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Thai Food


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#1 CrazyExpat

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 09:32 AM

When you go to an exotic new country, one of the best parts of the experience can be sampling new taste sensations at the local restaurants.

Thailand is no exception. This is a country of culinary delights. From the extra spicy to interestingly sour you will find a wide range of local foods that will delight your taste buds, fill your belly and soak up tons of booze before you hit the town.
Thai food is typically spicy and has many herbs and spices; this is for a few reasons.

One, Thai’s love spicy food and two, the spices often have medicinal purposes.

Many of us from major western cities already have a fairly good idea of what Thai food is from our own local restaurants. Still, the food here is obviously going to be better, made with local ingredients and not exactly what you expect.

The first major difference that you will notice is that there is no knife on your place setting. Instead you get a spoon!

This goes back to ancient Buddhist customs where serving someone a large piece of meat would be deeply offensive; so all pieces of meat or fish are already cut into small portions that can be easily brought to your mouth with a Thai spoon.

Another big difference is that Thais rarely eat alone and everyone shares each other’s plates of food. Typically, if two Thais go out together they will order three main courses. If three Thais go out together they will order four main courses, and so on and so on.

Soup also comes with every meal; but unlike in the west they don’t eat it as a separate course. Instead it is enjoyed at the same time as the main course as a way to incorporate a variety of taste sensations.

Almost all Thai meals are served with a plate of rice.

Every course brought to you will provide you with complete taste balance. If one part of your meal is very spicy, the other part will be very bland. If part of your meal is sweet, another component will be sour.

This is also part of the Buddhist way of looking at meals.

A Different Type Of Curry

Curry is used in many Thai dishes but in a different way than you will be used to if you associate it with Indian food.

Indian curries tend to burn in your mouth for long periods of time Thai curries, on the other hand, tend to burn hotter at first, but quickly diminish in your mouth. Nearly all Thai food is spicy. Hot peppers are in most dishes. If you want non spicy, make sure to request that!

Indian curries are also made from dried spices while Thai curries are made from fresh herbs.

A Typical Thai Meal

A typical Thai meal incorporates many different courses including:
• Tidbits: Small items to get your appetite going including spring rolls, satay and puffed rice balls.
• Hot Salads: These are often spicy and more often than not have meat or fish in them.
• Main course: Served with soup and rice.
• Dips: Sometimes a main course all their own, sometimes they are included to be shared as part of the tidbit or main course. They are accompanied by vegetables or small pieces of meat.
• Curries: These can also be a main course or stand out on their own. Curries almost always have meat or fish in them.
• Desert: Because of how spicy most Thai meals are, Thai deserts are often much sweeter than you may be used to. They may add the pounds but they will be delicious!

Remember that Thai’s don’t differentiate between Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. So you will not find the wide variety of breakfast foods that you will in most places. There are tons of restaurants that cater to foreigners and that have excellent Breakfast food and buffets.

It is not unusual for Thai restaurants to serve food as it is ready. It is not considered rude to begin your meal when your food arrives. I have been to restaurants where I was finished with my meal before my friend’s food arrived.

This is not uncommon and not considered rude to eat when your plate arrives.

It is also not uncommon for a group to order and all share the same meal. I have seen many Thai’s order 3 plates of food and then just share at will. If you have an aversion to someone taking food off your plate, you need to make this clear as most people that eat here do so in group settings and it is considered part of the meal to share.

Most places you eat will not offer ‘real’ napkins or paper towels. Instead, they bring you toilet tissue. Again, don’t be offended by this. It is just part of the course. You will also notice that after a meal, most Thai’s get up and go to the rest room and wash their hands carefully.

Tipping is not considered necessary but it is VERY appreciated. I suggest a tip of 20 baht to 100 baht for a meal. It all depends on the price. I know most that read this will disagree but if you have a great meal and you had good service, give a nice tip to your waiter. To do this, you place the tip outside of the bin. If you place the tip inside, it is shared with the entire staff or goes to the owner. If you want to tip your waiter, pay your bin and think separately give them 50 baht (or whatever amount you have decided on) in another hand. This assures that the tip goes to them.

cc ThailandVisa.com 2009

#2 smoker

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 10:33 AM

I agree that it's always good to tip and I appreciate the advice about putting the money outside the tray.

#3 WannaGo

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 08:40 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I made some curry chicken at home with Thai Kitchen green curry paste, some fish sauce, coconut milk and green peas. It was pretty good, but I think I overdid it with the fish sauce because the taste of it kind of overwhelmed everything else. Served it over rice, which is what I do with just about everything. Growing up on my stepmom's Japanese cooking, it kind of became second nature to have rice with every meal.

Since I live in a smaller town, we don't have any good Thai restaurants, but if you ever get to Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida, you should check out Bahn Thai. It's a little hole-in-the-wall place just down Monroe Street from the Capitol building. Sue, the owner, is from Thailand and is a great cook. A tough little lady, too. A few years ago, some guy tried to hold her up and take the restaurant's receipts. She fought with him and he tried to shoot her...but the bullet hit the bank bag and didn't penetrate.

#4 Thaimo

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 01:57 AM

if you ever get to Tallahassee

Hi WannaGo. It's been many more years than I like to think about, but I lived in the Tallahassee area for a while. We used to go down to Spring Creek, Wakulla Springs, and Crawfordville regularly for those wonderful mullet and hushpuppies dinners. I imagine it's all long since changed by now. Many seafood restaurants in Thailand serve dishes that remind me of it, but nothing is quite the same.

If you ever come over to Thailand, I hope you contact me. I'd love to reminisce.

#5 WannaGo

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 09:23 PM

Hi WannaGo. It's been many more years than I like to think about, but I lived in the Tallahassee area for a while. We used to go down to Spring Creek, Wakulla Springs, and Crawfordville regularly for those wonderful mullet and hushpuppies dinners. I imagine it's all long since changed by now. Many seafood restaurants in Thailand serve dishes that remind me of it, but nothing is quite the same.

If you ever come over to Thailand, I hope you contact me. I'd love to reminisce.


Thaimo, wow, small world. You'd be surprised how little has changed down around Wakulla Springs. And I like it that way. I've lived and visited all over Florida, even spent a couple of years living right on the beach, and Wakulla Springs is still my favorite natural place in the entire state. I love the park, and the springs with the mastodon bones, and the river. I'll never forget it was the first place I ever saw an alligator up close.

You're right about some good food down there. One of my favorites is the little no-name place by the dock in Econfina State Park. They've got some great fish and you can eat on the deck right there by the blackwater river. A lot of the old places around Crawfordville/Panacea are still there. Outz's burned down and Posey's got flooded by a tropical storm, but they both rebuilt.

That's cool that you can get food in Thailand that's similar.

Do you live there full-time?

#6 WannaGo

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 09:41 PM

Talking about Thai food made me a little curious about how healthy it is (especially since I often like trying to cook it for myself). Like I suspected, Thai food is actually really good for you.

Turmeric (the yellow herb that colors and flavors yellow curry) and lemongrass, which is used in many recipes, both have anti-inflammatory properties, according to US-government funded studies and a university study in Brazil. Controlling inflammation is one of the keys to reducing heart disease.

CNN had an article several years ago that Tom Yum Gung soup (hot and sour soup), which has shrimp and lemongrass, may have some properties that actually fight cancer. That is very cool, because I love this soup.

A recent joint study by Thailand's Kasetsart University and Japan's Kyoto and Kinki Universities has found that the ingredients in Tom Yum Gung soup are 100 times more effective in inhibiting cancerous tumor growth than other foods.


Galangal (Thai ginger) also is supposed to help with digestion and is used as a treatment for nausea, just like regular ginger. I've never used galangal in my cooking because I always just use regular ginger instead, but I guess I'll have to try it. Apparently you can get it in the States at Asian markets.

(Side note: I live in a smaller town in Florida right now. This morning, in the local paper, a guy commenting on one of the news stories was complaining about all the Asian restaurants here. Can you believe that? What a tool.)

Supposedly, coconut milk, which goes into a lot of the curry dishes and deserts, has some healthy properties, such as boosting good cholesterol, but I couldn't find anything definitive about that. The only reliable source I found was a registered dietician on WebMD who recommended using lite coconut milk because the regular stuff is so high in fat.

Also found something that said the chilies used in Thai food are supposed to help you sleep better. Anybody know anything about that?

By the way, found some cool Thai recipes on the University of Hawaii website.

#7 Thaimo

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 12:49 AM

Do you live there full-time?

Yes, I do. I had been coming to Thailand on vacations for the better part of 15 years before I could retire, but I knew Thailand was where I wanted to retire. I retired and have now lived here permanently for nearly six years now.

I absolutely love living here. I have been all over the country, several times. I can't think of anywhere in the world I would rather be than where I am right now. Retiring in Thailand is the best thing I have ever done for myself and I would do the same thing tomorrow if I had it to do all over again.

Thailand is not for everyone, but for me it is everything. Having developed the ability to speak Thai on a conversational level has been a big help to me as well, although many foreigners are living here with no problems at all and they don't speak a word of Thai.

#8 smoker

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 06:59 AM

The chilies may make you live longer but they can make pooping an interesting experience.

#9 eleothegreat

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 07:14 AM

My dad visited Thailand a couple of years ago. And I could tell, from his stories, that he loved it there - especially the food. He purchased a couple of Thai Cook Books and tried cooking some recipes, which were actually good. We still continue to enjoy homemade Thai cooking until now.

He also brought back three boxes of Nam Pla, which is just actually like our local Patis - I wonder why he had to bring three boxes when we could get the same thing here in the supermarket. But still, I think it's the cultural experience that prompted him to purchase Nam Pla.

So, What's Exactly in Your Typical Fish Sauce?
It's a condiment made from fish that has gone through the process of fermentation. It is usually an essential ingredient in many recipes and sauces. It is a staple food ingredient in Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao cuisine, as well as neighboring South East Asian counties as well. In southern China, it is also used as ingredients for soups and casseroles as well.

Aside from being added to the dishes during the preparation and cooking process, it is also used on the dining table, and is used for dipping condiments.

What's It Made Of?
Fish sauce, especially Southeast Asian ones are made from salt, water and anchovies. They are all arranged in wooden boxes and left to ferment slowly. As they ferment, they are slowly pressed in order to yield that familiar salty and fishy liquid (which taste and smell we so love and the rest of the world abhor :P ).

They call the liquid Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet in Vietnam. In Thailand, it is called Nam Pla, while people in Cambodia call it Teuk Trei. In the Philippines, it is called Patis. The Indonesians have a fish pasted called Trasi, the Malay have their Budu or Belacan, and the Cambodians have their Prahok. These are all common and popular variations of the fish sauce.

Fish Sauce and The Western World
While a lot of people, especially those who are not from Asia, or those who have not grown up with Fish sauce as a kitchen staple, cannot stand the smell of fish sauce. But did you know that there is also a Western version of the fish sauce? And the western version of fish sauce even dates back to Classical Rome. The latins had their liquamen or garum. These also have plenty of other varieties such as oxygarum (fish sauce with vinegar) or meligarum (fish sauce with honey). The garum was made from various fishes like tuna, moray eel, anchovies and mackerel.

The Worcestershire sauce is also another related product since it is fermented and it contains anchovies as well.

While some (or perhaps even plenty) find it foul or horrible smelling, it is an essential of various cuisines, especially across Asia. And since a country's cuisine makes up part of its culture, then we can definitely say that Nam Pla plays a huge role in Thailand's culture. Just as Patis plays a role in our culture and life as well.

So, what do you think of fish sauce?

#10 Thaimo

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 12:58 PM

So, what do you think of fish sauce?

I use it regularly. I like it and I don't find the odor distasteful. It's no more pungent than a can of tuna.

#11 WannaGo

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 07:44 PM

I use fish sauce sparingly. Matter of fact, I've been working on the same bottle in my fridge for several months now and should probably throw it out and buy another one. I love fish and all sorts of seafood, but have always found the strong odor of fish off-putting. Fish sauce is a nice addition to recipes, but definitely don't think I could use it as a condiment.

On the other hand, I use Worcesterhire sauce almost on a daily basis and had no idea about the anchovies. Thanks for pointing that out. Typically, I use it to make marinades. Half Worcestershire, half soy sauce, a little hot chili oil and a splash of lemon juice. Marinate chicken in that overnight, then grill the chicken. Very, very good. Recently switched from Lea & Perrin's to Heinz Worcestershire when I discovered that the Heinz tastes the same at 2/3 the cost.

One of my personal favorite sauces is peanut sauce, but I keep hearing that is not a Thai dish at all, even though you get it at Thai restaurants in the States. Is this true?

#12 Thaimo

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 01:28 AM

One of my personal favorite sauces is peanut sauce, but I keep hearing that is not a Thai dish at all, even though you get it at Thai restaurants in the States. Is this true?

Maybe it is not originally a Thai sauce, but it is used in Thailand when the dish you order calls for it.

Here is something strange, Heinz Ketchup. Many Thai grocery stores carry it and it is relatively expensive. But they also carry Heinz Ketchup with a Thai label. You can easily tell from the logo that it's Heinz. It is exactly the same, but is a fraction of the cost.

#13 lvdkeyes

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 02:47 AM

"The chilies may make you live longer but they can make pooping an interesting experience."
The secret is to eat ice cream after a spicy meal; in the morning when the first starts you will be saying "Come on Ice Cream."

"I've been working on the same bottle in my fridge for several months now and should probably throw it out and buy another one."
There is no need to throw it out. It is fermented and will keep forever. I don't store it in the fridge.

When I took Thai cooking classes the teacher said, "When you taste a dish you have prepared and you feel it needs something, just add fish sauce." She was right.

#14 smoker

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 09:10 AM

I love Worcestershire sauce but can't stand fish sauce.

Go figure.

#15 lvdkeyes

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 11:17 AM

When fish sauce is cooked into foods, you probably wouldn't even know it's there.

#16 WannaGo

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 06:43 PM

Maybe it is not originally a Thai sauce, but it is used in Thailand when the dish you order calls for it.


Good, because you can never have too much peanut sauce.

Here is something strange, Heinz Ketchup. Many Thai grocery stores carry it and it is relatively expensive. But they also carry Heinz Ketchup with a Thai label. You can easily tell from the logo that it's Heinz. It is exactly the same, but is a fraction of the cost.


I can't imagine they sell much of the Heinz label, then. Funny, though, that they even carry that much ketchup. Maybe they're trying to cater to tourists and expats.

There is no need to throw it out. It is fermented and will keep forever. I don't store it in the fridge.


Hey, thanks...that will save me a few dollars.

When I took Thai cooking classes the teacher said, "When you taste a dish you have prepared and you feel it needs something, just add fish sauce." She was right.


Is there anything you can recommend that goes well with fish sauce?

#17 MIA

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 06:55 PM

Exploring Thai Cooking Methods

Umm!! Thai cuisine- is certainly world’s best cuisine! It has a unique blend of spices, which makes it so desirable, so impressive! Do you know that Thai food owes it distinct flavour to a major typical method of cooking i.e. grilling? Maybe Thailand has a huge abundance of natural wood, which can be comfortably used for cooking food. Therefore, Thai people grill everything ranging from meats to fresh seafood. The grilled food is normally eaten with dips or 'Nam Phrik'.

Yam is another popular method of cooking in Thailand. It actually refers to a type of healthy salad, which is made using salty seasoning such as fish sauce, lemon juice, chili, garlic and shallot. Unlike its western counterpart, Thai dressing contains zero fat. Do you know this salad is used to create several interesting dishes such as pork salad, papaya salad, shrimp salad, beef salad and whatever you can think of? Yam is yummy, healthy, and delightful. So, try it next time you go to a Thai restaurant.

Then, boiling is another method of cooking method widely used in Thailand. Earlier, Thai people used clay pots to boil food, cook rice, and make various delicious soups. I still remember the unique aroma and taste of 'Tom Yam Goong,' which is cooked by using boiling method.

My analysis says that Thais like good food, and it is evident in the ways they cook. Thailand is fondly called as the nation of eaters. The country has many tempting delicacies to offer, which are made using various ingredients and taste combinations.

#18 WannaGo

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 07:40 PM

The more I learn about Thai food, the more convinced I become that I should eat more of it. I keep hearing that Thais love to eat (which I do) but that they manage to do it and still stay skinny (which I certainly do not).

I'm convinced a large part of it is that Thai diets seem to be mostly seafood and poultry, which of course are much more lean than beef. And, like the Chinese, their recipes all are heavy on vegetables, with small amounts of meat cut into bite-sized pieces so you eat less of it (seems like I even saw something in one of these messages about how it's considered insulting to offer someone a large piece of meat at a meal).

Plus, it always seems that any diet that is heavy in spicy foods - garlic, chilies, etc. -- also speeds up your metabolism so you burn off food faster and more efficiently. I think I remember reading somewhere that this was called the "thermic effect."

Found a cool website that has a bunch of Thai recipes I'm going to have try. Can any of you guys recommend a good Thai cookbook? Right now I get most of my Thai recipes out a book called -- don't laugh -- "Cooking with Spices for Dummies."

#19 Bob

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 01:57 AM

The more I learn about Thai food, the more convinced I become that I should eat more of it. I keep hearing that Thais love to eat (which I do) but that they manage to do it and still stay skinny (which I certainly do not).


What's sad, at least to me, is the increasing number of chubby Thai kids over the last decade. Ten years ago, I almost never saw anything other than your typical skinny Thai kid but I've remarked more and more the last 5-6 years that there are "little buddhas" popping up all over the place. And some of them are actually rather huge at 10-12 years of age.

Why? My guess is it parallels the growth of the burger joints, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, KFC, and all the crap food of the west. Over the years, you see more and more Thai kids and teenagers frequenting these places.

#20 lvdkeyes

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 02:08 AM

Is there anything you can recommend that goes well with fish sauce?

Almost all Thai food has fish sauce in it. I can't think of any dish besides desserts that doesn't have it.




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