Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thai Street Food Challenge

One of the best things about living in Thailand is the food. It is not only delicious, but it is also plentiful and cheap. In fact, you can find it on almost any street corner at any time of day or night. I guess we are spoilt in Thailand in having such easy access to Thai food. After all, one meal in a Thai restaurant in say London, New York or Sydney would probably be the same as our weekly food budget. I know that is not really fair to compare as portion sizes in the West are far greater than what we get here. In addition, if you order say chicken curry in a London restaurant you are actually going to get a fair amount of meat. Here you will probably get a lot of bone and a bit of meat! Basically you get what you pay for.

As you probably know, I love to cook. So, I don't actually go out and buy street food that much. If I am going to eat green curry, I like to have a good amount of quality meat in it. If I am going to have stir-fried vegetables, I want to make sure that it isn't sweetened with a lot of sugar or "flavoured" with a tablespoon of MSG. I also like playing around with recipes mixing Thai and Western recipes to create my own innovations. It is fun. Cooking for myself also means that I can have more Western meals. Variety is always good I think. I don't live in Bangkok and we don't get much of a choice here in Samut Prakan.

One of the downsides to cooking at home is the cost. If you are buying quality ingredients or cooking Western meals then it is going to cost you more than the average meal bought on the street. Electricity is also expensive and my cooker and oven contribute greatly to my electricity bill. In the West we cook at home in order to save money. If we go out we might prepare sandwiches and a flask of hot soup. In Thailand, in theory, it is the opposite. I think a lot of us would say that it is actually cheaper to eat out every night. Of course, that doesn't mean dining at five star hotels every evening and drinking wine or beer. You can easily go through a lot of money that way.

Eating out for us is going to a local food shop or buying something from a food cart. Something that I don't do nearly enough. Which is what gave me the idea for this food challenge. I decided for one month that I would eat nothing but Thai street food. This would be three meals a day, seven days a week. I am not allowed to go to supermarkets, restaurants or even 7-Eleven. At home I cannot cook or even heat things up. I won't even be allowed to boil some water to make a cup of coffee. Quite a few Thai families don't have a working kitchen. Or if they do then it is just a single gas hob. What I want to see is if I will really save money by eating out for every meal. I have already made a note of how much I spend weekly at the supermarket and also the monthly average for my electricity bill.

To make it a bit more interesting, and certainly more challenging, I am not allowed to eat the same dish twice. Straight away this means I will be eating at least 90 different dishes in one month! I am not sure if that is even possible. In addition, I cannot return to the same food shop, food cart, stall or food vendor twice in the same week. To be honest, I am not sure how easy it is going to be for me. Breakfast is certainly going to be a challenge. My Soi doesn't sell much in the morning and I have to be at work by 7.15 a.m. So, I might have to do what many Thai people do and eat leftovers from the night before. Though, of course, for me it has to be something new bought the night before. I was never one for eating spicy food so early in the morning!

My Thai Street Food challenge starts on Wednesday 1st September 2010 and will last until the end of the month. I will also take notes about the kinds of places that are selling food. I will then write about my findings here at the end of the month. So, what do you reckon? Will it really be cheaper for me to eat out for every meal? Will I be saving money or will I just be putting on a lot of weight? Let's see!

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