Thai food is known around the world as one of the tastiest cuisines. It is also known as among the spiciest, which can make it challenging to find dishes suitable for young mouths unaccustomed to the heat. An obvious option is to stick with western food, which is widely available in Phuket, but this will leave you missing out on the rich and varied flavours which are unique to Thailand. There are plenty of very tasty Thai dishes which are also very mild, if not completely spice-less, and we have picked out a selection of them below.
When it comes to ordering Thai food for kids in Phuket, a useful expression to remember is “mai pet” – meaning ‘not spicy’. It is also worth noting that milk is more effective at stifling the heat of spicy food than water is so, if you are at all worried that the dish you ordered may contain a chilli or two, it helps to have a milkshake on stand-by.
Fried Rice (Khao Pad)
A staple of Thai cuisine, Khao Pad is simple and tasty. There are a number of different variations on the dish, including adding chicken, vegetables or seafood. One of the best-known versions is American Fried Rice (sometimes called Egg Fried Rice), which comes with a fried egg on top. Every single version comes without any spiciness or chillies, making it a safe and satisfying introduction to Thai food.
Pad Thai is such a quintessentially Thai dish that it even bears the country’s name. Popular with locals and visitors alike, some preparations may come with a very mild chilli, but this is extremely rare, particularly in hotel restaurants. The fried noodle dish contains crushed peanuts and seafood, with a slightly sweet sauce which has the merest hint of tanginess provided the tamarind paste.
Deep-fried chicken with sticky rice (Gai Tod Khao Neaow)
This is essentially the non-brand local version of KFC. While it may lack the Colonel’s special preparation, it makes up for it with the addition of sticky rice, which is exactly as fun to eat as it sounds. It should be noted that the Thai-style preparation is just to chop a chicken up with a meat cleaver, so you might come across the occasional shard of bone.
Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Neaow Mamuang)
A very popular Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice is extremely sweet. Not only are local mangos much juicier and tastier than you will find elsewhere in the world, but it and the rice are then covered in super-sweet coconut milk. However, locals and visitors can’t get enough of it and you will find it everywhere from high-end restaurants to street vendors.
Banana Pancake (Roti)
Another very sweet dessert, roti are not that easy to find in restaurants, but it is well worth looking out for the street vendors and small local eateries which make it. As popular with grown-ups as they are with kids, the pancakes can be filled with chocolate, fruit or eggs, among other things. They are then cut into bite-sized squares and coated in condensed milk for that extra hit of sweetness.
A tasty starter or snack, satays are skewered and marinated meat, with chicken being the most common and popular version. It is served with a tasty peanut sauce – which is essentially the same as crunchy peanut butter - and some squares of toast, as well as other dips containing chilli. They are simple and fun to eat.
Noodle soup (Kway Teow)
If you want to give your kids a real taste of local cuisine, you need to look for a noodle soup shop. While this dish is not particularly common in the likes of hotel restaurants, it is very popular with local Thais and is generally only as spicy as you decide to make it. Hokkien noodle soup is a Phuket speciality, combining the traditional Thai flavours with influences brought in by Chinese immigrants. It features fat, round yellow noodles served with vegetables and seafood and a thin soup. As it is usually eaten with chopsticks, it can be a challenge to consume, but forks are generally available.
Best known as a Chinese dish, dim sum came to Phuket with Chinese immigrants and became a firm favourite, particularly in Phuket Town. Mostly a breakfast dish and mostly available only in small local restaurants, the little steamed packages are served in tiny bowls, which you can pick and mix as you please. They are generally smaller than Hong Kong-style dim sum, but come in just as wide a variety of fillings, virtually none of which are spicy. The local favourite is Phuket-style shumai – a pork dumpling in a noodle wrapper.
Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai)
Radically different from deep-fried chicken with sticky rice due to its very different preparation, Khao Man Gai is a simple staple food across Thailand. Originally a Chinese dish and particularly popular in Chiang Mai, the chicken is poached and served on steamed rice, usually with some slices of cucumber, a chicken stock soup in a separate bowl and a very mild sauce made from tauchu, thick soy sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and vinegar. Widely available in local restaurants, it is usually considered a breakfast or lunch dish and is rarely available for dinner.
Thai Omelette (Kai Jeow)
It’s an omelette; there’s not that much more to say about it. Generally-speaking, the Thai preparation is a little less fluffy than western versions because it contains no milk. Instead, it is common to find fish sauce (as a local alternative to salt) and spring onions added. Generally served with rice, it is a simple and relatively healthy option which is widely available, particularly in small restaurants.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to try your children on their first spicy Thai dish, the Massaman curry is a good one to start with. Technically a Thai interpretation of a Persian dish, the heat comes from cinnamon, star anise, tamarind and a small amount of chilli. It is the mildest of the Thai curries, but one which has become a popular icon of Thai cuisine. If this is your child’s first adventure with spicy food, make sure to order it “mai pet” (not spicy).