Street Food, Bangkok
While many people rave about the street food in Thailand, I was a bit turned off by it. It looks great and I did try it several times with no problem. However, a few things to keep in mind. As you can see in the photos, the food is out raw and uncovered. What you can't tell from the photo is that it is 95 degrees and 100% humidity. There is no refrigeration and the food has been laying out for hours! Oh, and not to mention the number of flies landing on each little piece.
So if you have your mind set on eating this food, which I think you should try at least once, here is a few tips.
1. The vendors will allow you to select the pieces you would like cooked. Choose the number you want from the middle of the pile. The top would have had flies landing all over it and the bottom has been soaking in some nasty looking juices.
2. Always select something that needs to be cooked and be sure it is cooked well. Some vendors will have items that are already cooked. Try and stay away from these because again, flies! At least with the uncooked meat being cooked right in front of you, any nastiness that may be on the meat will get burned off during the cooking process.
3. Select a vendor that has a good amount of food to select from. Even if they are not busy at the time. Large amounts of food say that they are usually busy. Locals know who has the best food. This is a good indication.
I noticed that the lady vendors can be very rude at times to you if you do not buy anything from their shop or outlets on the road after going through the products. They sometimes do not understand that we need to inspect the stuff before purchasing as we need to identify if its the right product for us. This happens mostly in the street markets and occasionally at shopping malls too. The language is also a major barrier here as they hardly speak English. Be polite and smile and be nice to them, sometimes this works.
Do you know that more then 40 Million sharks are killed every year! This particulary because of shark finning and the idea that Shark Fin Soup is sooo delicious. If you want to make a difference do not eat in restaurants that offer shark meat or shark fins - since without sharks there will be no life in the ocean.
Still not convinced... do you know how shark fins are taken... the shark is caught - the fin removed and then the shark is thrown back into the sea... without fin!
Maboomkrong (MBK) Shopping Center is a favourite place to shop for tourists. There are numerous shops selling fake designer wear and a whole floor devoted to cellphones. In the atrium of MBK are stalls selling local Thai delicacies and Thai tidbits. On level 6, there is a large food court selling Thai cuisine. Beware of these Thai dishes! Some of these Thai dishes may not be properly cooked and may be contaminated with nasty bacteria.
It was reported in the Singapore local newspapers in January 2006 that a Singaporean woman developed severe food poisoning, collapsed and died 3 days after consuming pig trotters and pig intestines from MBK, presumably from the food court.
This tip is not meant to scare tourists off from patronising the MBK food court but just to be aware that eating internal organs, especially intestines, which have not been properly cleaned or cooked can result in gastroenteritis.
Be very, very weary of food and/or drink prepared/served in outdoor restaurants.
We stopped at an outdoor restaurant a few steps from Sukhumvit Soi 11. The food and drink were exceptional. However, we all became *violently* ill the for the next 2 days, emphasis on "violently".
Don't get me wrong. Though i am forever emotionally scarred, and scared senseless by the mere sight of ice... The rest of the culinary adventures through my month in SEasia were uneventful, save the "special" pizza provided by Ecstatic Pizza in Siem Riep. But that was "eventful" in a very, very good way, not in a projectile vomit, "kill me! for the love of god, kill me now!!!" way.
If you *are* unlucky enough to host this wonderful and oh, so pleasant bug. Take a dizzying stroll to a drug store and give them your symptoms. They're pretty good about knowing what you have, and which magic pills will keep you from yacking up your spleen.
that is all.
Beware of the Durian fruit! The Durian is a popular fruit in Asia and is a big thorny creature. It can fool you with its exotic, sweet taste.....but, yikes! The smell..... There are signs posted all over the upscale hotels banning this fruit from entering the building because of its FUNK!!!
It is worth a taste, but do so at one of the street fruit stands where they'll slice it up for you and you can walk away from the stench!!
Please do not leave any sweets or sugar outside or inside you luggage, in Thailand are very small insects which like sugar and it could be that you walk in your hotelroom watching the invasion of your backpack by millions of ants :)
If you travel by bus or train never put your feet up as this is considered extremely rude. Never say anything bad about the Royal Thai family or about Buddha as this can be punishable. Never spit or throw rubbish on the street as this holds high penalties if you are caught. Don't haggle for prices over images of Buddha as this is considered rude. Avoid street food vendors as there is a risk of catching stomach related or diahorrea problems. Always take electrolyte powders and tablets as it is pretty likely you will suffer from some form of diahorrea problem even if you are really careful. This is especially important regarding young children. If you visit a temple, you must cover up your arms, feet and legs. Otherwise you will be forced to change (for free) into 'borrowing' clothes where you will have to leave some form of ID, or you will not be allowed to enter the temple.
If you are not accustomed to the bacteria in Thailand I would avoid eating the cooked food in the street. Secondly, make sure you drink only the bottled water due to the bacteria. Almost all hotels provide complementary bottles for you to use. Use bottled water even when brushing your teeth.