Thais have no hard and fast rules about what to eat for dinner. Many Thais will simply have a light, healthy bowl of noodles. But for families, dinner is the main meal of the day, the one time they are all likely to come together, so the meal may be more elaborate, with dishes that take longer to prepare.
For families or groups of friends, dinner never consists of a single dish. There is always a variety in the centre of the table for everyone to share – a fine way to bring everyone together.
Since Thai food is prepared in bite-size morsels, it’s very rare to see a knife used at a Thai table; normally it’s spoon in the right hand, fork in the left. In politer society, each dish will arrive with its own serving spoon, so don’t use your own spoon to dig into a dish of food in the middle of the table. Each person will have his or her own plate of rice. Use the serving spoon to take a small amount of food from one of the dishes and eat that before trying something else – it’s not considered very polite to heap your plate. Besides, you’ll enjoy the food much more if you take it one taste at a time, instead of mixing all the flavours together.
A clean plate is a good thing in Thai society – it shows you think your host or cook has served up a delicious meal. While food in the bowls in the centre can often be kept in the fridge for the next day, food on individual plates cannot, and many Thais consider that a sad waste in a world where many people are still starving. So finish what’s on your plate.
How to Choose a Thai Restaurant
One of the best places to find a good Thai restaurant in Phuket is along its West Coast since most restaurants there have menus in English. Such places are in Patong, Kata and Karon. Many of these restaurants also provide ‘photo menus’ and this simplifies things for the rookie Thai food diner.
Of course, it’s always easier if the wait staff speak English so you can make it clear just how spicy you’d like that curry and whether you’d prefer chicken, beef or fish.
Cleanliness is more important than fancy décor. You’d be surprised at how many simple and basic-looking restaurants in Thailand actually serve fantastic food. And you can bet your bottom dollar that they keep their place meticulously clean. And follow the crowds; it’s always a good sign if a restaurant is crowded – a well-frequented restaurant is bound to deliver the goods.
Don’t be scared off by the word “spicy”. As with anything else, there are degrees of spiciness. Depending on your preference, you can order any dish to be cooked just a little bit spicy, medium, or blazing hot.
No matter what your local friends may say, avoid local food carts or food stands. If this is your first time eating Thai food, it’s best to ensure that you get food that not only tastes and smells good but is also hygienically prepared.