If you follow my blog regularly you will know that I recently returned from a trip to Thailand. My sister and I travelled together and we had an amazing time with many highlights, including a Thai cooking class, snorkeling, island time, and exploring numerous temples. It may be hard to believe but I do do other things on my trips besides eat, although I can see why you have your doubts! But this ain’t a travel blog…this is a food blog. So here are some of my food highlights from my first (but not last) trip to Thailand.
One of the first, and probably the most important things, that I noticed about authentic Thai food was the flavours. Thai food relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours (generally speaking most dishes incorporate an element of each flavour). If you want to add more of any of these flavours, you can use the condiment jars that are delivered to your table when your meals are served. The picture above is an example of the four flavours that you can choose from. I got addicted to adding the fresh chilli and fish sauce to everything, particularly fried rice.
The street food was absolutely captivating and I found myself struggling to keep an eye on all of the mind-boggling food on display whilst trying to maneuver through the crowds.
Common sense (and a paralyzing fear of spending days in the bathroom) kept me from trying anything that had been sitting out but we did eat at hole-in-the-wall places, which I really enjoyed. The dishes were not only incredibly tasty but they were also dirt cheap (every food-lovers dream!).
Panang Chicken Curry – $6 CAD
Fried rice – $1.30 CAD
Chicken Noodle Soup – $1.10 CAD
Throughout Thailand we encountered “pancake” stands. The pancakes are not the pancakes we are familiar with as they are more like a fried crepe. A small ball of dough is kneaded and rolled out into a thin consistency and then fried using a hot wok-like pan. The fried and crispy pancake is then filled with either a sweet topping, like Nutella or banana, or a savoury filling, like cheese and tomato.
Our first sample was the above pancake which was filled with banana and then finished with condensed milk and a sprinkle of salt. Delicious! And it cost us less than a dollar. Another night we had a light dinner of beer and a cheese and tomato pancake on the beach – a light and extremely cheap dinner.
My two favourite meals of the whole trip were actually from the same place, L. Maladee on the island of Ko Lanta.
The Panang chicken curry (above) was thick and fragrant with the perfect level of spice. It was hands-down one of the best curries that I’ve eaten…ever. Oh, and it cost me only $3 CAD (!!). I was so impressed that I asked the manager how I could re-create this dish at home and she told me it was all to do with the coconut milk. She said most coconut milk in Western countries was just too runny to get the right consistency. I am now on the lookout for a thick, authentic Thai coconut milk.
That same evening we returned to L. Maladee for our evening meal and I was almost going to order the Panang curry again, this time with fresh, fat prawns that had been caught that day. However, I let the manager talk me into ordering their house curry (below) and what a smart decision that was! It was quite spicy and there was a level of complex flavours within the paste that just made this curry unforgettable. I will dream of this curry forever.
Have you seen the Hangover 2? I watched it just before I flew to Thailand and I was in awe of a scene in the film where they are at a restaurant on the top of a skyscraper, looking out over Bangkok. Needless to say, it went on my list of “things to do”. My sister and I found ourselves at the base of State Tower at 10 minutes to 6pm and decided that despite our disheveled appearance that we’d try to get in. We took the elevator to the 63rd floor and managed to be some of the first few patrons in the line for the 6pm opening of Sky Bar.
The view was absolutely spectacular and being so high up, the cool air was a relief from the sticky heat at street-level. Drinks are not cheap (I think our cocktail was about $20 but the glasses of champagne were more than a whole bottle back at home!) yet it was such a unique experience that I’d pay it again.
One observation that I made about eating in Thailand was that the service for the most part is pretty crap. That’s fine with me – I don’t travel for things to be the same as at home but I was just surprised of the lack of organization at some of the places we ate at. Some places had incredible food and would have made more money if the service was stronger but often we couldn’t find a server to order that extra beer or to pay the bill. Another observation that came as no surprise was that the cost of food went up and the quality went down the further we moved into the touristy areas (the islands). I found the prices in Bangkok to be much, much cheaper than that of the islands and the quality generally seemed to be better.
Thailand has a charm that seems to have people returning time and time again. The allure has not been lost on me and it is likely that I will also return. How could I not when I have vivid memories of sitting bare-foot in an open-air restaurant, sticky with sweat but cooled by a tropical breeze, slurping on a banana smoothie whilst my tongue is tingling from the curry that I’ve just devoured? These memories are the reason that I travel. Besides, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on the food scene…