Friday, March 28, 2014

What to Eat When Visiting Thailand

If you have never experienced Thai food, find the closest restaurant and get yourself a curry, stat! This food is amazing, so amazing in fact that it becomes an obsession.  It became an obsession for me even before I hopped a plane to Bangkok. So today, in honor of this most appetizing and delightful cuisine, I bring you my favorite Thai food.

Be warned, this post contains a lot of mouth- watering photos of the food that I ate while I was there.

Pad Thai, my first meal in Bangkok.

Pad Thai is probably the best way to get your feet wet with Thai cuisine. It's not spicy, and you can see exactly what is in the dish: fresh noodles, chicken, green onions, roasted peanuts, sprouts and a fresh lime. It's also the national dish of Thailand.
Green curry with some added veggies
Tom Khar Gai, spring rolls and Singha beer

Known as gaeng kiaw waan in Thailand, green curry is one you will find at pretty much any restaurant. With little green chilies controlling the heat and some coconut cream to cool it down, it creates a perfect balance of flavors. The magic is in the green curry paste, and it can be served with everything from potatoes and chicken to eggplant and prawns. I prefer mine on the thick and creamy side with a medium spice level.

I could live off this soup. Tom Khar Gai quickly became one of my new favorites. With shoots of lemongrass, coconut milk and the Thai ginger called galangal, this soup is perfect even on a hot day. That's how amazing it is.

More green's important to compare

What's curry without rice?

Khao Tom

Penang Curry, spicy papaya salad and fresh coconut water!
Massaman Gai (yellow curry)
The khao tom above was a lovely morning soup of rice and chicken broth with lemon grass, ginger, cilantro and fried garlic. The surprise was on the bottom with raw eggs sitting at the base of the bowl waiting to be mixed in. The eggs were cooked from the heat of the broth. Genius.

A couple of other genius meals are the massaman and penang curries. The former is usually a mild and creamier version of a curry with a coconut flavor, and the penang is thinner and spicier using red chilies. Both are fantastic. If spicy is what you are after, then this papaya noodle salad is the way to go. The green papaya has been cut into noodles, and it is hot. I couldn't stop eating it even though my mouth was on fire. That's what the fresh coconut is for. When chilled to a very cold temperature, the water inside is heavenly. I bought one to drink every time I saw one.
Street Food!

Fried rice with veggies

Fried rice is also a staple, and so cheap. This one was from Maddie's Kitchen on Koh Phangan where they use "ingredients for peace." As soon as I saw the menu and the Dalai Lama quote on the front I knew I had chosen the right place for lunch. The food was really good too.

Finally, a conversation about Thai food would not be complete without mentioning street food. Street food in Bangkok is one of the things that I wish I had been more brave to dive into. While I did try one of these delicious meats on a stick and a donut on my last day in the city, there were so many more things I could have tasted. There were elaborate carts serving full menus providing plastic chair seating and ladies with trays full of all sorts of delicacies up and down all of the streets. I'll be honest, I was a bit scared of getting sick, but I know that when I go back, it will be first on my list. It all looked so tasty, and a little fear should never stand in the way of good food.

So what do you eat while in Thailand? Everything!

Before I left Bangkok, I ransacked a grocery store for an assortment of spices to take home with me. Today I attempt to make a green curry using the recipe I learned while I was in Koh Samui at SITCA (Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts). It's tricky to find some of the ingredients, so I will have to improvise. Check back on Monday for an account of how it all went.