[ Thailand Guide ] [back to Food Diary Index]

Going on a culinary adventure through Thailand offers budget travelers an irresistible blend of flavors, aromas, and textures that tantalize the taste buds without emptying the wallet. Renowned for its street food culture, Thailand's bustling markets and roadside stalls are a treasure trove of affordable delights. From the fiery spices of pad Thai to the creamy indulgence of coconut curries, the diverse and delectable dishes of Thailand present a feast for both the senses and the budget-conscious explorer.

Food Market in Phuket, ThailandMarket in Phuket, Thailand

barbequed Mekong fishThai food is an amazing taste bud tantaliser. The mix of flavours can put your mouth on fire at times, as well as energise your taste buds as you’ve never experienced before. The distinct flavours that are used in Thai cooking are always fresh and delicious. Red and green chili, lemongrass, lime, coriander, kafir lime leaves, coconut milk, basil, mint, star anis, fermented fish sauce and oyster sauce.

There are three different types of basil; sweet basil – the type used in red and green curry (also called Vietnamese mint); holy basil – a little spicier than sweet basil, similar to the type we have in Australia, and lemon basil – with a lemon hint used with seafood dishes.

Motar and Pestle Cutlery; the spoon and fork are used to eat most meals, except noodle soup which is eaten with chopsticks and a typical Asian flat-bottom soup spoon. The spoon and fork are not used in the conventional western manner; the spoon is used for putting food in the mouth while the fork is used for cutting and shoveling. It seems strange to Thai people if you put the fork in your mouth!

Fermented fish sauce is made from fermenting all kinds of fish and prawns/shrimp, to get a dark sauce that smells very strong and can be offensive, and is used in all manner of foods and cooking. Smells bad but adds great taste to the dish.

market vegetablesStaples

The staples in the area are rice and noodles. Noodles come in all shapes and forms from thin rice, flat (and fat) rice, yellow egg noodles thick or thin and often curly, you can even get the packaged 2-minute noodle types. Glass noodles are the see through type and are made from mung beans. A great variety of meat is also eaten: chicken, duck, pork and beef.

Fruit and vegetables

The most common types of vegetables used green leafy types, as well as carrots, string beans, small round and pea eggplant, tomato, cucumber, bean sprouts, flat spring onions and lettuce. Mushrooms come in many different varieties; rice straw mushrooms which are specific to this region are round in shape and used for curries and soups. Oyster mushrooms are also used commonly, and are traditionally found growing on old wood, but are now farmed. In the northern regions of Thailand where the weather is generally a little cooler, you can find a greater variety of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

street phad thaiBanana flower is used in salads and soups quite regularly. The flower has a large purple bulb shape with a bland flavour and crispy texture. The petals of the flower are finely sliced when used.

Fruit is plentiful, with the full range of tropical types; banana, pineapple, mango (often eaten green), jackfruit, durian (the smelly one), dragon fruit (pink skin with white flesh and black seeds throughout), lime, rambutan, lychee, watermelon, star fruit, mandarin, choko, longan (smaller and less fragrant than a lychee), mangosteen, guava (also eaten green more than ripe) and red or green rose apple (like a pear). Fresh fruit shakes are very popular and found in many spots, mixed up in a blender with ice, and sometimes sweetened condensed milk. Delicious on a sticky hot day!

Another unusual fruit I discovered at the markets is the ‘tju tjube’ fruit, it looks like a guava and tastes like a pear!
Tamarind pods – These are long brown hard shelled seed pods with a fleshy edible portion around the inner seed. A real tangy flavour with the consistency of fresh dates.

Khao soi from northern ThailandSignature dishes

Soup for BreakfastBreakfast

food on a stickStreet Foods

Some of the best food is Thailand is street food; there are many tiny stalls on the street whipping up the most amazing dishes. The hygiene at these kinds of places is rarely a problem these days, so we didn’t hesitate to get in and try it all!

Other foods

Clare drinking a cocktailDrinks

Energy drinks and alcoholic energy drinks are common. M-150 is the most popular brand. Thailand in fact is where Red Bull originated from, which has now stormed across the world.
Soft drinks are a whole new world here compared to western standards. There are loads of interesting varieties like fruit punch, pineapple, lychee and regular Fanta, as well as green cream Mirinda. They love soft drinks and they love them sweet.
Sugar cane drink – a fresh piece of sugar cane squeezed into a cup and drunk straight up. It has rather a raw tree flavour, but very very sweet.


Fast Food

McDonalds in ThailandThere are many fast food chains in Thailand especially in Bangkok. KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds, as well as a few of there own versions.
Found on the McDonalds menu:

Worthy Mention

We visited a Vietnamese restaurant in Nong Khai: A very clinical style restaurant that is starting to grow as a chain store. They have a specialty dish like no other! A skinless pork sausage which breaks into small pieces and is then wrapped in rice paper circles, adding lettuce, glass noodles, Vietnamese mint, cucumber, star fruit and raw banana. Once wrapped these bite size pieces are dipped into a thick dark sauce with peanuts and chilli. Absolutely delicious!

note: These food notes were made during several weeks travelling around Thailand. These are just our food experiences and you may have a totally different experience depending on your budget, where you travel and where you eat.

See also more Thai Food Photos


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