This is a personal interview and the observations of Thai food by our good friend, Jackson Stones. Thank you, as always, Jackson, for your crystal clear, sobering yet, haunting visions turned into the cherished written word. The scent of Thai spices permeate the air as I write this; here in the middle of the Arizona desert…Priceless!
There must be more than this, surely?
“Thai food in Thailand is rarely the same as you eat in your local Thai restaurant. The spices are much more intense, the chilli is dangerously hot and the beautiful crafted vegetables are non-existent. Thai food is usually a basic version of the fancy food in your city. If you like searing chilli, overly spiced Tom Yung Kung and endless variations on rice it could be for you.
Thai food seems to consist of three basic styles. Soup, which can have anything and everything thrown in. Noodles similar treated and, of course rice, also with everything. Thais eat rice at least three times a day, sometimes five times. To make matters more troublesome, even the most mundane dish seems to have some chilli in it. Also, almost everything is fried.
Quite a lot of food in Thailand is served in small, questionably clean restaurants. Working people flock here for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are tens of thousands of eating outlets in Bangkok, mostly dirty looking stalls crowding the side of the road, impossible to pass and questionable to buy from. Office workers in a hurry sometimes take out food in the eternal plastic bags to eat at lunchtime or on the way home. They don’t care that it’s cold, or that the sun has been blazing on it.
Other places are ad hoc kitchens set up on a two-wheeled cart parked by the side of a busy main road. Bright red plastic stools and metal topped folding tables with dozens of people, heads down, tucking into a bowl of sustenance for the hours ahead. Fume-belching old buses vie with the endless cars to give an accompanying cacophony with your meal. A café on the Champs-Elysée it ain’t. So with the noise, tropical heat and repetitive diet, many long-term Westerners avoid these places.
The most varied food resides in shopping malls. It is such a cornucopia of culinary offerings that it delights the customer. It is air conditioned, clean, usually quiet and, they have all the goodies that many Westerners are familiar with. McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, some great Chinese food, yes I know, rice again, then famous brands from Japan and Korea (more of that white stuff). Coffee shops and ice cream are popular, along with waffles, Pepsi and fruit shakes.
Beyond Bangkok, at the hugely popular beach resorts, there is a more fun. Due to the huge influx of visitors from Germany, Britain, Italy and now Russia it is easy to pick up a genuine pizza, or eat fish and chips, have an Indian curry and maybe, God help us, some Russian borscht and rice (?). Thais, being adept at copying, have their versions of Starbucks, pizza and burger places.
So, if you are heading East and get bored with the once adventurous and exotic diet, head for the shopping mall and pick up a pizza, wash it down with a Starbucks and lay back and think of the poor people at home eating. . .Thai food?”