Food and the pleasure of eating is an integral part of Thai culture. There’s no need for any tourist to go hungry in a country where cheap and delicious food is available around the clock. With such a wide culinary choice on offer, it can be bewildering for foreign visitors. The sights, sounds and smells of a roadside stall or an open-air night market can make dining a memorable experience.
Asking for Less Spicy Food
Not everybody takes to Thai food immediately and Thai people are well aware that not all tourists like their food as spicy as the locals do. Don’t be ashamed to ask for your food to be prepared less spicy than normal. If you master how to pronounce the phrase, mai phet (not spicy) or phet nit noy (not too spicy) you will be guaranteed to get an appreciative smile and a knowing nod. The food may still have a bit of a kick, but the cook will hold back on the chillies.
Spice it Up
There are four basic tastes in Thai cooking; salty, sweet, sour and pungent. All combine to produce different flavours, but chillies (phrik) figure prominently in many dishes. Even if you’re used to eating at a Thai restaurant in your home country, Thai food in Thailand will almost certainly be considerably spicier where many locals tend to prefer it phet mak (very spicy).
Coping With Too Many Chillies
Here’s a good tip I learned early on in my stay in Thailand. It’s for dealing with that moment where you suddenly bite into a mouthful of food and you feel like your mouth is on fire as the chillies kick in. Resist the temptation to reach for the nearest glass of water or beer which will only spread the fire around in your mouth. Instead, eat a couple of spoonfuls of cooked rice which helps to neutralise the burning sensation.
Watch Out For the Mouse Shit Chillies!
That’s what the small green chillies are called – phrik kii noo (literally translated as mouse shit chillies). They’re more powerful than the larger red chillies so be careful before you delve in.