While I’d like to tell you (accurately) how vibrant and delicious real Thai food is, I simply cannot do it justice.
Every dish is meant to have flavor balance- spicy, sour, sweet, bitter and usually savory.
…and beer, because, somebody said it helps prevent food-borne illness, I can’t confirm that but, you know, we try.
As is the case with most people who are involved with food from the ground up, Thai people use the whole animal. This means you can find every part of the chicken deep fried and crispy in a pile next to whole fish. Soup is made with innards, tails and anything else that will fit in the pot and very rarely does anything go to waste.
Whatever you chose to eat, it will be served with condiments. These are sometimes fresh but more often are dried or fermented. Fish sauce is placed on every table- it’s used like soy sauce to salt food. It stank. Seriously, but once you try it a few times, you like it- it’s not just salty but savory and has depth of flavor that you just can’t get without it. Right next to the fish sauce will be two or three, or more types of chillies. The dish is likely served with fresh chilies, after that you can add dried chillies, chillies in vinegar, and if you’re lucky macerated chili and garlic paste in magic sauce.
Everything is served with rice, on rice, or has noodles made of rice. The Thai phrase for “Have you eaten yet?” translates most accurately to “Have you eaten rice yet?” Even in dessert, there is almost always rice. No rice, no dice. I don’t have a photo of plain sticky rice here, maybe I will get one, but it should be noted that Thai sticky rice has that chewy addictiveness similar to one you’d find in a good chocolate chip cookie or a soft pretzel, except it’s rice-y. Here in the north sticky rice or “Khao Neeo” is viewed as a breakfast food, too heavy for the afternoon but in other regions (N.E. Thailand) it’s an all day, every day edible. I stand with the Esan Thai, I can’t get enough sticky rice.