One of the beauties of Thailand is the amount of fresh vegetables available, from large grocery stores down to open fresh markets.
Prices are very reasonable on Thailand grown vegetables, so shy away from the imports. Some items are seasonal, such as fresh corn.
Examples of excellent side dishes would be yard beans, broccoli, cauliflower, fresh corn, carrots, radishes, beets, winter squash (pumpkin), potatoes, and even dried beans.
There is also frozen and canned available at reasonable prices, such as a standard size can of peas (425 gram can, drained amount is 230 grams which is about 1 cup) is 20 Baht at Tesco, which is about 58 cents. We normally keep canned beans, corn, and peas stocked here at the house, and occasionally I will buy a bag of frozen for use in recipes.
Long Beans – Although very inexpensive, these can be a nightmare just based on the volume one gets in a bundle. If the beans are really long, it only takes one or two beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces to make a side dish for 2 people, then you are left with maybe 6 or 8 more beans. So unless feeding a crowd or making a bean casserole, look for smaller bundles and shorter beans. A good addition to add to beans is chopped fresh mushrooms and or diced onion and or crumbled cooked bacon. If you are making a dish that requires diced onion, then take a tablespoon or so from that and add to your beans. If making a dish needing bacon, cook a slice or two extra and add that to the beans.
Broccoli & Cauliflower – This is imported and will cost more, typically 55-60 Baht/kilo. When you cut these apart, include the stem as well, it is just as good and tender when boiled or steamed. A variant would be to make a cheese sauce and add that as well.
Fresh Corn – Excellent value. Serve as corn on the cob or cook then cut off the cob and serve that way, don’t forget the butter! We buy 10 ears or so at a time, have some for a side this cut everything of the other ears and freeze for later meals. If you are out riding around the country side and see a corn field, look for any houses close and ask to buy fresh corn. Normally you will get this for a better price than at a fresh market.
Carrot & Radish – just wash, slice and steam or boil, and top with some butter. Boiled or steamed radish (these are the big long white ones that look like a white carrot) tastes like a bland carrot. A bit of diced radish goes well with carrots. I normally take one radish and slice and just put in water and keep in the fridge, makes an easy snack or just bring the bowl out and set on the table when having a meal. Raw radish tastes very much like a red radish.
Beets – If a Thai has not ever cooked these, make sure you leave the green part on, do not make any cuts on them and just boil them, then when cooled to handle, remove the stem and root ends and easily peel. A possibility is to use a refrigerator pickle recipe and pickle them as well.
Winter Squash – These are the normally large, kind of flattened looking, ugly greenish squash called Pumpkins, which in fact they are, and also available is Butternut Squash. In the US one can easily buy squash frozen in blocks, it is thawed, heated in a sauce pan and served with butter on top as a side dish. Those frozen blocks of squash are primarily butternut squash, but also used is winter squash and even orange pumpkins. Now what to do with a winter squash? Make squash of course! Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and remove the seeds and pulp from the center, then steam, remove the skin and mash, add butter to your liking and serve. Sounds like a lot of work, but it does not take to long to steam squash, so when you are say baking a casserole for 30 minutes or so, you can quite easily make fresh squash for a side dish. Don’t have a potato masher? No problem, use a large empty beer bottle, works great! Speaking of winter squash, think pumpkin pies as well. If you are out riding around the country side and see a squash field, look for any houses close and ask to buy fresh winter squash.
Potatoes – Boiled, mashed, as a salad, hash browns for a breakfast side, even just fried potatoes and sausage for a main dish, all excellent and always available at grocery stores and fresh markets.
Dried Beans – Yep, these take time for soaking and cooking, but the results are well worth it. Think simmered beans, refried beans, and baked beans for starters. Beans to consider are Pinto, Red Kidney Beans, and Black Beans. Check the labels as some of these can be imported and quite expensive, especially kidney and black beans. Kidney beans as well as Pinto beans (any white beans) make great refried beans, Pinto or any white beans makes great baked beans, and Black beans make a great simmered side dish with Mexican main dishes. A note about Red Kidney beans, these must be boiled for at least 5 minutes to remove a very mild toxin, so if using Red Kidney beans in slow cooker recipe, boil them first for 5 minutes, then add to the slow cooker.