Farangs and spicy Thai food.

Farangs and spicy Thai food.

When I first visited Thailand in 1994, I became instantly addicted to the hot flavours of Thai dishes. Thai food really was a revelation for me. When I went back home again I still tried to eat Thai dishes although it was pretty difficult to find all the ingredients in my home country. Now I live in Chiang Mai since April 2001. Every day I am looking forward to what hot dish my Thai girlfriend will prepare for dinner.

During my stay in Chiang Mai I’ve visited numerous restaurants and food stalls along the roads in Chiang Mai. Many Farangs probably think I’m crazy, but the best and most tasty Thai food is available in the streets.

When going to a luxurious Thai restaurant you will get ‘Thai food’ adjusted to western flavours. The Thai cook in a popular restaurant will most likely never include real spicy herbs. You really have to ask the waiter: “Could you please add plenty of chili peppers to my *Khao Pad Khrapow”. And after you’ve asked, the waiter will probably with a surprised expression on his face, one more time ask for confirmation if you really want it spicy, Thai style.

Generally Thais think we Farangs can not eat spicy food. It’s always kind of funny when I am eating my *Khao Pad Prik at some food stall in the streets of downtown Chiang Mai, and I notice some Thais staring at me when I poor a spoon full of *Prik Naam Pla over my rice.

I’ve met and know a lot of other Farangs living in Chiang Mai or visiting two or three times a year. I’ve never met one Farang yet who tries to eat the Thai way. My friend from Coventry stayed for seven months in Chiang Mai and sometimes we’ve had dinner together in a Thai food stall. In the seven months the only Thai food he could eat was fried rice, plain rice with scrambled eggs, fried noodles, and spring rolls. If he had a beer with his dinner it had to be Heineken, while the quality of Thai beer easily can compete with imported beers. The food he would like to eat everyday was pizza, hamburgers, fish and chips, and pasta.

He’s not the only farang I know who sticks to western food. I think it is really a shame when you live here and hardly try to eat what the rich culinary Thai kitchen has to offer. It takes a little while to get used to the hot taste of some of the dishes. I remember the first time I ate spicy Thai food. It was in Bangkok when some Thai friends invited me for dinner. By accident I bit on some Thai chilies and it felt like a volcano erupted in my mouth. My Thai company was amused by seeing me rolling my eyeballs and demanding plenty of water and ice.

After this experience I still tried again to eat hot food and slowly I really started to like the taste. Physiologists say that chilies are truly addictive, like nicotine or cocaine, guess I have to admit, for me it is too late to kick the habit. No cold turkey for me! I probably will stay a chili junkie for the rest of my life. Maybe I should move to Mexico as there they have the hottest chili in the world, the habeñero pepper. If there is a Mexican reading this, please I beg you, post me some habeñeros.

*Khao Pad Khrapow = Plain rice with fried chilies and basil with meat or chicken
* Khao Pad Prik = Plain rice with fried chilies, union, meat and oyster sauce
* Prik Naam Pla = Small cut pieces of Thai chilies in fish sauce

If you would like to know more about Thai food, this page provides useful culinary information: http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/how_to/eat/

Paul Horstermans

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