How To Speak Restaurant Thai – Words I Use On A Daily Basis

I’ve been living in Thailand off and on for the last few years now and still can’t speak Thai, mainly because I never needed to. In Koh Tao (and on most of the islands) you never need to speak Thai and if you try to practice it with locals that speak English, they get annoyed. Even in restaurants, most of the workers are actually from Burma and speak better English than they do Thai anyway. In Phuket, everyone spoke English and it wasn’t until I moved up here, to Chiang Mai, did I really wish I knew it.

Even though I don’t actually speak Thai, I’ve figured out over the years how to communicate and how to get what I want. The first rule is: only speak Thai to people that don’t speak English. I don’t know how guys don’t realize how annoying they are being, speaking their shit Thai to locals that speak decent English. It’s usually old white guys that don’t have good social skills in their own language either, so I can see why that happens . Second, don’t dumb down your English to people that speak good English just because they are Asian.

How To Speak Restaurant Thai – Words I Use On A Daily Basis Photo Gallery



if a Thai person speaks semi-fluent English, talk to them like a normal human being and not a three year old. It happens to me all of the time (usually with older white men) and even when I tell them I’m American, they continue to talk to me like I’m fucking retarded – so, stop that, it’s annoying as shit! Some basic social awareness goes a long way. However, if someone truly doesn’t speak English, talk to them slowly and don’t use any unnecessary words. I respect English people who never dumb down their language which is helpful, in the long run, for locals to learn proper English; what’s funny, though, is they don’t realize by using colloquialisms and humor, it’s confusing the shit out of the person you’re trying to order food from. So here are the basics: If you want to order Chicken Pad Thai, don’t say “Ummm…I’m thinking about having the chicken pad Thai, is it quite good here? Actually, yes, definitely I’ll have that.” Instead just say, “Chicken Pad Thai”, hold up a finger to show the number one and smile. Most people will understand that, even if they don’t speak English. If you want to order it in Thai, simply say, “Pad Thai Gai” and use the word “kup” (You can get away with pronouncing it ‘Cup’) at the end if you’re a guy or “kaa” at the end if you’re a girl, to be polite. So basically you would say, “Pad Thai Gai, Kup.” Obviously, Gai means chicken, which is what you’ll be eating 95% of the time so, remember how to say it. You can also get away with saying “Guy” which sounds close enough. “Kup” is actually pronounced “Krup”, but I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible for everyone to remember so, I’ll drop certain letters if they don’t make a huge difference . In case you’re confused about the Kup vs. Ka thing, it’s easy – don’t over think it.

If you are male, you will always say “krup”. If you are a girl, you will always say “kaa”. It doesn’t change if you are talking to a man or a woman or about a man or woman. The second thing you’ll want to learn how to say is, “Not Spicy” , as a lot of people coming to Thailand (for the first time) will be overwhelmed by chilies. If you don’t want your dish to be spicy at all, say, “Mai Ped” “Mai” means, no, not, or without. Remember the word “My” as it’ll come in handy often. “Ped” means Spicy. Think of “Pet” even though it’s slightly different they’ll understand you. So, “not spicy” is basically, “My Pet.”, or if you want to say it correctly, “Mai Ped” and, of course, you can add “Kup” to the end to be polite, saying “Mai Ped Kup” If you want your food to be a little bit spicy say, “Ped Nit Noi”. “Ped”, as you already learned, means spicy. “Nit Noi” means “a little bit”. Say, “Ped Nit Noi. Kup” if you want your food to be only a little bit spicy. To order Chicken Pad Thai without any spiciness (as a man) you would say: “Pad Thai Gai, Mai Ped. Kup.” To order Chicken Pad Thai with just a little bit of spiciness (as a man) you would say: “Pad Thai Gai, Ped, Nit Noi. Kup.” Congratulations, you can now order food without burning a hole in your mouth, all while being polite! Okay, so you’re going to want to learn to order more than one dish; here are the ones I eat on a daily basis: Chicken with Fried Basil Leaves: “Pad Ka Pow Gai. Kup” “Pad”, the same one used in “Pad Thai”, is fried but in reality means stir-fried and “Gai” is still chicken . You may also want to order the same dish but with pork instead which is “Moo”. Think of the sound a cow makes, “Moo”. No one in Thailand eats beef very often as it isn’t popular and doesn’t taste very good. So, the easiest way to think of it is, pork is your new red meat. Just say, “Moo” every time you are tempted to order beef (which is actually “Nueh” but you don’t need to remember because you will almost never eat it here). To order Pork and Basil you would say, “Pad Ka Pow Moo. Kup”.

Just remember, “Pad”, and “KaPow!” The sound a superhero makes in old comic my blogs. Even though you could technically remember a few dishes by name, in the long run, you’ll be happy learning what each of the words mean – as the same words often repeat in every dish. One addition you’ll want to make to almost every dish is adding a fried egg on top. Eggs in Thailand are a good, cheap source of protein and taste delicious. If you are worried about cholesterol by eating too many whole eggs, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s a myth but, don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Whole eggs are one of the healthiest things you’ll eat in Thailand, especially since I’m pretty sure most eggs here are somewhat free range, as the yolks are a bright beautiful orange that only comes from eating grass. To order a fried egg, on top of your meal, say, “Kai Dao. Kup”. Egg is “Kai”. If you want two fried eggs (an easy and cheap way to get more protein) you would say, “Kai Dao, Song. Kup”. Two is “Song” or say, “Kai Dao” and hold up two fingers. You may want to know, number one, which is “Nueng” but, in the beginning, you can get away with using the universal hand signs for numbers. Rice will automatically come with most dishes but, in case, they ask if you want rice, it is pronounced “Kao” – think of “Cow.” Should you be tempted to complicate things by asking for brown rice (because you think it’s more healthy) – don’t.

Unless they specifically advertise it, they won’t have brown rice. I stopped eating brown rice as, one, it doesn’t taste good with Asian food and, two, it’s not actually any better for you. Again, do your own research but you can start by Googling “Brown Rice Bulletproof.” If you don’t want any rice at all, you would say, “Mai Yao Kao.” Mai”, as we learned before means “no”. “Ow” means want and “Kao” is rice. So you are literally saying, “No want rice”. Now be warned, that if you ask for no rice, they’ll freak out and get really confused. In Asian culture food is rice, with a little bit of meat and vegetables as flavor. It’s the reason why in Chinese, people don’t ask if you’ve had lunch yet, they ask if you’ve eaten rice yet. So, if you’re avoiding rice, you’ll need to ask for something else as a substitute because they’ll feel embarrassed giving you two spoonfuls of meat and a tiny bit of vegetables. I’ll talk about that more in the next chapter of eating Paleo. If you want an extra large portion of food, as the Thai portions may be too small for some of you, just say, “P-Set, Kup.” Sometimes I’ll say, “P-Set, Yai, Kup.” “P-Set” means “Special Set”, or “Large Set”. “Yai” means Large. So a big version of fried basil with chicken would be, “Pad KaPow Gai, P-Set. Kup”.

One thing you might want to learn how to say is, “Please don’t include any random organ meats or chicken blood in my food”. I know it sounds strange, and 98% of the time food doesn’t come with it anyway, but there are certain dishes where you’ll wish you knew this phrase. The most common dish that comes with a side of cubed, gelatine chicken blood is “Kao Man Gai” which is just Chicken Rice. It’s one of my favorite dishes in Thailand and originally comes from the Hainan Province of China. It’s basically just chicken and rice but it’s steamed together, which gives the rice a really nice chicken flavor. To ask for no chicken blood it’s technically, “Mai Sai Luat” but it’s easier just to remember, “please no random insides” as a catch-all phrase, instead of trying to remember how to say kidney, liver and intestine. So, as a catch-all, just say, “Mai Ow Sai” and to help illustrate it, point to your stomach with a finger in a circular motion. We’ve already learned the phrase, “Mai Ow”, which means don’t want, so remember “Sai” as in “Insides” and you’ll be fine . Other dishes that use random organ meats are: some noodle soups and some curries, especially ones that are premade. What I do is ask the easy phrase, “Gai, Mai?” and if they said no, I ask “Moo, Mai?” Which means, Chicken, Pork?

If they say don’t say yes to either of those, I most likely don’t want to eat it and move on. Technically, what you are saying is, “Chicken, No?” But “No” at the end of the sentence makes it into an easy question. The dish I eat most often, as it’s usually decently big, is healthy, tastes good, and is always a bit different wherever I go (so I never get sick of it) is Chicken with Mixed Vegetables. Order by saying, “Pad Paak Ruam Gai” “Pad” is fried, “Paak” means vegetables, “Ruam” is mixed, and “Gai”, of course, is chicken. Another easy one I eat often is Stir Fried Chilies and Chicken, which is “Pad Prick Gai.” Or if you want it with pork it’s “Pad Prick Moo.” “Prick” is chilies. “Pad Prick Moo, Kai Dao. Kup” means, “May I please have a dish of stir fried chilies with pork and a fried egg on top” “Pad Prick Moo, Kai Dao” (Fried Chilies Pork, Fried Egg ) With that you can ask for different spiciness levels. I’ll say, “Ped Ped”, meaning “extra spicy”, and you may say, “Ped Nit Noi” which is, “only a little bit spicy”. “Pad Prick Moo, Kai Dao, Ped Nit Noi. Kup” Easy? Good, it’s supposed to be. The best thing about learning restaurant Thai is that you’ll get to practice it a few times every day, permanently embedding it into your brain. The easiest thing to do: write down some of your favorite dishes on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. It’s what got me through the first few months and how I continue to learn new dishes.

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