Thai food is known worldwide for its bold use of different aromatics, herbs, and seasonings. The combination of these ingredients gives Thai food a distinct and robust flavor that’s not found in most other cuisines around the world. This makes Thai food unique, which is why many people love it. However, if you’re a westerner who’s not familiar with the Asian way of cooking, you may experience culture shock when you come to Thailand for the first time.

To help you have a good time by making the most of your culinary adventures in Thailand, here are nine things you need to know about Thai food before coming here:

Family-Style Eating

In most western countries, people order one thing and stick to that dish, but in Thailand and most other parts of Asia, you share everything on the table. In Thai cuisine, you get a bowl of rice or a plate to yourself and that’s it. Everything else on the table is for everyone to share. The clean and polite way to go about it is to use a serving spoon. Get some food, put it on your plate and eat it with your own fork and spoon. If you go to a more rural area, it’s not uncommon to see people sitting in a circle on the floor instead of around a dining table.

Snacking All Day

Thai people usually eat three meals a day, like those from most western countries, but they may also have some snacks throughout the day. These snacks may be more substantial than what you’re used to, as Thai people don’t eat as much at mealtime. Therefore, their idea of a “snack” includes everything from fried bananas, grilled chicken, and meat skewers, to soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce. 

Beer with Ice

This isn’t the done thing in most western countries, but in Thailand it is. If you order beer from a street food stall, they will usually serve it with ice. This is because it’s hot and humid in Thailand, so Thai people put ice in there to keep it cool for a bit longer. Since the most popular beers in Thailand are all lagers, they are easy to enough to drink before the ice melts and the beer loses its flavor.

Try the Whiskey

Thai people also love whiskey, so you should expect to see a lot of it when you go to Thailand. Whiskey is on the menu of practically every restaurant, and it’s usually served with tonic water or Coke.

There’s no Tipping Culture Here

The tipping culture in Thailand is very lenient, to say the least. You’re not under any obligation to tip the waiter or anyone for that matter, as most establishments will already include their service charge in the final bill. If you really like someone’s service, you can pay them extra and they will appreciate it greatly.

The Variety in Different Regions

When you hear “Thai food” most people think of pad thai, tom yum, or pad see iw, but those aren’t the only dishes Thai cuisine has to offer. The food in Thailand varies greatly from region to region, as the flavor profiles are entirely different. If you’re traveling all over Thailand, we recommend you eat something in every region so you’ll understand what we meant by that.

Thai Food is More Than Thai

Thailand has been a major trading hub for centuries, which is why Thai cuisine is considered a melting pot of cooking methods and practices. You will feel the influence from India and the Middle East in their heavy use of spices, the Chinese by the way they cook, and the Europeans in the way dough and eggs are used in Thai cuisine. The Thai people put their own twist on the cuisines of the countries they had trade agreements with to create something new.

Get Familiar with Rice

Rice is the heart and soul of Thai cuisine, and it’s served at every meal. Even in the most extravagant and classy European restaurants in Thailand, you will be able to order rice, which shows you how important it is to the people here. There are many variations of rice, such as boiled, fried, and stir-fried. Even if you never really liked rice before, you’ll probably develop a taste for it while you’re here.

Beware the Spice

Thai dishes can be rather spicy, but most cooks will be more than willing to turn it down a notch for foreigners. The key is to tell them to make it “mai ped” or “ped noi,” which means not spicy at all or mildly spicy. You can enjoy Thailand’s favorite dishes at the level of spice you can handle if you know how to talk to the cook.

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