Ordering food in Thai is a very necessary skill that you need to learn when visiting. Thai food is amongst the most popular in the world – and for good reason. There are so many flavors and tastes that make up the cuisine in Thailand, so there is a lot of variety. There is the spicy, the sweet, the savoury, and the sour. Together, they make some of the best dishes you will ever try.
While many restaurants in tourist areas will likely understand English to an extent, learning the Thai words and phrases will really open up more opportunity to try the local cuisine in a more authentic and likely cheaper way. So here are some important words and phrases you need to know when you go to eat in Thailand.
The Food Culture of Thailand
Did you know that some local Thai apartments do not have a kitchen or ’khraw’ (ครัว) as they are known in Thai? This just goes to show how popular the street food and eating out culture is in Thailand. It is because food is tasty and inexpensive, especially if you know where to eat and what to order.
However, as good as eating out can be, it does mean that you no longer have control on the ingredients. Sometimes, you may want to cut down on things, or even add more of something. Thankfully, you can learn a few phrases to let the chef know what you want.
Here are the words for some of the flavors.
Khem (เค็ม) – Salty
Waan (หวาน) – Sweet
Ped (เผ็ด) – Spicy
To say you want a little bit of something, you can use ‘nit noi’ (นิดหน่อย).
Ped nit noi (เผ็ดนิดหน่อย) – A bit spicy
If you want a lot of something, you can use ‘mak’ (มาก).
Ped mak (เผ็ดมาก) – Very spicy
or you could even say:
Ped mak mak (เผ็ดมากมาก) – Very very spicy
Thai people love their food spicy so, if you really want to make sure you don’t get any spiciness, you can use ‘mai sai’ (ไม่ใส่) to let them know not to put something in the food.
Mai sai prik (ไม่ใส่พริก) – Do not put chilli
Mai sai keluer (ไม่ใส่เกลือ) – Do not put salt
Ordering Food in Thai
If you go to a restaurant or somewhere that has a menu, you can ask for it by saying ‘kho duu menuu (khrap/ka)’ (ขอดูเมนู(ค่ะ/ครับ)).
While we have looked into reading the Thai language, it may take some time before we are fluent enough to read menus. If that is the case, it is best to look and see what ingredients they have in their cart. However, if you want to order something from a street food stand and it is not obvious if they have something, you can ask a simple question:
Excuse me. Do you have sticky rice?
Kho thot (ka/khrap). Mii khao niao mai (ka/khrap)?
If the answer is yes, they you can say:
I want sticky rice
Chan yak dai khao niao (ka/khrap)
Of course, you will need to know the Thai word for what you want to eat, so make sure you practise your food vocabulary. Otherwise, these phrases are quick and easy to remember and will be very helpful when trying Thai food.
Also, don’t forget to learn the Thai numbers. It will make paying for your food much less of a hassle. In a restaurant, you can ask for the check by saying ‘keb ngern duai’ (เก็บเงินด้วย) or ‘the check, please’.
Learning the Language of Food
Many people come to visit Thailand for the food alone. It is obvious why – lots of fresh, tropical fruits, unique flavours, and famous dishes make Thailand an important stop for anyone who loves to eat. Being able to walk down almost any street and find something new to try never really gets old. Now, armed with these words and phrases, ordering food should be much easier.
To improve your vocabulary and test your skills further, try the Ling Thai app. It is the ideal way to prepare for your next trip to Thailand and a great way to pass the time until you visit and eat the best pad Thai you have ever tasted.