Food is a great joy for the visitor to Thailand.
Street stalls and simple restaurants are quite literally everywhere, serving up fresh main dishes from just 15 Baht. Portions aren’t huge at the lower end of the price scale – fine if you’re burning a normal amount of calories but the eternally starving cyclist might want to order two portions. Or just do as the Thais do and eat several times a day.
Fried rice – khao phat – with pork, chicken, beef or shrimp is a very common dish, as are stir-fries of vegetables and meat served over rice. In the morning, you’ll find a lot of Thai people eating soups, either rice-based or with noodles and fresh beansprouts and herbs loaded on top. Liver is commonly found in these breakfast foods so beware if you’re not a fan. A raw egg may also be cracked into the soup, to cook slowly in the hot broth.
Som tam is a salad made from green papaya, which might be too spicy for early in the morning but tastes great at lunch. It can be very firey and we tend to push the red chillis to the side to try and tame the flames a bit. If you want more spice on your food, ask for some prik nam pla.
Thais aren’t huge desert eaters but fresh fruit is a great treat at the end of a meal or any time of the day really. You can buy nearly anything you want from markets or look for street vendors who sell individual servings of pineapple, guavas, watermelon and other treats. These are usually only 10 Baht each, fresh off ice and into your mouth! Also keep an eye out for bananas, grilled or thinly sliced and fried.
Drinks stalls can set you up with a coffee throughout the day. Ask for cafe yin if you want it iced. Cost is just 10-35 Baht, depending on size and whether the coffee is instant or freshly brewed. The same places often serve a variety of sugary syrups over ice, a good quick energy boost, and you’ll see all the international soft drink brands at 10 Baht a bottle. Any drink can be poured into a small plastic bag with ice and a straw if you want it to go. This looks very strange at first but actually works quite well!
Another tasty, cold drink is ice mixed up with a flavoured powder, water and sugar syrup. Look for the rows of jars with the powders in them at street stalls. Sometimes a few sweet jelly candies are placed at the bottom of the cup. One of these costs about 10 Baht.
Water costs 10-15 Baht for a large bottle but keep an eye out for water dispensers on street corners, near convenience shops and laundromats. They’re a white colour, tall and thin and a little hard to spot – a bit smaller than a soft drink machine. When you find one, you can put your bottle under the spout and get a litre of cold filtered water for just 1 Baht. This is a cracking deal compared to buying bottled water in shops and it saves on plastic waste as well.