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Food & Drink
Popular in the West for the past 20 years, Thai cuisine ranks beside French, Italian and Chinese as one of the most highly esteemed in the world. The good news is that Thai food is much more reasonably priced in Thailand than back home.
RiceRice is central to most Thai meals, although the national fondness for noodles shows the strength of Chinese influence. Thais eat two kinds of rice: slightly fluffy, long-grain rice, eaten with a spoon and fork, and 'sticky rice', eaten with the fingers. Noodles are always eaten with chopsticks.
MeatMeat is generally stir-fried or otherwise cooked in bite-sized pieces, which explains the absence of knives on Thai tables. Thai pork is among the best in the world; chicken and duck are also excellent. Beef is widely available but can be a little tough. Consumption of lamb, mutton and goat is largely limited to Thailand's Muslim community.
Fish and SeafoodFresh and saltwater fish, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, clams, mussels, squid and octopuses are all available. The best place to enjoy fresh seafood is by the sea but even Chiang Mai, amid the northern mountains, has excellent fresh seafood flown and trucked in daily. As Thailand has grown richer, so imported varieties of fish have become increasingly available; it is not surprising to find smoked salmon from Scotland or Norwegian herring on the menu.
Fruit and VegetablesFresh fruit and vegetables are available throughout the country, from temperate crops such as asparagus, celery, apples and strawberries grown in the cool north to more exotic varieties such as rambutan, mangosteen, durian, pineapple, mango and tamarind that flourish in the warmer tropics. In recent years avocados have been introduced from Israel and kiwi fruit from New Zealand. Moreover, anything that does not grow in Thailand with ease - such as cherries, walnuts, nectarines and apricots - is flown in regularly and available on supermarket shelves or in restaurants.
DrinkBottled, purified water and a wide range of internationally known soft drinks are available everywhere - even in remote places. Thailand produces several good (but strong) local brews including Singha (Lion) and Chang (Elephant) beers. International brands such as Carlsberg and Heineken are manufactured locally under licence. There is a plethora of local whiskies and rums and everything that can be imported is imported, from the best Russian vodka to the top Scotch malt. Thais have recently discovered a taste for wine, too, and import widely, although mainly from Australia.
MealtimesWhatever, whenever. Thais eat when they are hungry and do not understand the Western concept of fixed mealtimes. They also tend to eat less than Westerners but more frequently. That said, all hotels and restaurants catering to foreign visitors are aware of the strange international habit of eating three fixed meals a day and make allowances for it.