The grasshopper sat in the food: Thai national cuisine
There is a joke that in Thailand they only eat rice and grasshoppers. This is certainly true – but too incomplete. Rice is very popular indeed, and insects are considered an exotic dish, which you decide whether to try or not.
Fortunately, here you can easily find foods and dishes suitable for the children’s table.
To avoid getting lost in the menu, take a look at the Thai cookbook with Kidpassage to learn about the peculiarities of Thailand’s national cuisine and what traditional Thai dishes can be included in children’s diets.
Features of the cuisine
Culinary traditions of Thailand were formed under the influence of the taste preferences of the Chinese, Indians. Hence the love for rice, finely chopped and quickly fried foods, abundance of spices and spicy flavor.
But it was Europeans, the Portuguese in particular, who introduced potatoes, tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, and chili pepper to Thai cuisine (before that, other kinds of hot pepper were used in the country).
The best Thai dishes manage to combine several tastes and can be sweet, sour, and spicy at the same time. Not many cuisines in the world can compete with Thai cuisine in spiciness.
This is why, contrary to custom, we will start our review not with traditional foods but with spices. Thais put spices in every dish so abundantly, that at first experience you can burst into tears from the scorching taste.
The most common spice is kaeng, or Thai curry. Ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, chili pepper, coriander, basil, and garlic are widely used.
Sauces play a special role in the traditional Thai cuisine. For example, nam phrik sauce from garlic, hot pepper and mixed herbs is served practically with all dishes: it enhances the taste of rice, vegetables, and meat.
The salted fish sauce nampla, which is made from fermented anchovies and other small fish, is usually placed on the table to dip pieces of food into.
You will also find soy sauce, coconut milk, and lime in every kitchen; they are used to dress salads and season meat dishes.
Otherwise, Thai cuisine is rich and varied; it can easily be called dietary. People here cook all types of meat: beef, pork, and poultry; they also like fish and seafood; generously use fruits and vegetables.
But rice really occupies a special place in Thailand. White, black, red, round, long – even a simple list of the most popular dishes of Thai cuisine made of rice will take a lot of space. But buckwheat can be ordered only in a European restaurant.
Noodles are used in many Thai dishes. Unlike the wheat noodles that we are accustomed to, rice, egg, and even bean noodles are used here.
And the fruit here is mostly exotic: mango, lychee, rambutan, papaya, etc. All this grows only because of the hot climate, without artificial fertilizers and other chemicals.
But enough theory. It’s time to find out exactly what dishes to try in Thailand and what of the exotic food can be ordered for the child.
The main dishes of Thai cuisine
Among the most famous dishes of Thai cuisine is rice, without which no meal is without. Even the Thai expression kin khao means “to eat”, literally translated as “to eat rice”. The selection here is simply incredible:
- Tjok – rice with minced pork;
- khau man kai – rice with chicken (usually accompanied by broth);
- khau mok kai – rice cooked with saffron;
- khau suai – jasmine rice;
- Khau phat – fried rice with pieces of meat, poultry, or seafood;
- khau phat sapparrot – fried rice with pineapple slices.
For breakfast, the child would love to eat khau nhia ma muang, sticky rice with coconut milk and mango slices.
The glutinous rice is prepared in a special way: it is placed in a wicker bamboo basket and steamed. Once cooked, the rice is rolled into balls and dipped in sauce and eaten at the table.
“Whether you are a pasta lover, you can try mi krob, fried pasta in a sweet and sour sauce, or phat Thai, rice noodles with eggs, shrimp, and bean sprouts.
A delicious egg dish is the puffed omelet khao khai chiao. But its recipe is quite unusual: lime juice, starch, fish sauce, and sometimes minced pork are added to the eggs. Omelets are usually served with rice.
The list of meat dishes is not insignificant either.
- Poh pia sod – buns with sausage, fried egg, and lettuce, the best Thai dish for a quick snack.
- Yam na – grilled meat.
- Larb kai – chicken with onions.
- Khao na fet – fried duck, a greasy and spicy smelling dish.
- Khao ka mu – pork ham stewed in soy sauce. It is worth trying this tender (although fatty) meat just because it is seasoned not with pepper and bay leaf, but with cinnamon and anise.
- Salapau are steamed pork patties.
- Kang massaman is a type of curry with chicken and perhaps the only meat dish of Thai national cuisine which is served with potatoes instead of rice.
- Gai pad pongali is an omelet with chicken and vegetables. It often contains whatever you have on hand.
- Satee kai – ruddy chicken kebabs with peanut sauce.
And vegetable dishes often look like toys, which kids love. They can serve as a side dish or a separate dish.
- Po pi tchot – vegetable rolls with meat.
- Po piatier – vegetarian rolls.
- Kwe te lui suan is another type of raw vegetable and rice paper rolls, sometimes with tofu, mushrooms, or meat.
- Phat phak ruam – roasted vegetables.
- Makua yao prik pao – roasted green eggplant with basil and chili peppers. The word “green” here refers not to maturity but to variety: these eggplants don’t lose their firmness when fried.
Surprise, surprise: the most popular salad in Thai cuisine is not a vegetable salad but a fruit one. But not sweet, of course, but very spicy.
Yam mamuang is a very similar salad to catfish, in which papaya is replaced with unripe mango.
Khao Yam is a salad with rice, vividly demonstrating what exotic cuisine is like in Thailand. One can hardly imagine its taste even after reading the list of ingredients: rice, fried coconut, tomato, watercress, shallots, green beans, garlic, chili peppers, and fish sauce.
Yam yay is a salad of raw vegetables.
Yam wun sen – vegetable salad with mashe noodles. Sometimes the dish is supplemented with pork or seafood.
Pad pak bung fai deng (sometimes just pad pak bung) – a salad of ipomea, or water spinach, fried over high heat and dressed with oyster sauce. One of the most unusual national dishes in Thailand.
Yam khor mu yang – a salad of grilled pork with sweet onions and hot peppers.
Som tam is a green papaya salad. Tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and crabmeat can also be added, all generously seasoned with garlic and chili peppers, or, if the salad is not for tourists, fish sauce.
Tom Yam is one of the most popular dishes in Thai cuisine. This soup has a recognizable sour and spicy taste, but the ingredients can vary. Tom yam is prepared with shrimp (tom yam kung), chicken (tom yam kai), fish (tom yam pla), seafood (tom yam thale).
Khaw tom is a rice broth soup with pieces of chicken, pork, or fish, which children usually eat with pleasure.
Quai tieu nam – a nutritious soup, seasoned with noodles and meatballs.
Kang liang is a vegetable soup that includes green beans, corn, pumpkin, and an incredible amount of hot peppers.
Kang chut is a vegetable soup with noodles. If beef is added to the standard set, you get kang pa nyua soup, if chicken, kang om kai, and if pork, kang thiut wunsen.
Tom kha kai, another popular coconut milk soup with chicken, can also be quite spicy.
You can also try the “ba chao” soup with ground pork.
Fish and seafood
If something called “pla” appears on the list of dishes, it means it is a fish dish. it means it is a fish dish. Fish is not eaten in every region of Thailand, but in the seaside resorts it is in great honor.
Fish is usually fried or baked in its entirety, with lime wedges, garlic, and chili pepper inserted into its belly.
Pla Plu is the simplest version: fish is generously coated in salt and grilled.
Shrimp, octopus, squid, and other seafood are added to salads and soups, served with rice and noodles.
And yet eat grasshoppers in Thailand or not? Not only do they eat grasshoppers: at the grocery markets they sell fried locusts, cockroaches, scorpions, caterpillars, silkworm larvae and other crawling, flying critters.
Not that this is considered the national food of Thailand, but Thais season these crispy little things with spices and enjoy eating them. Those who dare to try the fried insects find their taste to be…ordinary.
So what to try from Thai cuisine for dessert? Thai desserts are unusual in both taste and appearance. You can’t always figure out what they’re made of, but trying a few Thai desserts is a must.
- Phoi Tong is a cobweb of whipped egg yolks cooked in sugar syrup. The cobwebs are rolled into balls and decorated with jasmine flowers.
- Khanom la is a dish that resembles cotton candy, but is made from cane sugar with the addition of rice flour and yolks.
- Roti – pancakes with a sweet filling.
- Khanom byang – crispy pancakes.
- Khanom tan thang – pancakes as thick as pancakes.
- Khanom luk chup – coconut mints in the shape of fruit usually taken away by children as a sweet souvenir.
You will surely also be offered many rice desserts, such as khau lam, bamboo baked sticky rice with coconut milk, or khau thiak, rice pudding in palm leaves.
And instead of baked apples, they eat fried bananas kluai kak.
The most useful dessert is still fruit. Try eating it the Thai way; fresh pineapple, for instance, is sprinkled with salt, and pomelo, guava, and noiña are generously salted and peppered.
Of course, people in Thailand also drink tea and coffee, but not as often as soft drinks. They quench their thirst with coconut juice or freshly squeezed fruit juices: especially popular are tangerine, tangerine, longan, pink apple, and even watermelon. Tamarind is used to make something similar to a compote.
Cha yen is the most popular cold drink. It is made on the basis of black tea, to which vanilla, cinnamon, anise, and cardamom are added. This tea is poured into glasses with ice and supplemented with sugar syrup and concentrated milk.
Tips for children
So how do you adapt to the peculiarities of Thai cuisine and feed your child? Learn the phrase “no spicy,” or “mai phet,” meaning “no spice.
Without spices, many of Thailand’s national dishes turn into diet food, quite suitable for children’s tables.
However, you still need to make sure that “no spicy” is not too spicy.
Even in restaurants where the most delicious dishes are adapted for tourists, spiciness and reduce, but do not remove completely. This is not always possible, for example, pasta basis for making soup tom yum itself is very hot.
Children can be served khao tom soup, sticky rice, khao man kai – boiled chicken with rice, piat thot and piat thot rolls, pancakes and pancakes without fear. Other dishes should be warned to be cooked without spices.
Special attention is needed if children have allergies. If you are allergic to peanuts, you should give up on catfish salad there and chicken satay kai.
For seafood intolerances, warn “mai sai kung/plamik” not to add shrimp/squid. You can also ask not to put fish or oyster sauce: “Mai sai nam pla” or “man sai nam man hoi”.
Refuse to buy bottled soft drinks, freshly squeezed juices, and sliced fruit on the street.
Since not every child is ready to eat traditional Thai food, many parents prefer to cook their own or buy ready-made food in supermarkets.
Here you can buy not only formula milk, cereal and puree in jars for the youngest travelers, but even boiled eggs and ready-made sandwiches in a package, and also – milk, yogurt, cereals for breakfast.
Note that it is difficult to find canned vegetables for children in Thailand, most often sold here pureed local fruit.
We strongly recommend buying bottled water for drinking and cooking. You can also wash fruits and vegetables with tap water.
Where to Try
The debate whether you can get acquainted with the traditional cuisine of Thailand near the street stalls or in the local cheap restaurants is unlikely to die down soon.
But when traveling with children, such experiments are best avoided. Firstly, it is difficult to count on the fact that in the street tent observing sanitary standards. Secondly, the dishes in such tents are not cooked to order, they are seasoned the way Thai people like, and this is not to the taste of every tourist.
Inexpensive restaurants, where locals dine, the food for sure will be delicious and of good quality, but the conditions for eating there are more than modest.
- What to try in Thailand: the prices of food in restaurants, cafes and stores
But tourists who have tried the delicious dishes of Thai cuisine can try to cook them on their own in barbecue bars, where right on the tables there is everything you need for cooking or frying products.
The safest way to join the cuisine of Thailand is to dine in food courts or restaurants designed for tourists. Well, even if the non-spicy food will seem too spicy for your children, choose a restaurant with European cuisine in Thailand, there are many of them.
Thais consider eating one of the pleasures, before eating, they want to “kho hai sabai di na”, get “sabai”, i.e. pleasure.
And since the concept of “sabai” extends to the conditions of rest, we offer to learn more about family hotels in Thailand: Kidpassage has collected a collection of the best hotels for holidays with children.