Spirit of Thailand

Spirit of Thailand

Culture, Relationships,
Thai Massage, Traveling

There is More to Thai Food Than Meets the Eye

Vendor at Food Festival in Chiang Mai Thailand
Vendor at Food Festival in Chiang Mai Thailand

Thais love food! It is everywhere. No matter where you are in Thailand, you are almost always within walking distance of food. In many western countries you have to drive for miles to find something edible, but here it is everywhere. 

Restaurants, food vendors with carts on wheels, mini restaurants set up on motorbikes with sidecars, food markets, food stalls, floating food vendors, grocery stores, supermarkets… You can always find something to eat regardless of the time of day or night.

Food in Thailand is so important that a common way of greeting someone is “did you eat already?” You see people eat in public at all times and in all places. Eating is not considered a private affair.

  • Westerners go to a park to be in nature, Thais go to a park to have a picnic.
  • Westerners go to the beach to swim and get a tan, Thais go to the beach to eat and drink.
  • When Thais go to any outing in nature, they always take a basket with food and drink.

Have you ever been asked in the US if you like American food? Most likely not, because nobody really cares what food you like. Have you ever been asked in England if you like English food? Probably not because nobody is interested in your culinary taste.

floating vendor in Thailand

However in Thailand you will be asked countless times if you like Thai food.  If you meet a Thai, chances are that in the first few minutes of conversation you will have to answer this question.

If you say that you do, you become a little more acceptable. If you indicate that you like spicy food, you move up the acceptance ladder even more. 

But if you say that you really don’t care so much about Thai food, people will be perplexed and wonder and even ask you why you have come to Thailand then.

22nd Chiang Mai Food Festival

There has been an annual food festival here in Chiang Mai for 22 years in a row. It is a huge, week-long event with hundreds of food stalls and thousands of visitors crowding the area every night.

There is a gigantic stage with  all kinds of entertainment, speeches, bands playing, and dance performances. Thais love a good party. 

The food is incredibly colorful and there seems to be an unending variety of different dishes, most of it prepared in front of your eyes. 

padthai, a popular noodle dish, can be prepared within a few minutesThais don’t eat like westerners. They don’t have drawn-out sit down meals with starter, salad, main course, dessert and coffee.

Meals mostly consist of one plate of food which is not only eaten quickly but also prepared in no time.

Unlike western restaurants where your meal order can take 20 or 30 minutes, in Thailand most dishes can be prepared within minutes.

Thais don’t eat big meals, but rather small meals frequently throughout the day. Thais are very attached to their food, and they don’t take easily to international cuisine. When they travel outside of  Thailand, many times their biggest challenge is not being able to eat Thai food.

a street vendor sells corn on the cob, steamed peanuts and sweet potatoEating in Thailand is inexpensive, convenient and fun. Imagine strolling around, picking up a fresh squeezed orange juice, having a quick  “pad thai” noodle dish for US$ 0.50.

Or you could be sampling a local sweet, drinking some fresh coconut juice, eating a steamed sweet potato or a black bean dumpling, all available right on the street or in a market – within walking distance. No wonder food is so important here!


image of the the author, Shama Kern

The author, Shama Kern, has been living in Thailand with his Thai wife for well over a decade. He loves exploring life in Thailand. You can reach him at shama@shamakern.com 

4 thoughts on “There is More to Thai Food Than Meets the Eye”

  1. Thank you Shama,

    I found your site from Mega R. Mease’s post and am an Off-site Practitioner with her healing center. I love food too, and Thai food is delicious. Mmmm, coconut milk, basil, galangal root…

    Abundant Blessings,

  2. I visited Thailand from Oct – Dec and spent most of my time in Chiang Mai. First visit but certainly not the last! While I was visiting I did take 3 cooking courses and had lots of fun. Each had their own characteristics but my favorite was Asia Scenic.
    Shama, I am enjoying reading your material. Saw your name on Rick Gold FB friends. Perhaps I can meet you later this year when I revisit Chiang Mai.

  3. I agree with you about the food and my level of Thai spicy increased considerably. The Saturday and Sunday street markets besides the shopping and people watching, food every where. Small restaurants open into the early morning.
    A Thai lady that did my laundry invited me to have a meal of papaya salad with her and the family. I was moved!
    I ate something Thai everyday most days each meal. Another Westerner I met staying at the same guesthouse went to Starbucks everyday and did not eat much Thai food, when he did he complained about it. I thought just what you mentioned, why did he come to Thailand?
    Now that I am back in the USA I really miss just popping in somewhere for some Thai food. I’ve been to some Thai restaurants here (but not the same) and I have cooked a few meals.

  4. You are Michael Porter, my facebook friend, right? Sure, would love to meet you when you come back to Chiang Mai! Three cooking courses – you must be a real Thai chef now.


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