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What is the food like in Thailand

by Travelbag on 29 May 2018, 16:05PM

Thai food

In a word, Thai food is delicious. It's revered in the west by ex-backpackers, health gurus, and everyone in bewteeen. Back home, you might've tried dishes like pad thai and red curry and thought they were pretty tasty. But the flavours and variety in Thailand are something else.

The first thing to know about Thai food is that it's incredibly cheap. If you buy streetfood for lunch or dinner, it could cost you as little as £1 per meal. Or you could push the boat out and eat in a restaurant, where a main meal will cost anything between £2 and £10, depending on where you go. And don't let the low prices put you off. You'll find that some of the best food will be sold by street vendors or small authentic restaurants.

The second thing to know about Thai food is that it varies wildly, depending on where you are. And it's all down to geography. The north, for example, has a relatively cool climate, so the food is more seasonal. The weather patterns here mean that the range of produce is wider than the south. And the regions' dishes have different flavours, depending on who their neighbours are. You'll find that dishes in Northern Thailand have been influenced by neighbouring Myanmar, while the islands in the south have taken inspiration from Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Confused? We’ve divvied up Thailand into four bite-size areas to explain the various types of Thai food available. If you’re headed south to places like Koh Lanta and Koh Samui you can expect fish and fiery chilli flavours. If you’re not so good with spice, then try authentic, northern specialities – expect mild curries and broths flavoured with lemongrass and Thai basil. Wherever you are in Thailand, eat well – or kin di


Food in Chiang Mai

Much like the laidback atmosphere and slower pace of life of Chiang Mai, the food here is notably less spicy than elsewhere in Thailand. It’s a place where people come to hike, practice yoga and eat wholesome food that isn’t heavy or laden with chilli. To substitute the spice, northern recipes incorporate other flavours such as bitterness and sourness. Coconut milk is used less, and there's more emphasis on pork rather than seafood – another effect of living away from the coast. Also, sticky rice is more common here than the white rice you'll be served further south. 

gaeng hang lay


Food in north-eastern Thailand

This is the least-frequented part of Thailand, so its food is even less known than the Chiang Mai area. Grilling and boiling are the preferred cooking techniques, rather than frying. As a remote area of Thailand without direct access to the ocean, north-easterly Thailand has had to make the most of its natural ingredients. Insects and amphibians are genuine delicacies here – not at all like the showy Bangkok stalls intended to freak visitors out. Take a deep breath and tuck in.

khao soi


Food in Central Thailand

Being central, areas like Phetchabun and Nakhon Sawan can draw on the cooking influences of the whole country. This results in more balanced dishes that aren’t really spicy or really bitter, but rather a harmony of all of the flavours involved. Bangkok is the exception. It's central but has access to the fresh fish of the Gulf and to ingredients that have been arriving from all over the world for so long. As a major city, its tastes have changed in a way of their own – you can try them all in the form of street food and eating on the go.

bangkok street market


Food in Southern Thailand

Across the Thai islands and the coastal regions of the south, fiery flavours and plenty of salt dominate the culinary scene. Fish sauce is in everything and acts as an enhancer of other flavours as much as it does an independent ingredient of it's own right. It’s down here that coconut trees grow, so spice-laden curries are cooled down with the mild milk, and salads are given crunch with dried coconut. Chefs have borrowed ideas over the years from the neighbouring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, in the same way that the north has imitated Laos and Myanmar.

tom yung goong


Drooling already? Give your taste buds a treat and take a look at our holidays to Thailand.

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