A Guide to Thai Cuisine

Thailand is well-known as a top destination for travellers who relish in the offerings of its gilded temples, markets, dazzling white beaches, warm seas perfect for diving and snorkelling, superb hotels and the famous nightlife that buzzes till dawn. All these activities have one thing in common... they build up a huge appetite! Luckily, if you're a hungry foodie, there is nowhere better to be than on a Thailand holiday. 

Thailand floating markets

Thailand cuisine culture is quite extraordinary. While Thai food is cooked fairly swiftly, often in a very hot wok, the preparation time is more intense. The completed meal is often as great a delight on the eye as it is on the tongue. Fruit displays include intricate carving to show off the vibrant colours, and you can be assured that all meals are freshly prepared daily, often in the presence of the diners.   

street food

Thailand Street Food

When you think of Asian destinations with great food, Bangkok is one of the first cities that comes to mind. Bangkok food is legendary and so much so that CNN named it the very best city in the world for street food.   

Street food in Thailand is not to be confused with fast food in the Western sense. But at the same time, we’re not talking about a mielie grilled on a fire at the side of the road! Street food is big business in Thailand and is found throughout the towns and cities and is fresh, delicious and exceptionally tasty.  

Finding great food isn’t difficult in Bangkok. Just walk to one of its many food enclaves and markets, and you’re sure to find vendors cooking up tantalizing plates. Vendors set up tables with gas woks and create little parcels of tasty snacks. The ingredients are garden-fresh, and the chicken and fish are laid out on a bed of crushed ice to ensure perfect freshness.  

So, go ahead - just tuck in! 

restaurants in Bangkok

Best Restaurants in Bangkok

Bangkok food ranges from the simplest snacks purchased from a street vendor through to the haute cuisine served in Michelin-starred restaurants. The respected Michelin Guide lists no less than 282 restaurants in Thailand and a whopping 29 have received the coveted stars that place them in a class of their own. The Guide also lists 94 restaurants in the Bib Gourmand category which are wallet-friendly eateries offering high-quality food. This growing culinary reputation is gaining worldwide attention.  

Fine dining in Bangkok comes at a price, but you do not have to fork out a king’s ransom to enjoy an excellent meal in Bangkok. Most hotels offer traditional dishes of superior quality as do the restaurants in modern malls. But for a more authentic experience, look out for small and unadorned cafes where the locals are relaxing with a beer and the dish of the day. In some cases, hand signs and pictures might be required to place your order but rest assured the locals are friendly and hospitable. 

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Thailand Traditional Food

If you believe that Thailand cuisine only consists of flash-friend chicken or fish served on spicy rice, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Thailand food is an art form at many different levels. 

Thai cuisine originated with the people who emigrated from the southern Chinese provinces into modern-day Thailand many centuries ago with many different influences. Today Thai food is its own, with a special unique blend of the 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. 

Thai food is so popular that it has spawned a plethora of cooking schools offering one-day courses to week-long intensive tuition. The Blue Elephant and Baipai are among the better-known schools, and many family-run establishments operate from their own homes. What could be more authentic than that?  

Many hotels also offer short courses with their chefs to give you a brief glimpse of how simple Thai dishes are to prepare. Select a course that first takes you to a local Thailand market to choose from an astonishing selection of fresh ingredients – you also get a chance to taste some traditional Thailand snacks. 

If you are a novice at ordering Thai cuisine, you can rest easy knowing that hotels and restaurant menus have detailed descriptions and even pictures of the food. Even the street vendors speak a smattering of English, so you will always have a good idea of what you’re ordering. 

Did you know? Only noodle dishes are served with chopsticks. Popular dishes are Tom Yum Goong (spicy prawn soup), Pad Thai Noodles and Tom Kha Kai, a deliciously perfumed chicken coconut curry. If you are dining in a group, it is proper etiquette to order a few plates for the table and share them. You should only take a few spoonful’s at a time from the serving dishes and make sure to leave some food in the dishes and on your plate to show your host you are savouring the meal.

Durian fruit

Exotic Food in Thailand

Thailand offers an array of exotic, weird foods that would surprise you – some of which are actually quite tasty. 

You have probably heard of Durian fruit which is banned from aircraft because of its pungent smell, but it yields a soft creamy centre. Try it in ice cream or a smoothie, but be warned: it is an acquired taste. 

The fruit can be downright bizarre. There is the Rose Apple (we know it as a guava); the plum red Mangosteen which is known as the queen of fruits; and the bizarre, spiky Rambutan (which looks like a sea anemone) with a grape-like flavour. Another oddity is the alien-looking Dragon Fruit which has a pure white centre dotted with little black seeds – quite the opposite of its exterior. Be daring and try them all! 

For less-adventurous eaters, all the usual fruit is available at hotels and restaurants, which are displayed in magnificent buffet displays with intricately carved fruit. There are even schools in Thailand that teach the art of fruit carving. 

And lastly, if you are brave enough to try them, red ant eggs are particularly popular in Northeastern Thailand. These crunchy eggs are eaten both raw and cooked. The most common dishes with ant eggs include a spicy salad with herbs or fried omelette. Today, these are considered a rare and expensive ingredient. 

If you’re hungry for Thailand (it’s experiences as well as its food), we’ve got Thailand packages to whet your appetite. Browse them now and get in touch! 

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