Thai, being a tonal language makes pronunciations difficult at times. I knew that if I did not get the pronunciation down I could potentially be ordering something completely different and had no idea of!
I cleared my throat and tried to order with my best Thai pronunciation. To my surprise the waitress looked at me, smiled and shook her head in approval. I thought “WOW, that was pretty easy!” Shortly after we were brought out 6 plates of steamed white rice. I thought to myself with a bit of confusion…”is this an appetizer because I know I did not order this.”
We put our heads together and thought of a few different scenarios as to why they were giving us this and only this. Our thoughts covered an array of scenarios. Maybe they went to get the soup at a neighboring restaurant to bring it over. Needless to say, we ate our rice and no soup showed up at our table. Hungry and wondering what happened to our order, I decided to give it one more shot.
So I ordered again. Again, I received that same smile and nod of approval from the waitress. I must have said it correct this time for sure. A couple of minutes later we again received 6 plates of steamed white rice. After racking my brain and all of us wondering what was happening and what was getting lost in translation; I had a moment of clarity! In Thai white rice is spelled Khao Suwai.
With such a similar spelling and a slight difference in the tone, I was obviously making a mistake in my pronunciation and in fact was ordering white rice… TWICE! I tucked my tail between my legs and explained this fiasco to the group. They all got a very good laugh at this and joked with me that after living here this long I didn’t even know how to order rice… what was I really doing with my time!
Anyhow, after this I made sure to get the pronunciation correct and later that night we enjoyed some amazing bowls of Khao Soi!