Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thai food

(picture: a restaurant with a FABULOUS name in Phuket...there were actually two and they were awesome!)

One of my favorite restaurants in Denver is a place called Swing Thai. They have amazing yellow chicken curry which I always order and so I was pretty sure I would love the food in Thailand. One of the most asked questions I get about our travel was, "what was the food like?" well it wasn't anything what I expected to say the least.
The food varied from place to place throughout the country. In Bangkok there were a lot of street vendors. Especially when you got off the beaten path. They had little carts and these metal bowls cooking on hot plates that were full of noodles and God knows what else. In fact walking around the streets, Chad and I were overwhelmed with smells. The sidewalks are pretty narrow and it was hot and humid so you can imagine having cart after cart lined up full of people selling food what it smelled like. When we went to the weekend market is when I would say was where we saw the biggest variety of food vendors displaying various items like in this picture:
There was a sign for squid eggs too which I can't even begin to imagine what those tasted like. I had read through lonely planet books that these street food vendors were actually the cheapest and most enjoyable way to eat in Bangkok. Unfortunately, Chad and I were not brave enough to eat any of it. Not only did we not know what was what but you have no idea how much it costs and most of these vendors spoke little english. Plus we were just getting our bearings in the country so all of this was just too overwhelming. I saw a few people washing their bowls etc out in faucets hooked to buildings too which made me question how sanitary any of this was. So we passed on the street food. Until Phuket that is. We tried the meat from the street carts there and it was delicious and cheap. But we made sure to ask before trying....and at least the meat is cooked on the grill so hopefully any germs were eliminated!

In Bangkok we also saw quite a few people on the street (locals mostly) drinking from plastic bags with ice and some kind of liquid in them. Naturally I wanted one. Coconut water is quite popular over there and I had seen quite a few carts with fresh coconuts but none with these plastic bags of liquid. Well one afternoon after our temple excursion, Chad and I were making our way back to the hotel when I saw a cart on the side selling cokes and fantas in glass bottles. Given the heat and the long walk I decided I would purchase one. I pointed to the pepsi in a glass bottle and asked for one and paid the girl. She popped the top as I expected then took out a plastic bag, which I thought, "Maybe she's putting it in a bag for me to carry home?" But she proceeds to fill the bag with ice then tips the bottle upside down and pours it in the bag and sticks a straw in it and hands it to me. I was speechless! "Oh so this is what's in the bags!" I thought. I guess they keep the bottles to recycle. The worst part about this is I found out, that you cannot set your drink down.
Since we were in Thailand for about 2 weeks we were eating every meal out (except breakfast because it was free at the hotels we stayed at) and thus experienced a variety of dishes. And one thing I can say is...well the food really isn't that much different from what we have over here. I realized in all of our eating out that you NEVER see Thais eating in restaurants. They work there but they don't eat there. In fact, walking around one night I saw a group of Thais eating outside their houses and it looked like they were eating rice and noodle dishes. I think the thing is most restaurants, though cheap for the tourist are still not affordable at all for Thais. Either that or they don't like the food. In other countries you see the locals eating at local restaurants but not here. The other thing we realized quickly is that all the menus are pretty much the same...in that they offer everything. With the exception of Ko Phi Phi which had a lot of seafood restaurants where you could pick your seafood fresh and have it cooked anyway you wanted, most places offered anything under the sun you could want. The menu usually had three or four categories: There was American food section with pizza and hamburgers, BLT's, french fries and other sandwiches, then a Chinese section with chinese dishes and a Thai section with noodles bowls and some things that weren't even described in English (probably because no one but a Thai would want them) and then sometimes seafood or pasta. The desserts were usually ice cream. The drink section would always feature fresh fruit shakes and then alcohol ranging from beer to fruity liquor drinks like Mai Tai's and Pina Coladas. As I said before alcohol, except beer was usually expensive so we either stuck to beer or indulged in a fruity drink or two if we were drinking liquor. All the water you drink over there is bottled so if you ordered water with dinner you'd get a bottle and being that they don't drink water ice was a pretty rare find in your drink.
I wish now that Chad and I had tried more of the "authentic" Thai food but now that we know what some of it is maybe we will be more inclined to try it next time. The restaurants really do have a great concept though with offering so much on the menu because you realize no matter where you go you'll have a good meal. Sometimes we ate for as little as $5 for both of us and maybe our most expensive meal was about $15 for two. My favorite place had to be on Ko Phi Phi where you got a free fruit shake with your meal and they had kabobs which they grilled fresh for you and you got a free salad bar which included fresh off the grill corn and baked potatoes and rolls and lots of veggies and lettuce. If you were a vegetarian (which I know many of my friends are) you really wouldn't have a hard time finding good food because most thai food is vegetarian and all the noodle and rice dishes you could have with or without meat.
One of the hardest parts of coming back to the United States was realizing how much we pay for food and for food that isn't even good and fresh. Every morning our breakfast buffet offered fresh fruit and made to order eggs (among other things) with the most yellow yolks I have ever seen. Yes there are a few mcdonalds over there but overall let's just say you'll never see an overweight thai....

No comments:

Post a Comment