Thailand is a land of snackers.
Meals center around a plate of rice with a few bites of different meat, fish and vegetable dishes to support it (not the other way around–RICE is the focus here). Or noodle dishes, such as the beloved Pad Thai. Always with fresh fruit for dessert. This type of meal leaves room for treats, which is a good thing, because Thais love their treats! Snacking in Thailand is quite a different thing than it is in the West, though. While candy bars, potato chips and fast food–especially anything fried–tend to be staples on the snack menu in the States, Thailand has quite different tastes, most of which are vastly healthier than ours.
Fresh fruit is popular, and considering the wide variety of fruit that grows in this tropical locale–and the sheer volume of it–that’s a good thing. I’ve never seen so much fresh fruit in my life!
But with all that fruit, a lot of it has to be preserved. So dried fruit is a common snack, too. [One of the most popular fruits either fresh or dried is durian, but that section of the blog got so big it had to split off on its own. Look for it this weekend.]
Fresh fruit juices are often presented in plastic bags with a straw inserted–I suppose because this takes up less space in the trash. With millions regularly sipping juice this way, all those disposable cups would add up in a hurry.
The fresh corn sold on the street reminded Cecilia of elote, one of those great street foods in her hometown of Mexico City. There the corn is served on the cob, coated in a thin layer of mayo and dipped in grated cotija cheese and chile powder. That’s my favorite street food in Mexico City, so I was glad to find it here, too.
Occasionally you’ll find more Western-styled snacks, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Then there’s toasted seaweed. It looks just like nori, which is rolled around sushi, but this is crunchy and easy to snack on, not chewy like nori. It has an aggressively healthy taste to it, almost off-puttingly so.
The only food I absolutely couldn’t stand while I was in Thailand was a bag of hard candy with the curiously cheerful name of Let’s Party! C’mon–how can you NOT try a candy with that name? I defy you! I picked it up in a 7-11 (yes, they have them there). They were individually-wrapped red candies. Cherry flavored? Strawberry? Raspberry, perhaps? or Red currant? They were none of the above. The best approximation of flavor I can provide is that they tasted like what I assume you’d get if you made cough drops out of lighter fluid. After about 20 seconds, the piece in my mouth–and the rest of the bag–went into the trash. An entire travel-sized bottle of Listerine couldn’t put a dent in the aftertaste.
This is a pretty decent record, though. It would be unusual to say I’ve disliked only one thing I’ve eaten in any 10-day period here at home. So to travel for this length of time in Thailand and encounter only one food I didn’t like is amazing.
So what’s my favorite Thai snack? Fruit that’s so fresh you’d swear it has added sugar is awfully good. So’s the corn. And Thai sausages are one of my favorite foods, period.
There’s still a particular fruit to consider…one of which I spoke earlier, one that will get its own blog entry in a day or two…
***The obligatory disclaimer: I went to Thailand as a guest of Thai Tourism Authority. That said, I’m not interested in urging you to stay at particular hotels or to dine at particular establishments or to seek out specific amusements, but rather to enjoy the cuisine, whether you dine in Thailand or in a Thai restaurant in your hometown. And to take a crack at making Thai dishes yourself. There’s much to love about a cuisine so varied and flavorful.