After being in Khon Kaen for over 3 months, I think I can finally write about the food here and do it justice. Before I came to Thailand, the only Thai food that I had tried was pad Thai. That was only one time and about a month before I left. People who had traveled to Thailand before told me that the food here is delicious. While that is true, Isaan region (where Khon Kaen is) food is in its own league. It is SPICY. I quickly learned in the first few days here to say “mai pet” (no spice) and more recently “nid noi pet” (a little spice). Progress! Not only is the food great in Khon Kaen but it’s easy to find a meal for less than 30 baht (1 USD).
Most of the Thai restaurants and markets here serve variations of the same thing. A common option is a scoop of rice with stir-fried vegetables, a fried egg and pork or chicken. Thais generally eat pork over chicken. A restaurant across from my apartment, “Tbar” has one of my favorite meals to eat. It’s just chicken, rice, vegetables and some delicious sauce.
If you don’t get something with rice then the base is probably noodles. There are a lot of different places that serve simple soups with ramen or rice noodles, some greens and chicken or pork. Another noodle dish is “suki”, which has glass noodles, cooked with egg, vegetables and some type of meat or seafood. Of course, there is pad Thai, one of the most common Thai dishes to foreigners. It’s one of my favorite dishes to get here and over the first few weeks I found the place to get it; a vendor at the Khon Kaen University night market.
Eating lots of white rice or noodles can get boring at times so after exploring different restaurants and the night market, I’ve found options for something lighter. There’s a vendor at the night market that has a salad bar, a restaurant that has a dish with chicken, jasmine rice and a small salad and there’s street food vendors everywhere that sell skewers. Other common Thai dishes that don’t fall into the noodle or rice category are Thai green curry and sum tom (papaya salad). Som tum is a very spice dish made with papaya, tomatoes, beans and peanuts.
Last but not least, I’ve noticed that Thai people really know how to satisfy a sweet tooth. There are dozens of cafes within walking distance of my apartment that are usually open past midnight. It’s where you’ll find most KKU students studying after class and at night. The menu isn’t like a typical cafe in the U.S. The coffee has loads of sugar and cream, there are pages of other sugary drinks (Thai tea, bubble tea) and the other half of the menu is dessert. Honey toast, waffles, brownies, cakes; these cafes have it all. I try to avoid doing work here but once in while we’ll go treat ourselves and get honey toast, a thick, sweetened piece of bread with ice cream, whipped cream, honey and fruit. A healthier option for something sweet are the fruit stands. A bag of fresh fruit – pineapple, mango, guava, watermelon, dragon fruit or papaya – for 20 baht. It’s my favorite snack in Khon Kaen.