Thailand is one of these places where I could take an entire suitcase full of food back home. And, occasionally, I do. And not only food: From cutlery, ceramic dishes, small ceramic containers – everything is nice here. On the Chattuchak weekend market in Bangkok, these items sell for a steal.
But back to food. The Thai kitchen is the best in the world to me, due to its richness in flavors, colors, ingredients and the harmony of components. Thai food is never boring – the same dish tastes different in every restaurant. Or sometimes, not even a restaurant but a guy with a stove selling divine noodles in the street. This place is all about food. And we’re right there, with empty bags to fill and take home. Let’s start!
For The Pantry
Thai kitchen relies on a few basic ingredients that are easy to store and transport, and every good pantry shall have them. The good thing: Most of them are available overseas in Asian food stores. Think of sweet soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, oyster and fish sauce et cetera. But there’s more to Thailand than just that!
Real fish sauce, or Nam Pla, is usually prepared fresh by Thai chefs and home cooks, and sometimes sold on markets. Try to get your hands on a bottle of these, it’s a lot better than the supermarket fish sauce. But if you go supermarket, there’s one brand that I recommend for both their fish sauce and oyster sauce: Megachef. Their brown bottle says “Premium Oyster Sauce” or “Premium Fish Sauce” and is simply the best.
Although I like to prepare all my sauces and dishes freshly at home, there’s a few sauces I like to buy, just because they are delicious and making them at home sometimes takes time. The “Blue Elephant” brand sells a couple of those, especially Saté Sauce and Pad Thai Sauce. The Pad Thai Sauce is so good, it’s worth taking the bottled stuff home in huge amounts. Shop around and let yourself be surprised by the vast choice of strange sauces, spices and flavors!
Palm Sugar is another ingredient you need for many Thai dishes. The palm sugar sold overseas is often just normal sugar with a small amount of palm sugar. Make sure you buy 100% pure palm sugar here. It’s soft and delicious! The same goes for coconut sugar.
Talking about coconut, I always buy a few bottles of Virgin Coconut Oil in Thailand. Made in an island paradise like Samui, this divine oil is suitable for both cooking and body care. It can be heated to high temperatures, and gives a decent, nice smell of coconut to any dish, without being overly strong. I like to fry fish in this oil, or even use a spoonful together with other oils to deep-fry my spring rolls!
Let’s face it, this country is fruit paradise. At every corner, you can enjoy the freshest, best-quality fruit at low prices. So why not take some home? Depending where you live, this might be illegal. But it’s worth a try, because most of the times the items are simply taken off you and destroyed. I have never had problems so far in Europe, and I always have a bag full of fruit with me. Some of my favorites are:
- Mangoes. The Thai are fighting with Filipinos over who has the best mangoes in the world. To me, they’re equally good. They even look the same. Sweet and easy to eat, these are a must-bring-home.
- Mangosteen. Has nothing to do with mango. This small brown fruit has a strong red dye in its thick shell, which contains a white flesh inside that is so tasty, it’s hard to describe! To me, it tastes like 50 fruits at the same time. Delicious!
- Dragonfruit. Pinky-red, beautiful fruit with either white or pink flesh and small black seeds in it. They don’t taste like much, but have an amazing texture and are very, very refreshing. Oh, and the pink variation gives for nicely colored smoothies!
- Rambutan. These hairy fruit look like lychees, and taste similar but way more delicious.
- Durian. Never, ever take on a plane. Or inside a hotel room. It stinks!
Did you know that Red Bull is originally from Thailand? It has been sold here for years before Austrian Marketing Guru Didi Mateschitz discovered the energy drink on an Asia trip. Red Bull is sweeter here, and is sold in the original golden-colored cans. A nice souvenir.
Thailand produces some nice whiskeys and rums, even if they call them all whiskey. Anything alcoholic over 20 per cent is a whiskey here. Anyway, a bottle of Sang Som is cheap and is a nice gift for friends at home.
Fruit juices are sold anywhere on the streets in small plastic bottles. They are so delicious you’ll want to try them all (and you should) but be careful about taking them home. These are produced freshly the same day and I once had a frightening experience when I took a bottle home to the hotel room. Left outside the fridge, the morning after I bought it the bottle literally exploded due to gas build up by the fermentation. These drinks certainly don’t last over a day, so enjoy your fortune and drink up before you fly!
A basic staple in every Asian kitchen. And here, in Thailand, they make the best rice in the world: Hom Mali Rice, which means fragrant rice. Some stores sell freshly produced rice from the same season, and boy is this a difference! Nothing better than freshly harvested Hom Mali rice. They also have great brown rice as well as sticky rice, which you need for a famous dessert (Sticky Rice with Mango). If you can, buy organic rice with an origin that you trust. And even better, try to get your hands on freshly harvested rice from the same season. The taste is unparalleled, but take care to use less water when cooking, otherwise it will easily overcook!