Thai Desserts and Drinks
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Thai desserts, in general, use five base ingredients: coconut cream, coconut flesh, rice flour, palm sugar and eggs. Among the favourites are thong yip, a sweet egg yolk cup; foi thong, shredded, sweetened egg yolk, and tako, a jelly served with creamy coconut.
There are few countries that can offer such a range of fruits like Thailand. Its tropical climate and heavy rains in monsoon season mean that fruit is everywhere. The diversity of delicious fruity sweetness to be found is so vast and the cost so little, some health conscientious rebels decide to diet solely on fruit as an internal body cleansing exercise.
From the vibrant pinks of the dragon fruit to the prickly looking shells of the rambutan, photo opportunities are an added bonus to the already particular delight of fruit shopping in Thailand.
Tap water is usually not drinkable in Thailand. Bottled water (naam plao) is cheap and inexpensive at 5-10 baht a bottle, and drinking water served in restaurants is always at least boiled (naam tom).
Ice (naam kaeng) in Thailand usually comes packaged straight from the factory and is safe; there is only reason to worry if you are served hand-cut ice.
Coconut water (naam ma-phrao), iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut is a cheap and healthy way to cool the body - available at restaurants and also from vendors that specialize in fruit juice.
Fruit juices, freezes and milkshakes of all kinds are very popular with Thais and visitors alike. Most cafes and restaurants charge 20-40 baht.
One of Thailand's most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea (chaa yen, "cold tea"). Instantly identifiable thanks to its orange color, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial color) during the curing process.
The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk; asked for chaa dum yen to skip the milk.
Naam chaa and chaa jiin are weak and full-strength Chinese teas, often served in restaurants for free. Western-style black tea is chaa rawn 'hot tea'.
Coffee (kaafae) is also widely available, and is usually served with condensed milk and lots of sugar. Ask for kaafae toong to get traditional filtered "bag" coffee instead of instant.
The Starbucks phenomenon has also arrived in Thailand, but for the moment local competitors Black Canyon Coffee and S&P still have the edge in market share. These are the places to look for if you want that triple-mocha latte with hazelnut swirl and are willing to pay 100B for the privilege.
Thailand is the original home of the Red Bull brand energy drink — a licensed and re-branded version of Thailand's original Krating Daeng (meaning "Red Bull"), complete with the familiar logo of two bulls charging at each other. The Thai version, however, is syrupy sweet, uncarbonated and comes packaged in medicinal-looking brown glass bottles, as the target customers are not trendy clubbers, but Thailand's working class of construction workers and bus drivers in need of a pick-me-up.
Krating Daeng and its many competitors (including Shark, .357, the popular amongst locals M150 and the inevitable Karabao Daeng, "Red Buffalo") are available in any convenience stores for 10 baht a bottle.
Drinking alcohol in Thailand, is actually comparatively expensive — but still very affordable by Western standards.
Thai whisky (laew) refers to a number of distilled rice liquors, the best known being the infamous Mee Khong ("Mekong") brand and its competitor Saeng Som. Although it is called Thai whisky it is actually a rum. The only resemblances to whisky are the brown color and high alcohol content, and indeed many people liken the smell to nail polish remover, but the somewhat rum-like taste is not quite as bad, especially when diluted with cola or tonic water. Thai people usually drink Thai whiskey with soda water and ice.
This is also by far the cheapest way to get blotto, as a pocket flask of the stuff (available in any convenience store or supermarket) costs only around 50 baht. In areas such as, Khao San road area in Bangkok, Patong in Phuket and Pattaya, it is quite common to see tourists sharing a small bucket with Thai whiskey, ice and a mixer, with a straw for each person drinking.
If you want to drink the same as the locals, order laew Khao (white whiskey) or laew daeng (red whiskey) both of these are Chinese and very popular. Usually mixed with M150 the health drink creating a potent mixture sure to slur your speech and put a glow on your face. Both of these whiskeys are usually only available at mini marts.
Out in the countryside many villages distil their own moonshine (laew theuan), which is strictly speaking illegal, but nobody seems to mind very much. Especially when hill-tribe trekking in the North you're likely to be invited to sample some, and it's polite to at least take a sip.
Thai Beer (bia) is a bit of an upmarket drink in Thailand, with the price of a small bottle between 50 and 100 baht in most pubs, bars and restaurants, local stores charge around 35 to 80 baht for a large bottle.
The largest brands are Singha (pronounced just Sing) and locally brewed Chang and Hieneken, but there is an ever-changing palette of competitors including, Kloster, Tiger and Leo.
Thais like their lagers with relatively high alcohol content (around 6%), so the beer here may pack more of a punch than you are used to.
Imported liquors, wines and beers are widely available but prohibitively priced for the average Thai. A shot of any brand-name liquor is at least 100 baht, a pint of Guinness will set you back at least 200 baht and, thanks to a 340% tax, even the cheapest bottle of wine will set you back over 500 baht.
Note that, in cheaper bars (especially the go-go kind), the content of that familiar bottle of Jack Daniels may be something entirely different to what you are used too.
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