These dishes can be eaten for lunch or dinner and most of them are served for breakfast too. I’m going to refrain from telling you about the full on classics, such as Tom Yum soup or Pad Thai and focus more on the dishes that are not the first a tourist yells when you say ‘Thai Cuisine is…’ On a non-touristy street side place this stuff usually costs around 30 to 40 Baht tops.
A favourite of my colleagues and I is the “blood fountain soup”. A savoury broth with Thai spinach and sometimes some other veggies are the base for this dish. To this broth the chef adds some fresh pigs blood, hence the name. Don’t be afraid because of the blood. It won’t remind you of unpleasant nosebleeds in your childhood at all, not even pleasant ones (if something like that exists), you can’t really taste the blood. You then decide what kind of rice noodles you’d like to add: for example the wide flat or very thin ones. Additionally, the chef will add a variety of different fish balls (sliced ones, round once and some that look a little bit like a fish without a tail.
Fish balls are very popular in Thai cuisine and come in all shapes, sizes and tastes. Some are so finely minced they are almost the consistency of Tofu whereas others still have little chunks in them. There seem to be endless ways of how to include them in a meal or just make them a meal full stop.
Another great lunch or din dins option is Som Dam with blue crab. Although Som Dam is another one of those classic options, this version is not that common. You preferably order this dish at the side of the street at night, somewhere close to the water. Som Dam, is spicy Papaya salad and is one of the signature dishes of Thai Cuisine and just as the fish balls there’s a whole variety of it. The version I tasted at the side of the street in Kanchanaburi was by far the best I’ve had.
Som Dam is made in a big stone mortar. The chef mixes fresh pre-sliced green papaya with peanuts, magical sauces and a
whole lot of fresh chilli. The lady making my Som Dam of happiness then took at least three or four pre prepped raw blue crabs cracked the shell and cooked them. Once cooked the blue crab pieces are than tossed over the salad.
There is a lot of salad choices. Just the other night I tried out something new. A street stall were you can chose the ingredients yourself. I decided on rice noodles, veggies and fish balls. The rice noodles and Thai spinach are cooked for a few minutes and then everything is mixed so that the other veggies warm up a bit.
When the lady asked if I liked spicy I obviously said yes. So far even though I’ve been saying that I used to live in Sichuan and love spicy food the level of spiciness though tasty has not really made me sweat even a little bit. This was to be changed when I started eating my warm salad at home- this was what I expected Thai spiciness to taste. Fresh chilies and chilli paste made me sweat as I had just run a marathon.
The whole thing can be eaten as a side dish or with rice. Eating the soft and slightly sweet crabmeat with the very spicy papaya at the dark River Kwai has most definitely been a culinary highlight. A great beverage to go with this is some fresh coconut juice, straight out of the coconut.
An ocean of battered and deep-fried goodness: Thai snacks
Another sheer endless option for breakfast, elevensies, lunch, dinner or in-betweens is to have different snacks. Most of the vendors will come out in the evening and most skewers cost around 10 or 15 Baht. Personally I’m a huge fan of food on skewers. Put it on a stick, BBQ it, add chilli sauce and probably it’ll delight. Whereas I have to say that I’m an even bigger fan of the Chinese BBQ (wait till I get to Chengdu for photos and raves!), the Thai skewers are quite amazing. What’s missing for me is the variety of veggies.
Anyhow, let’s not linger on what’s lacking, let’s get to what’s there and ready to be devoured. There are usually a few main choices: BBQd, spicy marinated BBQd, deep-fried or battered and deep-fried. The things that are BBQd, battered, deep-fried and then make your cardiologist cry out in shock when you tell him or her about it are: of course, you might have guessed it… Fish balls.
I love deep-fried fish balls, my favourite ones are the Tofu textured little rectangular ones. But there are plenty of other options too. BBQd fish in all sizes, different Thai sausages, spam. Of course in the touristy areas you also get scorpions and that sort of stuff. I tried bee larvae in China, which I have to say tasted quite boring, a bit like cheap cheese.
Just recently I did what I love to do, which is randomly pick something at a snack stand that I have no clue what it is. It turned out to be battered and deep fried spam- it was delicious. If you’re shaking your head in disgust now, I want to add at this point I partly grew up in China in the 1980s where Spam or peanut butter were the only two very special options for ‘Western’ breakfast. So my taste might differ a wee bit from the typical Westerner.
No matter what you chose you have the option of with or without sauce. Definitely give a vigorous nod when the vendors point at a big plastic bottle or bucket in front of them- it’s sweet and hot chilli sauce. Some of the vendors will take whatever you chose off the skewer put it in a plastic bag, put a ladle of the sauce on top and shake it a little- the outcome is something that can only be described as a magic Thai shake ‘n’ bake.
There is also quite a few vendors selling pretty much any part of chicken: from hearts to wings to feet (I dare you to snack on some deep fried chicken feet-they’re really good, a little like crisps). Additionally, I can recommend deep-fried crab cakes, that are served with sweet chilli sauce.
- Thai Food Part 1: The perfect start to any morning: Thai Breakfast (vivianesview.wordpress.com)
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