Food: Eating in Thailand – The Good and The Bad

Is Thailand on your travel bucket list? Or have you been to Thailand many years ago as a backpacker, but now want to go and explore as a holiday maker?

I had wanted to visit Thailand for sooooo long, especially when I was living in Sydney. I was completely made up when I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to finally head there earlier this month, so much so that you’ll probably be seeing a lot of Thailand spam all over the blog and social media channels…

I only managed to spend a week there, flying to Phuket and spending 7 days around Patong, before venturing to Phi Phi Islands and then James Bond Island around Phang Nga. But one thing ruined the trip, as much as I hate to spin a negative on anything in life. Yep, you may have guessed it by now: food poisoning!

Whenever you travel to places around the East, like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India etc, there’s always a high risk of food poisoning and getting poorly. I can’t sit here and state it’s because of poor hygiene, because even though in some cases it is, it’s not always the cause.

Sometimes it’s the spices and additives used over there that don’t sit well with our own bellies – we’re basically not familiar with their diets, ingredients or methods of cooking. And sometimes, it’s the water used in their cooking that throws us completely off.

Sickness and diarrhoea on holiday isn’t what you want, but 40 out of 70 of us who were on this particular Phuket trip got struck down, so it’s one to be aware of!

Here’s a rundown from a real foodie like me about what you can eat happily and (hopefully safely) in Thailand, and what may be best to avoid…

Thai Curries

In Phuket, there is a huge shopping mall (Jungceylon) filled with restaurants and bars offering Thai cuisine. These are relatively safe as they take on big chain names, and offer up a range of popular Thai dishes. They are super busy and get checked for standards often, with professional kitchens and chefs.

We visited one called Thai Brasserie in Jungceylon, situated in the heart of the mall. I had the nicest Green Chicken Thai Curry from here, and the majority of our group went for other variations of red, yellow and green curries along with Pad Thais and noodle soup dishes. Luckily, this was safe – no food poisoning or bugs after this place!

Dairy Ice-Creams

One thing I noticed about Phuket in particular is that my word – the dairy ice creams are out of this world! Literally, the ice cream is the softest, creamiest, sweetest and most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted. Think of the scrummy-ness of a Mr Whippy, but times it by 100! I’m assuming they add a lot of sweetened cream and sugar to make them so god damn tasty, but whatever they do, they sure win.

They have a chain over there called Dairy Queen, and for a whippy style cone with toppings, you pay about 30p for a cone. Amazing for an after dinner treat!

Sushi in Thailand

I noticed a severe lack of sushi around Phuket, which was a shame because its been soooo long since I’ve experienced sushi the way they make it over in Australia. However, there was a sushi place in Patong called SushiBox (not the most Thai of names!), and it was like being back on Bondi Beach again tucking into delicious home-made sushi.

SushiBox has a real extensive menu of every type of sushi imaginable, all in soft rice rolls. I was ecstatic to see my favourite type of sushi roll – crab and avocado – sitting there on the menu. And boy, the sushi did not fail to impress. It was absolutely incredible quality.

Sadly I didn’t see many other food retailers around similar to SushiBox in Patong, which is possibly why this one in the Jungceylon was always so so busy.

I literally can’t recommend this sushi enough – from teriyaki chicken and seaweed salads, to california sushi rolls and miso soup, all your Asian and Japanese sushi favourites are in one place, which is also super affordable. My giant fried crab and avocado spicy roll topped with a fiery sauce cost me around £3.90.


Patong Street Food

As soon as you step out onto the busy, ‘bedlam’ streets of Phuket and Patong, you’ll notice the abundance of street food carts. I found them fascinating to begin with – literally you get traditional Thai people cooking away with meats and vegetables, making their own version of kebabs and stir fries to name a couple!

They are mainly known as ‘Street Hawkers‘, and tend to just line up and cook up, with all sorts of fish, meats and veggies on skewers or huge pans of rice dishes. I eyed up a fair few prawn skewers, but sadly wasn’t brave enough to try one. I also spotted a lot of noodle and salad street carts, but the most fascinating was the amount of mango sticky rice carts I saw everywhere. Basically, it’s a sweet and a savoury, where the fried sticky rice binds with mango and offers up a traditional Thai dessert.

I mainly stuck to getting a large coconut chopped up via the street carts and sipped fresh coconut water for my trips to the beaches. At 40 Thai Bart, it’s ridiculously cheap, and makes the most refreshing, tasty drink (and healthy too of course!).

At night, you’ll mainly get the smaller carts pulled by a scooter, pulling up at the side of the beach and on the corners of the busy main roads. They offer lots of grilled items such as sun-dried squid, meats on skewers, grilled sour sausages, and deep-fried snacks.

There’s also a lot of peeled and sliced fruits laid out on beds of crushed ice to preserve their freshness. Salapao, steamed buns filled with meat or sweet beans and the Thai version of the Chinese steamed baozi, are also commonly sold by mobile vendors too.

Phi Phi Island Buffets

So here’s more of a negative one to be aware of. When you book onto any of the boat trips, mainly to the islands such as Phi Phi, they’ll often throw in lunch included. Be careful – these are always the help yourself buffet style catering setups, which may look enticing (by the time you get there by boat, you’ll be starving and super exciting to load up your plates) but they are usually the worst for food health and hygiene.

The food gets sat out for a while as the buffet is open all day, and now and again the chefs will fill up the trays with more food, piling the hot, freshly cooked food on top of the stale, colder foods. So be careful – especially with the cold pad thai noodles etc. I did get sick after my trip to the Phi Phi Islands buffet, but I’m not sure if it was exactly this that caused it, I can only speculate I guess.

I decided to be a bit daring and headed over to the desserts table, and picked up what I can only describe as a bowl of watery rice pudding with sweetcorn?! I’m not exactly sure what this delight was, but it tasted like coconut milk and tapioca pudding, but with sweetcorn pieces. Which ruined it slightly…. I mean… sweetcorn in a dessert?

Beyond me, however I managed to finish it and it didn’t taste too bad. If anyone knows what this ‘treat’ is called, do enlighten me!

Pancake Stalls

OK now this is a good one! Taking me back to the good old street food offerings you see in places like Paris and London, Thailand also offers pancake stalls. Hooray! Slightly different to the soft crepes you see being served up on Oxford Street and the Champs Elysee, these ones are made from a pre-made ball of dough, deep fried in butter and oil, and filled with a range of toppings.

Banana, nutella, mango, cream, coconut, peanut butter, pineapple…you name it, the fruits are stuffed inside and finished off with lashings of sweet carnation creamed milk. They are sooooo much cheaper than the pancakes in London and Paris too – literally work out to be about £1.50.

Mine was a tad bit burnt and very oily, but still tasted insanely good all the same.

Thailand Breakfasts

Please don’t be fooled into ordering French Toast in Thailand like I did – it was utterly rank! But maybe that was just the hotel that I ordered it at. I’d love to describe how foul it tasted but I don’t even have the words. I wasn;t impressed at all by Thai breakfasts – they don’t have a signature dish, and a lot of locals can be seen supping noodles from a spicy soon at 7 am in the morning.

I was a little boring here and stuck to traditional breakfasts of cereals, croissants and toast. Milk isn’t produced in Phuket, so you either get imported cartons or sweet carnation milk. Little bit random…

Fresh Fruit

I love following a negative with a positive, and this one really is! Phuket is filled with fruit stalls all over the crowded streets. You simply pick your whole fruits up and the local Thai ladies will chop is all up for you and wash and prepare it, serving it up by weight in a bag. Ready-to-eat, cheap and super tasty and healthy!

We did this on a few mornings with watermelon, mangoes and baby pineapples, and the fruits are just ridiculously juicy and lovely. It works out so so affordable, and you can tuck into the bags of fruit for healthy snacks throughout the day. Needs to be more of this in the UK…

Coffee in Thailand

So I know I slightly moaned about the milk situation in Thailand earlier on in this post, and with me being a Soya and Almond drinker, it was a pretty bad setup, BUT…. there’s a but. I’m not allergic to dairy so I can still consume dairy, and the Thai use sweetened evaporated Carnation milk in all their coffees, so it was rude to not try it, right?

OH MY WORD. The iced coffees. What a dream! The sweetened Carnation milk may be a health junkies nightmare but man it tastes so so SO good in iced coffees, especially caramel iced lattes. Literally the dream and sold across so many coffee stalls across the streets.

Baby Thailand Pineapples

Baby Pineapples are the fruit of Thailand, so dinky in size and so sweet in taste. The fresh tropical fruit are grown in abundance over there, you’ll literally see trucks passing in the street just piled high with the mini fruits.

They peel then and serve them on wooden sticks in all the fruit stalls in Thailand. So delicious and make a great snack.

baby pineapple
When you don’t fancy Thai food…

After my bout of food poisoning, I couldn’t look at sweet chilli deep fried fish curry again, or a another noodle for that matter. But that’s OK – Thailand couldn’t be more westernised with its food outlets if it tried! And in Patong, you’re in the right place if you want to indulge in traditional Thai food, or if you wish to only eat other cuisines.

They have a chain over there called The Wine Collection that I ate at twice after my food poisoning. Each time I treated myself with loaded mince meat, cheese and sour cream nachos and the most cheesiest of pizzas. But, you can also experience your very standard faves: McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, you name it!

Frozen Coconut Ice-Cream

Last but not least, in Thailand, they serve up frozen coconut ice-cream fresh from it’s actual coconut shell. You can decorate it with sauces, nuts, coconut flakes, or whatever you wish, but having it on its own is equally just as flavoursome. It’s a tiny bit healthier than ice-cream because it’s the coconut water that is frozen and blended with milk and cream to create coconut ice cream.

I tried this out on my last evening, before venturing to Patong Beach to watch the sunset. It was an incredible frozen snack, a real delicious dessert and one I’d recommend trying out for sure if you’re travelling to Thailand any time soon!

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