Welcome to The Yummy Files. We love a good meal. Whether it’s home cooked or out on the town, we want to share our favorite dishes and beverages while on the road. Come explore the food that has earned our highest praise, or what Shawn would just call yummy.
Our very scientific yummy scale
The day we decided to abandon the Philippines for Thailand, I looked at Shawn and said, “well, at least we know the food will be good.” He gave me that look that only he can give me that says, please don’t get your hopes up so high. In his mind, it was a bad idea to have any expectations, even if it was just about the food. But this one, I was sure about.
Portland has its share of Thai restaurants – they are almost as ubiquitous as our coffee shops. There seems to be one on every corner and everyone has their favorite. There’s everything from the usual family-run Thai place in every neighborhood to the nationally-famous Pok Pok. We’re familiar with Thai food. That didn’t stop me from having the highest expectations and excitement for our first stop in Thailand.
I started this post focusing solely on Bangkok since the differences between southern and northern Thai food can vary greatly but, to be honest, I got lazy. We were pleasantly surprised to see our southern favorites still available in the north and discover a few new gems during our extended stay in Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai. As a side note, I am going to cheat a little and add food finds from our second trip to Bangkok and Kanchanaburi in mid-December. I also omitted the food we had in Pai since I already covered it in the Pai Fishing post and we never ate at a restaurant outside the fishing park.
Is there anything better than a hot bowl of really good soup on a cold day? Well, we didn’t have very many cold days in our 5 weeks in Thailand, but that didn’t stop us from indulging in the variety of soups more than a few times a week. Sweating is supposed to help keep you cool, right?
I’m not sure we ever had the same soup twice during our entire stay
Appetizers, of sorts
We have a running joke about spring rolls (fresh or fried). About half of the time we order them, we actually get them. It’s probably for the best since they are so incredibly fattening, but now we know not to expect them.
A rare spring roll sighting!
While in Chiang Mai, we took a river boat dinner cruise. It was a cheap fare when purchasing dinner and we took the opportunity to try out the Chiang Mai specialty nam phrik ong, made with minced pork and tomato. It was also one of the few dishes we had time to decide on as we got approximately two minutes to peruse the menu before they insisted we order – the boat was leaving soon and the kitchen had little time to get the food out. Not sure why they didn’t advise us to board sooner since we had been sitting in the bar for about 20 minutes.
I liked the idea of this dish – it’s a dip to be eaten with blanched vegetables. It was good, but I think we would have liked it more if we had tried it somewhere else. The food on the cruise was…underwhelming.
Definitely the best part of our meal
Lastly, I love a good chicken wing, Buffalo style or other, but we were more or less testing things out in Thailand to see if anyone does fish sauce wings like the ones we’ve had at Pok Pok. If they do, we haven’t found them yet. The photo on the left is from a favorite outdoor place in Sukhumvit – they are super crisp and juicy, served with sweet chili sauce. The wings on the right were from the river boat cruise we took in Chiang Mai and were awful. They were supposed to be smoked. In reality they just had no flavor.
Left: perfectly crisp wings for cheap; right: well, they sure look pretty
You can get pretty much any type of meat on a stick in Thailand. I’m not a fan of corn dogs (yes, how very un-American of me), but stick a few pork or fish meatballs on a stick and I’m in. We highly recommend the northern Thai sausage sai oua, which has many of the same spices that you would find in a penang curry, like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves (pictured below in lower right-hand corner).
Can I tell you how nice it was to arrive in a country that offers such a variety of vegetables? I love vegetables. My siblings used to think there was something wrong with me as a child because I love vegetables so much. Sometimes we ordered stir-fries with meat as a main, sometimes just as a side. Our favorite, for sure, was stir-fried morning glory. How do we not have this in the U.S.?? Or have I just been missing it on menus? It is still one of our favorite dishes.
Bottom right-hand corner is our favorite – stir fried morning glory with garlic and chilies
I am not as familiar with Thai curries as I am with Indian curries. They are incredibly different – no disrespect to Indian curries, but I think I slightly favor Thai curries. Of course I can’t make that call officially until I’ve been to India. In my post about the cooking classes I took in Chiang Mai, I mentioned that I made my own penang curry paste – it quickly became my favorite of the Thai curries. However, when I tried it eating out after my class, I couldn’t help but say – mine was better. Probably because I could adjust it to my preferences and consistency, but honestly, it was just that damn good.
Top row: green curry with chicken, khao soi – northern yellow curry with egg noodles and chicken
Bottom row: left is the penang curry I got in Chiang Rai (yuck), right is my penang curry from cooking class
You can’t talk about Thai food and forget to mention the noodles. My favorite is still the thick rice noodles, but any noodle you can get in Thailand is bound to be good, at minimum. I think the most inconsistent noodle we got was pad thai. It seems odd, being the national dish, that these noodles would be the hardest to master, but after making them, I can see why. They are finicky little noodles that leave little room for error. Cook them too long and they can become gummy. Not long enough, they are hard to chew. The worst offenses were the noodles that were swimming in grease. Most of the other noodles we ate were delicious and cooked perfectly. I was a little disappointed that my favorite noodle dish back home – pad kee mao (drunken noodles) – was so ridiculously hot that I couldn’t handle it. I like spicy food, but this was another level. I tried it twice and after both were so hot that my lips were numb for 20 minutes and my intestines (ahem) hated me for eating it, I decided I had to give up.
Somehow this is the only good photo I have of the noodles we ate – guess we ate them too fast
Can I ever get sick of papaya salad? No, no I can’t. I have a slight obsession with fish sauce, so this is the perfect dish for me, combining fish sauce, lime juice and chilies as the main base. I could eat this almost every day and never get sick of it.
We also tried a dish similar to larb gai, although the meat was prepared a little differently than I’ve seen before. Both of these are on the spicy side, but it is well balanced and a little sweet, tart, and bitter from the lime juice and herbs.
I don’t care what you say, this qualifies as a salad
Did you know we like beer? I’m sure if you follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you might have noticed. I, obviously, say this with a wink because we’re from Portland, of course we love beer. We found a place called The Londoner in Bangkok when we first arrived and were happy to get an honest pint that wasn’t lager. It’s not quite the stuff we have back home in Beervana, but it provided a nice treat during both our stays in Bangkok. Our new friends at Where is your Toothbrush?, also from Portland, agreed that it was a good substitute to the usual Singha.
While in Chiang Mai, we heard of a place that sells bottled microbrews from the States. I had my hopes sky high for a Mirror Pond, or something from Deschutes, but unfortunately they didn’t have any. I may be shunned for saying this, but I don’t really like Rogue Brewery’s beers that much, so we opted to get a couple of Anderson Valley beers. I think Shawn’s face says it all.
Beervana beer is art…we tend to agree
I normally don’t drink soda (pop, soft drink, coke, whatever), but have been drinking more of it while in Asia because sometimes bottled water gets old. When we arrived in Bangkok and I got a hold of this particular soda water, I was hooked. There are other brands, but Singha’s got the best.
It wasn’t until our second trip to Thailand that we started drinking smoothies and fruit shakes. Given that they cost about $1 for a fresh fruit shake, I don’t know what took us so long. I think I’ve been gaining weight from all the extra sugar, so I’ve had to cut down on my consumption, but man, are they good.
I cheated a bit, this is from Laos
Speaking of addictions, Shawn has one of his own. I told him about roti before arriving in Thailand, but it took us until Chiang Mai to tried it. Now he’s a full-fledged addict. It’s about the thickness of a crepe, but made with a yeasted dough, stretched thin and fried. We chose to have ours filled with bananas and covered in Nutella and condensed milk.
Perhaps Shawn’s new best friend
So what’s the verdict? Is there any question that Thailand gets Shawn’s highest honor?