From the streets of Bangkok to the beaches of Phuket, you can find a tantalizing selection of Thai food that’s freshly grilled and waiting to be eaten. The alluring aroma of grilled meat can be smelled easily in most every village, town or city you happen to be in, and finding a delicious, hot snack is never difficult.
As an example, a trip to Thailand would not be complete without sampling a handful of bite-sized sticks of grilled meat right off the grill. Moo ping (moo=pork, ping=barbecued), are little pieces of pork marinated in sweet soy sauce, pierced by a bamboo skewer, and cooked to juicy perfection. Other choices include chicken hearts, chicken intestines, and even the beloved all-fat chicken anuses (although you won’t find too many foreigners lining up for those). Meat on a stick is often accompanied by a small bag of sticky rice, and alternating bites of smoky meat with little balls of gooey rice makes the perfect on-the-go snack.
When it comes to chicken, a marinade concoction of fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar, garlic and lemongrass is what gives the barbecued bird its signature flavor. Wings, with their high skin-to-flesh ratio, are one of the most popular parts, but thighs and even the entire chicken are all available in roasted form. Grilled chicken is either served with a sweet & sour dip or a sauce based on liberal amounts of fish sauce and fiery chili paste. In Thailand, grilled chicken is frequently enjoyed with a side of green papaya salad – somtam – and, of course, a few helpings of sticky rice.
The most common form of grilled fish in Thailand is either the ‘Nile tilapia’ or the Snakehead fish – a pesky, invasive species outside of Asia, but a delicious staple in Thailand. It’s usually cooked stuffed with crushed lemongrass, rolled in a thick outer layer of salt, and roasted on a medium hot bed or charcoal. While the lemongrass adds an extra dimension of flavor and reduces fishiness, the salt keeps the interior flesh moist and flaky. To eat a Thai style grilled fish, simply peel back the salty crusted skin, pull the fillets off the bones, and give each bite a swift dip in the tangy chili sauce. Grilled fish in Thailand is nearly always served whole so you can dig out the best bits from the cheek and head – and don’t forget the eyes, which many Thais think is the tastiest bit.
There are few grilled snacks local Thais (males especially) are more fond of for an afternoon energy boost than a couple of sausages. They’re porky, greasy, and every bite erupts in a burst of meaty flavor. Sai krok, a version native to Northeastern Thailand, is made from ground bits of pig mixed with rice or glass noodles, garlic, salt, and a combination of spices. All the ingredients are mixed together by hand, encased in a thin wrapper, and grilled to perfection. Naam is another favorite, a type of sausage that’s fermented in a banana leaf for three to five days to give it a distinct sour bite. On the streets of Thailand, grilled sausage is served with slices of young ginger, a handful of fiery bird’s eye chilies, and a wedge of raw cabbage.
Yet another local Thai specialty is grilled pork neck, or kor moo yang. The steak-like pieces of meat are marinated, grilled, and sliced into tender bite sized chunks. Some bits are extremely fatty while others are quite lean. It doesn’t matter though – both are so tender and juicy that every bite is guaranteed to melt in your mouth.
When you’re in Thailand, it’s no longer necessary to fire up the grill, wait for the coals to turn into hot embers, and then sweat over the smoke if you want a taste of barbecue. Here, it’s much easier to simply walk outdoors in any direction, and within a few minutes you’re destined to be greeted by the wonderful aroma of cooking meat, fresh from the grill.