“Like” is not really an accurate or adequate descriptor of the passion that Thai people feel for sugar. They slurp it through straws, dump it on rice, pour it into drinks, and heap it on noodles. Even for a closet sugar lover like yours truly, Thailand takes it to a new and disturbing level: it’s sorta like a guilty pleasure but with double the guilt and none of the pleasure.
It’s hard to truly convey “sweet” with candid photographs , so you will once more be treated to a photo essay of me’n’T-bone.
One of the first Thai phrases that we learned was “mai waan” – “not sweet.” It basically comes in handy any time you order anything, including stir fry. Often, however, it is not adequate: when ordering an iced coffee, for example, “mai waan” simply means that the vendor won’t dump additional white sugar into the drink – it still contains a heapin’ helpin’ of sweetened condensed milk. If you ever forget to say “mai waan,” heaven help you. Your teeth will rot out of your head.
Shugah-lovin’ seems to go without saying in Thai culture. When our Thai teacher taught us how to say “more,” she used the following example: “if you want more sugar in your coffee for example, just say “nam taang yuu yuu.” All of us stared blankly at her: what sudden mental illness would ever induce you to ask a Thai coffee vendor to add more sugar??
Even foods that are traditionally savoury often contain sugar. I have ordered noodle dishes that were so sweet that I couldn’t finish them, and this is one gal who loves a good sweet/salty/fatty combo. I have also watched Thai friends dump sugar all over their Pad Thai. Cuz maybe the MSG didn’t give it enough flavour…
It is strange to see an entire population of generally thin people obsessed with an eating habit that is associated with obesity and disease in the West. Based on statements I have overheard other farangs make, there is an assumption that Thai people don’t have diabetes or other related disorders. This, however, is not true – diabetes is a significant problem in Thailand. In addition, according to this study, around 50% of diabetics are undiagnosed. Given the rates of sugar consumption that I’ve observed, I wonder if the problem is even more widespread than this study suggests.*
As someone who comes from a land of people obsessed with doughnuts and poutine, I don’t have much credibility, but come on, Thailand. Let’s get a grip on this before my teeth rot out of my head, thereby negating my braces investment.
* In case anyone wants to poke holes in my argument – yes, I realize that sugar consumption is only one factor influencing diabetes rates