Breakfast in Bangkok
Breakfast in Thailand might look like dinner to you. There’s a reason for that.
eggs for dinner? Curry and rice for breakfast?
On a trip to Thailand, you might be surprised to be offered something to eat in the morning that you think is more appropriate for the evening.
However, unlike in the western world, in Thailand “any dish can be breakfast”.
That says Neung Patthamaporn, the founder and chef of Sourdough Sagaa Chiang Mai-based bakery that provides fresh bread and pastries to hotels, cafes and consumers across Thailand.
Across the country, she explains, in the morning you can find people eating sticky rice with fried chicken, fishball soup, rice and curry, or a more traditional breakfast like rice congee (called congee). Joke in Thai) – a ubiquitous dish typically served with pork balls and a soft-boiled egg cracked into the mixture might be Thailand’s closest equivalent of muesli and milk.
In a city like Bangkok, she says, many commuters grab whatever they can on their way to the office, whether it’s a croissant or some pork liver skewers dipped in a sweet and tangy sauce.
“One does not have the breakfast concept as in western societies. It’s just another meal. It can be anything you want,” says Neung.
The idea probably comes from the source of the concept and can probably have Thailand’s agrarian roots.
In many cultures – including Thailand – a hearty breakfast was and is necessary to fuel a long day’s work in the rice paddies and fields.
“The best way to look at it is to associate it with the lifestyle of Thai people. And I’m not talking about today, which is globalized, but about 100 years ago. In the countryside, people ate whatever gave them energy to go to the fields and work.
Breakfast had to be heavy – pretty much a mini dinner.”
Although many groups in Thailand share agricultural traditions, they don’t eat the same hearty morning meals. In predominantly Muslim-Malay southern Thailand, for example, many eat Nasi dagangor coconut rice served with a curry—typically fish—pickled vegetables, hard-boiled egg, and spicy sambal.
This southern staple is sold in markets and often packaged in a banana leaf. According to Montakarn “Prae” Shutt, a part-time PR consultant and translator who was born and raised in Pattani, locals can carry it home or unwrap it at a tea shop to eat with friends after morning prayers.
The southern provinces also represent more than Malay traditions.
The region is also home to ethnic Thai groups and descendants of the first wave of South China migrants known as the Peranakan, including Prae, who says she is Thai and Hokkien. Each has added its own flavor to morning rituals.
“Growing up in the South, it was a special occasion. We would go to the temple or clean our ancestors’ graves… and then the families would gather for dim sum at a local teahouse, Prae says, citing the southern Chinese custom yummy huh popular with Chinese communities worldwide.
but yummy huhlike many other breakfast rituals, has started to change in Thailand.
This is especially true in urban areas like Bangkok. “Today it’s very, very easy to find dim sum [like steamed buns or dumplings]. It’s ubiquitous. You can get it from a 7-Eleven whenever you want it,” she adds.
Still, many people like Prae find time to honor the breakfast traditions they grew up with.
Prae, a mother of two, prepares regularly khao sweet potato for her family.
This easy-to-make Thai rice salad combines rice bluish with the addition of butterfly pea flowers, assorted vegetables, and toasted coconut, all thrown together and dressed with a southern Thai fish sauce called gravy Nam Budu.
She sometimes goes out at the weekend khanom jeenor “ropes of rice” in the Mon language.
Brought to Thailand centuries ago by the Mon people who migrated from what is now Myanmar, it is a popular breakfast dish of fermented rice noodles with vegetables and your choice of curries.
But Western influence has started to permeate Thai culinary traditions. Prae says she prefers a big, heavy breakfast but may skip dinner as she engages in intermittent fasting. And Neung says she often skips breakfast, or at least what could be called traditional breakfast.
“I don’t believe in breakfast. Instead of feeling energized and ready for work, I just want to sleep,” Neung admits.
“But if I decide to have breakfast, it has nothing in common with the rest of Thailand. I mean, I run a bakery and I make my own salads, so my breakfast might be my sourdough with guacamole.”
– Asia Media Center