Thai food is world renowned and the country itself a food lover's paradise. Phat Thai, Green Curry, Som Dtam, Tom Yum Gai… almost certainly everyone has a favourite. Rice and noodles are used as a staple and underlying base for most dishes with various accompaniments, whether it be a broth containing vegetables and, or meat, stir-fry, curry or salad, providing flavour. Thai accompaniments strive to strike a balance between the ‘four flavours‘- sweet, sour, salt & hot. The balance of the four flavours varies from dish to dish to create a varied cuisine full of distinctive flavours – from their celebrated hot & sour soup – Tom Yum Goong, to the milder chicken, peanut & potato Massamum Curry originating in the Muslim South. Omnivores enjoy a plethora of choice and possibilities, though vegetarians need to take heed as often base flavourings often include fish sauce, shrimp paste or dried shrimps.
Thailand brews several beers; the best known is Singha, with Leo and Chang being less expensive and more popular with the locals . Imported beers, such as Heineken, are also widely available. Mekong and Sang Som are two of the more popular local ‘whiskeys’, even though the latter is more like rum (fermented from sugarcane). Fruit juices, freezes, milkshakes of all kinds and coconut water, iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut are very popular with Thais and visitors alike. Freshly squeezed Thai sweet orange juice and chrysanthemum juice are other favourites. Thais often add salt to their fruit juices or have basil seeds added to their iced fruit juice - an acquired taste that you might learn to like.
One of Thailand's most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea. Instantly identifiable thanks to its lurid orange colour, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial colour) during the curing process. The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk. Coffee is also widely available, and like most of Southeast Asia is served with condensed milk and lots of sugar. The Starbucks phenomenon has also arrived in Thailand, though the local companies Black Canyon Coffee and S&P also offer good blends and a strong brew.
Safe eating while travelling in Thailand
Due to the vast numbers of tourists that head to Thailand every year, food hygiene standards have risen to accommodate the requirements of foreigners. Restaurants that look clean and aren’t abnormally empty will generally serve good, safe food and street food is also usually fine to eat provided the food hasn’t been sitting in the sun for ages, getting attacked by flies. Be wary of meat and fish that might not have been cooked properly and insist that it is served piping hot before you eat it. Travellers should also avoid eating ice, which might have been made with unhygienic water, and salad, raw vegetables and fruit, which may have been washed in dirty tap water.