Useful things to know for safe and enjoyable eating in Thailand

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recognises Thai food as one of the big drawcards for many tourists during their travels in the kingdom and would like to provide some useful things to know for safe and enjoyable eating in Thailand.

The following tips and pointers on selecting and eating at restaurants and street food vendors throughout the kingdom are listed to help tourists get the most from their Thai culinary experience.

Hygiene and Cleanliness – When eating street food in particular, select food stalls that are busy with a lot of customers as the locals will know which are the safest to eat at. And the more the customers, the higher the turnover of produce meaning perishable items aren’t left sitting around to go off or attract flies. It also doesn’t hurt to give plates and utensils a quick wipe with a tissue before eating – as most locals do.

Freshly Cooked Meals – Avoid eating anything that doesn’t look freshly prepared. Street food vendors will typically take your order and cook it right there in front of you.

Avoid Uncooked Dishes – Stay away from uncooked dishes, such as, poached seafood or raw seafood.

Avoid ‘Too Spicy’ Dishes – For milder Western tastes, the spiciness of some Thai dishes can cause real discomfort. This is the reason why spicy-hot dishes are often served with steamed rice and non-spicy dishes to help tone down the spiciness. Those who enjoy spicy food should try ordering a less spicy version to begin with. There are also plenty of non-spicy Thai dishes for those who do not like spicy food.

Ingredients With Laxative Properties – Bear in mind that ingredients in many Thai dishes contain laxative properties, such as tamarind, fresh coconut, ginger and turmeric. For instance, the famous papaya salad dish Som Tam is good for laxative purposes.

Avoid Food With MSG – Although many official food authorities claim MSG or monosodium glutamate is safe, this controversial flavour enhancing additive widely used in Asian food is blamed by some for causing adverse effects like headaches, heart palpitations, chest pain and nausea. Again, the ‘better to be safer’ option is advisable here – avoid food that contains MSG and if ordering a dish, ask for no MSG.

Clear Price Display – Prices of dishes and food and menu items should be clearly displayed.

And always remember, asking the locals wherever you happen to be is a great source of information on places to eat.