The best thing a human can do while traveling is eat. So much of a country’s culture and history is literally cooked into their food. There are many ways to eat in Thailand, from night markets to street food to fancy restaurants. Thanks to the affordable exchange rate, even a backpacker can try them all!
Food in the North
Jordan and I spent about a month in the Northern regions of Thailand. There are food traditions born out of this region that were heavily influenced by the Lanna Kingdom and Bhutan. Like most Thai food, everything is made with a shrimp paste base or coconut milk. The food is slightly spicy with lots of keffer lime and chilies. The North West is famous for its chili sauce additional spices that really spice up the dish.
Ped Mak Mak! (Spicy very very!)
Khao Soi is amazing soup that is a Northern Thailand specialty. I fell in love on first bite. Khao soi is a coconut based curry sauce over flat egg noodles and roasted chicken. It is topped with fresh onion, lime, pickled cabbage and crispy egg noodles. Optional add spices with the chili sauce….um yes please. Ped mak mak.
In Chiang Rai we tried the traditional hot pot family style of eating. Read about that experience here!
South East Asia has so many fruits that are hard to find or impossible to find in America. Rambutans and the previously banned Mangosteens quickly became my favorites. Snake fruits have a weird looking almost scaly skin like a snake. They are quite yummy to eat, although a slightly acquired taste. Longans, which are not pictured below, are found hanging off of trees everywhere. When Jordan and I walked the streets in Chaing Mai, the stores and hostels all had baskets full of free lychee like treats for anyone passing by to enjoy. (Watch out for seeds in most of these, by the way.)
The last photo in this group is from a farm in Pai that Jordan and I randomly found on our scoot to a waterfall. They prepared us a platter of treats from their garden while we watched them fool around on bamboo stilts they were making. We got to explore and walk around their garden and banana tree patch after we ate.
Night markets and street food vendors were my favorite parts of Thailand. Night markets in particular are something very special to Thailand alone. The markets are usually in a covered area (very nice for wet season) and crammed with stalls selling cheap wonderful yummy food. It is best to take a wander and look at everything before going in for the kill. Grab some sausages from one stall, noodles from the next and a fresh dragon fruit shake from another and have a seat at a table in the middle.
Once the sun goes down until the sun comes up in the morning, food can be found on the streets. We took a taxi at 3am one morning to catch a flightout of Bangkok and there were all the ladies at their morning stalls. Passing through random little towns in the middle of the night on the bus I would see a community of people sitting outside in the middle of the night eating around these food stalls. I have a theory that in hotter countries, like Thailand, more activity is done at night because it’s too hot to go out during the day.
Street food is the very best way to interact with the locals. Chat with the lady who makes the Jok Moo (Thai porridge). Ask how long the vendor has been making these delicious, glutenous, sweet rice balls in the North. Find out the best waterfall in town by speaking with the sticky mango rice man. The very best way to strike up a conversation is by asking “what is this?”