Tag Archives: Thai food

How to Eat Thai Street Food

OK, yes (as I admitted a couple posts ago) we are eating food from the Bangkok street stalls. And we haven’t gotten sick yet. The food is unbelievably delicious. But there are a few things to remember before you head to your first food stall:

Be brave!
Yes, it takes some courage to start eating food cooked by the side of the road in a foreign country. But this is one experience you need to have. I have simply never had such good, inexpensive food. You can get a great meal of Thai street food for $1.50. So be brave, walk up to the food stall serving the food you are most dying to eat, point at what you want and you will be well on your way to enjoying a genuine, Thai experience.

 

Eat cooked food
To ensure a decent level of hygiene, only eat food that has been cooked in front of you. The heat will kill the bugs. Steer clear of raw fruit or veggies (at least for the first few days while your stomach adjusts) as they may be washed in water that has not been purified. The locals can handle it but be careful here.

Living life dangerously! We are bad examples. We had raw fruit smoothies within our first week in Thailand... not generally a great idea but an expat friend talked us into it:)

Try new stuff
There is amazing range so don’t be afraid to branch out. We have been experimenting a lot with different dishes. The first night it was pastries, an omelet, spicy chicken, basil, rice and a fried egg. Since then it’s been a bit of a free for all. Curries, soups, stews and an embarrassing array of desserts. There is endless variety so there is no excuse not to indulge your inner foodie.

I'd like.... everything.

Skip Monday
A lot of Thai street food stalls close on Monday so you may want to stay indoors for your meals as the work week starts… Eat at the mall instead. In fact, a lot of the popular street stalls have their own branches in Bangkok malls (which stay open.). I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to the malls here but let me just say right now that they are so large they really should issue customers GPS devices.

The water issue
To avoid spending all night on the throne, stay away from tap water in Bangkok. It is not fit for drinking. However, restaurants that serve water generally serve purified water so you are typically OK having some.

To drink or to suffer curry burn... that is the dillemma.

Go with the crowd
There is safety in numbers when it comes to Thai street food. Hit up the busy stalls. They are busy for a reason and can be trusted more than the ones that get less traffic. This is one time it is absolutely appropriate to bow to peer pressure.

Have you had street food in Thailand? What did I miss? Feel free to add to the list in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


Leaving on a Jet Plane for Bangkok Today

Let's hope this little gem never comes in handy...

Today is the big day. Our upcoming 11 hour and 5 minute flight to Bangkok has us feeling all jittery.

Here’s what we have planned for our first few days. (I’ll let you know if the real thing actually works out the way we thought it would.):

Arriving in Bangkok

pic by Facebook user "BANGKOK" - click pic for url
Pic via Facebook user "BANGKOK" - click pic for url

The fact that I am in a different country typically hits just as I am walking out the doors of the airport. We plan on getting a taxi straight into the part of the city where our hotel is. As much as we’d love to be cheap and take the bus to the hotel (approx $5), a taxi costs $10 or less and is way quicker.

Hotels – Here’s a site (or app) worth using if you aren’t already: Booking.com. I first came across it in Oxford when I was hanging out with Jammie, my sister and some close friends in Blackwells, the largest bookstore in town. I compared what we found on Booking.com to some other hotel sites and the accommodation listings in some travel books and in the end the winning hotel had the following:


1)  A very solid average rating out of 2000 reviews.

2)  Gorgeous rooms with all the amenities

3)  Gym / hot tub / steam room

4)  Fitness center / Private theater / international restaurant

5)  LAST AND BEST:  We got four nights for a very reasonable $57, so $14.25 per day.

Will the actual experience live up to how the hotel was advertized online?  Look for my review in a soon-coming post:)

Apartments – This was a tough one.  We only want to spend $300 or less on our longer term housing in Bangkok. You can pretty much get anything you want in Bangkok – from shack to palatial – it is all there. We have been researching apartments options with a blend of excellent price and location (we want something fairly centrally located) and excellent natural light.  There are a lot of apartment rental sites for Bangkok and many are in English as there is such a huge expat population.  We haven’t decided on anything yet.  We will visit a handful of apartments in person in the first few days following our arrival.  Then we will make the decision in person.

Food

Jammie and I with my sister and her husband chilling at a Thai restaurant in Bath, England earlier this week


It was all I could do not to put this at the top of the post. We are so excited about this part since we both love Thai food.  I’ve been doing some research on where the best spots to get Thai food are.  What I’ve been finding so far is that the best eateries are often not the upscale joints catering to wealthy tourists.  Often the hole-in-the-walls are best.  We will shamelessly be soliciting suggestions as soon as we land.

If you have any good ideas for where to go in Bangkok for the best of the local cuisine, let me know in the comments.  There’s nothing like a personal recommendation!

Making Friends  – Currently we have a handful of friends living in Thailand, none of which are Thai.  Our plan is to hit local churches, Rotary (business networking) clubs, Toastmasters (public speaking) clubs, Chambers of Commerce and the Swedish, Filipino and American embassies as we kick off our round of networking.

Do you know of anyone that could be helpful in terms of finding worthy nonprofits for which we could volunteer?  We are looking for ideas.  We would be good for tutoring, writing, fundraising and English-based PR work.  Let us know if you think of anything.  In an upcoming post I will share some info about a Thai-based anti sex-trafficking nonprofit that we will be volunteering for in our quest for savvy, global do-gooding.

OK, gotta wrap this up as my sister and her husband are coming to pick us up for our airport ride in under an hour.  If you have any other tips for navigating the first few days in Bangkok, let us know in the comments.

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Bjorn Karlman

Hot food and other reasons to downplay your multiculural savvy

I was in Vegas for my bachelor party almost a year ago.  Before you start thinking that the whole thing was a blur of hedonism I would like to add that the prime organizer of the weekend was a pastor.  The wildest thing we did was sip chilled lemon water in a spa at the Venetian.  One of the most memorable things about the weekend came at the very end.

The Mistake

We decided to go a Thai restaurant that was drawing stratospheric ratings.  The first night we went there the wait was so long we gave up and decided to come back earlier the next day.  As soon as we got in the next day we scoured the menu and picked out what we thought would make for a great blend of dishes.  When asked what kind of spice level we wanted we all decided that we were being modest by saying “medium”.

The Suffering

What followed was a study in torture.  “Medium” turned out to be deceptively easy on the taste buds at first and then fired up to the point where we felt like our mouths were being torched.  Within minutes we were all sweating and realizing that all the hype and determination had been wasted because we were suffering and could not taste our food because our taste buds were fried.  Talk about a white boy moment.  This was particularly humbling for me since I was raised in Asia and am way overconfident about the amount of spice I can handle.  It was a drop kick.

Humble Pie

A couple hours later I boarded my plane for Sacramento as a somewhat subdued nearly-wed.  My faux pas at the restaurant was a wake up call for me, someone who prided himself on strong navigation of cross-cultural scenarios.  Overconfidence, especially in navigating a new culture, can be humbling at best.  As I write this I think of other times I have screwed up in cross-cultural settings from being too confident:

1) I’ve assumed that I know how best to communicate a grievance and been perceived as being rude – Freshly back in the UK after living in the US for a couple years I lectured my boss’s executive assistant on correct media etiquette after she was less than cordial with a visiting American film crew.  She clammed up for 48 hours and then blasted me for stepping out of line.  “I’m sorry, I just got back from the US where people are a little more direct!” I stammered.  She told me that “it showed” and our relationship was off to a bumpy start.

2) I’ve definitely tried to say things in languages in which I don’t have a strong foundation – I don’t even want to start on how many times this has flopped.  There’s a thin line between being bold and adventurous with language learning and making a fool of yourself…

3) I have tried to fix problems and disagreements between friends from cultures other than my I own that I should have left alone.  (Filipino marital conflict mediation, anyone??)

Don’t Over-Correct

My point isn’t that we should lose all the confidence that we have built up from travel and other intercultural experiences.  That would be a waste of life experience and a definite shame.  But confidence so easily leads to cockiness which can be particularly humiliating when it goes wrong. So show off your cross cultural savvy by knowing where to draw the line…

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Bjorn Karlman