Originally posted by stlouisguy
interesting thread. I love ethnic food, but have been turned off chinese-type cuisine by the proliferation of cut-rate; low quality chinese buffets, which seem to be everywhere. Never tried Thai food yet - how is it different than chinese?. Can anyone make any menu suggestions for a novice? What should I look for in a Thai restaurant?
After eating Thai food, you'll never go back to the Chinese restaurants that you mention. I will still go to a Chinese place and generally feel less than satisfied, as it seems almost boring. The difference is that while Chinese has some spicy dishes, Thai food has -seasoned- dishes that can be spicy. There is more flavor due to the usage of spices and herbs. Lemon grass, Thai basil, galangal, fish sauce, tamarind, coconut milk, chilies, and curry pastes are just some of the ingredients.
"As a P.O.W., they used to feed us a soup made of this stuff, but we can't make it to taste right..." Principal Skinner, THE SIMPSONS
Some basic suggestions would be to try the soup, Tom Ka Gai. I love the fish or shrimp cakes that are known as Tod Mun. Everybody who is a novice usually has Pad Thai, a noodle dish as their first introduction to this cuisine.
My favorite dish now is Pla Rad Prik, which is a whole fried fish topped with a spicy melange of peppers, onions, chilies and Thai basil. It is a great presentation which will cause other diners to check out what you are eating. When I am finished, I feel like Sylvester the cat after he wolfed down a whole fish, leaving just the bones and head.