If you’re a foodie like me, Thailand is the most wondrous experience on earth for its fresh ingredients, pungent flavors, and fine balance of herbs and spices – but you don’t have to be a grown-up to enjoy it, because their food is for everyone.
Although chillies feature predominantly in a lot of their meals, if your little ones are sensitive to a bit of heat try some of the following mellow Thai specialities, or use your excellent Thai language skills and ask for the dishes to be mai pet (not spicy).
If your kids like a bit of spice, congratulations, but just a heads up, a general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli the hotter it is. Try not to let it touch their lips as this can be a hotter sensation, and if the little petal’s mouths do catch fire the best solution is sugar.
Of course, the flavors and spiciness also depends on which region of Thailand you’re in as they are heavily influenced by their neighbors, so if you’re north there will be similarities with Chinese food, to the east you’ll get a sense of Vietnam, and down south you’ll find notes of Indonesia and Malaysia.
1. Jok – or not
There is no such thing as a typical breakfast food in Thailand, and definitely not one that you’d recognize – in fact they tend to eat leftovers from the night before, or miss the first meal of the day altogether.
One popular dish from morning to night is jok – a sort of boiled rice broth a bit like porridge, served with meats and herbs and spices – but I can’t see the little ones going for that, so the best bet is buy your own from a local supermarket. Most will stock foods that the kids will recognize as cereal or toast and jams.
Of course, you could kick-start their day with a patongo, basically a deep fried Thai donut served with a sweet custard – a breakfast of champions!
3. Tom Yum Soup
The aim of all Thai meals is to get the perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy, and this fragrant broth is the perfect example of that – the balance should be so good that it doesn’t taste too hot either.
4. Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce
One of my earliest food memories is eating chicken satay sticks with peanut sauce at a night market in Singapore, and I still have all the senses of that hot evening in my memory bank, and they will never be withdrawn.
Although this skewered grilled meat dish is originally from Indonesia, it has been adopted by most of South East Asia, and Thailand is no exception – once your little one has tried this, they’ll never look at KFC the same way again!
5. Fried Rice and Noodles
Wherever you go in Thailand there are going to be variations on fried rice and noodle dishes, and depending on your kid’s tastes, there’ll be something for everyone. Whether it be shrimps, crab, vegetarian, chicken, pork, or just plain egg, this fast food equivalent is a sure fire crowd pleaser!
6. Sticky Rice
While we’re talking rice, the kids will probably really get into the idea of sticky rice too. Introduced by the Chinese, this dish is so sticky that it can’t be eaten with utensils so it’s picked up in the right hand, and used to scoop sauces, meats, or vegetables into your mouth – filling, flavorsome, and fun!
7. Pad Thai
Pad Thai aka Thai Spaghetti is basically the national dish of Thailand, and is constantly voted in the top ten of the World’s Most Delicious Dishes – and for good reason too.
How can you go wrong with noodles, eggs, garlic, shrimps, fish sauce, peanuts, coriander, and lime juice – unless your little darlings have allergies, then it’s not recommended!
8. Massaman Curry
This curry is actually considered as the ‘children’s curry’ in Thailand as it’s generally a lot milder than the other popular curries, and is more of a creamy, peanut and fruit flavoured base – which is more likely to appeal to the younger ones in the mix.
Because of its location and climate, Thailand is blessed with an abundance of beautiful, tasty, and exotic fruits, and you’ll find them everywhere. Although they are exported to Western markets, they are quite a luxury, and your kids will love opening them up and seeing what’s inside – not to mention eating them. The best is the Durian, which is super tasty – but super smelly too… such fun!
Although children are more than welcome in food establishments in Thailand, they’re unlikely to have high chairs or cutlery and plates with them in mind, so either make do with what they have, or bring your own.
There are so many more dishes that are child-friendly, and it may be hit and miss occasionally, but if they don’t like it, I guarantee you will! Make sure to check out some of these useful phrases before you head off on the trip of a lifetime!