5 Worst Thai Foods
Thai food is characterized by its contrasting flavors and vibrant colors. Savory meats are often stir fried together with fresh herbs and a few pinches of palm sugar. Meals are served with steaming portions of jasmine rice. Tables are set with porcelain jars filled with bitter fish sauces, spicy chili flakes, and sugar. Quality Thai food can be found anywhere; from tiny street stalls to expansive shopping malls. Adventurous eaters can always find new dishes to challenge their palate.
Unfortunately, not all Thai foods are created equal. For every plate of crispy fried pork or steaming bowl of chicken soup, there is a greasy plate of gristle and salt that no Youtube food blogger should dare to eat. These are the worst dishes that Thailand has to offer.
Take my word for it, avoid these foods at all costs.
Pad Thai (ผัดไท)
Pad Thai is synonymous with Thai food culture, despite the fact that this slimy, grainy slop is so different from most Thai fare. Pad Thai is basically the suburban soccer mom’s idea of Asian food. In fact, pad thai is about the only thing that your white family will eat at a Thai restaurant (but not before they ask for some General Tso’s chicken).
Warm noodles, fried meat, and ground peanuts sounds more like ingredients to a college freshman’s hangover cure than a traditional Thai dish. The truth is that pad thai is more Chinese than it is Thai. The Chinese brought gelatinous rice noodles, tofu, and dried shrimp with them over 250 years ago. This awful amalgamation of Thai and Chinese flavor profiles grew in popularity under the reign of Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram who enforced a nationwide cultural revolution. Aside from encouraging the consumption of pad thai, the PM also encouraged women to cover their bare chests and adopt more Western attire. The PM also established the modern Thai tradition of eating with forks and spoons in order to appear more civilized to Western countries. In many ways, pad thai is a lasting symbol of colonialism. Maybe that’s why white people like it so much?
Additionally, pad thai is one of the dirtiest street foods you can eat. Those wet, leathery noodles sit out in the warm sun and absorb brake dust while you poke around your change purse looking for the 30 baht you should be spending on charcoal pills. So yeah, not only does pad thai taste bad, it’s bad for you.
Blue Crab Somtam (ส้มตำปู)
The East has a drastically different perception of seafood compared to the West. In America when you order lobster you get a steamed, fat, meaty tail served with a bucket of melted butter. In the UK you can get a tender, fried fillet of fish served with thick cut fries. In Asia? Well, first of all you’re getting way more body parts than you’d like. While Westerners dine on meticulously deboned fish, Thais pick around, or fight over, eyeballs and fish lips. One of the most disappointing things that can happen to a curious foodie in Thailand occurs when you order a papaya salad with blue crab. You imagine that cold, crisp papaya served up with fresh chunks of tender crab meat. What you get tastes more like used toothpicks.
The blue crabs used in Thai dishes are so small that it’s hard to imagine that they’ve got any meat at all. To further exacerbate the problem, you’re expected to chew on the little crustaceans like they’re sunflower seeds. The labor involved with consuming these abominations is unequal to the value they provide in your meal. After a few minutes of scratching your gums with crab legs, you’ll pick around them just to eat a now overpriced papaya salad with occasional bug legs sprinkled in.
Most other crab is great though, just avoid these guys.
Raw Shrimp Salad (ยำกุ้งเต้น)
Occasionally you will find a viral Facebook video that catches your attention. When the subject being filmed is food, you’re struck by a morbid curiosity and a few pressing quesitons. Who eats things like this? What would that taste like? How did this happen?
You can start asking those questions about raw shrimp salad, a Lovecraftian horror served in Isan, the Northern region of Thailand. The shrimp in this salad are so raw that they flip around in panic as you collect them on your spoon. This dish is usually served as a side dish and is very popular after a few Hong Tong sodas.
The only reason this dish exists is because Isan is so hot and dry that the people there will eat just about anything, cooked or not. As a matter of fact, this whole list could be Isan food, but I’ll just mention one more.
Steamed Tadpoles (หมกฮวก)
Animal rights activists might want to skip this part of the list altogether. This slimy dish is made by mixing up tadpoles and herbs, pressing them all together in banana leaves, and steaming them. You can imagine the texture as accurately as you can guess where this dish comes from. Yes, Isan once again. Do I need to say much more about this? Alright, let’s wrap this list up.
Fried Chicken (ไก่ทอด)
This could be the most controversial item on this list. For whatever reason, farangs are amazed by the amount of mediocre fried chicken being served on Thai streets. Yes, fried chicken is popular in pretty much every country, but there’s a reason why Thai people love KFC so much.
It’s important to note that all of that copper brown fried chicken you see on your way home from work was cooked that morning. If you are unfortunate enough to settle for some of that sun aged chicken you’ll be tasting hours old, oily chicken jerky with salty, stale skin. God forbid you get a piece that was undercooked that morning. The only good fried chicken item you can expect to find at your local market is fried chicken skin. Seriously, that stuff is always cooked to perfection.
Hopefully you take this list to heart and save yourself the stomach problems you could have had if you decided to consume any of the culinary catastrophes. This list should not only help you enjoy your food adventures in the country, but also save you a few weeks of “Thai tummy”.
If you have any more suggestions about food that I should not try, please let me know and I will be sure to judge from afar.