Thailand The Travel Guide: How to Eat Like A Local
Thailand is not only a spiritual tourist destination but also a paradise for those who are passionate about food. Thai cuisine has a combination of many culinary cultures of neighbors such as India, China, Myanmar, Indonesia,… To be able to fully enjoy a meal like a local, you also need to know some basic rules of Thai culinary culture.
In fact, Thais rarely eat alone. They usually enjoy their meal in a group, with family or friends. Eating together is also a time for people to gather and share their daily stories. Even at restaurants or shops, all the employees usually sit and eat together at lunchtime.
Whether you’re eating with your friends or having a formal dinner, don’t forget to share your food with others. In the East, this habit may seem strange, but in most Southeast Asian countries, sharing food creates a feeling of closeness and joy during a meal.
2. The balance of flavors.
For locals, a tasty meal is balanced with all five basic flavors. We usually choose one or two flavors in a meal – salty and spicy or just sweet, but in Thailand, they combine all five: salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter in just one dish. Foreigners might think it’s a mess but for Thais, this complexity delights them.
Chopsticks are not often used in traditional Thai meals. You will only use chopsticks when eating at restaurants that serve Chinese or Japanese food or when you eat noodles. Therefore, don’t ask for chopsticks if you’re in a Thai restaurant. Instead, try to eat with a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left. And a knife is not really needed as most dishes are served in bite-sized pieces.
When you’re taking food from the communal plate or bowl, use a large serving spoon not your own. Keep in mind that you should always take food from the side of the plate, not from the center, and try each dish separately along with the rice to be able to feel the taste instead of mixing them.
3. There’s no specific dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
Most Thais eat three meals a day, although they snack often. They eat whatever they want for a meal, rice fried for breakfast, noodles for lunch, and soup for dinner or vice versa. They don’t eat tortillas and yogurt as a meal. For them, western foods like tortillas, toast, and even pizza are just snacks.
If you’re already know all these rules, check out some tips below to fully enjoy your time in Thailand
Are you ready to eat?
1. Street food is the best
If this is your first time in Thailand, don’t be afraid to explore down a side alley or follow the instinct of your nose when you smell something scrumptious. Thailand is truly the mecca of street food. Which means that there is street food everywhere around you. They sell everything from noodles to curries; soups to salads; dumplings to spring rolls… I bet you have to spend weeks trying to taste all of these delicious foods.
After being satisfied with a variety of street food, another question arises: Is it safe to eat? Of course, not all of Thai’s street food carts will comply with food hygiene regulations. And it’s bad if something goes wrong with your digestive system while you’re here. You should prioritize the selection of food stalls as follow:
- Food stalls that have a lot of local customers, especially the elderly and children, will be a safe choice if you are coming to Thailand for the first time. And food stalls specializing in one dish are sure to taste better than the one selling a wide variety of foods.
- You should only eat foods that are still hot, and fruits that have not been peeled, so you will not have to worry about the problem of fruit not being fresh, or long-term food.
- Look for a cart that prepares food in front of you, so you can see how the ingredients are, and whether they're prepared hygienically or not.
- Look for restaurants that are crowded with people, especially Thais and children.
- Limit drinking ice water because you will not be able to know clearly whether the source of the ice is hygienic or not.
At Rama IV Road, Sathorn, Bangkok; between Lumphini Park and Khlong Toei MRT Station.
Active: Open every day from 5 pm to 9 pm
Prices: About 30 baht to 80 baht per person
2. Eat at the local market
You will find many local markets in Thailand. There are two types of markets: fairs that are usually held on weekends and the others are local markets that opened almost every day. Markets are usually organized by section. You will find the fruits, then vegetables sold in a separate area, and then where they call “wet market”, you will find all fresh fish, meat and poultry.
One of the most famous food markets is Bangkok’s Khlong Toei market. Here we found one of the best sticky rice in town. This restaurant is located on the west side of the market, near the entrance of the market when coming from the MRT station.
Where to eat?
Khlong Toei Pier Market, Bangkok
Active: Open every day from 7 am to 9 pm
Find the mango sticky restaurant at 27 Rama 3 Road
Located across Tops Market An Yen Akat Road, Sathorn, Bangkok
Active: Open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from about 3 pm to 8 pm
3. Krua Apsorn- with the best crab dish in Bangkok
Krua Apsorn serves mainly traditional Thai dishes. The owner used to work as a chef for the Thai royal family, and she brings the recipes into her restaurant
The menu isn’t in English, but it has pictures so it’s easy to order what you want. Not many tourists know about this place, so the staff is not used to talking to foreigners, but they can converse a little in English. Therefore, the service here seems a bit slow. Krua Apsorn is also a Michelin- starred eatery for 2018.
Krua Apsorn's famous dish is Kai Food Boo, an omelet with crab meat. When enjoying it, we’ll understand why it is praised so much. It is the perfect combination of many ingredients, all very well balanced with many flavors. Very delicious!
Address: There are two Krua Apsorn places in Bangkok. One is at 169 Dinso Road (near Democracy Monument and Khao San Road), and the other is at 503 Samsen Road, Dusit, Bangkok.
Active: Open from 10:30 am to 8 pm and close every Sunday.
4. Wattana Panich- Noodle soup restaurant with a pot of broth that never runs out
The special feature that makes this restaurant so popular is not only the irresistible delicious taste of tender beef stew with herbs but also the unique way of processing. The giant pot of broth is stewed day after day, lasting almost 50 years. It may sound apprehensive about food safety, but this is a “permanent stewing” method that has existed for a long time in many Eastern cultures with the concept that the longer you stew, the stronger the flavor will be and the sweeter it will be.
Furthermore, the owner said that they cleaned the spot every day. They removed the soup from the spot then kept a little bit simmering overnight. Therefore, stewed beef noodles do not need sophisticated ingredients, the delicious broth says it all. If you have ever tried the noodle here you will definitely remember this taste forever and want to come back to eat again.
With a relatively cheap price of 80-200 baht, you can enjoy this attractive traditional dish right away. This is the reason why Wattana Panich is one of the top restaurants in Bangkok that is extremely loved by locals.
Address: 336-338 Ekkamai Soi 18, Sukhumvit Road Klongtoey Nuea, Bangkok 10110 Thailand
Active: Open at 9:30 am to 20 pm every day
5. The best Pad Thai at Thip Samai
When it comes to Thai cuisine, If Tom Yum is second then pad Thai is definitely first. This is the most famous street food in the land of the Golden Temple. Not only is it loved by the locals but also by tourists. Some people even say that if you have not tried Pad Thai, you have not been to Thailand. Among many options, Thip Samai is the most famous restaurant in Bangkok for its long-standing and delicious pad thai. Operating since 1966, Thip Samai has always been the best pad thai restaurant that you don’t mind waiting in a long line to eat.
This Samai’s pad thai has a moderate toughness of noodles and a characteristic smoky smell because the restaurant stirs noodles on a charcoal stove, not a gas stove. The ingredients are all very fresh, not dry or oily at all
Coming to Thip Samai, you must definitely try Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot- Pad Thai wrapped in a thin omelet that will retain full flavor and heat when it’s severed
Address: 313 Mahachai Road, Old City
Active: open from 5:30 pm to 1:30 am every day
Price: 60-200 baht
6. Lek Seafood Silom – Heaven for seafood lovers
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, Lek Seafood Silom occupies a small corner under BTS Chong Nonsi metro station, Bangkok. The restaurant layout is simple like other local eateries with plastic chairs and stainless steel tables. If you are a seafood lover, Lek Seafood Silom will bring you a new experience of Bangkok street food. There are quite a lot of dishes made from seafood with typical Thai flavor such as spicy and sour seafood tom yum soup, steamed catfish with lemon and chili, shellfishes…
One plus point for this restaurant is that the menu is written in English and the waiters can also communicate in English, so it is easier for you to order.
Address: Soi Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra 3 (think Soi Phiphat)
Active: 5 pm – 11 pm. Closed Sunday
7. Super cheap 10 baht noodle at Boat Noodle – Victory Monument
Having come to Thailand, you cannot ignore the alley of boat noodles in the area near the Victory Monument. This is such an enjoyable Bangkok dining experience. With only 10 baht, you can choose your own noodle with meat or beef depending on your preference. Because of the low price, this is a favorite place to eat and drink among schoolchildren, students, and locals.
Address: Victory Monument, Ratchathewi District
Active: Open from 9:30 am to 9 pm. Closed Monday
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