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I tried deep-fried grasshoppers at a carnival in Kanchanaburi during a sound and light show of "The Bridge On The River Kwai" that ended with a fabulous fireworks display recreating Allied bombing campaign that destroyed bridges of Death Railway in 1945. I tried a few tiny roasted wood worms offered by a very thin host in a northern hill-tribe village near Myanmar border, and feared that I was eating his family out of house and home. I discovered countless traditional dishes I had never tasted and savoured authentic versions of some I had had in Toronto's newly arrived Thai restaurants. As often as I could, I watched their creation so that I could try to replicate them when I got home and got a kitchen again.
Many people are alarmed at how daring I was with my stomach. In six months of traveling through Southeast Asia, I only had one tiny bout of queasiness over a couple of days on Sumatra in Indonesia. I must have found perfect balance of common sense and adventure, or, some might argue, I was just lucky.
I don't recommend trying everything, and I do recommend a few common sense tips for sampling full range of food on offer throughout your travels: * at street and market stalls, do watch cooking for awhile to ensure that ingredients are fresh and food is being cooked thoroughly; if you have any doubts, move on to next vendor * choose vendors that have a good steady flow of customers - not only is food probably very good, but turnover means fresher food * ask your guesthouse host and any other residents you meet for their favourite places to eat, and for recommendations on dishes to order * follow other safe eating tips you find in travel guides, like recommendations about water, ice cubes, and peeling fruit and vegetables
Of course, you will find an endless selection of sit-down restaurants where you can savour some of more familiar Thai dishes now found in restaurants around world: green curry with chicken, red curry with beef, pad Thai and other noodle dishes, and wonderfully aromatic sweet basil dishes.
Whether you plan to sample fabulous foods from street vendors and markets or stick to what you know, learn a few tips on deciphering a menu or asking for a type of dish with a few Thai Food Terms.
Many supermarkets are now carrying a range of prepared sauces, curries and other Asian products, but if you enjoy adventure and creativity in your own kitchen, many Thai recipes are fairly easy to create once you've mastered a few essentials. Gai Yang, after all, is really just barbequed chicken with a Thai twist! A good food reference guide or cookbook with a glossary of Asian ingredients will help you gain that perfect balance of sour, sweet, salt and heat that is unique to Thai cuisine.
© 2005 recipe-for-travel.com
Carolyn Nantais is a freelance writer, website copywriter, world traveler and culinary xenophile who indulges in temporary retirement from time to time to travel and eat around the world. Her new website, The Recipe for Travel, has stories, recipes and practical information gathered through adventures in round-the-world travel and food.