Food is important for everyone, but it is a very important part of Thai lifestyle. Food is of great social importance, and very sanuk. Thai people have no regular mealtimes; they tend to eat simply when they are hungry. For this reason, food is available virtually round the clock. In the cities there are special food markets, night markets, noodle kiosks along the roads and people everywhere who sell snacks and fruit. Food can be bought on the street of such quality and at such low prices that people rarely cook for themselves. In the countryside, however, this is not the case. If a place has very many customers, this is a good sign that the food is fresher and of a better quality. However, the western stomach usually has to adapt to the unusual ingredients and the different types of bacteria that the digestive system has to deal with. Therefore it is best to begin gently, not too hot, not too spicy. There are many levels of spiciness, and sauces are used to add extra fire. If you would prefer milder food, ask for mai pet (not spicy).
Food: Rice and rice noodles are the basic ingredients of Thai food. The rice is normally steamed, and khao niao (glutinous rice) is used in some specialities. Vegetables and fish are eaten more often than pork, beef or chicken, although usage of these is increasing with the increase in personal wealth. The spices give Thai food its character. Coriander (phak chii), lemon grass (takhrai), a type of lemon-leaf (bai makroet), fresh basil (bai kaprao), lemon (manaau), garlic (krathiam), Laos-root (khaa), shrimp paste (kapi), chilli peppers and coconut milk (kathi) are typically-used ingredients.
Many side-dishes are served alongside meals in Thailand. Everything is served together, side-dishes, soup dishes and main course. Soup is never eaten as a starter. Thai soups include tom yam kung (shrimp and lemon-grass soup with mushrooms) and thom khaa kai (soup with chicken, ginger and coconut). There is a wide range of meat and fish dishes, and vegetarians are also well catered for.
Fruit: Fruit is available everywhere (depending on the season), and there is a wide choice s, mangosteens (a round, purple fruit with juicy sweet-and-sour flesh), custard apples, pomelos, durians (large, oval fruit which tastes delicious despite its foul smell) and coconuts being a few examples.
Drinking water: Tap water here is not fit for consumption. Buy bottles of purified water, which are available throughout the country. Check that the seals on the bottles are intact. Ice cubes in drinks are also worth avoiding, as they are often made using tap water.
Drink: Tea (cha ron) and coffee (gafe), usually Nescafé, are available practically everywhere. They are often served with ice, as ice tea or ice coffee. Fizzy drinks are also widely available. Due to cash deposits placed on bottles, fizzy drinks are usually poured into a plastic bag from which you drink with a straw. Delicious fruit juices are also available, made from the various fruits local to the area. Seven types of beer are brewed in Thailand; Singha (the most popular), Amarit, Kloster Chaang Bia, Leo Beer, Heineken (it has a brewery in Nonthaburi) and Carlsberg (has a brewery in Bangkok). The Thai word for beer is bia. It is expensive and bitter. Spirit lovers can try the cheap Thai Mekong whisky, although western brands are also available. Wine is only available in expensive restaurants and shops.