Thai Table Manners

Saigraub-Northern
A Northern Thai lunch of sausage & egg (Thai chorizo) with fiery chiles, peanuts, and garlic. A side dish (back plate) of black mushrooms with chile sauce. Passion fruit juice to drink.

Put away your chopsticks and get a spoon and fork. Now, you’re ready to eat Thai food.

Thais commonly eat with a spoon and fork, especially when eating Thai food. They don’t normally use chopsticks. But, Thais will use chop sticks when they eat the many varieties of Thai noodle soups.

With Thai food, the spoon is used to bring food to your mouth. The fork is used to push and put food onto your spoon. Any cutting of meat is done before the food is served. Thais may also use the spoon to cut soft stuff like chicken or tofu into bite-sized pieces.

I often get into trouble at the Thai dinner table because I frequently eat with my hands. I’m American and hands are an eating utensil. But Thai people think the practice of eating with your hands is somewhat barbaric. The great exception to this is sticky rice. Sticky rice is a wonderfully glutenous rice that…well…sticks together. Thais eat it with their hands. (Much more on sticky rice later. I’ll devote an entire chapter to it.)

Thai food is served family style. And of course rice is omni-present. I often eat dinner with no rice, and my wife’s family and freinds think it quite odd. Anyway, help yourself to all the rice you’d like. Pile your plate high if you so want. But with the Thai Food, only take a small amount and eat that and then move to another item. That’s how Thai people generally eat. Piling your plate high with the different Thai foods all at once, like you’re at Home Town Buffet, is frowned upon.  Have as many portions as you like; just make them small portions.

Odds & Ends: Nobody in Thailand has gotten word that it’s rude to speak on a cell phone at the dinner table. Thais don’t dine alone by choice. Try not to leave any uneaten rice on your plate. Alcohol flows freely at dinner. If you show outward enjoyment of a certain Thai dish, Thais will order more for you without asking. Thais like to watch you eat-get used to it. Thais very much want you to try and enjoy their food.

Back to the fork &  spoon. When you’ve finished eating, put your spoon and fork together on you plate. That says clearly in Thai that you’ve finished dinner.  Now, go get some Thai food and eat in a civilized manner.

Table-Manners-1
Northern Thai food and its presentation. Dinner with friends in Chiang Mai.

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