Do you ever wonder why there are so many Thai restaurants and food stalls in Chiangmai? I did, and my Thai wife explains it like this. Why stay home and cook when you can get ready-to-eat food that is cheaper than cooking at home?
Most Thais do not cook at home unless they have a big family. By the time you go to the market for fresh ingredients, prepare and cook and eat the food, hours have been wasted. Most of the ingredients last only a day or so, so much gets thrown out. The price of cooking gas just to cook for two persons is not worth it. So Thais get their food from vendors to take home or go to a restaurant. If you look into a refrigerator in a Thai home you would probably find only water and drinks.
Many of our friends that visit us in Chiangmai from other countries arrive with stomach problems. Why? Because they ate from a food vendor in Bangkok that was either not clean or the food stayed out in the warm air too long. I would like to explain how to find and choose very good Thai restaurants so this doesn’t happen to you. Once you have been in Thailand a while, your body will adjust and you will be able to eat almost anything, anywhere. Even my Thai wife gets stomach problems from eating bad food at times and she admits she is not as picky as I when it comes to choosing a food vendor or restaurant but she’s learning.
When choosing a good Thai restaurant, the first thing we think about is taste. During the lunch hour or dinnertime, we look for a restaurant that is full of Thai people. If the food doesn’t taste good or people get sick, the restaurant won’t have any customers. If the restaurant is full of tourists and no Thai people, we know the food is prepared for the foreigner’s taste buds and not real Thai food.
Is the food prepared fresh or is it sitting out like a buffet? Is meat hanging in a glass box or in a covered heated pot? This is where most people get stomach problems. The food looks great sitting out, but how long has it been there? If the food has been prepared an hour or more ahead of time, you can get very ill. If it is not prepared fresh, stay away from it.
Next I look at the tables and floor - are they clean with no flies? Are paper napkins thrown all over the floor? I have gone to lunch with Thai friends that eat at these types of places and I refuse to order anything except a soft drink. Two hours later my friends are having stomach problems. Not me.
There are many fabulous restaurants and excellent food vendors in Chiangmai. If you are new to Thailand, be picky where you eat. A 3-day stomach virus is no fun.