Travel Tip Tuesday: How to order food in a foreign country

Most of the street side restaurants and vendors in Thailand rarely have a menu listing the dishes they offer, and if they do, the menu is almost always written in Thai. If you stumble upon a street vendor that not only has a menu but has the menu written in both Thai and English, well my friends, you’ve hit a gold mine. However, of all the meals we’ve had in Thailand thus far, we can count on one hand the number of times this has been the case.

When hunger strokes, it can be quite problematic as Alison becomes cranky and you are left to your own devices in search for that delicious and fulfilling meal. Luckily, we have devised a few ordering tactics that have proven to be fairly effective so we thought we would share.

Option 1: Find a busy street vendor and immediately stalk the dining area which is complete with foldable tables and plastic chairs. Peer over the diners’ shoulders and conduct a thorough inspection of their meals.  If you think you would find one of the meals enjoyable or even edible, quickly seek out the cook or server, which is sometimes the same person, and point to the meal of your liking. Next, smile and specify the quantity you would like using your fingers. In order to confirm your order, you need to repeat the process again so go ahead and point to that dish, smile, and quantify the amount with your fingers. This technique has a 100% success rate so far!

Option 2: Let’s say that you’re having a late lunch and the street vendor’s dining area is empty when you arrive. If this is the case, option 1 is certainly not plausible. While option 2 can involve a lot of footwork on your part and doesn’t always lead to the best results, we have found it to work occasionally.  We call this option “I spy English.”  It requires you to walk up and down the street and check out each and every street vendor looking for an English menu. If you happen upon one, go ahead and point and order!  However, please know that ordering from an English menu does not guarantee you will receive the chicken pad thai that you ordered. Instead, you may find yourself sipping on a thai vegetable soup. Unfortunately, more often than not, we have ended up with the wrong dish but that doesn’t mean that the meal that we didn’t intend to order isn’t delicious!

Option 3:  This option involves three simple steps: 1) randomly select a meal 2) hope that they get it right 3) pray that it’s edible!

Bon appetite!

You may think you're ordering this...

You may think you’re ordering this…

And end up with this, which will probably be equally delicious!

And end up with this, which will probably be equally delicious!

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9 thoughts on “Travel Tip Tuesday: How to order food in a foreign country

  1. Fantastic post. Sarah and I can definitely relate. A tip from me….institute a 30 minute “hangry” rule for Alison (hunger + angry = hangry), in which she is required to give a 30 minute notice before the slight twinge of hunger in her stomach turns into hangryness.

    That way, you will have sufficient time to implement options 1 and 2 above, and not end up with cow testicle curry or something equally horrendous.

    Keep the posts coming guys! Really enjoying them!

  2. You guys are really smart! I think I would have only thought of option 3.

    Loving your posts and miss my favorite nomads already!

  3. This is a blast, traveling with Brian and Alison. The posts are fun and we love your problem solving. I think I would walk into a four seasons with your parents, order a bourbon, and go from there!

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