I write this sitting in a restaurant in Chiang Mai, eating a bowl of what has been described to me as spicy ramen soup with tonkatsu.
After almost three weeks in Thailand, I found my first mango sticky rice yesterday in Chiang Mai. What have I been eating? You might ask. I think I can safely say I’ve been eating Thai food. After all, it has all been made by Thai people, ordered in Thai, by roadside stalls, and more or less the same throughout.
With family and friends, we all know what we mean when we say “let’s go for Thai food” – this includes food such as pad thai, beef noodles, pineapple fried rice, tom yum, pandan chicken, basil minced pork, fried whole fish with mango/papaya salad drizzled in thai spicy sauce, red ruby, mango sticky rice. I think these are more than available in Chiang Mai city, but these are not what I eat everyday. In fact, we eat plain old kway teow soup, khao pad (fried rice), mixed rice, and (fine I admit) some pad thai.
Is Thai food what the average Thai person eats? If so Thai food is rice, with maybe a fried egg and some vegetable curry.
Is it what foreginers imagine it to be (for we are the only ones who call it thai food)? If so then Thai food is the obvious list above.
Is it what touring cyclists eat? No doubt, this is kway teow soup and fried rice.
Is it what Thai people in the prominent cities (Bangkok, Chiang Mai) eat? If so, then this list is complicated.
As I finish my bowl of ramen I think the same questions can be asked not just for food but for what is Thai? Who are the Thai people and what represents Thailand and its culture?