main ingredient of rice. Some top Thai dishes include Tom Yam Kung (a spicy shrimp soup), Kaeng Khiao Wan Kai (green chicken curry - with rice), Phat Thai (fried noodles of Thai style) and Phanaeng (meat in coconut cream).
Vegetarians shouldn't find it too hard to find food they can eat. In Asia egg is not eaten by vegetarians. Dairy products are not widely-used in Thailand so vegans shouldn't struggle too much. Soya milk is sold in most drinks shops. To ask for vegetarian food, say 'mangsawirat' with the 'r' pronounced as an 'l', a silent 't' and a long drawn-out final vowel sound.
Cookery Courses in cooking Thai food is available in many of the main tourist centres such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. This can be a good way of learning how to recreate popular Thai dishes and you take away a recipe book with you to use at home. Mai's kitchen at the end of Khao San Road in Bangkok offers courses in vegetarian or healthy food.
Cold Drinks Fresh fruit juice is available everywhere in Thailand and is very popular. Fruit blended with ice is called shakes, sometimes milk, soya milk or coconut milk is used. Thais usually have added salt and sugar so specify if you would prefer without. Soya milk is widely available, Thais tend to have less dairy than Westerners. A wide range of soft drinks is sold in stalls or shops.
Hot Drinks Coffee tends to be the instant variety, although in the hilly areas in the north where coffee is grown it is possible to get ground coffee. You usually get sachets of Nescafe with dried creamer and sugar on the side but may need to specify no milk (usually condensed milk out of a can) and no sugar.
Both black tea and green Chinese-style tea are available. Tea is grown in the northern mountainous hilly areas.
Alcohol The main alcoholic drink is beer. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Thailand. There are heavy duties on imported wine, making it very pricey. Beer is usually available in small 330ml size cans or large 630ml size bottles. There are local brands or foreign locally-produced beer brands. Local spirits are rice whisky (35%). Moonshine liquor is made from sugar cane, rice or other agricultural products.