Gallery: Snapshots from Thailand: The Best Things I Ate

Coconut–Sticky Rice Pancakes
Coconut–Sticky Rice Pancakes

One of many sweet-savory treats at a Sunday floating market in Bangkok.

Floating Market
Floating Market

Fresh, neatly-contained food in a mobile venue? Sounds like a precursor to the food truck concept.

Fried Omelet
Fried Omelet

A wok-coating layer of beaten eggs is cooked until set, then filled with minced pork, bean sprouts, and aromatics, neatly folded up like a package, and quickly shallow-fried in oil. This officially ruined diner omelets for me.

Grilled Fried Dough
Grilled Fried Dough

Fried dough is light and crispy, but grilled fried dough is light and crispy and a little smoky. Delicious, especially with chocolate or orange syrup drizzled over the top.

Grilled Seafood in Bangkok
Grilled Seafood in Bangkok

Shellfish such as lobsters, langoustines, and giant prawns were being grilled all around Bangkok—incredible, given that it was 100 degrees every day.

Life-Altering Pad Thai
Life-Altering Pad Thai

An overstatement? Maybe. But as someone who's always felt lukewarm about Pad Thai, this was a game-changer: light, fresh, barely sweet, and full of wok char.

Roast Duck with Chile Vinegar
Roast Duck with Chile Vinegar

Yaowarat Road is the main drag in Bangkok's Chinatown, and this roast duck was a clear example of the Chinese influence in southern Thai cuisine.

Bangkok's Grilled Sausages
Bangkok's Grilled Sausages

Stacked two to a skewer, these lemongrass-scented pork links were so juicy and fatty, they sputtered audibly as they cooked.

Isan-Style Laab Gai
Isan-Style Laab Gai

The epitome of Thai cuisine's flavor balance, this chicken laab was full of lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, and roasted rice powder.

Blue Sticky Rice
Blue Sticky Rice

No food coloring here. The brilliant cobalt color comes from adding a local flower to the water as the rice cooks.

Chiles!
Chiles!

This is why Thai food is spicy.

Coconut Cream Pancakes
Coconut Cream Pancakes

Rice flour and a searing-hot cast-iron skillet combine to make these blini-sized pancakes crust on the bottom, while the coconut cream keeps them almost molten in the center. Sprinkled with a little sugar, they're an unbeatable snack.

Crispy Catfish Salad
Crispy Catfish Salad

Minced, battered, and deep-fried, the bits of catfish perfectly contrasted the raw produce and tangy dressing.

Pea Eggplants
Pea Eggplants

These little gems are local to northern Thailand. They're no bigger than large peas, but much heartier; their taut skins burst when you take a bite.

Curry with Pea Eggplants
Curry with Pea Eggplants

A spicy Chiang Mai fish curry featuring local eggplants the size of large peas.

Fried Dough and Soy Milk
Fried Dough and Soy Milk

Breakfast in Chiang Mai. The airy puffs were similar to the grilled fried dough we ate for dessert in Bangkok, but here they're made for dipping into a mug of warm soy milk.

Kao Soi
Kao Soi

The so-called national dish of northern Thailand: a brothy curry with steamed and fried egg noodles, meat, shallots, and pickled greens. This version was loaded up with fatty, bone-in pieces of pork, which made it much richer than versions I've had in the States, and in this case, the red color was a good indication of the heat. Delicious.

Moo Yang
Moo Yang

Barbecued slabs of fatty, tender pork—the neck, I believe—with a sweet-tangy-spicy dipping sauce.

Shiitakes with Butter and Garlic
Shiitakes with Butter and Garlic

Fresh shiitake caps stir-fried in a buttery, rich-tasting sauce that's loaded up with garlic.

Lentil Fritters
Lentil Fritters

One of several fried treats at a weekly Muslim market in Chiang Mai. Crispy, pleasantly starchy, and well-spiced, these golf ball–sized fritters were addicting.

Pad Se Ew
Pad Se Ew

Probably my all-time favorite Thai dish.

A Truckload of Pork Rinds
A Truckload of Pork Rinds

Literally.

Rambutan
Rambutan

As sweet as they are stunning.

Chiang Mai Sausages
Chiang Mai Sausages

These long coils of aromatic pork sausage (called sai ua) can be found grilling over charcoal fires all over Chiang Mai. Good for heavy snacking.

Som Tum
Som Tum

The most well-known version: papaya, green beans, tomatoes, crab, lots and lots of chiles, peanuts, lime juice, and fish sauce.

Northern Laab
Northern Laab

Unlike tangy Isan laab spiked with lime juice and fish sauce, this northern version gets its bold flavors from warm dry spices and chiles. Also, the meat mince (in this case, pork) is much finer.