Swasdee khaap. My bond with Thailand started in the year 1982, when I visited with my cousins and aunt as a child. From then on I have travelled there countless times, even before the start of my passion, Brownie Point.
Years ago I had spent a month in Bangkok trying to get a job and settle down there. It was perhaps in my destiny to start Brownie Point and I was back in the bay. However, every visit there exposed me to new food, which I never imagined would be so flavourful and delicious.
The first items I tried there were the distinct tom yum soup. Simple flavoursome and spicy, it can make a meal by itself. There was also the barbecued stuff lining the streets all over.
Simple and yum, I can vouch for the fact that I never had an upset tummy from eating so much on the streets. The streets are where one will be able to try the authentic tastes of the country.
Another item which has been a personal favourite is the Som Tham, a raw papaya salad with a palm sugar and lemon dressing with a hint of chilly (one can request the level of spice) and crunchy French beans, tomatoes and roasted peanuts... heaven in every bite.
During all my visits to Thailand, sampling food in different cities, it all tasted slightly different. I was told that every region has their own recipe, where the core is the same but the proportions vary making for a slightly different flavour.
On my last couple of visits, with the evolving times, I have noticed an increasing variety of food being available. However, even with newer trends I have never felt the taste or the authentic appeal of the cuisine being compromised.
From trying creepy crawlies fried in oil with small pieces of pandan leaf, to seeing baby crocodiles being roasted and grilled on the street carts, this food journey is not for the faint hearted. But nevertheless the non-adventurous traveller still has lots to sample because of the vegetarian and other international foods available.
Truth is, I haven’t had fresher fruits anywhere in my travels; the rambutans, berries, pineapples, oranges, lychees and a whole array of exotic fruits are simply delicious.
Thailand is indeed a paradise for food lovers. I particularly love the fresh juices and smoothies they make using fresh fruits. Yummy, cheap, nutritious and healthy for their humid climate.
This February when I visited again, my focus was more on learning about the desserts of the country. I have never been a big fan of gelatinous pudding desserts, but I loved what I tried.
Their desserts are made using simple ingredients like rice flour, sugar, beans, cornstarch, bananas, palm jaggery, and even palm toddy in some desserts. Sesame seeds and the quintessential coconut, freshly grated or sprinkled on top or just coconut milk and cream are mandatory. They were simple but yum.
Another thing I learnt was that when trying new things one needs to clear one’s mind of pre-set notions and sample them with an open mind. And that’s when one tastes the true flavours and trust me you will love it more this way. Always try a new taste palette.
During the course of my travels I have realised that Thailand is not just about adventure and lusty fantasy, but their food presents a whole new world itself. In fact, a lot of what they cook is very close to our taste profile in India. Khaap khun khaap...thank you, Thailand!