Spices as rich as Indian food, spread as large as Chinese and taste as close to Japanese as possible – That’s Thai food for you. When you are backpacking there is little choice you get with respect to food. You stop where you can possibly get some grub and eat what is available. But that also guarantees you to get some true Thai food, without much of dilution to suit different palettes. Street food was what kept us alive when we were dying with hunger. The nameless street food stalls with skewers in the evenings was what we relished the most, the other times there was 7-11 with the ready to eat sandwiches and instant noodles to eat. It was really far from the Benjarong and the Baan Thai food and their red and green curries. Not that they are not original Thai, it does have the ginger and garlic base, but somehow they are a little altered to suit our taste than retain the original flavor. There were a few things that really I enjoyed eating and wanted to write about them –
Phad Thai Noodles – Thanks to my boss at office, I was told to definitely try it and if possible get the recipe from the best place I had it. So the first proper meal I got to have in Phuket, I tried the Phad Thai noodles. It was one of the best noodles I had. It is Flat noodles, boiled with a lot of flavor of ginger and thin noodles sautéed in hot garlic sauce with spring onions and bell pepper. The distinct flavor is unmistakable, called on the chef to ask him how it is made, he was more than happy to share his recipe with us in exchange for learning some pleasantries in Hindi – decent bargain I thought then. Then he said there is no ready to eat 2min Phad Thai noodles, all the ingredients had to be bought and made from scratch. Ok so much for teaching him Namaste and Dhanyavaad.
Fried Grouper Fish – Well, the grouper fish as it is called is a large fish, which can be as big as our pomfret to half the size of a shark. Well, they don’t give you pieces as the fish needs to be grilled and so we need to choose the biggest piece we can possibly finish. Well, it’s the usual grilled fish, but then the stuffing of the ginger-turmeric paste in the slits to let it sink in while it’s simmering in the grill is a good idea to spread the taste.
Chicken in Basil Leaves – Have no words for this dish. Have never thought that these two could go together. One of the ingredients is considered holy, the other non-vegetarian and hence unclean for the majority population in India. But when you get the two together, it’s just out of this world. The flavor and taste of Tulsi along with the well cooked and marinated chicken in ginger base was just too good. A little rice to go along with it and a full meal is just complete. The idea of letting the tulsi boil in the water in which the chicken is boiled and then mixing the ginger base is the secret behind the flavor. Somehow I still am not over it and longing to try it again.
Soupy Noodles and Sandwiches – Easily the breakfast we had on most days of the weeklong trip was this from 7-11. The soup noodle which was nice and spicy was our regular cup noodles we get. The good thing about 7-11 is they also provide hot water with which you can make the noodles in the shop as we bill it. Then the chicken sandwich and coffee to go with it is also very good. Not a completely wholesome breakfast but definitely good enough to keep you full for the time being. Anyhow, the 7-11 also had these chicken momos which tasted very good. It was filled with whole boiled chicken rather than the shredded chicken that you usual get here.
Skewers – Well, the food blog wouldn’t be complete without talking about this. Roadside stalls with the grills on the side, with marinated chicken, pork, shrimps, beef, fish hanging from the shade on top inviting everyone to try it. I guess more than the skewers, it’s the sauce they give along with it. Ginger, Garlic, Sweet, Sour the sauces are innumerable and they are stingy with it, they give you more than you ask. And a cool 5-6 pieces of meat for 10-15Baht is something that is great. Initially I did have my doubts on how clean and hygienic they will be, but given the rate at which they sell and that most shops complete their stock of meat within hours of setting shop ensured that they must be good. The chicken and shrimps were too good, well marinated and properly grilled. Sometimes this served as dinner for us after a good round of Singha beer.
Walk into the stores where you are going to buy some water and buy some homemade shrimp pakodas – ofcourse they are called something very different and most of the shops where we bought them couldn’t translate it in English- but its very tasty. Somehow they have a distinct banana flavor to most of these short eats be it fried yam or fried shrimps.
Ofcourse all the dishes I have mentioned above have a Thai name to it, which is what the Thai places out here prefer to call them to ensure “authenticity” but then I guess for the sake of familiarity and knowing the ingredients the English names are simple and best. So when you are in Thailand be in Bangkok, Phuket or one of the buri’s get out on the street and don’t be afraid to dig in. You will surely not repent it. The flavor is the specialty and the friendly Thai’s are more than happy to share their knowledge about their food with you for a small favour in return – teaching them to say Namaste and Dhanyavaad. Ofcourse don’t forget your Swadeekhap on meeting them and Khapun-Kaap at the end of the meal. They appreciate it a lot.