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When getting ready to travel somewhere, a lot of people like to do some research about the country they will visit. They will, look at pictures of tourist attractions and see what the food is like. However, no matter how much we research, we will always be surprised when we reach our destination.
Thai food, famous in Western countries, won’t fail to surprise you. There is always something unknown, something we never thought could exist. For example, the lack of baked food, or putting ice in a glass of beer; or some dishes that even Thai people find strange; or the dining etiquette.
Read our quick guide and learn some interesting facts about Thai food.
You will have a hard time finding baked food in Thailand. Thai people almost never use an oven, but they love to stir-fry, deep fry and grill their food.
Of course, you will find bakeries here and there, because of the high demand of the tourists – but if you want to get the real Thai experience and get your taste buds used to Thai flavors, stick to traditionally-cooked food and you won’t regret it.
There are a few dishes that are ubiquitous in Thailand: Pad Thai, papaya salad, mango and sticky rice, green curry, etc. However, some dishes are strictly regional, and it will be almost impossible to find them elsewhere.
For example, travelling in the North you will come across Gaeng Hanglay (Northern Thai curry) and maybe fall in love with it, but it will be difficult to find it in other places. In Chiang Mai everyone loves Hao Soi, a soup with wide rice noodles, but people elsewhere might not have ever heard of it. (But there is still hope! Just look extensively, and you will probably find all the dishes you are looking for.)
Something that might sound like a blasphemy to many, is the delight of a lot of Thai people. It is common to find Thai people sitting in a restaurant, sipping their beer with ice in it. It is just a way to fight the brutal heat of Thailand’s daytime.
It is common to drink Chang, Leo, or Tiger “on the rocks”, and many foreigners start liking this new method to drink beer.
Thai cuisine likes to combine different flavors: spicy, sour, salty, and, last but not least, sweet. Many dishes, also those you wouldn’t expect, have sugar in them. From Pad Thai to green papaya salad, it is pretty common to add a couple of spoonfuls of sugar during the preparation.
Spicy food is extremely easy to find, and one might think that it is impossible to avoid. This is of course no true. While a lot of dishes come with a good amount of spices, many others don’t. Spicy dishes are usually indicated on the menu, and most of the time the word “spicy” is in the title itself. And the waiters always ask how spicy you prefer your food.
So, if you don’t love spicy food, don’t worry! You will still be perfectly able to enjoy Thai food.
Thai food is everywhere, and everyone loves it. It is so omnipresent that a lot of people would know at least one dish for every part of the meal, and they could order from a menu without any help. This doesn’t mean that Thai cuisine ends here.
There are some dishes that are so strange that also Thai people think of them as an acquired taste:
To Thai people, food matters. A lot! One of the first questions a Thai can ask you is: “Have you eaten?” Eating is seen as a sort of celebration, a reason to be happy, a moment to share with you and the ones you love. It is common to see big tables of people eating together; all dishes have to be shared, everyone must have the chance to enjoy them. Eating alone is a sign of bad luck.
Not surprisingly, the formal presentation of food is an important aspect of Thai culture. It was developed initially to please the King, and nowadays the formal presentation is extremely delicate, with richly designed cutlery and wares.
This might be a surprise to many, but Thai people don’t use chopsticks to eat Thai food. Chopsticks are used only to eat noodles, and never to eat rice. Thai people use a fork and a spoon. This is how it’s done: Use the fork to push the food on the spoon, and then use that to eat your food. The fork is used only for items not eaten with rice (chunks of fruit, for example).
Food comes to the table already cut into bite-size pieces, and there are no knives on the table. If a dish includes glutinous sticky rice (usually served in a small basket), eat it using your right hand. Compress a small ball of rice with your fingers and use it to eat sauces and the like.
Thailand is no different from other Asian countries; age and social status are really important. The most senior or highest ranking person is the one that usually organizes the dinner. He chooses his seat before everyone else, and he is usually the one who starts the meal. Wait for his signal before eating, or, if he doesn’t say anything, simply wait for them before starting to eat.
Are you intrigued by Thai food? Curious and eager to try distant and delicious flavors? Start planning your trip to Thailand now with the help of our knowledgeable staff. We will tailor the perfect trip around your needs, doing our best to ensure a hassle-free vacation for you and your loved ones.
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