Most restaurants in Bangkok - all that are in tourist areas - have bilingual menus. Many also have photos of the dishes they serve. Besides being helpful for ordering your meal, menus can also be a source of humorous grammar and spelling errors.
Tom Yum Kung
This spicy seafood soup is perhaps the Thai people's favorite soup. Yes, like most Thai food, it is hot and spicy. In fact, it is particularly so. Ingredients include prawns, lemon grass, lime juice and flaming hot chili peppers.
Som Tam Kung
This dish from Northeast Thailand is made from papaya, small shrimp or crab (Som Tam Bhoo), sugar, vinegar, some other spices and a truckload of chilies.
Do not try this dish except at a place frequented by tourists. They will tone it down so you don't feel like you've had a flamethrower inserted in your mouth and spend the next 24 hours in the bathroom.
Pad Thai is a Thai noodle dish and on the mild side. It is a staple favorite among Thais, noodles fried with meat and vegetables.
Tom Kha Kai
Also on the mild side is a soup made in coconut milk stock and chicken.
Here's a mish mash of dishes popular among friends and colleagues of yours truly
- Khao Neow Mamuang is a mango, sticky rice and coconut milk combo. It is a real treat and considered by many a "must eat" experience
- Yam Makhua Yao is an eggplant salad with mint and chilies
- Kai Phat Khing is stir-fried chicken with ginger. It can also be made with pork
- Khai Jio is a Thai fried omelet that is good with minced pork Khai Jio Moo Sub
- Phat Phak Khana is a tasty stir-fried collard greens dish
- Phat Phak Ruam-mit is stir-fried vegetables in oyster sauce
- Khao Pad Sapparot is fried rice with pineapple
How about the results of a survey to help decide what to eat?
The Office of the National Culture Commission actually conducted a popularity survey among foreigners to determine their favorite Thai foods. The results, in the order of how popular the dish was, are as follows:
- Tom Yam Kung (spicy shrimp soup)
- Kaeng Khiao Wan Kai (green chicken curry)
- Phat Thai (fried noodles Thai style)
- Kaphrao (meat fried with sweet basil)
- Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (roast duck curry)
- Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut soup)
- Yam Nua (spicy beef salad)
- Mu or Kai Sa-te (roast pork or chicken coated with turmeric)
- Kai Phat Met Mamuang Himmaphan (chicken fried with cashew nuts)
- Phanaeng (meat in coconut cream)
Thailand also has some great tropical fruits - very exotic to most westerners. These include rose apple (chom poo), custard apple (nawy-na), pomelo (som oh), mango (ma muang), mangosteen (mang-koot), and rambutan (ngawk).
We'd be remiss not to mention the 'king of fruits' - the durian. While many agree that the smell is not the most pleasant, a lot of folks like the taste. It's probably in the category of something that should be tried while in Thailand.
Tips for Eating in Thailand
- If you are a novice with Thai food, don't eat the red or green chilies with your dish. They are powerfully hot. If you want to check one out, cut off a tiny piece
- Drink bottled water. Ice cubes are okay and are made from treated water. Crushed ice is frequently made from tap water
- Don't eat meat that is not thoroughly cooked. If it is bloody, send it back to the kitchen
- The ingredients in salads have usually been washed with tap water. Some people avoid all uncooked food
- Thais eat with a spoon and fork. They use the fork to push food onto the spoon
- Thais' and expatriates' stomachs and palates have become accustomed to things. Just because they eat or drink something, doesn't mean it's wise for you to do so