I wasn’t supposed to be in Thailand. The plan was, fly in and out of Bangkok, purely for the cheap flights, then get out of Thailand as quickly as possible and head into Cambodia. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Thailand, but I’d done it and I had 6 weeks in which I wanted to see all of Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly Laos.
Then I got to Bangkok. It was crazier, more chaotic, more surreal than I remembered, probably because this time I was alone. Then I went to eat, and I fell in love with the country all over again.
My first meal was in the evening. I’d just arrived after travelling for two days, a little confused about what meals I’d eaten and what nights sleeps I’d missed. I got speaking to a guy who’d been teaching English in Thailand for the last year and he said he’d show me some great places to eat. We headed down past the hotel to a little narrow street full of bustling vendors and smells of coconut and lemongrass. After the flight, I wasn’t sure I could stomach much and ordered Thai sticky rice with mango. For 40 baht, 80p, the beaming vendor scooped a little mound of gloriously sticky rice into a bowl, peeled, quartered and cut a mango and poured over a luminous white, sweet and gloopy coconut milk sauce over it. Then I knew I had to stay a while longer, just to eat.
Food is at the centre of life in Thailand. On every street corner are vendors dishing out steaming hot piles of noodles. At all times of days locals and tourists perch on little seats at the road side eating freshly made curries. Little snacks like grilled bananas and pancakes are everywhere. So much of the time at home, food seems an unnecessary inconvenience but in Thailand, its a ritual. If it’s not eating street food, it’s groups of people chatting over spicy and sour tom yum soup in restaurants or sipping on ashy coloured Thai milk tea, sickly sweetened with a good dollop of condensed milk from a vendor. Thais take grab and go food culture to a whole new level.
I decided to head up to Chiang Mai for the last part of my Thailand trip and couldn’t resist the idea of going to a cooking class and learning how to make my own food.
we chose a morning class with Siam Garden cooking school as they had the most dishes on offer. The morning started with a trip to the local market where we choose the ingredients that we would need. Our guide handed us bunches of Thai chives, lemongrass and coriander to smell and we learnt all about the different pastes, spices and vegetables that form the basis of most Thai dishes.
After that it was time to head off to the cooking school and start cooking. I decided to make papaya salad, Thai green paste and curry, pad Thai, spicy tom yum soup and to finish, my favourite, mango and sticky rice. The biggest shock was how much sugar goes into these dishes though. It’s usually at least one heaped tablespoon for most dishes, including the salad. I can see why it’s a cuisine that’s so easy to fall in love with.
10 dishes you have to try in Thailand:
- Mango and Sticky Rice- Gooey, sweet and coconutty, you’ll want this popular Thai dessert everyday.
- Pad Se Ew- My favourite noodle dish. Thick, gelatinous noodles are combined with fresh greens and soy sauce.
- Pad Thai- It’s probably the fact that it’s loaded with sugar that makes this one of the easiest to love Thai noodle dishes. I could, and have, even eaten this for breakfast.
- Chicken and cashew nuts- Usually cooked in a rice sauce, this dish, with a bowl of rice is food heaven.
- Thai Green Curry- Served in a bowl, with rice at the side, an authentic Thai Green Curry wins hands down every time. The best ones are packed with veg, including mini aubergines.
- Massaman curry- Spicy and satisfying with chicken and potatoes, Massaman curry is lesser known than some other Thai curry dishes but just as good.
- Khao Soi- The local dish of Northern Chiang Mai, Khao Soi is a flavoursome and spicy egg noodle curry. The best one can be found at Chiang Mai’s Sunday night market.
- Khanom Gluay- This is a sweet steamed banana pudding that’s popular for dessert. Banana is mixed with sweet coconut milk, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It sounds a little odd but it’s absolutely delicious. I first had this for breakfast at a nice hotel but it’s often found as street food.
- Banana Shakes- Everywhere you go in Thailand, fruit shakes are on the menu. These vary a lot but they tend to be the fresh fruit, blended with ice and sometimes milk or syrups. The best ones are banana shakes where they usually blend them with condensed milk.
- Papaya Salad- Zingy, fresh and spicy, a papaya salad sounds odd but it’s actually a really satisfying and healthy dish that you have to try. Usually served with Shrimp and topped with peanuts.