We love Thai food! Then again, who doesn’t?
But much like Chinese food, there are serious differences between real Thai food, and the Thai food served in the West. The names are similar, but Western Thai food has been toned down and adjusted to Western palates. As a result, real Thai food can be a bit of a shock to first-time travelers to Thailand.
If you’re planning a delicious lunch or dinner on a nice Thai restaurant, here are a few reality checks that might help you cope with the difference–and dig right into one of the most delicious cuisines on the planet!
Myth 1: All Thai food is great for vegetarians.
Fact: Some Thai dishes contain small amounts of meat.
This is one of the most persistent and erroneous ideas that the West has about Thai food. You might think going to Thailand is a perfect opportunity to go vegetarian, but you should think thoroughly before doing it.
The notion that most Thai food are vegetarian-friendly probably arises from its delicious vegetable dishes, and the fact that Thailand is a majority Buddhist country. It’s true that most monks eat vegetarian diets, but in Thai Buddhism there is no proscription against laypeople eating meat. Animal ingredients are everywhere, from soup stock to fish sauce. Most dishes are prepared with a small portion of meat, with pork being the most common.
Good news is, the quantities of meat in Thai food are much smaller than your typical Western meal. The meat feels more like a flavor additive than a main ingredient. And of course, there also a LOT of Thai dishes that does not contain meet – which vegetarians can enjoy!
Myth 2: Thai food is really spicy.
Fact: It depends.
It’s very rare that a dish in Thailand will melt your face right off. Thais use reasonable amounts of chili when cooking, and chili in various forms like powder, in vinegar, in fish sauce, or even fresh – is available as a condiment for you to spice things up just the way you want it. When preparing dishes that are notorious for being spicy–like som tam, or papaya salad. Thais themselves have variable tastes, which is why you won’t find anything that’s horrendously hot right off the wok.
If you want it hot, just say how you want it done. You’ll probably have to defend your love of spicy food even then.
Myth 3: You eat Thai food with chopsticks.
Fact: Thais eat noodles with chopsticks, and everything else with spoon and fork.
Don’t be offended if you sit down at a restaurant and are given a spoon and fork; that’s actually what the Thais use themselves. Thais have been using utensils since the end of the nineteenth century, and prior to that, they did like in India and ate with their right hand. Sticky rice dishes is still eaten with the right hand, but that’s about it.
To eat like the Thais, simply hold the spoon in your dominant hand and the fork in the other. Use the fork to push food unto the spoon, and eat with the spoon. Never stick anything with the fork, or use it to put food in your mouth: that’s considered improper.
Thais use chopsticks only for noodle dishes, and they’re considered a foreign utensil. Pad thai, even though it’s a noodle dish, is considered enough of a Thai dish that it’s eaten with a spoon and fork.
Myth 4: Thai street food is not safe.
Fact: Thai street food is among the safest in the world!
If you are traveling to Thailand, you need to throw away the stereotype that Thai street food is not safe. Because in fact, street food is a way of life in Thailand. There’s nothing quite so Thai as to sit down on the curb and enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy street stall.
What’s more, Thai street food is among the safest and tastiest in the world. Vendors in general are very cautious with hygiene. You can tell that a given stall is trustworthy if you see many Thais eat there; chances are they are regulars, and they wouldn’t come back if it made them sick.
For more info on eating Thai food, check out our latest blogs!
Do you agree or disagree with these? Do you have questions or comments about Thai food? Let us know!
If you’re craving for some Thai dish, come and see what we have here in Yummy Thai Irving! You’ll surely be delighted in our wide range of Thai dishes. Aroi mak mak!