Thai Foodis usually either loved or hated; Thai dishes can be pungent and spicy - lots of garlic and chillies are used, especially phrík khîi nûu (literally ‘mouse-shit peppers’ - these are the small torpedo-shaped devils which can be pushed aside if you are timid about red-hot curries). Almost allThai food (Thai: อาหารไทย) is cooked with fresh ingredients, including vegetables, poultry, pork and some beef. Plenty of lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander leaf are added to give the food its characteristic tang, and fish sauce (náam plaa, generally made from anchovies) or shrimp paste (kà-pì) to make it salty.
Thai Foodtypically uses other common seasonings including ‘laos’ or galanga root (khàa), black pepper, three kinds of basil, ground peanuts (more often a condiment), tamarind juice (náam makhãam), ginger (khîng) and coconut milk (kà-tí). The Thais eat a lot of what could be called Chinese food (there has always been a large Chinese migrant population), which is generally, but not always, less spicy (the food not the people). However, these dishes have been a part of the Thai food (Thai: อาหารไทย) menu for so long that they are commonly thought of as a Thai dish.
Thai Foodis nearly always eaten with Thai rice (khâo); ‘to eat’ in Thai is literally ‘eat rice’ or kin khâo. Thais can be very picky about their rice, insisting on the right temperature and cooking times. Ordinary white rice is called khâo jâo and there are many varieties and grades. The finest quality Thai rice is known as khâo hãwm máli or ‘jasmine fragrant rice’ for its sweet, inviting smell when cooked. In the North and North-East ‘sticky’ or glutinous rice (khâo nîaw) is common. However, regardless of the style, Thai food (Thai: อาหารไทย) isn't really complete without rice.
Thai Foodis served with a variety of condiments and sauces, including ground red pepper (phrík bon), ground peanuts (thùa bon), vinegar with sliced chillies (náam sôm phrík-both clear and orange in color), fish sauce with chillies (náam plaa phrík), a spicy orange-red sauce called náam phrík si racha (from Si Racha, of course), sugar, fish sauce (nàam pla) and any number of other dipping sauces (náam jîm) for particular dishes. Soy sauce (náam síi-yú) can be requested, though this is normally used as a condiment for Chinese food only. Except for the ‘rice plates’ and noodle dishes, Thai food (Thai: อาหารไทย) is usually ordered family-style, ie two or more people order together, sharing different dishes. Traditionally, the party orders one of each kind of dish, eg one chicken, one fish, one soup etc. One or two extras may be ordered for a large party. Eating Thai food (Thai: อาหารไทย) alone at a Thai restaurant is unusual- but then, as a farang (westerner), you're an exception.
Thai Foodcan also be ordered 'over rice' or râat khâo. Curry (kaeng, Thai: แกง) over rice is called khâo kaeng ; in a standard curry shop khâo kaeng is only 25 to 35B (about US$0.75-US$1.00) a plate, making this style of eating Thai food(Thai: อาหารไทย) a cheaper alternative.
Thai Foodcomes in another category known as kàp klâem-dishes meant to be eaten while drinking alcoholic beverages. On some menus these are translated as ‘snacks’ or ‘appetisers’. Typical kàp klâem include thùa thâwt (fried peanuts), kài sãam yàang (literally ‘three kinds of chicken’; a plate of chopped ginger, peanuts, mouse-shit peppers and bits of lime-to be mixed and eaten by hand) and various kinds of yum and Thai style salads made with lots of chillies and lime juice.
Thai Foodisn't usually eaten with chopsticks so if you aren't offered a pair don't worry. If you're not offered chopsticks, don't ask for them. When farangs (westerner) ask for chopsticks to eat Thai food (Thai: อาหารไทย), it only puzzles the restaurant proprietors. For white rice, use the fork and spoon provided (fork in the left hand, spoon in the right, or the reverse for left-handers). An even more embarrassing act is trying to eat sticky rice (popular in Northern and North-Eastern Thailand) with chopsticks. Use your right hand instead.
Chopsticks are reserved for eating Chinese-style food from bowls (egg noodles) or for eating in all-Chinese restaurants. In either case you will be supplied with chopsticks without having to ask. Unlike their counterparts in many western countries, restaurateurs in Thailand will assume you know how to use them.