Exotic Eats: Thailand

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Exotic Eats, Thailand | 1 comment

I thought I knew Thai food.  Mike and I order from a local Thai place in Chicago at least once a month and I feel pretty familiar with the flavors. But, after spending 3 weeks in this glorious country, I now realize that there is no way of replicating the freshness, flavors, aromas, and balance of this cuisine without going straight to the source.  The Thai people pride themselves on combining multiple taste sensations (sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) into one harmonious dish.  The food can be incredibly spicy and wonderfully surprising.  I sampled my fair share of stir-frys during our time in Thailand but there were a few dishes that really stood out:

Som Tam: Green Papaya Salad
This fresh, crunchy salad combines shredded unripe papaya, beans, chili, and lime.  Somehow it is sweet, savory, sour, and spicy all at once. (I learned the hard way that it is important to ask for “less spice” so as to avoid turning into a sweaty, runny nosed, “lips on fire” mess.) It was so nice to actually have a salad on this trip after constantly eating rice!  Towards the end of our time in Thailand we ordered Som Tam as an appetizer for almost every meal. 

Papaya Salad

Thai Green Curry
You would think after India and Nepal that I would be “curried out” but this dish left me wanting more. The combination of green chilies, creamy coconut milk, thai herbs, and curry is unbeatable and so different from other curry dishes in Asia.  I typically ordered it with chicken and rice and mixed the rice in the soupy sauce.  

Pad Thai
Most Westerners are probably familiar with this dish (stir fried noodles, egg, fish sauce, peppers, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, and protein of choice) as it frequently appears on menus back home.  I made a point to sample Pad Thai in almost every place we visited and loved it. My major takeaway, however, is that you don’t have to go all the way to Thailand to find very authentic versions of this dish.  It may be a little more consistent and authentic here but you can actually find decent Pad Thai in the states.  (Fun fact: Apparently, Pad Thai is ranked number 5 on CNNs “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods”  list.)

Pad Thai

Street Food
You are not experiencing all of Thailand’s culinary scene if you don’t try the street food.  Little food kiosks and carts are everywhere and they are a fun and inexpensive way to sample a little bit of everything (even if you sometimes don’t know what it is).  Unlike in other countries, we never felt nervous about eating the street food in Thailand.  For those that are more cautious, however, just look for a stand that is clean and busy with locals.  We had a blast attempting to taste it all: corn straight off the cob, various meat kabobs, “hotdogs” wrapped in a pancake, artfully cut, chilled fruit, crepes, and khanom kruk (coconut cream cooked over a charcoal fire).  Each bite is an adventure in itself.  

One Comment

  1. My mouth is watering……

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