Eat like a local: Thai phrases you need to enjoy street food in Phuket

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Real Life Phuket
Photo: Karen Blumberg

Thai street food culture has always been on top of the list of things luring people into the Kingdom. Available at nearly every corner, Thai delights are all superb in terms of flavour, freshness and price. Yet there are some tricks you need to know in order to get exactly what you want. And today let us talk about the keywords and phrases you need to know to enjoy what Thai streets have on offer.

Khao gaeng. The staple of Thai street lunch is khao gaeng. Literally translated as “curry rice”, this is not a specific dish but rather a type of eatery where all the foods are already made (not cooked to order) and served in metal trays or pots. You just come and pick what you like by pointing at the trays. Normally the price is THB50 for rice with one toping, THB60 for rice with two etc.

Khai dao. Most of Thai rice dishes are much better when topped with a fried egg, and this is exactly what khai dao means. Ask for it when ordering your khao pad (fried rice), stir fry or khao gaeng. Khai dao brings them all to an absolutely new level. Soft-boiled egg is called sai khao.

Goon chiang. Another typical addition to Thai street dish is goon chiang, a small Chinese sausage slightly sweet in taste. This is one of the things you either love or hate, no middle ground. But trying it at least once is a must.

Pad. Stir fried dishes are sort of a corner stone of Thai street food. You must have already noticed that menus in Thai eateries sometimes feature pretty weird things such as “fried basil” or “fried curry paste”. This is because most owners literally translate “pad” as “fried”, while the actual translation should be “stir fry with...”

Kuay tiew. As we have already told before, kuay tiew is an umbrella term for all sorts of noodle soups or similar noodle-based dishes. Later we'll tell you more about the vast variety noodles available. And for the most popular soups just follow this link.

Mai pet. One of the key phrases for a tourist in Thailand meaning “not spicy”. Just bear in mind that different food vendors understand “not spicy” differently as well. A “mai ped” papaya salad can still lead to dragon breath as the dish is spicy by default. Actually, in case of papaya salad it would be wise to tell the actual amount of chili peppers (most likely, one or two).

Ka ban. This is the one you'll definitely need. The phrase means to “take home” and this is just what you say when ordering takeaway. By the way, in Thailand absolutely everything can be taken “ka ban” – from meat skewers to soups.

Rat khao / Kab khao. How do you want your food served? Rat khao stands for “on rice” and means an individual dish served on a single plate all together, while kab khao means that the dishes are served or packed separately. In the later case the portions are usually bigger and presumed to be shared by several eaters. They price is higher accordingly.

RL Street Eater's tip: Don't hesitate to experiment. Trial and error is actually the only way to explore real Thai food and truly understand it.