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When we go out to eat, or eat over at a friend’s place, often times we’ll be asked ‘how is the food?’ If the food tastes good, the answer is easy. But what if it doesn’t and you find yourself in a moral battle between honesty and politeness? How do you respond to this question in Thai?
Let’s start off with something easy, such as when the food tastes good.
How is the food? อาหารเป็นไงบ้าง? ah1 haan5 bpen1 ngai1 baang3
In this example, the word for ‘food’ (อาหาร) could also be the name of the food you are eating. It depends on the speaker/context.
It tastes really good! อร่อยมากครับ! a2-roi2 maak3 krap4
Now, what if the food was only so-so? What if it was ok, but you’ve had better? Some people prefer to be polite and just declare the food as tasty, but there are other polite options if you’re the honest type.
It’s pretty good. มันใช้ได้ man1 chai4 dai3
It’s OK. มันโอเคครับ man1 oh1 kay1 krap4
It’s edible. กินได้ gin1 dai3
Notice that last example, ‘it’s edible’. If you said that in English, it comes off as really offensive right? It turns out in Thai it’s not offensive at the least. If you say it with an upbeat voice and smile, it comes off as ‘it’s pretty good!’ For me, it took awhile to understand the real meaning of this phrase – it just feels so negative whenever I say it. When the food is just so-so, this is the phrase I choose to use, but really it’s up to you.
Now, what if it doesn’t taste good? If you’re the politeness-before-honesty type, just say กินได้ and eat about half of it. Then stop and pretend you are full. If you’re still hungry, order a large dessert and they won’t think twice. Or you can order a second plate of something else, eat that, and then declare that you ordered more than your stomach can handle. According to old Thai culture, it’s actually polite to leave some food on your plate as otherwise it’d make the cook feel bad she couldn’t cook enough (although not really true today). It’s also generally socially acceptable to not finish your food if it doesn’t taste good, although as an American I feel like it’s wasteful.
The polite ways of saying it doesn’t taste good are:
It’s too spicy! (I can’t eat anymore) เผ็ดมากไปครับ (ทนไม่ไหวแล้ว) pet2 maak3 bai2 krap4 (tone1 mai3 wai5 laew4)
I’m full. อิ่มแล้วครับ em2 laew4 krap4
I don’t like it. ไม่ชอบครับ mai3 chawp3 krap4
It doesn’t taste good. ไม่อร่อยครับ mai3 a2-roi2 krap4
I’ll eat something else. กินไรอึ่นจะดีกว่า gin1 rai1 eun2 ja2 dee1 gwa2
Just for fun, there is an impolite but funny way to say something doesn’t taste good. I first heard it when I once asked a waitress about her opinion of a particular drink her restaurant was serving. She replied a2-roi2 ja2 uwok3 (อร่อยจะอวก), which sarcastically means ‘it’s so tasty that you’ll vomit’. I will admit I was confused for a good 5 seconds until I realized the sarcasm . . .