Eating in Thailand is an essential part of the national life-style. Food will play an important part in most activities you will engage in. Thai dishes range from the very sweet, to sweet and sour, to spicy to very spicy. The best policy is to try everything but ask if the dish is spicy – if a Thai says it is, try a very small amount or avoid eating this until your taste buds have adjusted. In the beginning, spicy food and an increase in the amount of tropical fruit and vegetables may cause gastric and intestinal discomfort. Your tolerance and preference for more spicy foods will increase in time.
Almost all Thai food is cooked with a wide variety of fresh ingredients, including vegetables, poultry, pork, seafood and some beef. Predominant flavors are lime juice and tamarind, lemon grass, salty fish sauce, garlic (lots of it!) and coriander, and of course, chilies of various degrees of strength. If you like vegetarian food, you will find some very satisfactory dishes in Thai and Indian cuisines. Popular local drinks are naam manao (iced lime juice with sugar), naam awy (sugar cane) and the cool refreshing water from a freshly cut young coconut. Thais are fastidious about food preparation so generally you don’t need to be concerned about food poisoning as long as you follow good hygiene rules.
Recommended guidelines for eating the food in Thailand: enjoy looking but avoid indiscriminate sampling from street stalls and markets. Eat only freshly prepared cooked food served hot. If the soup broth is boiling you can assume it is safe. Avoid raw meats and seafood and dishes made with these ingredients. Generally these are from northern or Northeastern style restaurants. Check the menu for the Thai words, “dib” (raw) and “sook” (well cooked). Always drink bottled water, which is sold everywhere – use even for brushing your teeth. Ice that is cylinder-shaped, with a hole in the middle, is made with clean water but crushed ice may not be. When in doubt, have your drink without ice.