Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Bowl of Thailand

Eating in Thailand is like eating the best of Asia! Thai cuisine is often considered as one of the best cuisine of Asia. Interesting spices and unique flavors make it deliciously craving like no other. So I wouldn’t pass if I will given an opportunity to have a bowl or plate of Thai food.

The best way to discover the taste of Thai cuisine is definitely in its street foods. It is in the street foods of Bangkok you’ll get to taste the real bowl or plate of Thailand. Most ingredients are authentic and uniquely recipes. Any visitor would find these street foods delicious and clean. Yes, since street foods is very popular to locals and tourists, vendors make sure that every tools used in cooking and storage of the food is cleaned and well-maintained. Sold street foods do not just limited to their famous dish Phad Thai (a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime, the juice of which can be added along with Thai condiments) but also ranges to fruits, shakes, pancakes, roasted meat or fish and noodles. Phad Thai is listed at number 5 on World's 50 most delicious foods readers' poll compiled by CNN Go in 2011. Nowadays, Pad Thai has become a widespread staple food and is one of Thailand's national dishes. And if you don’t know what to try to eat first, just follow the standard rule of travel foodie – follow where the locals eat.

Tom Yum - an authentic bowl of Thailand!
You'll love Khao Phat
Warning, if you’re not a fan of spicy foods then Thai cuisine is not for you as most of the dishes are spicy or mixed with chilies suited only for a spicy-craving tongue. Even their condiments for spicy dishes is spicy too like fish sauce with chili seeds or rinds. But do not fret, Thai cuisines is not just all about spicy hot servings. It has sweet servings too!  Actually it has various cuisines that you can choose and find the one that suit your taste.  So taking a food trip in Thailand is fun at all since Thai food has something for every travel foodie.

Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. Thai food is known for its balance of three to four fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and sometimes bitter. Thai food is often served with a variety of sauces (nam chim) and condiments. These may include phrik nam pla/nam pla phrik (consisting of fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilies and garlic), dried chili flakes, sweet chili sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, sriracha sauce, or a spicy chili sauce or paste called nam phrik. How spicy their condiments already! Cucumber is sometimes eaten to cool the mouth after particularly spicy dishes.

Khao Phat - a popular rice dish in Thailand.
My first taste of Thai cuisine was a rice dish called Khao Phat. It is a common fried rice dish in Thailand, fried rice usually with chicken, beef, shrimp, pork or crab and with eggs, onion, garlic, tomatoes and seasonings mixed and stirred in. The dish is plated and served with accompaniments like cucumber slices, tomato slices, lime and sprigs of green onion. It is also very tasty. They are popularly called as “Fried rice” in Bangkok streets and comically pronounce as “Playd lays” by the locals. I think I’m really a rice foodie since I become addicted to this Thai dish since my first taste of it. On three occasions I ate this dish, it taste delicious and full of flavor. It has hints of spiciness as well as crunchiness because of meat and vegetable mixture. This Thai dish is perfect even without viand because of its meaty and egg content. The perfect condiment for this rice dish is a fish sauce with or without chili rind or seed.

After a city tour of Bangkok, a perfect way to continue discovering the country is trying its local cuisines. So it was a perfect timing when our tour guide and Tuktuk driver, Dalin brought us to a seafood restaurant in Bangkok which he said is the best in the city. I was clueless what to local dish to order first but the pictured menu booklet and Dalin helped us. We ordered Khao Phat again but we also tried other dish like the Tom Yum Seafood which I highly recommended and Kai phat met mamuang himmaphan or Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts.

The bowl of Tom Yum Seafood that I won't forget!
Tom Yum Seafood is one of the Thai cuisine I won’t forget! It is a hot & sour soup with meat.  With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung (Thai: ต้มยำกุ้ง), with seafood (typically shrimp, squid, fish) Tom yam thale (Thai: ต้มยำทะเล), with chicken Tom yam kai (Thai: ต้มยำไก่). The spicy hot soup mixed with gingerly sweet taste was heavenly taste in my tounge! The vegetables and mushrooms (straw mushrooms was used) were tender and fish meat was very tasty. Tom Yum is cooked with strong ginger and rich sweet flavor combined with spiciness of different herbs and spices. The rich flavor with a hint of spiciness, sourness and sweetness may discourage one from trying the dish but eventually you’ll learn to love it slowly that you won’t notice sipping the soup after soup just what I experienced. Later I learned that Tom Yum is characterized by its distinct hot and sour flavors, with fragrant herbs generously used in the broth. The basic broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers.

Kai phat met mamuang himmaphan or Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts.
Then I had a Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts (or Kai phat met mamuang himmaphan in Thai). What I like about this dish is the mix of cashew nuts’crunchiness to the chicken. Its hot and spicy but also has a hint of sweetness in it. This cuisine is composed of chicken meat as the main ingredient with cuts of red and green bell pepper. It’s saucey spicy mixture and flavor is intensed by dried chillies mixed in it.

A popular street foods sold in the streets of Bangkok aside from Khao Phat and Phad Thai are are fruit stalls of sliced pineapple, guava, papaya and watermelon. I’ve tried these sliced fruits and most of the time they are fresh, stored in a clean storage and practically in almost every street corners. I also did try eating hotdogs and grilled pork in sticks on stalls. Don’t worry to try these street foods in Thailand as the reason why they are popular is because aside from being cheap and readily available everywhere, vendors store the foods in clean trays and uses cleaned cooking tools.

The unique violet corn sold as street food in Bangkok.
One of the things that surprised me in exploring Thai street food is a violet colored corn being sold in the street side stalls.  It is tasty just like the yellow one but the fascinating things about it is the color of the corm which is new and unique to me. Also after taking a canal tour in Ratchaburi, another street food that is quite familiar to me but with a twist is the Coconut Ice Cream. Their coconut ice cream version is not just being sold in ordinary cups but served on empty coconut shells with a choice of two various toppings. I tried pandan jelly ans cashew nuts toppings for my servings. The coconut shell made me feel the authentic taste of the coconut ice cream. It is an enjoyable treat under Thailand’s hot and sunny weather.

Coconut Ice Cream topped with pandan jellies and cashew nuts perfect for hot weather.
Earlier that morning in Ratchaburi, I already had Kannom Krok, a sample of Thai traditional breakfast treat courtesy of tour guide in the canal tour who let us try the dessert. Kannom Krok can be loosely translated into English as Coconut Pudding. It is made of coconut milk and ground rice mixed with inside choice garnished of pumpkin, spring onion leaves or sweet corn cooked in a pan over a charcoal fire. You can find them in most places around Thailand with the same basic recipe. The dessert taste is so sweet and I especially liked the sweet corn garnish with bits of corn in the middle of the dessert.

The sweet Kannom Krok at Ratchaburi.
Describing Kannom Krok at the stall for visitors.
Enjoying our bowl and plate of Thailand.
I generally enjoyed Thai cuisines even though most of them were spicy. I like spicy foods occasionally. Yet most of the cuisines are appealing to palate and very tasty. Not to mentioned most of them are cheap and easy to find – in the street side of course! I really enjoyed eating Khao Phat, Kannom Krok and Coconut ice cream with toppings. But the best Thai food I tasted on this trip is the Tom Yum Seafood! For me, it was genuinely Thai in flavor and taste. I find their various cuisines suited to any tongue of a foodie addict on a travel as Thai cuisines has something for everyone. True to what I heard that eating in Thailand is eating the best of Asia because just a bowl of Tom Yum is an authentic taste of a bowl of Thailand.

A Bowl of Thailand is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information. You might also like the other parts of the series: 


  1. if there's a country i'd love to visit again - it would be thailand. grabe ang sasarap ng food. malinis at mura pa.

  2. @Chyng: That's no wonder why everyone is recommending their local cuisine. It's like tasting the best of Asia. And I agree they are clean and cheap pa.

  3. street food, best cuisine, clean, cheap and well-recommended? who could resist that? :-)

  4. this looks so yummy..wish to taste this one day and in thailand not in!

  5. love the food in Thailand, couldn't agree more! sarap na at mura. i like the last photo best, nainggit ako bigla, did you travel with your family? i wish I can too.

  6. @Senyor Lakwatsero: No one can't resist that!

    @RedRuby: Visit Thailand soon!

    @Pinaysolobackpacker: Yup, I travel with my family. They are the best travel buddies! I like their cheap food - they are really cheap and yummy!


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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