Strictly Off Menu: What Not to Eat in Thailand
The Land of Smiles is also the land of incredible food. Every corner you turn presents another opportunity for a tasty experience. But not everything is as appetizing as it may first seem. In this article, we go over some controversial dishes: what not to eat in Thailand.
Food is everywhere in Thailand. Street food, food courts, endless restaurants and sprawling night markets. The options are unlimited and the cuisine delectable. That said, there are certain Thai dishes that you’ll want to keep away from. Some of them are simply not good for your health, others might present an ethical or environmental issue that you’d likely want to avoid. Don’t be put off by this list, Thailand is famous for its food for a reason. 99% of it is simply amazing but keep an eye out for anything on this list!
From a distance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this appears to be a tasty looking chili or tomato style soup. That, unfortunately, is where you’re wrong. The deep red color comes from the main ingredient. Not tomato. Not chili. It’s raw pig’s blood. The uncooked blood is mixed with spices and other pieces of offal which is then poured over noodles. Locals deem it to be a delicacy but for Westerners the likelihood is a bacterial infection of some kind or worse. Uncooked blood can carry all kinds of disease. It’s just not worth the risk.
Larb Leuat Neua
Larb is particularly popular in the North of Thailand, especially near Laos where it is the national dish. A well cooked Larb contains minced chicken or pork with lots of mint, spices and chili. It is a fiery treat that is incredibly tasty and best complemented with sticky rice. That said, the Leuat Neua variant is best skipped. This style is made with raw beef with a big dose of raw blood. Simply because of these two ingredients the risk of food poisoning skyrockets, plus the possibility of the issues and infections we mentioned above.
Shark Fin Soup
Not a Thai specialty of such, but popular in coastal Thai-Chinese restaurants. The hunting of sharks for their fins has lead to widespread population decreases and has caused some species to become endangered. The actual fin is almost completely tasteless and the ingredient is used in place of gelatin to create an almost jelly-like texture. Unfortunately, the rest of the animal is usually discarded as there isn’t a large market for the rest of the meat therefore it is not only unethical but also extremely wasteful.
Decorative Vegetables and Fruit
Order a dish in a restaurant and you’ll likely be presented with a beautifully carved vegetable alongside your meal. They can be carved with intricate patterns, into flower shapes or turned into ribbons and bows. On the surface they seem harmless, after all you would rarely get sick from eating vegetables, but the issue isn’t with the food stuff itself.
These garnishes take a long time to make and require a great deal of handling. Chances are that they aren’t freshly made for every dish. There’s the possibility that they may have been reused and may have been handled by any number of people or been on a few plates before yours. It might seem paranoid but better safe than sorry!
Food Safety in Thailand
The majority of the time, food safety in Thailand comes down to common sense as you would anywhere else in the world. You’re far more likely to get sick from consuming local water. Be sure to always drink bottled water, check that ice is purified and you shouldn’t have any issues. If you do find yourself sick, keep yourself hydrated and rest up!