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Thai food - what's great, what sucks?

Posted by MADMAC on 19/6/2009 at 22:46

I really like the Thai food that leans toward the sweet and sour flavorings. Gai Pad Met mamuang, Gai Pad Prieu Wan are two of my favorites.

I despise the flavor of Papaya Pokpok and since I don't like collander, that hinders the eating of some other foods.

What do you really enjoy eating in Thailand and what do you dislike?

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Posted by sayadian on 20/6/2009 at 15:38

lab nam tok. The best of Isan cuisine

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Posted by sayadian on 20/6/2009 at 15:40

....and I hate kow pad, the backpackers staple.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 20/6/2009 at 16:15 admin

Pretty much anything from Isan - larb - esp duck but anyone will do, namtok, kai yaang, pork neck salad (yeah I'm no veg!)

I don't know what they're called, but some kind of white insect thing, that is served very salty -- goes fantasticly with beer, I'll dig out the name.

Other faves gaeng som, laad na, catfish salad, Seua Rong Hai or anything with fresh squid in it. That raw prawn in lime juice dish - again can't remember the name...

Ones I don't like:
Anything toned down and anything with offal -- just can't deal with offal.

If you;re into Thai food, Austin Bush's food blog is terrific : http://www.austinbushphotography.com/category/foodblog

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/6/2009 at 17:17

"....and I hate kow pad, the backpackers staple."


When I first got here I liked it, but then I simply was eating too much of it and got tired of it. Now I almost never eat it anymore.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 20/6/2009 at 18:48 admin

I gotta say, still have a soft spot for a good street-side fried rice with pork and a fried egg tossed on top.

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Posted by wanderingcat on 20/6/2009 at 21:21

"some kind of white insect thing, that is served very salty"

rot duan (express train/bamboo worm)?

"raw prawn in lime juice dish"

if you mean live prawns still jumping about...sao noi disco (young girls disco) aka. goong dten (prawn dance)?

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/6/2009 at 23:55

Insects - a big no-go. Here is where I become culturally insensitive and respond with WTF?

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Posted by DLuek on 21/6/2009 at 12:31 TF writer

Great:

Ga Pow Gai (w/) kai dow, a little runny...yum,

Gaeng Som

Pad Prik King

Thai style hot pot

Pad See Ew

Salted grilled whole fish


Sucks:

Laad Na Talay...something about the consistency of the sauce turns me off

Mee Grob...not into the crunchy noodles

Laap Gai when the chicken's not thoroughly cooked (yeah I paid for that one...worst two days of my life!)

Anything designed to fit the taste buds of the "average westerner."

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Posted by sayadian on 21/6/2009 at 22:53

"some kind of white insect thing, that is served very salty"

The wife and I are trying to work out what this is.She is a daughter of Isan so she knows and loves all the little creepy-crawly delicacies.
Could it be DTUK DAIR (silk worms)which actually is lao dialect not Thai -but if it's insects it probably comes from Isan.

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/6/2009 at 22:58

Whatever it is, it should be eaten by birds, not humans.

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Posted by sayadian on 22/6/2009 at 00:31

surely you must be partial to a bag of deep-fried jackaten (locust).
At least they don't eat spiders like the Khmer!

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Posted by MADMAC on 22/6/2009 at 01:13

Sayadian
If I have escaped from Charlie Cong and moving at night trying to get back to a friendly position someday, I'll give them a try. Otherwise, I'll skip them. Some things I don't feel compelled to try - getting eaten by a shark, eating locusts...

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Posted by somtam2000 on 22/6/2009 at 11:54 admin

I'm trying to chase down the name of the insect thingy - rot duan sounds familiar, but will report back.

The raw prawn thing is gung chae nam plaa

I never could handle the fertilised duck eggs though ... thought that was more in Cambodia than Thailand -- talking about Cambodia -- the spiders, again with beer, were ok, though I find eating hair -- even just spider hair, a bit revolting.

Madmac - insects are great - crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside... surely there's some faves up there in Muk?

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Posted by somtam2000 on 22/6/2009 at 14:14 admin

Rot duan it is. Minor quibble but my co-worm-eater pointed out to me they were bamboo worms - some some white insect thing.

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Posted by MADMAC on 22/6/2009 at 14:23

"Madmac - insects are great - crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside... surely there's some faves up there in Muk?"

No "favs" with the kid here. Disgusting. I'd rather swim the Mekong than eat bugs.

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Posted by sayadian on 22/6/2009 at 19:45

somtam2000 'Rot duan it is'
Well, I have asked the missus about these and she's never heard of them.She also says there are no worms that live in bamboo.Have you got any other info about them? Are they aharn isan? or maybe from the north.

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Posted by wanderingcat on 23/6/2009 at 00:21

'rot duan' or 'rot fai duan'...think it's from the upper north, it's everywhere in places like Chiangrai. don't recall seeing them in Isaan.
someone else's photo with Thai label: http://lh6.ggpht.com/ashlight/R3c136BXMgI/AAAAAAAAC0A/KEClpcfrm8Q/s640/IMG_7224.JPG

Omphisa fuscidentalis moth lays its eggs in segments of bamboo plants, & they hatch within. don't ask me how the locals can tell which stems & segments contain grubs, they just go 'ah this one!' & start chopping out those segments, & when they split it apart all the white larvae's crawling in there. can't rem how much per kilo hilltribe people earn from collecting & selling them to 'dealers'. it's sold nicely packaged as souvenirs in places like Mae Salong, & even online: http://www.thailandunique.com/store/images/edible_bamboo_worms.jpg

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Posted by somtam2000 on 23/6/2009 at 09:44 admin

wanderingcat - them the ones. I've only eaten them in Bangkok -- at a streetstall in front of River City of all places. I'd buy them by the kilo if I could find them!

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Posted by MADMAC on 23/6/2009 at 13:39

Pretty soon someone is going to start calling them a delicacy.

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Posted by Thaiman on 23/6/2009 at 15:22

For me it's;
Prakapow/moo/ghai sai Khai dow
Kwitio nam
Lad na
Khao mon Ghai
Massaman[hot]
Dislikes-
Gaeng Som
Plah Laa

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Posted by wanderingcat on 24/6/2009 at 09:38

think Malaysians & Singaporeans won't consider stuff like khao man gai, lad na, pad sii iew, kwayteow nam, khao muu daeng, satay, roti mataba & lod chong as 'Thai food'...to them it's just their Hainanese chicken rice, hor fun with gravy, dry hor fun, kwayteow soup, char siew rice, satay, murtabak & chendol missing the gula melaka, red beans & sweet corn ;) nevertheless, they still tuck in as long as it's good!

regarding plaa raa/padek, yesterday's Thai news had an article about how the Isaan penchant for raw/undercooked fish (oft contaminated by liver flukes) has resulted in them having the world's highest rate of bile duct cancer.

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Posted by Thaiman on 24/6/2009 at 10:08

Left out one I really like-
Khao Tom

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Posted by MADMAC on 24/6/2009 at 13:37

"has resulted in them having the world's highest rate of bile duct cancer."

Undercooked meat and fish, bad juju. Liver cancer out here is a major problem.

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Posted by Thaiman on 24/6/2009 at 15:09

'Liver cancer out here is a major problem'

That may be something to do with the Whiskey.LOL.Can't remember what it's called-Lao Kao?

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Posted by MADMAC on 24/6/2009 at 15:52

It don't help - but the liver flukes are the core of the problem. Eating uncooked meat and fish is NEVER a good idea.

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Posted by Thaiman on 25/6/2009 at 15:00

Think I heard somewhere that you can get liver flukes from just swimming in fresh water in the NE.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 25/6/2009 at 15:18 admin

The lake on the edge of Sakhon Nakhon is apparently infested with liver flukes -- or so the story goes -- I didn't get in to try it.

Agree that there's probably a correlation between liver cancer rates and the propensity of the local population to drink home brewed rice wine out of plastic bags -- or maybe it is just those darned liver flukes -- which, in case you're wondering, you can learn all about here: http://www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/40000489/

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Posted by wanderingcat on 25/6/2009 at 16:05

it's the flukes. Chinese who love their raw fish congee & raw fish 'yusheng' made with grass carp infested with liver flukes also face this elevated risk of liver cancer. freshwater snails are also a source - the parasite spends part of its life cycle in them (before moving on to living in fish, & then humans). flukes + alcohol = double whammy for the liver. one old parasitology text says that kids in Isaan & Laos become infected by age 10.

while watching the boat races at Nonghan lake in Sakon Nakhon i kept my distance from the water :P

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Posted by MADMAC on 25/6/2009 at 23:53

And liver flukes are treatable. Since you probably don't know you have them, if you go to your pharmacy they can give you something to wash them out of your system. A friend of mine does it annually here.

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Posted by Tilapia on 26/6/2009 at 00:24

I have a few favourite foods that I always scout out when I'm there ...

- white Chinese noodles with the sweet and spicey coconut gravy (kanome jin nam ya)
- crispy catfish salad with cashews (yum pla-deuk fou)
- bbq'ed fish with coarse salt and stuffed with herbs (pla pow)
- grilled Issan fatty pork sausage with garlic, fresh ginger, cucumber and chilies (cy-klok)
- for sweet stuff ... bananas stewed in coconut cream with salt (kluay boa-chee)
- kee-lay curry (the bitter coconut curry made with kee-lay leaves ... gaeng kee-lay)
- any of those basic stir-fried street dishes (fried rice, fried noodles, etc. ... what excellent food to fall back on when you are starving, even if they do get boring after a while ... especially grapow-anything kai dow, as mentioned a couple times above)
- sour pork (moo som ... though this has given me some ... um ... gastric "issues")
- red ant egg salad (yum kai mod dang ... yes!)

And those that I will not go near ...

- anything with pbaw-lah/pladek ... for me this stuff can turn a great dish like somtam into a gastronomic nightmare
- deep-fried eels offered to me when drinking with my farmer co-workers after a long, hot day in the paddy ... especially when teaming with ants
- anything made with bread, or anything that is a Thai version of western food, as DLuek said)

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Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2009 at 00:37

"- crispy catfish salad with cashews (yum pla-deuk fou)"

OK, I'll concede this is also surprisingly good, although it's so rich, I can't eat too much at one sitting.

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Posted by Tilapia on 26/6/2009 at 03:02

Yes, the odd yum pla-deuk fou often leaves me running for the Alka-Seltzer, but when it's made with clean, super hot oil, it's quite light. Like good tempura.

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Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2009 at 04:03

I don't like fish, so that's why I was surprised it was so tasty. But it is.

Oh and fried bananas... delicious.

Kai Mod Dang... ahhh, this goes in with the other insects (as well as their young off spring) - a big no go. How do you guys get that crap down?

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Posted by sacredchao on 26/6/2009 at 06:47

You guys are making me damn hungry. Luckily, I leave for BKK the day after tomorrow.

I'm already a big fan of the basics - curry, pad thai, etc. and plan to expand my horizons a bit.

Hoping to try a few insects, if I don't chicken out at the last minute.

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Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2009 at 12:59

Man, what I wouldn't give right now for a Schweinabraten mit Spaetzle!!!

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Posted by lanlananhanh on 11/7/2009 at 07:39

Posted from within Vietnam.

Thanks for sharing this useful information. It's great.



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Posted by MADMAC on 14/7/2009 at 01:09

"anything that is a Thai version of western food"

There is a Cafe here called "Good Mook". It is a very cool place with a European flair to it but mixed with Lao and Thai elements as well. They serve their own version of Spaghetti Bolonegse that is better than the real thing. Absolutely fantastic!!! In fact, I'd dare say it's the best meal I've eaten in Thailand period.

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Posted by idreamofdurian on 14/7/2009 at 13:33 TF writer

Yam som oh - pomelo salad

Moo manau - spicy lemon pork

Gai yang - BBQ chicken, best enjoyed with sticky rice (kow neeow) and fresh basil leaves

Miang kum - a flavour/texture sensation of toasted coconut, peanuts, ginger, chili, red onion, lime, and honey/fish sauce wrapped up in a tea leaf. They're fun to make and are great as a beer snack.

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Posted by smash on 14/7/2009 at 13:39

Gotta love Pad See Ew and Tom Kah Gai (sp?)
I've never had a Thai dish I didn't like though.

Love steamed fish from anywhere in Asia. Not fond of fried fish - kills the taste/texture for me. Love lobster too ;o) especially when you order the day before, come back and see him live and kicking, chill out with a beer and an entree and then out he comes all ready to be ravaged... *drooling* seriously, if I saw me eating lobster, I'd be disgusted.

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Posted by MADMAC on 14/7/2009 at 15:36

"seriously, if I saw me eating lobster, I'd be disgusted."

Smash, I like you. A self aware man.

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Posted by scomoore1 on 28/7/2009 at 04:24

Fruit is getting ignored here. The summer months have an amazing array of fruit in season, including Durian, the king of fruits. Some people abhor it... I think some people's tasters are programmed for this revulsion at the smell and taste of durian. But for 40 Baht, you can find out whether durian is the most repulsive thing you've even eaten (or thought of eating) or its the most fabulous, complex food you've ever sampled. Give it a try: 40 Baht buys you a largish 'section' of durian fruit, and with a spoon or knife you can share with 4-5 adventurers. Eating 'rot duan' is so last year (be sure record the heroic moment with a digital photo). Be a real adventurer and at least TRY some durian.

Other must eats: Jackfruit is great. Mango, goes without saying, I guess. As is mangosteen ('monk-uut') the purple tennis balls with the hard green 'leaves,' and lychee (red, succulent beauties), rambutan (red hairy berries), lumyai, and others. These can all be had for the posted 25-40 baht per kilo in the markets. (I have found both the major fruit vendor ladies in the Tha Chang pier market to be very reliable.)

I place this post because I ran into several groups of 20-somethings in Bangkok who had not sampled ANY of the seasonal fruits at all! WTF! Dudes! You've landed in fruit paradise and don't even KNOW it!

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Posted by MADMAC on 28/7/2009 at 13:28

Watermelon and Pineapple are the only fruits out here I like. But there eare a great variety of fruits.

#43 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by BruceMoon on 31/7/2009 at 18:42

John (MAC)

You began this post with "Thai food - what's great, what sucks?

Given comments elsewhere on the Thailand post, I'm starting to wonder whether meat in Thailand sucks...

Or, is that merely a vego-nazi conundrum.

Cheers

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Posted by Tilapia on 31/7/2009 at 21:04

I used to work with "maphrang" farmers in Prachinburi. I'd never seen or heard of these things before I was taken to a maphrang festival in Nakhon Nayok, where growers enter their crops into contests. The Ministry of Agricultural workers end up going home with bags of these things. I gave a bag of them to the lady who owns the guest house where I usually stay and she comped my entire weekend, and told me they ere B450/kg when/if you can find them in the market. Her and her family devoured them in minutes.

The sweet ones are like a cross between a peach and a mango, and you can eat the skin. Professional maphrang eaters also eat the seed which can be like an almond.

This is what they look like for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about ...

http://www.bijlmakers.com/fruits/maprang.htm

This is my favourite Thai fruit, though I also have a soft spot for durian, mangos, the "nice-smelling" bananas (kluay hom), jackfruit, papaya, mangosteen, pomello, custard apples, and just about everything else except Chinese-grown apples and grapes.

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Posted by williamtaylor on 31/7/2009 at 21:58

Good:
Insects crunchy and salty, great with beer
I saw rot duan translated as bamboo worm, but I don't really know what that means anyways.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/williamtaylor/3521084111/

Kao man gai (although this can be mediocre depending on the store)
Any form of sausage from northern Thailand
Kanom Jin
Thai suki
Kao soi
Jackfruit, lychee, rambutan, durian, rose apples (chompu?), cherimoya (custard apple?), mangosteen, pomello

Sucks:
Macaroni sold at markets (usually a orange-reddish color and sweet)
Foods that supposedly contain meat but actually contain mixture of offal, skin, bone, cartilage
Balut (half fertilized duck embryo egg) (not actually Thai but have seen them in Cambodia and the Philippines)
Thai sweets and the poor excuse for bread sold at bakeries
Gross white/sweet mayonaisey crap that is labeled as salad dressing
Bananas (why would you choose this with all the other delicious fruits readily available)

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Posted by Tilapia on 31/7/2009 at 22:10

>> Bananas (why would you choose this with all the other delicious fruits readily available)

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Posted by Tilapia on 1/8/2009 at 03:00

Got cut-off again ...

Thailand has almost 30 different kinds of bananas, and some of them are superb and NONE of them are available here in Canada. So, I take advantage of those kinds of things when I'm there. Like Guiness in Ireland.

I feel the same way about pineapples. There are a handful of varieties, but only a couple of them really knock me out.

I might ask the same question about kao man gai (or even sai klok) that is, like bananas, ubiquitous and not particularly interesting or, as you said, consistently good. But I see definitely understand the reaction that can be derived from a really good plate of kao man gai ... or a really killer sai klok with fresh ginger, chilies, and cucumber.

Bon apetite!

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Posted by somsai on 1/8/2009 at 07:18

Smash I knew a chef who for 30 years thougth tom kah gai was something about chicken legs, lost in translation.

I guess two of my favorites have to be yam moon sen and yam talay.

Have never gotten sick of durian yet. It's possible I could live on it alone.

Haven't had any insects in Thailand I really liked too much, don't like them deap fried, usually too delicate a flavor and it's lost in the cooking grease.

The problem with the pa la is that when cooked the flavor changes. Uncooked is sometimes preffered. Somtam usually contains it, who has actually asked to see if it is cooked?

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Posted by MADMAC on 1/8/2009 at 10:21

"Macaroni sold at markets (usually a orange-reddish color and sweet)"

I love that Macaroni!

"Thai sweets and the poor excuse for bread sold at bakeries"

Kanom Jin is a Thai sweat William. I also like the Bread here. You wouldn't, by chance, be from England would you?

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Posted by MADMAC on 1/8/2009 at 10:26

"Haven't had any insects in Thailand I really liked too much, don't like them deap fried, usually too delicate a flavor and it's lost in the cooking grease."

Somsai,
This suggests you have eaten insects somewhere else that you did like. Disconcerting.

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Posted by BruceMoon on 1/8/2009 at 13:08

This thread is

Thai food - what's great, what sucks?

.

I'm probably not a fan of any food necessarily - I like wholesome, well presented anything at an appropriate time and in good company. But, inspired artful food sets me going so-to-speak!

A lovely sweet mango when thirsty and hungry is hard to beat. A stall-side Som Tam & Kai Yaang somewhere in the middle of nowhere can be very enticing. Similarly, a bowl of fresh mahmooang himapahn thawt and an icy beer is hard to resist in the late afternoon.

I am what is called a 'foodie' in that I love to explore food ideas, styles, etc. While I like to try ethnic styles of food, some can be a bit peasanty!!! (gee, watch the fur fly from food traditionalists).

For me, the food that sucks is anything that's poorly prepared, badly cooked and/or sloppily presented.

I suppose because I like innovation and fusion over tradition, food that is great are those stand out meals in restaurants throughout the bigger cities.

For example, wrote elsewhere...

Ever tried rock lobster Gaeng Pah? Or, Duck Gaeng Hung Lay ? Or what about Kow Neuw Mamuang presented like a Creme Caramel - with the sticky rice as a custard, and the mango caramelised in smallish pieces layered on top, and with a spiced palm sugar glaze?

Now, that gets the saliva juices flowing...

After that, I think it's now beer-o-clock.

Cheers

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Posted by MADMAC on 1/8/2009 at 13:52

"I suppose because I like innovation and fusion over tradition, food that is great are those stand out meals in restaurants throughout the bigger cities."

There is a place here called the "Good Mook Cafe" that serves some of the best food. They mix different styles of food. Their Spaghetti meal is the best I've ever had anywhere (including Italy). A Bolonegse and Arabiata mix, with perfectly selected vegetables. They also make a wonderful American fried rice meal... and their tiny wings are great. I agree I like mixed ethnic food the most as well - OK, Somali cuisine wins out for me, but that's basically a mix between Italian and Arabic anyway.

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Posted by Jon_Mak_Mak on 9/8/2009 at 15:16

Great topic!

Love = Sweet sour chick/pork, Green, Red or Yellow Curry, Fried Rice, chicken with cashew nut, thai style omellet.

Hate = Pad thai, the very very silly so-called 'american breakfast' and stuff with ginger init.

Recommend to try = Kai Mod Daeng! ;)

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Posted by MADMAC on 9/8/2009 at 16:48

"Pad thai, the very very silly so-called 'american breakfast'"

I love Pad Thai and I love the American breakfast (but but not for breakfast).

#55 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Jon_Mak_Mak on 9/8/2009 at 22:42

Never said you didn't! :)

Millions of people love Pad Thai. I don't.

But the so called American breakfast that consists of 2 small sausages, 2 eggs fried in god knows what and a slice of toast. I've been to America a couple of times and I know that they don't eat that for breakfast! haha For a start where's the pancakes???

Even bacon in Thailand sucks but at least you can get it in 711.

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Posted by Tilapia on 9/8/2009 at 22:55

Pad Thai is a very easy dish to do badly. Finding good Pad Thai is cause for celebration, and those celebrations, unfortunately, are few and far between.

I love Pad Thai woon sen!

#57 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,499
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Posted by kukuruza on 3/11/2009 at 20:51

I hate their food, it awful how it in general eat

#58 kukuruza has been a member since 29/10/2009. Posts: 13
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Posted by MADMAC on 4/11/2009 at 10:53

Troll alert!

#59 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by scottyheather on 30/11/2009 at 14:27

I remember seeing deep fried baby birds once in Bkk. Do they still sell them? Ugh....

#60 scottyheather has been a member since 30/3/2008. Posts: 89

Posted by MADMAC on 5/12/2009 at 13:29

The almost hatched birds still in the shell are equally gross.

Southeast Asians must have a corner on the most repugnant food types - well along with the Chinese.

#61 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by neosho on 5/12/2009 at 22:14

In my girlfriends village I have learned not to ask what it is we are eating. If it tastes good, I eat more , if not, I pass.

#62 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

Posted by MADMAC on 6/12/2009 at 08:25

neosho
In my wife's village she cooks only that which I consider palatable. I have long since learned to distrust any and all food coming from the locals - they eat food that would make a billy goat puke.

#63 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Langley on 24/2/2010 at 03:19

Greetings, i am a vegetarian, though mostly because of how meat is treated in the western world. I am not too strict, and i have a pretty open mind to things. That said, any suggestions on purely vegetarian meals that still contain sufficiant nutrients??

Cheers

#64 Langley has been a member since 23/2/2010. Posts: 9

Posted by MADMAC on 24/2/2010 at 11:17

Langley
Stir fried morning glory is really delicious - and I'm not a veggie guy. I forgot the Thai name, but I'll ask my wife and post it again.

#65 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by scottyheather on 24/2/2010 at 13:21

Having just returned from our trip to SE Asia, I think now that the worst thing I've seen were the rats for sale in the food market - mind you, there was the choice of skinned and gutted rats or whole ones (both of which still had the heads though). These and frogs on sticks made my stomach churn a bit. This was in a pretty remote place in north Thailand on the way to Laos.

#66 scottyheather has been a member since 30/3/2008. Posts: 89

Posted by Tilapia on 27/2/2010 at 01:32

Mac, the stir-fried morning glory with chilies is called "pad pak boong fai daeng."

#67 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,499
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Posted by Sophia_Morocco on 6/7/2010 at 17:52

My favourites are pad thai or green curry. Also Phak Phat - not sure if correctly spelt but delicious vegetables which are stir fried and mixed with sauce on rice.

#68 Sophia_Morocco has been a member since 6/7/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 2
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