By Courtney Ridgel
Thai food is famous around the world, and there is no better way to experience the real deal than to head to a local food market. Here you’ll find just about everything under the sun and you’ll have the chance to dine out the way the locals do and enjoy the people-watching. Thailand boasts dishes that are unique to each region so it is worth visiting multiple markets with a local guide who can help describe what you are seeing, smelling and sampling, and who can also translate and make suggestions for you (and let you know when to steer clear of things that may be too spicy or not properly cooked).
In Chiang Mai, Tien, explained the local specially encompasses a certain egg noodle soup (which was delicious) , but she also had me sample the local coffee, the best fried chicken that I have ever eaten in my life, fried pork rinds, fried water buffalo skin, a variety of fruit, a different noodle soup and as I was feeling bold, blood sausage soup, which I decided was not to my taste. Pork dishes seem to be a particular favorite to the Thais.
In Bangkok, Well led me to a local market (hidden down a maze of back alleys between the tall buildings) where fresh vegetables and spices are brought in daily from the countryside. Here we sampled tamarind, fresh ginger, turmeric, a variety of candies made from sesame seeds, peanuts and honey, and admired the fresh flowers used in decorations, wedding ceremonies and as offerings at temples. (I confess that I steered clear of the very large fried cockroaches- I’ve tried crickets before and so far that has been the extent of my bravery on eating bugs.) The space for this market was donated by the Royal Family so there was also a shrine set up in their honor.
If you find yourself drawn to food, we’d recommend our Bangkok’s Culinary Delights tour to sample more of Bangkok’s legendary street food. I personally can’t wait to go back and try more of the savory soups and delicious grilled meats and fried fish I spotted. If you want to learn to prepare these dishes yourself, we recommend taking a cooking class with Pantawan Cooking School in Chiang Mai, and Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok.