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Blazing Through Bangkok's Spicy Side

Updated on November 15, 2014

Hot & Spicy Thai Food

My two passions in life are traveling and eating so when I recently went on holiday to Thailand, I couldn't get there fast enough!

Not only do I love food, Thai food happens to be one of my favorite world cuisines. I find the complex tastes of salty, sour, sweet and spicy appealing and excites my taste buds like nothing else can.

If you're not a fan of spicy-hot food, there are many options for you as well. But for me, a Thai spread without at least one fiery dish feels like there's something missing, somehow incomplete. I'll take a Som Tum Salad over a plain salad of leafy greens any day.

Come on a culinary journey with me as I brave my way through everything that's spicy in Bangkok.

*Photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.

Thai Cuisine at Home

Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand

A guide to authentic Thai cooking from the chef and owner of the popular Pok Pok restaurants. He shares his most popular recipes from Thailand and his restaurants-ranging from Som Tam Thai ( papaya salad ) to Khao Soi Kai ( Curry Noodle Soup with chicken ). More than just a collection of recipes, this book is a master course in Thai cooking from one of the most passionate authorities on the subject.

 
som tum thai papaya salad
som tum thai papaya salad

Som Tam and Other Evil Dishes

For one week, I feasted on some of the best foods I've eaten in my life and that meant a whole lot of chilies in my stomach. As I alternated with less spicy meals and sweet Thai Milk Teas in between, I tried my best to eat like the locals.

One of my favorite Thai dishes has to be Som Tam, a spicy salad made with sliced green papaya, raw green beans, cherry tomatoes, nuts, dried shrimp, chilies and lime.

It's refreshing, unbelievably delicious and one of the spiciest dishes you can eat in Thailand. Som Tum is usually eaten with sticky rice and paired with some Gai Yang to make the meal more substantial.

Check out this great recipe for Gai Yang at Mark Wien's terrific Thai Food Blog.

Bangkok is famous for their terrific food courts, which lets you sample a variety of local Thai cuisine in air-conditioned comfort. You can have a pretty good meal including a drink for less than $5 US. The price for an entrée usually cost between 40 Baht ( approximately $1.20 US ) to 100 Baht ( approximately $3 US ). And although food on the streets are cheaper, I find that eating spicy food in intense humidity wears me out too quickly.

The Spicy Food Collection

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Plate of steamed grain rice, ginger chicken and a spicy eggplant dish. A great way to get my stomach accustomed to the spices.Spicy green mango salad with herbs. Goop, refreshing and made me sweat like a pig.Deep fried whole fish with spicy papaya salad. The oils in the fish tempered the flames of the chili. Delicious.Spicy meatballs with deep-fried basil leaves and chilis. This was probably one of the spiciest dish we tried.My favorite Thai comfort food. Khao Phad Gaprao. Stir-fried ground meat with holy basil and chili and a fried egg over rice.A plate of rice with spicy green beans stirp-fry and an even spicier chicken dish. My friend started tearing up after his first bite!Equally spicy stir-fried ground beef and a fiery-hot bamboo-shoots dish with rice. I love these flavors but they were so spicy!Deep-fried fish with fresh lime, peanuts, onions, ginger, lettuce leaves and rice noodles with spicy sauce. See next photo on how to eat it.All ingredients are rolled into a lettuce leaf. With the super-tart lime pieces, raw ginger and chili, this was pleasantly intense.Som Tum, one of the spiciest Thai dishes around. Fresh papaya with chili and other spices. This is one dish I can't live without.
Plate of steamed grain rice, ginger chicken and a spicy eggplant dish. A great way to get my stomach accustomed to the spices.
Plate of steamed grain rice, ginger chicken and a spicy eggplant dish. A great way to get my stomach accustomed to the spices.
Spicy green mango salad with herbs. Goop, refreshing and made me sweat like a pig.
Spicy green mango salad with herbs. Goop, refreshing and made me sweat like a pig.
Deep fried whole fish with spicy papaya salad. The oils in the fish tempered the flames of the chili. Delicious.
Deep fried whole fish with spicy papaya salad. The oils in the fish tempered the flames of the chili. Delicious.
Spicy meatballs with deep-fried basil leaves and chilis. This was probably one of the spiciest dish we tried.
Spicy meatballs with deep-fried basil leaves and chilis. This was probably one of the spiciest dish we tried.
My favorite Thai comfort food. Khao Phad Gaprao. Stir-fried ground meat with holy basil and chili and a fried egg over rice.
My favorite Thai comfort food. Khao Phad Gaprao. Stir-fried ground meat with holy basil and chili and a fried egg over rice.
A plate of rice with spicy green beans stirp-fry and an even spicier chicken dish. My friend started tearing up after his first bite!
A plate of rice with spicy green beans stirp-fry and an even spicier chicken dish. My friend started tearing up after his first bite!
Equally spicy stir-fried ground beef and a fiery-hot bamboo-shoots dish with rice. I love these flavors but they were so spicy!
Equally spicy stir-fried ground beef and a fiery-hot bamboo-shoots dish with rice. I love these flavors but they were so spicy!
Deep-fried fish with fresh lime, peanuts, onions, ginger, lettuce leaves and rice noodles with spicy sauce. See next photo on how to eat it.
Deep-fried fish with fresh lime, peanuts, onions, ginger, lettuce leaves and rice noodles with spicy sauce. See next photo on how to eat it.
All ingredients are rolled into a lettuce leaf. With the super-tart lime pieces, raw ginger and chili, this was pleasantly intense.
All ingredients are rolled into a lettuce leaf. With the super-tart lime pieces, raw ginger and chili, this was pleasantly intense.
Som Tum, one of the spiciest Thai dishes around. Fresh papaya with chili and other spices. This is one dish I can't live without.
Som Tum, one of the spiciest Thai dishes around. Fresh papaya with chili and other spices. This is one dish I can't live without.
thai green curry
thai green curry

Aromatic Curries and Spicy Soups

Curries and soups also make up a large part of the Thai meal and they are the highlight of any Thai holiday. A Thai meal should always be about balance of flavors and textures that enhance and compliment each other.

For instance you could choose a soup or a curry ( but usually not both as they are both similar in consistency ) to complement a few other dishes. With curries or soups, you would almost always choose plain rice over fried rice, which is usually eaten by itself.

A bowl of soup or curry would complement a refreshing salad, followed by a deep-fried dish, a savory stir-fried dish and some steamed rice. Desserts are usually fresh fruit but most often, not necessary. Of course that's if you're anyone else but me. After each meal I always made sure I got myself something sweet to keep me happy.

Curries and Soups

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Green Curry with Jasmine RiceRed Curry with Thai sausages, raw vegetables, spicy chili dip and sticky rice.Tom Yum Soup with Rice Noodles and Fish BallsTom Ka Gai-spicy and sour chicken soup with creamy coconut milk.Stir-fried Beef in Red Curry Sauce
Green Curry with Jasmine Rice
Green Curry with Jasmine Rice
Red Curry with Thai sausages, raw vegetables, spicy chili dip and sticky rice.
Red Curry with Thai sausages, raw vegetables, spicy chili dip and sticky rice.
Tom Yum Soup with Rice Noodles and Fish Balls
Tom Yum Soup with Rice Noodles and Fish Balls
Tom Ka Gai-spicy and sour chicken soup with creamy coconut milk.
Tom Ka Gai-spicy and sour chicken soup with creamy coconut milk.
Stir-fried Beef in Red Curry Sauce
Stir-fried Beef in Red Curry Sauce

So Tell Me...

Do you prefer your food to be spicy or mild?

See results
Thai desserts
Thai desserts

A Few Pounds Heavier But So Much Happier

Unfortunately for people with sensitive stomachs like myself, spicy food can do all sorts of funny stuff to your body. There were a couple of days where I literally writhed in pain as I found myself running to the nearest toilet in the middle of shopping for some Thai silk. Other days, I managed to get away with minor discomfort. Having said that, I didn't have to resort to taking meds and the extra spice somehow invigorated my senses.

Even though I've focused on spicy foods here, I did manage eat many non-spicy meals during my week-long food frenzy. As mentioned above, I love my desserts and I made sure I got my fill of everything sweet. From decadent cakes to traditional Thai sweets-the sweetest mangoes to a bowl of ice cream that made me weep with joy, I ate, devoured and savored until the last minute of my food holiday. Needless to say, I came back from my holiday a few pounds heavier.

Bangkok never fails to amaze and excite me. With so many wonderful sights to see and the variety of things to do, I never manage to do it all on one single trip. And although I've made more than a couple dozen trips to this exotic city, I have yet to experience everything this diverse, exotic and chaotic city has to offer.

Let Me Know You Stopped By

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    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 

      4 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      I miss going to Thailand. Hope to do so someday and try some of those spicy dishes !

    • topclimb lm profile image

      topclimb lm 

      4 years ago

      So many great foods and so little time... This is a great lens. You are a gifted writer; I enjoy your lenses very much.

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @ecogranny: Ohh Grace Som Tam is the ultimate Thai salad and dish

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Nancy Hardin: Thanks so much Nancy. A book is definitely in the making. ;)

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Merrci: Actually I'm about to release a free collection of recipes from Squidoo on my blog! Thanks always for your support Merrci. I do appreciate it.

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @TanoCalvenoa: If a restaurant offer spicy level, I usually go for somewhere near the top but not all my friends can handle the spicyness.

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @VinnWong: Thanks Vinny

    • smine27 profile imageAUTHOR

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Ruthi: Thanks Ruthi for stopping by. I am just recovering from all the spice.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      Smine, I do enjoy a bit of spice in a dish now and then, but neither my mouth nor my tummy can take quantities you suggest here any longer. : ) That som tam, with its tomatoes, papaya and lime makes my mouth water. I'd just have to risk angering the chef by asking her or him to hold the shrimp and the pepper. You have such wonderful adventures. Keep enjoying life!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I agree with Merrci's comment below. A book of travels through the foods you enjoy would go over big. You always delight me with your stories, the places you visit, and the foods you experience. I'm sure you have plenty of material for a book. I love spicy foods, but I like to balance them on my plate with other things that aren't spicy, because otherwise it's just too much. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Always such a pleasure to read your work.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      You must be about ready to publish a book Smine27. Your photos and the stories of your food adventures are so enjoyable for all of us traveling along. Many of these dishes even look very spicy, but delicious. The trip sounds like a delight! Glad you are home safely.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 

      4 years ago

      I haven't had a lot of Thai food, but what I've had was extremely good. I like spicy, but can't handle the very hottest stuff. Occasionally I get a dish (Indian or whatever) that's just too hot.

    • VinnWong profile image

      VinnWong 

      4 years ago

      This is a wonderful introduction to Thai food, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that gets intense stomach pains after a super hot and spicy meal!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 

      4 years ago

      I think I'd have to stay away from the fiery side of Thai food, but everything looks and sounds quite interesting and delicious.

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