Thailand is one of the most exotic destinations in the world, the blend of Thai culture and tradition, synergy with the neighbouring countries and influences from the West have helped to shape the country as it is today. One thing is for sure in Thailand, there is never a shortage for a variety of food, and in fact you can say that it is an open fiesta where food is concerned.
In Thai eating patterns the starters are not a fundamental part of the eating culture, however the main course, especially desserts and snacks are the norm. A walk down the rows of food stalls with vendors in small push carts plying their goods, you will find a cacophony of main courses such as noodles, rice, fried fresh food, loads of desserts and off course a huge variety of snacks on the go. Unlike the western eating habits where you have starters or appetizers followed by the main meal and then desserts it is just the opposite in Thailand. Indulging in the desserts first is a norm!
So where would you go to sample the local street food of Thailand aside from hitting some street and giving your taste buds a go with the side walk vendors? Most visitors to the country will take a tour of Thailand sightseeing and in some of these tours there is the opportunity to visit the floating markets of Thailand. This is where you can get an introduction to your first taste of Thai street food. A floating market in Thailand tour is the best place to try out first hand what authentic Thai street vendor food is all about and there is a great variety you can choose from plus the thrill of purchasing your food right off the long-tail boats is an experience in itself. How is the Thai street food different from what you find in fancy restaurants or food courts? Most of these places cater mostly to the crowd that are either tourists or produce a fancy version of the originals. Most are not able to carry the actual variety that is available by the vendors. Also most of the street food outside is family run vendors who are small time businesses that have been at their trade for probably generations and the servings they give are not diluted for Western taste but more for the Thai palette.
Some of the sampling of street food you can get off the boat vendors are freshly barbecued seafood, you can select your pick of fresh water or sea prawns, large squids, sea and estuary crabs or salt encrusted barramundi all cooked to perfection when you order and served with a piquant dipping sauce. Other types of recommended dishes are the kiew tieau khai tun or braised chicken noodles, pad see eiew (fried flat rice noodles with bean sprouts and either chicken, pork or seafood), Kao nieow moo ping (grilled spiced pork skewers served with sticky rice), ban mee kieow nam moo deang (egg noodle soup with wanton and minced pork eaten with vinegar green chilli), yen ta foh (noodles served with a red soup accompanied by seafood and minced meat), yam pla dok foo ( a deep fried cat fish salad made of young papaya, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar). Desserts have two varieties, sweet or savoury. A nice dessert to try aside from the usual mango and sticky rice is the fukthong (pumpkin custard), kah nom krog (a small pan cooked batter made from flour and coconut milk with corn or minced meat on the inside served hot), patong koa and nam tau hu ( deep fried flour pastry served with hot soy bean drink), kuey tod (fried battered banana served with crusty fried coconut shavings) and for snacks you can try the salted deep fried bay crabs and shrimps, ka nom huey lor (sesame seeded deep fried balls with bean paste), khao niew ping choop kai (sticky rice dipped in egg and grilled), Koo chai ka thiam (chives leafs stuffed in rice pastry served steamed or fried), and Nam prik sod sai (minced meat in flour coating steamed and served with loads of fried garlic and a dipping sauce).
Exploring the Thai eating culture is both fascinating and a culinary experience. Not only is it cheaper than eating in a hotel or restaurant but the variety is much larger than even a good buffet in a fancy restaurant. They also do taste much better! So when you do come to visit Thailand, make it a point and try one of the sightseeing tours of Bangkok or river and canal cruise in Bangkok that will bring you to one of the floating markets where you can indulge in local Thai cuisine till your heart is content. The only thing is if you do not want something to be spicy just remember these words “mai sai prik” which means no chilli or “Mai phed” which is with chili but not spicy!