Taco Bell just launched their first-ever location in Thailand, and the new menu there is not shy about bringing the heat.
Photo: Evan Lancaster // Foodbeast
Located in the Mercury Ville Shopping Mall in Bangkok, the food there is meant to be a balance of bringing nostalgic taste to expats as well as introducing the world of Taco Bell to those who may have never tried it before. That means catering to local tastes and flavors, but introducing them in formats that the chain is known for.
Foodbeasts Richard Guinto, Evan Lancaster, and myself were given a chance to try some of the new Thai items at Taco Bell’s headquarters in Irvine, California, to see just what the differences were.
Photo: Evan Lancaster // Foodbeast
A new permanent addition to the Thailand menu is the Kickin’ Chicken taco, a soft-shell taco with strips of fried chicken on the inside. It comes with pico de gallo, lettuce, a two-cheese blend, and a brand new Kickin’ Sauce. This sauce, according to Taco Bell international product developer Steve Gomez, takes inspiration from the fan-favorite Lava Sauce we know here in the US. It does come with a bigger punch of garlic and onion, but looks pretty similar otherwise.
Photo: Evan Lancaster // Foodbeast
Another addition to Taco Bell Thailand’s menu is the Mango Madness Freeze, which combines the chain’s signature slush with one of Thailand’s more popular fruits. It’s designed for those looking to beat the heat or cool down their tongues from the spicier menu options, and will be a permanent option as well. Other freezes being sold in Thailand include Tropical Punch and Berry Blue.
Photo: Constantine Spyrou // Foodbeast
An intriguing but subtle change to the menu comes in the form of the salsas that are served with every meal. Thailand isn’t as used to vinegar-based hot sauces as the US is, so Taco Bell cut the vinegar in their hot sauce and increased the spice level, creating a fiery condiment more suitable to Thai palates. The Fire Salsa is four times hotter in Thailand based on Scoville units (the official measure of spiciness), and has a noticeably thicker consistency.
So far, the new menu appears to be paying off. The lines at the new Bangkok location have been packed during its grand opening week, and Taco Bell hopes to build on that success to open 40 more locations in the country by 2022.
When reporter Michael Sullivan visited Thailand to learn more about the origins of this famous sauce, he discovered that Vietnamese-American Sriracha is not at all like the sauce the coastal city of Si Racha holds near and dear.
Locals describe the flavor of real Sriracha sauce as klom klom: the balance of hot, sour, sweet, and garlic. American Sriracha is known and loved for its heat, which is exactly what many Thai people found off-putting.
Although there are many sauces on the market, Sriraja Panich is said to be the original sauce created by Gimsua Timkrajang according to his great-granddaughter Saowanit Trikityanukul. It started out only as a treat for family and friends with plenty of hard work and careful attention to ingredients; Saowanit even recalled a single batch taking months to prepare.
Eventually, close family began selling their own version of Sriracha sauce and it grew in popularity. Despite having invented the sauce, the family never felt the need to patent it. Saowanit told Sullivan that the recipe wasn’t much of a secret anyways as they had the ingredients listed on the bottle.
As an experiment, Sullivan had locals taste test the Rooster sauce and in return did not receive the best reactions. “When I first tasted it, I wanted to gag. Too bitter. It’s not klom klom” local Chuwet Kanja stated.
Huy Fong’s Sriracha may not be favored amongst the Thai, but distributer Super Ting Tong have begun importing the sauce into Thailand with little worry. Slow and steady progression is still progression in their perspective expressed founder Robert Booth to Sullivan.
On the other hand, Thai manufacturer Thaitheperos has been importing Sriraja Panich to the U.S. without great success. Americans are accustomed to the Vietnamese-American flavor and perceive Super Ting Tong’s Sriracha as what the sauce should taste like.
Setbacks aside, Varanya and export manager Paweena Kingpad expects Sriraja Panich to dominate the world market because of strong sales in China, already selling 100,000 bottles a month. Their success, Varanya claims, is due to the fact that “Asian people know how to eat.”
Sriracha may have come from Thailand, but I believe we can find beauty in every interpretation of it.
Angelinos looking for an authentic, full-service, Thai experience need not venture any futhur than Downtown Los Angeles.
So Long Hi, nestled in the heart of DTLA, is a Thai restaurant that offers the full Thai food experience without the hassle of TSA.
Essentially a mini Thailand getaway, the restaurant offers a bevy of authentic Thai dishes and street foods. The dishes are served “family style” so if you have a buddy you wouldn’t mind grubbing with, don’t be shy asking them to tag along with you.
Those looking to immerse themselves in the atmosphere can check out the patio area that boasts a vacation-inspired nook in the back of the restaurant or the bar for some fresh cocktails and beer.
We’ll take some Khao Soi and Pad See Ew to start. Maybe a couple of cold brews too.
Sure, we can lay claim to the Cronut (croissant donut) and Milky Bun (ice cream stuffed donut) as some of the craziest desserts to hail from the United States in recent memory. While our country is churning out fantastic and bizarre sweets week after week, our neighbors to the East have also been crushing it for centuries.
Check out some of the most unique desserts enjoyed in Asia that you may not even have heard of.
A classic Thai dessert, Khanom Chan literally translates to “layered dessert.” Similar to Woon Bai Toey (sweet coconut milk and pandan jelly), Khanam Chan boasts a gelatinous taste. Made from pandan leaves, sticky rice flour, and coconut milk, the dish is steamed and stacked together in multiple layers. Nine, a number of prosperity, is usually the amount of layers seen in the dessert.
The process of making Luk Chup is a bit tedious: grinding steamed mung beans into a paste, molding them into the shape of fruit, coloring them, and finally glazing them in gelatin. Still, once you’ve accomplished all those steps, you’re left with a plateful of vibrant desserts that look like candy versions of the real thing, each complete with different layers of flavor and textures originally intended for Thai royalty.
A classic Chinese dessert that can most commonly be found during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncakes are pastries filled with red bean or lotus seed paste. Each mooncake is imprinted with a variety of Chinese characters that stand for either “longevity” or “harmony.” You can also find the name of the bakery inside each cake.
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Also known as Broken Glass Gelatin, this vibrant dessert in the Philippines is made from condensed milk and a variety of colored Jello. Once it’s finished, it resembes “Broken Glass” or the stained windows of a majestic cathedral.
Woon Bai Toey
Made from the aromatic pandan leaf and coconut, Woon Bai Toey is a Thai gelatin dessert that boasts a creamy and nutty flavor with a chewy texture. The dessert typically follows a spicy Thai dish to help refresh the palate. FoodTravelTVEnglish shows you the step-by-step process to create this dessert.
A dessert soup or pudding that’s found in Vietnam, che is made from mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, tapioca, jelly, and aloe vera. Che Ba Mau is a variation of the dish that is comprised of three main ingredients as Ba Mau translates to “three colors.” Choice of beans vary as long as the three colors are distinct.
In the Philippines, leche flan is a celebrated dessert that originated as a Spanish dish. Made with condensed milk and egg yolk, the sweet dessert is steamed over an open flame. Unlike the Spanish variation of flan, the one served in the Philippines is much more rich — featuring more egg yolks and sugar.
A deep-fried Korean pastry, Yagkwa is made with wheat flour, honey, and sesame oil. Yagkwa originated as a medicinal cookie that’s soaked in honey. Because of how much honey it contains and being deep fried at low temperatures of 248-284 degrees F, the pastry is both moist and soft when you bite into it. ARIRANG CULTURE did a recipe video for those curious.
Patbingsu, or “red beans shaved ice,” is a Korean dessert made of shaved ice, ice cream, condensed milk, red beans, and fruit. The earliest known variation of the dessert dates back to the year 1392. Today, you can find the cold dessert at most Korean restaurants and dessert spots specializing in the icy treat, adorned with chopped bits of fruit and plenty of syrup.
A type of wagashi (a Japanese confection), higashi is made with rice flour. Featuring intricate designs, the sweet and starchy dessert can typically be found during tea ceremonies. The creation of wagashi desserts came after China began producing sugar and traded it with Japan.
A highly popular dessert that started out in Japan, the Raindrop Cake became immensely popular among social media stateside once it debuted at New York food market Smorgasburg by Chef Darren Wong. Made from water and agar, a vegan sort of gelatin, the cake resembles a giant raindrop. Typically, raindrop cakes are served with a roasted soybean flour and molasses or honey to add flavor.
Known for their fluffiness and distinct jiggle, Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecakes started in Japan over 30 years ago. These cheesecakes are made up of flour, eggs, cream cheese, sugar, baking powder, honey, butter, milk, and a special Australian cheese. The result is a super soft, rich, and flavorful cheesecake that’s got as much moves as a bowl of Jello! Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecakes became so popular that multiple franchises have sprouted all over the world to cater to the popularity of these moist wonders.
Some folks may go to the ends of the earth for a free alcohol. We, on the other hand, have found our line.
According to Grubstreet, a bar in Thailand offers their patrons a free shot if they’re brave enough to even attempt an insane bar game that is crazy enough to scare the crap out of you.
Challengers are asked to lay their hands flat out upon the bar. If this sounds like the popular “knife game” then you’re right. Unfortunately, the knife game will seem like a trip to the spa compared to this updated version.
In this even more twisted version, the bartender runs a series of tools through the gaps between patrons’ fingers. This includes the sharp end of a hammer, cleaver, axe, and power drill.
We’re always down for bar games, just not this one. Perhaps a friendly round of Knifey Spoony?
CNN recently named Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, as the world’s top city for street food. It’s not hard to see why, with sidewalk vendors heavily populating the streets from breakfast to late night selling local favorites like fragrant rice with poached chicken, fried mussel pancakes, and phad thai noodles.
Sadly, it seems that Bangkok won’t be able to hold on to that honor for long, as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) just announced that by the end of the year, these vendors would be banned from the city’s streets.
The Nation reports that the BMA came to this decision in an effort to “beautify Bangkok” and “reclaim the pavement for pedestrians.” The efforts have already begun, with Siam Square, Putanam, and a popular flea market already being cleared out, with internationally renowned areas like Yaowarat and Khao San Road the next targets of the administration.
Wanlop Sudanwee, the chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, told the Nation that the street food stands in these areas were being run by “illegal vendors” and that there would be “no exceptions” to clearing out vendors in these areas.
“The street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long and we already provide them with space to sell food and other products legally in the market, so there will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out.”
While some Thai citizens were caught off guard, one told the Nation that she agreed with the decision but would like to see a new area set up for these vendors. At least if that happened, they could continue to do business and sell their authentic fare to tourists and locals alike.
One thing’s for sure: if you were thinking of going to Thailand to check out the busy street food scene, I’d do it really soon. Otherwise, you may not get a chance to experience it for yourself once the crackdown is fully completed.
Thailand looks like a dope place to visit. Sure, my only frame of reference is The Hangover 2, and a crazy video my buddy put together after blowing his financial aid money on a vacation, but it still sounds amazing.
This Tree Pod Restaurant in Koh Kood, Thailand is one of the coolest restaurant concepts I’ve heard of, and definitely makes my food-loving heart want to take a trip to the Southeast Asian country even more.
TreePod dining in the Soneva Kiri Resort, is basically a booth and table that is elevated 35 feet into the air and lets you hang while you eat. Since this is no ordinary restaurant table, the staff serves you a little differently.
In order to get to your hanging table, the servers zip line themselves to take your order, bring you your food, and check to see how your meal is going.
Not to mention, the view is pretty killer up there:
If this is Thailand’s version of romantic dinners by the beach, count me the hell in.
Strangely-themed cafes are all the jazz in Asian countries. Japan’s filled with them, from a Super Mario cafe, to a bunny-cuddling cafe. China’s had a Friend’s-themed cafe, letting you feel like Chandler Bing whenever you order a scone. Now we’re excited to learn we can feel the unicorn power in Thailand, as Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok is like a rainbow-filled wet dream.
The cafe looks like a unicorn threw up in it, with pastel colors from wall-to-wall, and an array of colorful food on its menu.
The My Little Pony feel is strong here, with plush toys filling their couches and tables, letting Pagasisters and Bronies cuddle up with their favorite horned pets.
Check out some of the colorful menu items below, and scratch that rainbow itch: