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3 Tips on How to Eat Spicy Food Like a Local Thai


Thailand is known for many things. There’s its culture, natural beauty, and nightlife scene, which is chaotic yet exciting. One thing that nobody forgets to mention when they talk about Thailand is the food. Thailand is known as one of the food capitals of the world. In the Land of Smiles, you can enjoy many dishes using certain ingredients you can’t find in the West - or anywhere else, for that matter.

The Thai people’s masterful use of aromatics, herbs, and spices gives their cuisine its distinct characteristics and flavor profile that will excite your taste buds. However, many are afraid to try Thai food.

Thai people use chillies and spices liberally when preparing certain dishes, which can make them challenging to eat. Your tolerance for spicy food will be put to the test when you visit Thailand. That said, Thai cuisine is delicious, and the combination of different herbs and unusual flavors will keep you coming back for more.

If you’re looking to enjoy Thai cuisine the way it was meant to be enjoyed, here are our tips on how to deal with the heat certain dishes bring:

Tip 1: Big chilis aren’t as scary as the little ones

If you see a large slice of red chili, you don’t have to be afraid of them, as they aren’t spicy at all. These are called “prik chee fah,” and they are typically used for decorative purposes. They have a slight fruity taste and tang, similar to capsicum. They are not spicy in any capacity. It’s actually the small ones called “prik kee nhoo” that you have to worry about, as those are the real source of heat in Thai cuisine.

Furthermore, if you see them sliced into food, they are usually not spicy unless you chew them. However, if you see cooks throw fresh chilies into a mortar and pound them with a pestle, that’s when you should really be afraid. When chilies are bruised, they release more oil and capsaicin, which is the chemical that gives them the spice.

Tip 2: Rice is your friend

Although there are different types of curries in Thailand, they aren’t treated the same way as they are in the Middle East or in other regions that eat curries. Thai people eat everything with rice. Almost every type of food is meant to be had with rice, as a topping or as an ingredient to be thrown into fried rice.

One of the reasons they do this is because it makes their food more filling. They end up consuming less of other dishes because they’ve already eaten plenty of rice.

Additionally, getting some rice in your mouth will help make the food less hot, allowing you to truly enjoy the flavors of a spicy dish. Rice is starchy in nature, which allows it to absorb the oil in the food, helping to reduce the pain on the tip of your tongue. Keep in mind that you need to make sure that the rice isn’t too hot; otherwise, it will be even worse for you.

As an eating tip, we recommend that you try to get everything in one spoonful—the curry or soup, meat, rice, and all the vegetables. That will give you the best flavor that the dish has to offer.

Tip 3: Don’t drink too much water

We know this goes against what your parents used to tell you when you were a kid, but drinking a glass of cold water after eating a spicy dish doesn’t help. Capsaicin comes with chili oil, which means that water doesn’t dissolve it. Therefore, when you drink water, the chili oil will just sit on top of the water and it will spread all over your mouth. This will intensify the heat, as instead of being focused in one area, the spice will spread throughout your oral cavity.

Instead, what you need to do is get dessert or sweet drinks, as the sugar in these items will help nullify the heat. We recommend that you try drinkable yogurt and coconut milk-based desserts, as those will work better instead of cold water.

Three Spicy Dishes You Must Try:

Now that you know exactly how to deal with the heat, you’re ready to take on some of the best spicy dishes in Thailand! Listed below are three Thai favorites that you should try, even though they pack a considerable amount of heat:

1. Kua Kling

Kua kling is a southern dish that’s made with stir-fried ground meat—mostly pork—mixed with curry paste, herbs, and tons of chilies. There are also many different spices and aromatics that will make your taste buds dance in excitement. Galangal, kaffir lime leaf slices, and mint leaves will work together to create a distinct combination that you won’t find in other dishes. When you add the spiciness, it creates a heavenly combination that you’ve never experienced before. Warning - it can be extremely spicy!!!!

2. Gaeng Som

Gaeng som is sometimes referred to as orange or yellow curry, but it’s actually more of a soup than curry. It’s a sour soup with some shredded fish meat that gives the soup its thickness. Thai cooks use shredded fish meat instead of traditional thickeners such as coconut cream and starch.

The yellow variation of gang som is the spicier one, as that’s the one you will find down south. Gaeng som is a unique soup, and you won’t find anything similar to it anywhere else in the world, so we suggest that you give it a try. If possible, try gaeng som with fried snakehead (pla chon) and fried egg with acacia (cha-om), as that’s our favorite by far.

3. Kuay Tiew Tom Yum

Everybody knows about the iconic tom yum soup, as the spiciness and incredible aroma give the dish a world-class status. Have you ever stopped to think how amazing it would be if someone put noodles in it? Well, wonder no more, as that’s what you can find in Thailand!

You can choose between the vermicelli (sen mi), rice noodles (sen lek), flat noodles (sen yai), and egg noodles (ba mi). The noodles will be mixed into the tom yum soup along with many other ingredients, and we can assure you that you will love it!

If you’re looking to learn more about Thai cuisine, Market Experience is your best option. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.


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