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If you ever walk the streets of Bangkok, you’ll find people eating at any time of the day. Street food tempts you from every corner and when you look at the price, it instantly becomes even more accessible and desirable. It seems like they eat all the time , yet, they remain incredibly trim .

Which got me thinking: Why are Thai people are so skinny? I’m a size 0 by American standard but when I try to buy clothes in Thailand, the small is a tad too small for me.

I came up with a few theories or observations, some on solid grounds as they are backed by research but some—mere postulations of an idle mind.
It’s in the Food

1. Thai Chillies

Their food is incredibly spicy—yes—it’s their unrelentless addition of Thai chillies in almost every dish. Chili peppers are full of a chemical called capsaicin, responsible for the hit. And scientific researches show that capsaicin is a fat burner—it revs up the metabolic rate and speeds up the metabolism. So what is a few more calories? Eat and let the capsaicin take care of the indulgence.

2. Lemon Grass

This lanky grass with a fresh lemon scent has great medicinal value. Loaded with citral, a potent antioxidant that is both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, this “smell good, taste even better,” herb can spice up any dish. Thai people have recognized this culinary uniqueness long ago and have added them to meat dishes, soups and condiments. And while we’re at it, Lemon grass can also lift spirits, and yes, jack up your metabolic rate.

3. Lime Juice

Ever try their Laib Gai or chicken salad with lots of mints, lime juice and Thai chillies? It’s terribly addictive and the yes, slimming, by my reckoning. It’s not just any lime, but Thai limes we’re talking. They are much smaller than American limes, more like key limes. Thai limes have a sweeter taste and are great tenderizers. They’re used to tenderize all kinds of meat and squid (can be pretty chewy otherwise).

The citric acid found in these limes is an excellent fat-buster. Its high Vitamin C content promotes strong immune system and is effective in curing many digestive problems.

4. Kaffir Leaves

A member of the citrus family, the leaves are shaped like figure 8. It is intensely aromatic and has recently become popular in spa treatment. Kaffir leaves are used in most Thai soups to bring out an intensity of flavor that’s uniquely pleasing.

Kaffir leaf is an excellent digestive aid, and it can clear the mind and detoxify the body. Most Thai houses will have Kaffir trees to ward off evil.

5. Galanga

This gnarly-looking root is a member of the ginger family. There are so many health benefits attached to this root that it has found its way to homeopathic and holistic healings.

Galanga is commonly grounded, blended or chopped to add flavor to meat dishes and curries. Amongst many health claims, galangal is used for digestive and stomach complaints, nausea, ulcers and inflammation of the stomach, rheumatism, cold, flu, fevers and bad breath.

They Eat Small Meals Frequently

So there’s some truth when health experts urge us to eat smaller meals with greater frequency. Thai people must eat 5 times a day or more. They start breakfast with a full meal,nothing like cereals and milk. I’ve seen them eat steaming bowls of noodles the first thing in the day. And before you know it, they are eating again. So you trace a food pattern: eating, snacking, eating, snacking…..throughout the day and you wonder where did all the calories go?

They Snack on Fruits.

Fruits Carts line the streets of Bangkok. If you’re hungry or hot or flustered, all you have to do is buy some nicely cut fresh fruits from these fruit carts. These cool yummy treats will bring instant relief from the sweltering heat. Plus you know the whole lecture about fruits having tons of antioxidants and how they can fill you up with no fat calories.

They Walk A Lot

Owning a car is definitely a luxury in Thailand. They use feet power to transverse distance, or run after hot non-airconditioned buses or walk to the nearest train stop to catch the subway or to the jetty to catch a ferry. They walk to schools, to shops, to the wet markets and yes, to the outdoor eating places for food.

Now, back to food.

Let’s make some authentic Thai food. Thai Green Curry has most of the above-mentioned ingredients. This flavorful rich curry is sure to titillate your taste buds and produce a steady stream of perspiration. And did many health experts say that you can bring your weight down with water loss? So forget body wrap to rid the body of water, try some spicy Thai Green Curry.

Mango with sticky rice

16 of October 2011

It’s mango season here in Thailand, and the best way to enjoy them is to pair the sweet fruit with sweet and salty coconut-milk sticky rice. Khao Nieow Ma-muang is a very popular dessert.

How to make
Soak the sticky rice for at least an hour before steaming.
Steam for 20 minutes on medium-high in a sticky rice steamer. If you don’t have a sticky rice steamer, you can try steaming in a bowl in a covered saucepan with an inch of water at the bottom of the pan. You could also try using a regular steamer, but cover the holes with cheese cloth or muslin cloth so that the rice doesn’t fall through.

While steaming, prepare the sauce for the rice. Add the 1/2 cup of coconut milk to a saucepan along with the 1 1/3 tablespoons sugar & 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir over low heat until dissolved. Set aside.

Prepare the topping sauce as well. In another small saucepan, add the 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and stir over low heat until dissolved. Mix the tapioca starch with a little bit of water in a small bowl until a paste, then add as well. Mixing the starch beforehand will prevent any lumps from forming in the sauce. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat.

When the rice is finished, spread out in a shallow bowl and cover with 1/2 the thin sauce (the sauce you made first). Stir well and keep adding more until you reach saturation point. Depending on the rice used, it should be around 75% of the sauce. You may need to use it all. You don’t want very wet rice, it should be somewhat dry and sticky. Don’t add until it’s submerged, but keep in mind that the rice will absorb some of the liquid. I usually add until just before I see puddles of coconut milk. Stir well and cover with a towel. Let the rice absorb the coconut milk for 10-15 minutes.

Slice mango as shown and arrange on a plate. Spoon an equal amount of sticky rice next to it, and top with a few spoons of the thicker sauce. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds or fried salty mung beans.

The best mango to eat with this dish is called ‘Naam Dok Maai’ (flower nectar mango), which is available in South East Asia. In many Asian groceries in the West you can find a yellow-skinned mango which is skinny and pointy. This works a lot better than the round, red/orange mangoes from Mexico & the Caribbean, which are not anywhere near as yummy as the Asian mangoes.

Make sure you use sticky rice and not regular Thai rice in this dish. Sticky rice is sometimes called glutinous rice. The grains are whiter and fatter than regular rice.

Do not refrigerate the sweet sticky rice — it turns into a rock-hard mess which tastes awful. If you have to make it ahead of time, just leave it out on the counter. It’ll last for a few hours no problem.

Chao Koh brand coconut milk is the best to use in this dish. If you can find it in a paper carton, it’s better than a can. If you cannot find Chao Koh, do not, by any means use a brand of coconut milk that does not originate from Thailand. The local supermarket variety will ruin this dish!

I really like a slightly cold mango with slightly warm rice. It compliments the sweet & salty of the dish.

Pad Thai, otherwise known as Thai fried noodles. The ingredients that make up this dish include: egg, beansprouts, dried shrimp, garlic, tofu, salted Chinese radish and crushed peanuts.

You can find pad thai being made almost anywhere. However, be warned. The recipe does vary. Try to avoid the pad thai that has been “mass produced” and is seen for sale for only 10 baht at temple fairs and places like Khao San Road. For best results, watch it being made fresh. The pad thai stand around the corner from me opens at about 5 p.m. and is open until late. A large plate from her costs 20 baht (see picture above). An extra sized helping (called pi-set in Thai) costs only 5 baht more.

First to be added to the wok are the noodles. These are stir-fried for a few minutes. Next is added the dried shrimp, tofu and minced Chinese raddish. Again this is mixed and stir-fried for a few minutes.

The ingredients are now pushed to one side and an egg is cracked into the wok. She cooked the egg for a minute or so before breaking it up and mixing it in with the noodles. Finally a sprinkling of chopped chives and a generous layer of breansprouts are placed on top. This is not mixed in with the noodles. It is now ready to serve. The finally layer is the ground roasted peanuts. She placed all of this into a container with some spring onions, half a lime and a little plastic bag containing chili and sugar.

Although pad thai is cooked just about everywhere, people will cross to the other side of town just to get their favourite recipe. My favourite is on Taiban roundabout. Very delicious and worth the extra effort to cross town. It is easy to spot the more popular hawkers as there is always a long queue!

I have never attempted to cook this dish as it is so readily available. However, here is the recipe if you want to have a go at home:

Stir-Fried Thai Noodles Recipe


8 oz (250 g) rice noodles (sen lek)
3 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves (kratiem), minced
1/4 cup dried shrimp/prawns
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind juice (ma-kaam piag)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup fried tofu
2 tablespoons dried unsalted turnip, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup 1-in (2.5-cm) lengths chopped chives
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) ground roasted peanuts
1 cup bean sprouts


1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/4 small banana blossom, cut into strips
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

How to cook:

1. Soak the rice noodles in cold water for 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet until hot, then add the oil. Add the garlic and dried shrimp, and stir-fry. Add the noodles and stir-fry until translucent. It may be necessary to reduce the heat if the mixture is cooking too quickly and the noodles stick.

3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, tamarind juice and paprika. Stir-fry the mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the tofu, turnip and egg.

4. Turn the heat to high and cook until the egg sets, stirring gently. Thoroughly combine the mixture, and continue cooking over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until most of the liquid is reduced.

5. Mix in the chives, peanuts and bean sprouts. Place on a serving dish, arrange the bean sprouts, chives, banana blossom and lime attractively and serve.