A Glossary of Typical Thai Dishes



Where To Eat

Posted By : chauthihoaithuong/ 6 0

Thailand is fortunate in being a land of plenty. Because much of the land is fertile and the population has always been small relative to the size of the country, famine is all but unknown. In the 13th century King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai, the first Thai kingdom, recorded: “This land is thriving … in the water are fish, in the fields there is rice.” He might also have mentioned the wide range of tropical fruits, vegetables, and spices – to which have been added, since his day, a wealth of imports from tropical America, thriving in their new Old World setting. The range of dishes, as well as the variety and freshness of the ingredients, make for one of the world’s great cuisines. Thais love to eat: six or seven meals a day is not uncommon. Wherever there are people there are restaurants and food stands. As well being famed for its flavor and freshness, Thai cuisine is beautifully presented, and dishes are often be garnished with flowers and rosettes carved out of colorful vegetables and fruit


Bangkok’s dining scene is one of the most cosmopolitan in Southeast Asia. Italian and French cuisine have long been part of the culinary landscape, but now diners can also enjoy trendy Mexican bars and grills, sophisticated Japanese restaurants, five-star hotel Sunday brunches, and traditional Thai food served up with contemporary flair. Most urban restaurants, especially those serving Western food, open at about 11am and close between 10pm and midnight. This can mean that finding an early Western-style breakfast is difficult away from the tourist scene, in which case a Thai omelet may have to serve as a substitute.

Restaurants are almost always listed in free tourist magazines – virtually every major city and resort in Thailand will issue these. They can be picked up in hotel reception lobbies, at banks and money changers, as well as in many restaurants. These magazines usually list places by cuisine and specialty, often giving details of how to get there, along with telephone numbers for booking tables. Away from the major tourist destinations, the main hotels in every town will usually have air-conditioned restaurants offering a mixture of Thai and Chinese cuisine.

Thais have taken to Western cuisine, and especially to the Western fast-food culture, with enthusiasm. McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken are increasingly visible, but the most popular imports appear to be pizza and pasta, which can be found in just about any provincial capital. However, quality does vary from place to place.


Shops Over the last decade, franchised Western coffee shops and their local equivalents have become extremely popular, particularly in the big cities and resort towns. The clean, air-conditioned shops have been a hit with the younger generation, who often gather there after school or college. Local coffee shops are still favored by older citizens, who prefer strong, sweet coffee, filtered through a cotton bag. Served with condensed milk, the coffee is excellent with youtiao, a traditional deep-fried Chinese breakfast doughnut.

Roadside and Market Food Stands

Some of the best and most reasonably priced food in Thailand can be found at any of the numerous roadside food stalls. Generally speaking, such establishments are clean and unpretentious. These stands are often mobile, allowing the proprietors to push them home and clean them every night. The ingredients are openly displayed behind glass panels. Fast cooking processes, such as flash-frying, grilling over charcoal, or boiling are often used. This means that the fare, invariably fresh, should also be well-cooked and safe to eat.

A sure way of measuring a stall’s popularity, as anywhere in the world, is by its patrons. If there are plenty of locals sitting at the simple tables most stalls provide, then the chances are the food is good. It is not surprising to find a businessman with a Mercedes parked nearby sitting at the same stall as a tuk-tuk driver. Thais from all sectors of society know how to appreciate good, cheap food.

Menus are rarely in English, so it is a good idea to memorize the names of your favorite dishes from the food glossary . Alternatively, point at a dish and ask to taste – few Thais expect foreign visitors to speak their language, and they are always willing to help

Khantoke Dining

A traditional style of dining in Northern Thailand, khantoke dinners are often arranged for guests by hotels in Chiang Mai and other Northern cities. Diners sit on mats around a low, circular table. The meal includes a variety of Northern dishes such as nam phrik num (a very spicy dip), kap mu (pork skin) and kaeng kai (a chicken and vegetable curry), all of which are served with khao niaw (sticky rice) and washed down with local beer. A khantoke dinner is often accompanied by displays of traditional Thai dancing.


Buying meals is one of the cheapest aspects of a visit to Thailand. The cost of alcohol, however, can often be more than the meal itself. It is common practice for prices to be displayed. Menus inv ariably list them next to each dish. The prices for shellfish are often given by weight. In larger establishments and international[1]class hotels a service charge and tax will usually be levied. These extra costs will be clearly detailed on the check. Even at very small establishments prices are nearly always fixed and marked (in Arabic numerals) on a board. Bargaining for foodstuffs is surprisingly rare.


Tipping was once unknown, but its popularity is increasing as Thais grow accustomed to tips from tourists. Do not apply a percentage: 10 percent of 50 baht may well be appropriate, but 10 percent of an expensive meal would be far too much.

Eating Habits in Thailand

The Thai philosophy of nutrition is simple – if you are hungry, eat. Nothing should stand in the way. Most Thais, moreover, eat little but often, sometimes snacking six or seven times a day. The concept of three meals simply does not apply in Thailand. Even though people do indeed eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they may also stop for a bowl of noodles, a fried snack, or a sweet at any time of day.

Eating is a simple pleasure and does not involve complex rituals of etiquette, although visitors should note a few rules. Thais eat with a fork held in the left hand and a spoon held in the right hand. The fork is used solely to push food onto the spoon; eating straight from a fork is considered crude. Since food – especially meat – is cut into pieces before it is cooked, knives are not needed.

Thai noodle dishes are often strongly influenced by Chinese culinary traditions, and they areeaten using chopsticks and a spoon. Another exception to the general rule is sticky rice (khao niaw), which is eaten – delicately – using fingers. Food in Thailand is generally served communally in a series of bowls. Only small rice bowls are reserved for individual use. Rice is traditionally served first, and then a spoon is used to ladle a spoonful from the communal bowls on top of the rice. Feel free to come back for more as necessary. Overloading your plate is regarded as uncouth – there is no hurry, and there is always plenty more in the kitchen.

Recommended Restaurants

The restaurants on the following pages have been carefully selected to give a cross-section of options from across the country. Included are not only those places that excel in producing tasty Thai cuisine, but also those that serve other Asian cuisines, such as Japanese and Vietnamese, as well as restaurants serving international favorites like steaks, salads, and burgers. Besides the quality of food, these recommendations take into account the ambience and level of service. However, since taste is much more important than presentation for most Thai diners, many of the places listed here lack the kind of sophisticated ambience so sought after by restaurants in the West. For the best of the best, look out for the restaurants featuring the DK Choice label.

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