Thai Junk Food – Part 1

Well, it seems I’ve wasted no time getting to the nitty-gritty aspects of Thai culture. Actually, it’s been a busy week for me as I’ve been going through orientation. I’ll have more time to post in the next few weeks, but I might only be able to make a post per week. Nonetheless, one might be feeling a little peckish after such a long flight over, so why not indulge in a little comfort food from the nearby 7-11?

First off, let’s check out the Thai design for Coke:

It looks and tastes exactly the same as it does anywhere else, but I thought you might be interested in the label ;). Not just Coca-Cola, but most Coke and Pepsi products look pretty similar to what you’d expect they would be anywhere else and are readily available at all supermarkets and restaurants. And, if you’re a sucker for a bargain, you can buy soda fairly cheaply here at around 50 cents for a can or perhaps a dollar for a liter. For fun, compare a Canadian and Thai Coca-Cola ad.

Now, having said all that, not all soft drinks are like their Coke and Pepsi counterparts; the world’s most popular energy drink, Red Bull, is significantly different here.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s sold in a bottle as opposed to a can. I’ve heard you can find cans around here but I haven’t seen any yet. Officially, this is known as Krating Daeng (which roughly translates to Red Bull), and is a completely different product to the drink we know as Red Bull in North America and Europe. First off, Krating Daeng is NOT carbonated, and secondly it is much sweeter than its Western counterpart. It sort of tastes like straight sugar water, but much sweeter and somehow better tasting (if you can believe that). This was the original product that inspired the creation of the globally successful Red Bull Westerners think of. But, if you’re a Red Bull fanatic, do not despair; Krating Daeng can be found in many countries under the name Thai Red Bull.

There are also a few carbonated tea drinks:

These come from Japanese snack, beverage, and restaurant proprietors who are based locally in Bangkok: Oishi. They have many different brands throughout Thailand, but today we are focusing on the lightly carbonated Chakulza brands. The yellow can is Honey Lemon Green Tea and the black can is Lemon Black Tea and, not pictured, is a green Green Tea can (seen here). I am pretty sure there is no actual honey in the yellow can, but they do an excellent job at mimicking a full honey flavor. The Lemon Black Tea happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch, but only because I’m not one for green tea in general. Overall I quite like these drinks and could see myself purchasing them at home if they were readily available.

But if you don’t have a sweet tooth then perhaps savory is more your style. There are many interesting flavors of chips to check out as well:

Basically, if you like seafood and potato chips, then you’ll love Lay’s Lobster Hot Plate or Hot and Spicy Crab flavored Chips. Obviously, one tastes like lobster and the other like crab, but they are almost similar enough to not notice much of a difference. Besides an healthy enjoyment of crustaceans, it also wouldn’t hurt to have a healthy appreciation for spicy food in order to enjoy these chips. Though they pretty much taste as advertised, I liken the taste to BBQ flavors that have an occasional seafood aftertaste. Personally, I could barely taste the spiciness but, with those whom I shared the chips with, they apparently found it quite hot, so a healthy amount of caution may or may not be advised!

That’s all I’ve got for now, but there will probably be a part 2 sometime later on. I’ll be posting some more interesting aspects of Thai culture at some future point when I have the time.

Supplement (July 15th): I would just like to add that, upon further reflection, Coca-Cola actually DOES taste different here than in North America! It took me a while to realize this, but as I started to understand the Thai mentality towards soft-drinks, I began to pay more attention to the flavor. While the taste is pretty much the same, the big difference is the lack of carbonation. Back home it is quite difficult to chug an entire can (much less a bottle) of Coke compared to other soft-drinks. You’d have no problem doing that here because Thais – in general – don’t really like their pop to be so carbonated. That’s why Red Bull never had carbonation to begin with; it was added to appeal to North American tastes. The same is true for most soft-drinks over here – Coke included.

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