The Tiny Book: Thai Food PornA Taste of Thai Food (musings about being a mother, a feeder and eating on the road… with kids). A couple of weeks ago I visited the super famous World Travel Market, in London, a global event for the travel industry. In the Thai stand, visitors could have obtained a personalized luggage tag with their photo printed under a beautiful «Amazing Thailand» logo after answering a few questions; one of them was …The main reason to visit Thailand? Talking with the guy in charge of the tags, I found out that almost 80 percent of visitors had replied the same thing (me included): FOOD! So here it is why we crave for a taste f Thai food. 

What about some rice?  No way, mom!

Our trip to Thailand had been in the oven – or so to speak – for months, we had stumbled on some convenient tickets in January for a trip due in September, that was almost nine months to plan and outline everything: what to pack, what to wear, what to visit, where to stay, immunization, visas, currency, credit cards, insurance… you name it! As soon as I booked, of course, two things became a recurrent nightmare: snakes and food.

Strangely enough, as time went by, I took it easier on snakes (even if snakes are the worst thing that could ever happen to me). Food instead? I couldn’t relax about it. To make matters worse, as soon as we booked Thailand, my eldest son became enemies with rice.

You know, the regular The Tiny Book: Thai Food PornI adore rice, I can’t live without a risotto, but hey, mom books my first trip to Asia… Let’s see, what can I do???   – Oh! I know! Let’s start hating rice”

That’s a Polaroid of my life.

And mind you, I tried it all, I tried banning rice, I tried not paying attention to rice, I tried the overdose of rice, I bought all types of rice. So it was Jasmine (of course, the first one!), Basmati (“That’s too long to be rice!!!”), parboiled, French red, Venus black, Carnaroli, Japanese style… A-L-L of them. No way. Nine years old, but I guess kids become teens earlier these days.

The first thing he says when we get to Suvarnabhumi Airport: You’re right, mom! Here it smells like rice… it’s so delicious!” Delicious, right? Never ate a grain of rice during the whole trip.

Updated situation: He still doesn’t eat rice.

A taste of Pad Thai, nothing but a legend

I was once told Pad Thai is everything but a Thai dish. In fact, research proves it ‘s true. Dear old Wikipedia explains:

Plaek Phibunsongkhram promoted pad Thai in his campaign to set up Thai nationalism. Thailand was a main exporter of rice, and the government hoped to increase amounts for export. As prime minister of Thailand, Phibun hoped to Westernize the country. He supported the change of name from Siam to Thailand. At the time, wheat noodles were very popular in Thailand, but he wanted to cancel the Chinese influence, he did so promoting rice noodles, helping to set a Thai identity, A new noodle named sen chan was created. Pad Thai became popular in Thailand during World War II and it has become one of the country’s national dishes.

Still, though, controversy remains. According to certain chefs, this dish is totally Thai, being the sauces what highlights differences“(…) Pad Thai, the national dish of this country, is Chinese, if you look at the ingredients you find tofu, noodles, dried shrimp, None of them are Thai? But what makes it Thai are the sauces and pastes. The profile is Thai. Everything else is Chinese“.

A dish that helps in the quest for a powerful sense of Thainess. The name of the nation was changed from Siam to Thailand. It was time for a national dish.

The Tiny Book: Thai Food!

My first street pad Thai.

Setting one foot on Khao San Road was all I needed to receive the gift of courage. I chose a plastic chair on the street and, surrounded by powerful penetrating odors, I ordered a Chang beer along with a dish of pad Thai with everything in it.

My first, one and only pad Thai. Afterwards, I moved to authentic Thai food. Now it was time for the feast.

Bring Thai dishes along

Spicy Salad

If there is one dish in the whole World I wouldn’t describe as succulent, that’s salad. Let’s be honest: It is only thanks to you, holy lettuce if I’m back to slim. But, listen: I went through two pregnancies. I adore eating, I like cooking and I enjoy restaurants.

That agreed, losing those pregnancy kilos was an ordeal, it took me each ten years so tremendously full of salads: salad does not equal to succulent in my mind. Unless I’m in Thailand.

Yum or Thai salad is a must dish in any Thai meal. It implies combining various ingredients, that vary in flavors, aromas, and textures. Then, there’s the dressing which normally consists of 4 flavors: Spiciness, from fresh or dried chilies. Saltiness, from salt and fish sauce. Sweetness, from sugar or palm sugar. Sourness, from white vinegar, lime juice, tamarind paste or certain sour fruits (mango, star gooseberry, etc.). The appeal of aromas can come from coriander, garlic, and peppercorns.

According to the type of salad, each kind of dressing has a different cooking method, some dressings need all ingredients to be roasted before pounding them together; others, instead, use fresh ingredients that do not need any cooking or heating process. Every Yum has vegetables, and some types have really many of them; other salads take only fresh vegetables. These help to enhance and give more power to other dishes served with the salads.

A question of condiments

One of the reasons for the popularity of Thai salad is the use of many spices as well as herbs. Herbs that grow with strong and decisive flavors in such a tropical weather. Both spices and herbs must be used in the right amounts, little quantities cannot be enough, while an extremely big dose of condiments might make a dish smell like medicine.

The most frequent condiments used in Thai cuisine are garlic, shallot, holy basil, Thai basil (which has a very strong and distinctive smell, according to me, it can be felt in every street and it can be inviting as well as repulsive according to its intensity), lemon basil leaves, kaffir lime leaves, ginger roots, wild ginger, lemongrass (another typical Thai flavor you will be able not only to distinguish but also to miss when you leave the country), mature galangal, lime, lemon balm leaves, pepper. There are tons of salads to try.

Yum yuan, for instance, is a spicy salad with pork, prawn, and chicken, it has a very tempting aroma, and it’s spicy but does not kill you.

Yum moo-yarng, is a spicy grilled pork salad with a tender and well-cooked pork. Its taste is well-balanced and fragrant thanks to the coriander leaves, the lime juice, and the sugar.

The Tiny Book: Thai Food!

And the best of all, the one you can decide whether it will kill you as it’s very spicy or it will just do for an afternoon in front of the sea with a fresh beer (I like all ingredients together: super spicy + seafront + cold Singha), the queen of salads for me: Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad, Thai Food!A Taste of Thai Food: Thailand food and children. What to do if they don't like anything? What to do if they like it all?

Papaya Salad.

One of the best papaya salads I tried, i.e.: the spiciest one, was one I ordered in a little restaurant, on a corner of Rambuttri road, but I guess an extra spicy Papaya salad is not that difficult to find (or order!). This is the picture I took of that salad before I experienced my first papaya salad tears (because remember: before you learn to love it, you must learn to suffer it. Warning: parts of your tongue might go missing in action forever).

Thai Food... everywhere!A Taste of Thai Food: Thailand food and children. What to do if they don't like anything? What to do if they like it all?

Food Everywhere!

Same Same but Different

(Thai Stir-Fry)

Stir-fried dishes are a chapter in Thai cuisine. They also fall into categories according to several characteristics:

Bland dishes 

These are not hot but salty and sweet. They don’t have chili pepper or curry paste, their main ingredients are vegetables. Good examples are stir-fried cabbage and sweet and sour dishes. These tastes also complement and help tone down the hot taste of spicy dishes on a menu.

Slightly hot dishes

These have fresh chili peppers or curry pastes. Most of them have meat, as the stir-fried pork (pad prik khing). The expression “prik khing” contains the word khing which means ginger. But there is no ginger in the dish, it just indicates the degree of heat. It tastes as hot as fresh mature ginger, this tells the dish should not be very hot or sweet, and should taste as hot as a mature ginger.

Hot Thai stir-fried dishes

These use meat as the main ingredient and include small amounts of vegetables. Some of the best known are pad cha and pla rad prik. Hot stir-fried dishes need to be served with a mild dish to complement each other and tone down the hot dish, for instance, an omelet, fried eggs, pickled cabbage, rice etc.

Thai stir-fried dishes cook rather quickly with small amounts of oil, so they are easy to prepare. They taste great with hot steamed rice, and some of them even with noodles too.

After fifteen days of non-stop menu reading in Thai restaurants, all dishes read pad-something, stir-fry-something, (green/red) curry-something, chili-paste-something. That “something” normally being chicken, pork, prawn or basil. Then all those combine like if they were multiple choice exams gone mad. It’s day number three and of course, every thing looks SAME SAME… but DIFFERENT! trust me.

No dish, no taste, no aroma resembles the other. Thai food is a continuous party. It’s there to enjoy, pleasant to be seen and appetizing to be discovered.

Picky children?

Picky children can be a challenging adventure. I recommend bland stir-fry, so much fruit and ice creams (we had of tons banana, mango, and pineapple for breakfast which not only took away our hunger but gave us lots of vitamins and energy to face the day). Orange and tangerine juices help too. Banana cupcakes and muffins are also very good, coconut products like milk and yogurt are tasty and sweet for children. Probably your kids are not as mine, so white rice and noodles are available everywhere.

Thai Food (fruit).A Taste of Thai Food: Thailand food and children. What to do if they don't like anything? What to do if they like it all?

Another option for children is no-name. I believe it started as a way not to throw away left-overs. Then, it became a real dish. It can be spicy, so you better ask first, and combine a protein (chicken, pork, seafood) with vegetables. My kids adored the no-name chicken.

Heat helps a lot, you will be more often thirsty than hungry. Take advantage of the heat to add some vitamin loaded smoothies and juices to their diet. A must? Coconut ice cream, fruit, mango sticky-rice and fruit with a twist

I know, I know, every single soul coming to Thailand will tell you to try those. In fact, you must try so many things I was almost forgetting Mango Sticky Rice and tasted it on my last day and at the airport!

Food is like a national sport for this country, you must try everything. In a way, except insects, which do not really appeal to me; and durian for which I had a hard time finding the courage, all the rest was fun to taste and a good surprise. So, all in all, no snakes, great food. We must come back.

What to order to get a taste of Thai food

To put it simply, when in Thailand (and this is MY suggestion)  you should try the following to get a Taste of Thai Food:

All fruit: pomelo is magnificent, but also longan, carambola (star fruit), and mango. I thought dragon fruit was going to be amazing, but it was not that tasty. Pineapple is tremendously juicy with an inviting aroma, rich and succulent. Durian… it’s up to you. I’ll do it next time.

Coconut ice cream: of course, with as many toppings as you wish, or plain. Anyway, you’ll find it creamy, tasty and soft.

Mango and sticky rice: it is a must try, mostly if you like South East Asia mangoes, which are completely different from western mangoes in taste. In fact, I cannot stand mangoes in Europe, while I could live on mangoes in Thailand. They are different.

All fried, dried, fruit: especially banana. That was addictive. Crispy, extremely sweet, one after the other you eat a whole package without even noticing.

Nuts, all of them: they are used in every kind of dish, with your rice and salads and noodles, but when covered in caramel or used on top of your sweets, you’ll reach Seventh Heaven.

An amazing invitation

I’m a chatterbox in real life but online as well. This brings along a lot of problems but also a wonderful bunch of friends.

One of my Instagram friends learned from my chatty comments and countdown posts, I was traveling to Thailand. We had been mutually following each other for a while and had become good Insta-friends.

My friend Or invited us me to meet in Bangkok. I thought we were just going to share a coffee but we experienced a completely new experience, something I would have never tried if I had not been with a Bangkokian!

We visited a Thai Suki restaurant which is the Thai version of the Chinese hot pot.  A communal dish where you dip meat, fish, noodles, dumplings and vegetables into a pot of broth (ours was half regular and half spicy) cooking at the table. Then, you dip everything into a spicy sukiyaki sauce before eating. Even if the name reminds you of the Japanese sukiyaki, it’s not really Japanese, but Chinese in style.  We tried a menu called “pork lover” and we added “Fired duck” (which the children adored) as well as Jade noodles. Other available options are soups: Korean soup/Thai hot and spicy soup (Tum Yum) or Miso (Japanese) soup.

Our restaurant belonged to the MK chain which opened its first restaurant in 1962 on Siam Square in Bangkok, today the most popular in Thailand (with about 200 restaurants in the country, and more than 20 in Japan). Or also adds that during Mothers’ day (August, 12th) all MK restaurants in Thailand are fully booked.

This was an amazing experience, first of all, I saw my kids really interested in the process of cooking and actually eating what they cooked. So no surprises, or better: pleasant surprises! They tried and tasted almost everything and for once were not picky. It made me happy to see them try new things but also learn new costumes with a local friend.

Thai Lunch with friendsA Taste of Thai Food: Thailand food and children. What to do if they don't like anything? What to do if they like it all?

Lunch at MB, our family meets Or.

PEOPLE WHO LOVE TO EAT ARE ALWAYS THE BEST PEOPLE. – Julia Child

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