Thai food has been our favorite type of food for at least 10 years. We absolutely love it! (Yes, Portland actually has fantastic Thai restaurants!)
I took my first Thai cooking class a few years ago (SO FUN with my friends Ashley and Mara) in Portland!
Since then Greg and I have taken two other classes in Thailand (one with our friends Mona & Derek).
And we’ve been to Thailand on vacation 4 times in the last 1 ½ years.
We are pretty confident that we know Thai food.
Except when we talk to Thai people…
They constantly remind us, we don’t eat REAL Thai food, and indeed we have never had REAL Thai food, even when we’re in Thailand!
At first we were just puzzled and didn’t let all the comments bother us. We would discuss, “We’re in Thailand and Thai people are cooking our food. How could we NOT be eating Thai food?”
Later, we started asking questions, “What do you mean we’re not eating Thai food.” The answer was always the same… They aren’t serving us Thai food like the locals eat because; we couldn’t HANDLE real Thai food!
If we were smart, we would just believe the local people. Especially since we heard the same comments from them over and over. Up north, “this isn’t REAL Thai food”. On the far eastern islands, “you don’t want REAL Thai food.” On the far western islands, “REAL Thai food Not for YOU.”
They all had a similar theme and guarantee. You won’t like real Thai food, not food prepared the way the Thai’s like it.
I’m not sure why, but the more people told us we wouldn’t like “real” Thai food. The more we wanted to try it!
So, at the end of my second dive day, Greg asked his snorkel guide who has lived in Ao Nang for years where to get a great local dinner.
She answered, Luck Yim, just down the street from the dive shop.We had many fabulous meals during our 9 days in the Krabi province. Many were fancy. But this was our clear favorite and the most memorable. Luck Yim was right next to the limestone cliffs in Ao Nang. It had a dirt floor, makeshift roof, grass woven walls, 8 wobbly bamboo tables with benches, light bulbs hanging from electrical cords and if the wind blew the wrong way there was a distinctly unpleasant odor. But, it didn’t matter, we loved it! After finding a table furthest from the outdoor toilets…we settled in and our waitress/cook/fish arranger brought us a menu in English/Thai.
First, I ordered my fish. My fish was straight from the sea, caught that day. The fish I ate was the same fish I saw arrive in a large bucket moments before we sat down. I watched her arrange them with care and dump ice over them. She told me to follow her to the display, and pick which one I wanted. When they were that fresh, I didn’t think it mattered so I told her, “cooks choice”. (Side note, it’s always a little weird for me to swim with the fish during the day then eat them that night. Is it possible that I was swimming with the fish I’m eating? I have stopped asking Greg this question, because his reply is always the same. You are probably not eating THE fish you swam with, you are probably just eating his cousin.)Then we flipped thru the menu and selected a few other dishes. I asked her about a certain curry on one page compared to a different curry on a different page. Her answer was, “Oh, you don’t want THAT curry (referring to the one on the second page) that one is for THAI people. In fact, that whole page is just for Thai people. You don’t want to order anything on it. This area (she flipped thru several pages) is the part of the menu you want to order from. It has food YOU’LL like.”
After 14 years with Greg, we can occasionally, if needed, have entire conversations with one look. We exchanged one of those looks. It said…
We are sick and tired of people telling us that we can’t handle real Thai food! We LOVE Thai food. Bring it on! It’s our FAVORITE! How does SHE know we can’t handle real Thai food! She just met us. She doesn’t know us. We can deal with it! We are READY!
I proceeded to order the “Thai” curry.
She clearly thought I had misunderstood her fantastic English. (It really was good.) She told me that one was WAY too spicy for us. And WAY too sour! We will not like it. It will taste BAD! That curry is just for Thais.
I replied, “We like spicy, especially Greg. We like sour too. We would like to try it the way the Thai’s like it.”
She told me that when they cook food for Thai’s they add 10 times the spice and fish sauce that they add for people like us.
Of course we’re not idiots, we were both starting to question our decision. But we exchanged another look, and although we are not stupid, we sure are stubborn! So, I nonchalantly replied, “We’ve heard that before. We’d like to try it.”
She assured me we wouldn’t like it.
I agreed with her that we might not like it, but we’d still like her to make it for us.
She walked away shaking her head.
My fish came first, it was AMAZING! Steamed snapper with limes, Thai chilies and ginger, it melted in my mouth! If you notice the sign, it was 200 Baht for the entire fish. That’s less than 6 USD.Then Greg got his curry.It wasn’t just spicy. It was fire in the hole…DUCK…take cover and run to the market to buy ALL their antacid. It was, watch out, don’t spill that on the table because it might burn thru it hot. It was crazy. Do people really eat this? Surely she’s playing a trick on us because we were being so ornery. Despite Greg’s conservative ratio of one part curry, 4 parts rice he was instantly crying and his nose was runny.
I managed one small bite and then happily went back to my spicy fish to cool down my mouth! Greg REALLY tried to eat as much as he could. But he barely made a dent in the bowl.
After a few minutes our waitress came to check on us. She noted the mostly full bowl of curry with a twinkle in her eye. She folded her arms, and even though she was shorter standing than Greg was sitting, she managed to look down on him in the smuggest of fashion and ask him how he liked the curry.
Of course she couldn’t feel the fire on Greg’s lips, tongue and throat. But she certainly could hear the sniffles and it was hard to blame his bright red face on the evening’s heat. He managed to mumble that it tasted great but it was pretty spicy…
Later when we were finished, after an obvious second and third round of drinks, she smiled and nearly chuckled when she saw the almost full “Thai” curry. I knew something else was going on. She had her own private joke.
So I asked her if she indeed made it “Thai” spicy like we had asked…
Her look of surprise that I had guessed her secret totally gave her away. And she just started to laugh. She confessed that my suspicions were correct; she didn’t even make it half as hot as the Thai’s like it! WHAT????
We all had a good laugh! I asked her if they even feed their spicy food to babies. She answered that they don’t feed them as hot of food as adults, but definitely hotter than what she gave us! It was really funny to think of kids eating up our crazy spicy curry and considering it mild and boring!
So, were we ready to try REAL Thai food? Absolutely! Will we ever order “Thai” spicy food again? Highly unlikely! Lastly, in case you’re inexperienced in the spicy food department, there’s one more thing you need to know. Spicy food comes out the other end hotter, even more concentrated and uncomfortable than it goes in, Poor Greg! (She warned us of that too. She said his rear end would be on fire later. She wasn’t wrong.)Thanks for the laughs Luck Yim! We’ll be back!