The Telegraph
Friday , September 14 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Eat like a local

- Chicken and some unknown meat

There are several reasons why I love Thailand. Itís not too far away, not too costly and most people whoíve visited the country would say itís tourist-friendly. Another reason would surely be the food.

The first time I visited this very interesting country was in 2007 with my parents. We were with a travel group and they mostly took us around in an airconditioned bus and served us Indian food. It was then that I realised I didnít like experiencing a new place through the windows of an airconditioned bus and I found the food part totally weird. Why would I want to eat Indian food when I was in Thailand? Since that trip, I kind of lost faith in travel agencies.

Rambutan and (right) mangosteen

So, the next time I went to Thailand, I went on my own and made sure I ate all kinds of local food. Thai food is very different both in flavour and smell from what we are used to eating in India.

Matt displays his skills with chopsticks while he cooks some unknown meat

In Bangkok, I stayed on Wireless Road, a posh area in the central part of the city, and walked around a lot. Street food is big here and the vendors usually pay more attention to hygiene than in India. I quickly discovered a local eatery that I liked. It was a small place at a crossing that always remained jampacked. During my stay in Bangkok, I visited the place some three or four times and always ordered the same dish. Itís called kao man kai (rice with chicken). They served the rice on a plate with neat slices of boiled chicken spread over it along with a dark sauce. I would order a Coke to go with it. What made all the difference was the sauce. Itís nothing like the ones Iíd tasted in India. I later got to know from a Thai friend that itís a mixture of yellow bean sauce and some other stuff. But despite my best efforts, I couldnít find the sauce anywhere here.

Another time in Bangkok, I stayed near Victory Monument, a little way away from Wireless Road. Though I went back to have my kao man kai, I had a very different culinary experience at a different eatery.

I was staying with a Canadian friend called Matt and he took me to this place that was like a huge buffet. But most of the food was not cooked and you had to do it on your table.

Kao man kai

We collected our plates and walked around the various kinds of marinated meat. We had no idea what meat they were and which we should take. Finally, we chose some random ones and sat at a table.

There was a peculiar oven in the middle of the table. It looked like a wok with a raised platform in the middle of it. When we were seated, a waiter fixed a gas cylinder beneath it and poured water in the ďwokĒ. Now just the raised platform was above the water. We looked around and saw everyone frying their meat on this platform. So, me and Matt followed suit.

But after a while we realised something was wrong because our meat didnít taste very good and most of it got burnt. This guy sitting at the next table pointed out that we had to put some fat on the platform along with the meat to fry them! So, we got some fat and then mmm, not bad at all!

But I still donít know what meat I ate that night.

I enjoyed a couple of fruits called mangosteen and rambutan that I havenít seen in India. I brought back a kilo of each home.