It’s not every day that you get to tour Thailand with Andy Ricker, chef of the popular Portland and NYC Thai food joint Pok Pok and part-time resident of Chiang Mai. After spending a week eating my way across the country with Ricker as food fixer, I not only tried every dish under the sun but also picked up a few useful tips in the process. So before you pack your bags for Bankgkok here's what you need to know.
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① You do the seasoning.
In Thailand, condiments like vinegar, fish sauce, chile paste and sugar are set out on each table. Once a dish is served it’s your job to use these ingredients to adjust the saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness.
② Do not use a knife.
You’ll rarely find a knife at the table when you eat Thai food so use a fork to push food onto your utensils. And as Ricker explained, that utensil should be a spoon, since rice can fall through the tines of a fork. Chopsticks are used only when noodles are involved.
③ Rice varies according to region.
Don’t get attached to certain kinds of rice; you probably won’t find the same in each region. Jasmine rice is typically served in southern and central Thailand, and sticky rice is prominent in the north and northeast. You might even find blue rice, naturally dyed with butterfly pea flower, on the menu.
④ Every garnish has a purpose.
When eating dishes such as laab or nam prik you’ll also be served a plate of vegetables and herbs on the side. These are an integral part of the meal, adding bitterness and brightness to the dish. And many of these herbs also help aid digestion.
⑤ 7-Eleven reigns supreme.
Not only is there a 7-Eleven on every corner, but the chain is a crucial part of Thai living: It’s where people can pay their bills and have packages delivered. But the best part? Flavors of potato chips you have never seen before.
Pack your passport—and an appetite—as we hit the world's hottest culinary destinations on and off the grid all month long. Now Boarding: your next trip to paradise.
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