The first time I went to Thailand was back in 1973. I was a young soldier in the United States Army and Bangkok was my first duty station. I was there for 18 months and my first meal back in America was a Big Mac, fries and a Coke.
Times have changed and fast food places dot the Thailand countryside. Everything from KFC to McDonalds to Pizza Hut is everywhere. They are not just in the big cities and tourist town, but exist in smaller towns like Khon Kaen and Phitsanulok.
Granted, I am a junk food junkie back in the states, but usually in Thailand, I tend to eat the local food. Actually it is Thai fast food.
I prefer to eat from the local street vendors that can have a plate ready for you in less than one minute. And, it is a lot cheaper and tastier than the local Burger King.
But, when I am in Thailand for three or four weeks, eventually I give in and have to have some burgers, fried chicken, or pizza. And, for my Thai girlfriend, it is a special treat to eat from one of the American “restaurants”.
When I go to Khon Kaen, I love to eat the fresh seafood at the local restaurants. Bar-B-Que prawn with vegetables and rice is all I need for dinner. My sweetie will get some oysters and papaya salad and all is good.
When we are in the room and decide to stay in to watch a DVD movie, she just loves to call the Pizza Company for some pizza and chicken wings. I get the pizza and she devours the wings.
Breakfasts are usually standard fare of eggs and rice with perhaps a sausage or two. Occasionally it will be Thai soup or a noodle dish like pad thai. Once in a while we like to go to a hotel run by foreigners and they have an “American” breakfast.
Lunches are snacks for me. I like to have some chicken or pork BBQ on a stick with some sticky rice. Or, if my girl is in a good mood, she will drive over to KFC and grab some spicy chicken sandwiches. And, of course, she gets me the blueberry cheesecake dessert.
We both enjoy the Khon Kaen restaurants that are around the local lake or rivers. They have these small, thatched booths with great views. The food and service is excellent and some have a live band playing local Thai country music.
So, Thailand has the best of both worlds. You can get anything from a pizza to a cheeseburger, or fried rice and noodles. Great food and super prices. Another reason I love Thailand.
When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Thailand, do as the Thaïs do. Nothing will endear you more to the local people in Thailand is knowing how to eat like they do.
This is something very simple but goes a long way in making friends in a foreign country. And since eating is the national sport of Thailand, doing it the right way will help you in fitting right in.
Most Thai meals consist of meat, rice and vegetables. I know this is a generalization but I am talking about most of the meals. For meals like this you will only be given two utensils, a spoon and a fork. There are also fried noodle dishes that are also eaten with spoon and fork.
The spoon is used to eat with and the fork is basically a shovel used to push food on the spoon. The meat will cut in bite size pieces so there is no need for a knife. Once you get used to it, it is a very easy way of eating.
A knife is only needed if you order something like a steak or have some bread that needs buttering. But, this is not Thai food.
Chopsticks are primarily used when eating soup. One of the Thai staples is noodle soup called gwet-ee-ow (your phonetics may differ from mine). This soup can be found on almost every corner in Thailand. It comes with a variety of vegetables, different sized noodles, and different meats. There will be different condiments that can be added; hot chili peppers, crushed peanuts, sugar, vinegar and more. The best thing to do is to add a little and give it a taste and see what else needs to be added. Of course, a spoon is also used to sample the broth.
You can also get back to basics and enjoy some Thai food with no utensils at all. You can call it Thai finger food. Sticky rice, fruits, and vegetables are sometimes easier to eat just by using your fingers. Your girl may peel, break, or share a bite with you and all she will use are her fingers and her teeth. It may not be the most sanitary, but it is delicious and a lot of fun.
And, if you are really brave, you can sample some of the Isaan, or northeast, snacks. You will see many bug carts in Bangkok and Pattaya displaying crickets, ants, beetles, silkworms and other delicacies. If you can down these, you will endear yourself to your Isaan friends forever.
So, as you can see, there are just a few things to learn to eat like the Thaïs do. Eat the local food and do it in the proper way and you will enjoy your holiday all the more.