What Can a Westerner Eat in a Thai Village?

What can a westerner eat in a Thai village is a question which has a very simple answer, whatever the Thais are eating. That’s okay if you have a liking for Thai food which in my experience of Thai village life is basically a meat or fish dish cooked with vegetables or noodles and heavily accented with a mix of herbs and red-hot bird’s eye chillis

A typical Thai village meal is complimented with sticky rice, fresh vegetables, salad, pastes and sauces which ring the main dish or dishes. Delicious food, but cuisine which is all too often a bit too spicy for many of us and a reason which I’m sure puts off many westerners from planting their roots in a rural village for a week or two. The answer to their issue of what to eat is a simple one, and one which takes only a bit of effort and a relatively small amount of money to correct.

Investing in an electric pop-up toaster and a microwave as well as making use of the standard portable gas ring cooker which most village households have will make your rural stay and diet a lot more comfortable. A trip to one of the big city supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus will enable you to buy a toaster and microwave, and western food supplies too.

What Can a Westerner Eat in a Thai Village?

An electric toaster is relatively cheap to buy (250- 400 baht) and is useful any time of the day. Beans, jam or eggs on toast make a quick fix snack and an inexpensive one as well.

A sandwich toaster is another reasonably priced item and very handy for making brunch or a light lunch nibble. Always check the plugs attached to electrical items because some are three-pin and you will need an adapter to plug into Thailand’s two-pin electrical sockets.

A microwave is perfect for pies, pastries, soups and ready made meals and frying some French fries in a wok or boiling potatoes in a pot opens a big food avenue to you. But do try to eat with your Thai hosts sometimes so as not to cause offence. Not every Thai meal is spicy and laced with red chillis……the occasional dish is not.

Superstores like Tesco Lotus and Big C do stock a wide range of western food but for things like pies, burgers and good quality bacon it’s sometimes wise to check out western bars because many sell such items and they are tailored to western tastes. However on one jaunt to Tesco Lotus I picked up an electric barbecue grill which is perfect for cooking in the garden.

The barbecue grill was reduced from 1,800 baht to a bargain 1,200 ($40 or £24) and is ideal for grilling steaks, sizzling sausages and bacon, and also for making one of my favourite bites…..cheeseburgers. Take a look at these two beauties which would fittingly adorn any men only magazine’s front cover.

A westerner can eat whatever they want in a Thai village and really shouldn’t be discouraged from enjoying the enchantment and charm that village life holds because of their belief that meal times will be red chillis, rice and runs.

Below are some more photographs which will hopefully convince a few farang that the answer to what can a westerner eat in a Thai village is anything you want. You just need to input a small amount of money, some effort, and trust me you’ll soon pile on the pounds.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

25 Responses

  1. MeMock says:

    That grill (and burgers) looks like a good deal!

    I tend to join the in-laws for at least one, sometime two, meals a day but at least once a day I like to cook something for myself.

    I am looking to buy one of those + a small coffee machine and grinder and a bread machine. Have you ever seen these for sale in Thailand?

  2. Martyn says:

    Andrew – I must admit it’s rare I join the family at meal times, occasionally but not too often as they know I like my western food and my grub served on a plate.

    I haven’t seen a coffee or bread machine before but after a dig into Google I came up with this Thai company which sells bread making machines and no doubt coffee grinders too.


    You’ll need to Google Translate the page and the breadmaker costs 3,990 baht.

  3. Catherine says:

    Martyn, you are making me hungry! lol… I noticed that McD’s now have Egg McMuffin’s on the menue (don’t laugh, but my housekeeper loves McDonalds). So if you have a McD’s in your town (and a lot do now), Ronald delivers.

  4. Martyn says:

    Catherine there is not a McDonalds anywhere near to Wilai’s village. The nearest I know of is in Udon Thani city some 65 clicks away. Nong Khai is nearer but I don’t know if they have one.

    I’m not mad about McD’s, I think stand alone burger stalls are far more tastier and they’ll burn the onions on request for you too. I much prefer KFC chicken to a McD’s burger.

  5. DanPloy says:

    Martyn, How can you prefer beans on toast to moo pad bai krapow. You are going to have to train your palate whilst in the UK. Do you eat Indian or Mexican food. If so, why not work your way up from Korma to Phal. Spread mustard on everything, and Colmans, not that gay American goo. Eat raw spring onions or picked onions. And bring up your garlic levels so anyone within 2 metres faints.

    Not only are you missing out on culinary treats but you are spending a fortune on imported foods when you have a magnificent garden spread out around you. Other benefits are, if you can eat the same spicy levels as the Thais, (and I know quite a few Thais who also don’t like really spicy food), you become a mini-celebrity, (“a farang who can eat spicy food”), at friend’s houses and in restaurants. Thai men are in awe of you and beautiful Thai women will pleasure you in any way you wish, (the latter two may be slight exaggerations).

    Nothing brings you closer to Thais than sharing (and enjoying) their food.

  6. Martyn says:

    DanPloy – Thanks for your excellent comment and advice on retraining my taste buds….here we go…

    In view of the charges the defence would like to call…..

    I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth……

    I do like some of the milder Thai dishes, I’d even go as far as to say that a Thai green curry is one of my favourite dishes of all and I’ve never even contemplated putting tomato sauce in it……Khao Soi is even better.

    I do like Indian curries, although I prefer them not to be too hot.

    Spring and pickled onions I love….I absolutely detest the smell of garlic on anyone’s breath and can’t stand the smell of it when it’s cooking.

    ‘If you can eat the same spicy levels as the Thais’….I can nibble at a really potent som tum and actually like the taste….or should that be burn.

    Chiang Mai would be a great place for me to set up home….lots of quality potatoes.

    You are right about enjoying a meal with Thais and it bringing you closer to them. I just don’t like the thought of the cow herdsman sitting down with unwashed hands and picking from the same plate as me.

    Wilai likes beans on toast….will that help to reduce my sentence.

  7. Mike says:

    Martyn as always that bought a smile to my lips. I rarely ate Western when I lived in LOS, but I don’t really like spicy(very hot) food. Took a while, but since it is generally a Thai misconception that foreigners can’t eat spicy food, I found plenty of outlets that would tailor the dishes more to my taste.

    Got to agree with Dan about sharing, eating together is a big thing in LOS as you know, I’m sure you could share your beans on toast with the mother in law 😉

  8. Martyn says:

    Mike – In the past I have tried sharing western food with the family. Two years ago I brought over a jar of red chilli pickled onions (well wrapped) but they were basically bitten and discarded. It’s the same with many things I’ve tried before, in a nutshell, they like their food and I like mine. The thing that does bother me is that two of the dogs adore cheese, and that’s a priceless commodity in Thailand.

    As for Wilai, she’s beginning to like western food more and more.

  9. Lawrence says:

    Hi Martyn, personally I love chilli hot food, always have done. Some things I just can’t eat without it so I usually have to ask for the prik nam plaa in cafes, noodle shops etc. When we are in Exeter we eat Thai 4-5 days a week.

    What has made a big difference to me lately is having a bread machine, as Memock suggests. (I used to buy his bread when he was at Peppers, and before we got the machine.) But a Thai friend bought it in Bangkok for us, I’ve never seen one in Ubon.

    And what’s with this coy so-English birds-eye chillis? I much prefer the mouse droppings variety.

  10. Martyn says:

    Lawrence – How does the food in Exeter’s Thai restaurants compare to the real McCoy back in Phana?

    When or if I ever do make it to Thailand full time then a bread making machine would be high on my list of things I’d want. I’d also want a pie making machine as well and they’re quite cheap here in the UK.

    I thought bird’s eye and rat droppings chillis were one and the same.

  11. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I don’t eat McD’s burgers (they have the consistency of glue) but in my younger years I’d go out partying and finish up the night with an early morning McD’s Egg McMuffin and sausage. The grease and the high salt content all helped with hangover recovery (try it sometimes).

    Same as Lawrence, I’m a hot and spicy gal. If it doesn’t come with chilies then it’s not worth eating. I do like the little Thai chilies (mouse droppings) but I need variety. Jalapeños in a jar are naff (soggy and tasteless) so when Villa market started getting jalapeños in the veg section I started pickling. I grab about four packs, whack their bums off, and shove them into a large jar with salt and vinegar. Some jalapeños are mild but it all depends upon how they are grown. If it’s a dry summer then they’ll blow your mouth wide open! That’s my kind of chili. A chunk of sharp cheddar cheese and a jar of jalapeños and I’m set to go.

  12. Martyn says:

    Catherine – The consistency of glue is an apt description of a McDonalds burger, I have to be real hungry to eat one.

    I often browse around Tesco Lotus looking at all the pastes, sauces and pickled this and that they stock but rarely buy any. The big bottle of tomato sauce usually wins the day.

    I don’t mind eating mild peppers but the really hot ones are too much for me. Surely they can’t do your insides any good at all.

    Here’s a bit from Sticky Wiki:

    Pickled jalapeños, sliced or whole, are often served hot or cold on top of nachos, which are tortilla chips with melted cheese on top, a traditional Tex-Mex dish.


  13. MeMock says:

    Thanks heaps for that link. I just ordered a bread machine! I can’t wait to try it out. How is yours going Lawrence?

  14. Martyn says:

    MeMock- No problem with the link. I hope your bread turns out perfect.

  15. Snap says:

    Martyn, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read all of the comments…on the run now, since back in Oz 🙁

    I’m also ashamed to see baked beans and hamburgers in your post. I can honestly say I rarely had the hankering for farang food during my stay in Thailand. Probably put off by the way in which is was cooked…not the way we do it back home 😉 That baked beans, pastie? and chips looks like a heart attack in the midst, 555.

    Udon is perhaps more chillified than Chiang Mai, and I must admit I loved the traditional Northern Thai food way more than the usual Pad Thai, Red and Green Curries, Pad Si Ew etc.

    We did learn how to say ‘very, very, little chilli’ though, early on, which is an essential phrase for us whimps!

  16. Martyn says:

    Snap – …on the run now….Bonnie and Clyde?

    I’ve tried Thai food many times and I do like many dishes but I just prefer western food….full stop.

    I think work is more of a heart attack waiting to happen than pastie and chips will ever be.

    Khao Soi is Chiang Mai’s signature dish and that gets a big thumbs up from me but I just can’t handle the chopsticks.

    I’ll have to learn the Thai words for ‘very, very, little chilli’.

  17. Catherine says:

    “a traditional Tex-Mex dish” that’s more my speed…

  18. Snap says:

    พริก นิดหน่อย ครับ
    prík nít-​nòi kráp

    Remember to make the incy wincy finger gesture while saying it. 😉

  19. Martyn says:

    Snap – Thank you for prík nít-​nòi kráp….not sure about the incy wincy finger gesture though (see DanPloy’s comment).

  20. DanPloy says:

    Snap, wouldn’t it be better to say, “Mai chawp aharn phet krap”. Nit Noi is subjective and Martyn is obviously a little bit gay and senstive.

  21. Martyn says:

    DanPloy – Thanks for the “Mai chawp aharn phet krap” dialogue… I just need to find the right coloured handbag to go with it.

  22. Ray says:

    Hi Martyn,
    enjoyed the post. It reminds me of my own forays into Isaan. My wife’s family live near to Mukdahan in a remote village. They are farmers and are completely self sufficient as far as food goes. My father-in-law will occasionally go out hunting in the mountains and bring home anything from mountain rats to humming birds. While staying there I have seen and eaten some of the craziest foods of my life. Nowadays, I politely skip tasting the fire ant paste and put my foot down with at least a loaf of bread, eggs and coffee. Great breakfast, especially when the alternative is bamboo soup and rhino beetles. Still, as you say, some of the food is delicious and my favourite is goi. It’s the one that they eat either raw or cooked, though I always go for the cooked version. Saeb mak mak!

  23. Martyn says:

    Ray – Wilai’s mother lives with her although mama thinks it’s the other way around and they buy or pick out the garden any food they eat, and so mountain rats and humming birds aren’t on the menu. Thank Christ.

    I’ve been visiting Wilai’s village for nearly eight years now and so everyone and anyone who drops in to our home is used to me eating my own brand of farang food.

    I tried a beetle once, and I swear I couldn’t get rid of the taste for days. Never again.

  24. Snap says:

    ‘I don’t like chilli’ or ‘very little chilli’…doens’t really matter unless of course if your partial to handbags 😉 Either way…you’re going to get chilli.

    I’m interested in Ray’s goi. Is this some type of Papaya salad, like Som Tum?

  25. Martyn says:

    Snap – After a bit of Shane Warne Googling I believe Goi is a spicy salad of Vietnamese origin. Here’s a link to a Goi dish:


    I’m still looking for the perfect handbag. There’s plenty about right now with Santa’s bells (should that be balls) a jingling.

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