Is Thai food as amazing in reality as the Internet leads you to believe?
We had read a lot about all things Thailand before coming here. Not just in travel guides, but in forums and blogs, watched tons of videos on Youtube – things that real people share. We thought we had done enough research to know what to expect – well, at least to some extent. We thought we knew enough about the things that will be different. And some of the things we’d read about happened to be a pretty accurate reflection of reality. The others though turned out to be completely opposite for us…
Food is one example. Everyone boasts about Thai food being amazing, almost the best you can find in the world. The Internet shows streets full of vendors offering delicious meals with plenty of vegetarian options and mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables. We specifically looked into the veggie options, knowing how tricky it can sometimes be for us to find something that we would actually want to eat. We ate at Thai restaurants back in the UK and loved it. We were quite certain we would have plenty of delicious options in Thailand.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We found out that not only it is incredibly difficult to find places that would agree to make a vegetarian version of something for you (let alone have anything like that on the menu!), but even when we do find it, most of the time it doesn’t taste good. The problem for us is that we’re not the type of vegetarians who don’t mind eating rice and some sort of a meat substitute without a single vegetable in sight… We actually like vegetables! And we don’t like them terribly overcooked, drowning in a sauce that’s pretty much tasteless. To our surprise the purely vegetarian Thai dishes (in Thai vegetarian restaurants) taste worse than the meat dishes minus the meat in non-veggie places! Of course, I’m not talking about westernised restaurants in the city centre with western prices where you do have nice veggie options. I’m talking about street restaurants, local markets and food malls in the shopping centres – places where most of the Thai people eat.
At first we couldn’t believe it. We didn’t stop trying to find places that would make vegetarian food. We kept trying new dishes, only to be disappointed 9 times out of 10. But now we accepted the fact that the type of food we like is not common here. It’s not what most people eat. And it’s not likely for us to find a truly satisfying meal anywhere on the street. We changed the way we look at it. Now we have no expectations. We enjoy the things we actually really like here instead of trying to find something new all the time. We love the huge variety of fruit, the fresh coconut water, the fresh herbs that we can buy for our own cooking, and the cheap but great 7/11 coffee! There’s even a couple of dishes and snacks that we love – although they’re rarely available anywhere. So now when we leave home we either pack our own meals or plan to eat biscuits, pastries and fruit all day. And then if by accident we do find something tasty, it makes us really happy. Why? Because we didn’t expect to find anything!
When I think about it, it’s actually good that things turned this way – that there’s nothing for us to eat on the streets. It leaves us with no other choice but to cook at home all the time – which means we’re eating healthier than we would otherwise. And since we both love experimenting with flavours in the kitchen that’s not really a problem! I remember when we just moved to Bangkok and all we had in our room was a table with two chairs and a fridge. No kitchen, but still, we decided we’d start cooking and bought our first kitchen equipment. Who would have thought that a SALAD BOWL and a simple kitchen knife could make us SO happy…?
It’s interesting how this experience made us realise what an important part of our lives good food is. We didn’t think about it that way before. We thought we just like to eat nice food and we’re not really that picky. Well, it turns out that we are. Now I understand where the term “foodie” comes from. Not being able to cook our own food (the way we like it!) for almost 6 months was really frustrating. Having to eat something that’s just “good enough” to satisfy the hunger way too often… not being able to satisfy the part of your soul that’s craving for something that’s actually tasty. Something that gives you pleasure. Something that makes every meal a celebration. Something that makes you smile from ear to ear with the excitement of a 5 year-old with a new toy, before delving into something you know will taste heavenly.
Now we realise that everything we had found out about Thailand before coming here was just other people’s experiences of it. Their perceptions of Thailand. Which turned out to be very different from ours.
We all perceive the world around us differently. Two people can look at the same picture or listen to the same song and one of them will find it inspiring, while the other one might think it’s dull. We don’t see the world as it is, we see it through our own mind’s eye. That’s why someone else’s experience cannot really tell you much about a place, event or a thing. Unless you know that this someone is similar to you. That he or she values and enjoys similar things. That he or she perceives the world in a similar way to you.