Thai food is internationally famous. Whether chilli - hot or
comparatively blands, harmony is the guiding principle
behind each dish. Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of
centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously
combined into something uniquely Thai. The characteristics
of Thai food depend on who cooks it, for whom it is cooked,
for what occasion, and where it is cooked to suit all
palates. Originally, Thai cooking reflected the
characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle. Aquatic animals,
plants and herbs were major ingredients. Large chunks of
meat were eschewed. Subsequent influences introduced the use
of sizeable chunks to Thai cooking.
Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals
in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with
herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were
stewing and baking, or grilling. Chinese influences saw the
introduction of frying, stir frying and deep-frying.
Culinary influences from the 17th century onwards included
Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese. Chillies were
introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by
Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them
while serving in South America.
Thais were very adapt at 'Siamese-ising' foreign cooking
methods, and substituting ingredients. The ghee used in
Indian cooking was replaced by coconut oil, and coconut milk
substituted for other daily products. Overpowering pure
spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh herbs such as
lemon grass and galanga. Eventually, fewer and less spices
were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs
increased. It is generally acknowledged that Thai curries
burn intensely, but briefly, whereas other curries, with
strong spices, burn for longer periods. Instead of serving
dishes in courses, a Thai meal is served all at once,
permitting dinners to enjoy complementary combinations of
A proper Thai meal should
consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with
accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace
the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry
should be replaced by non spiced items. There must be a
harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and
the entire meal.
Thai food is eaten with a fork and spoon. Even single
dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or steamed rice
topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices or
chunks obviating the need for a knife. The spoon is used to
convey food to the mouth.
eating Thai food is a communal affair involving two or more
people, principally because the greater the number of diners
the greater the number of dishes ordered. Generally
speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their
own individual plates of steamed rice, three diners four
dishes, and so on. Diners choose whatever they require from
shared dishes and generally add it to their own rice. Soups
are enjoyed concurrently with rice. Soups are enjoyed
concurrently with other dishes, not independently. Spicy
dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes are "balanced" by
bland dishes to avoid discomfort.
The ideal Thai meal
is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet
and sour, and is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose
and palate. A typical meal might include a clear soup
(perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed
dish (mussels in curry sauce), a fried dish (fish with
ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on a bed of lettuce,
onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice) and a variety of
sauces into which food is dipped. This would be followed by
sweet desserts and/or fresh fruits such as mangoes, durian,
jackfruit, papaya, grapes or melon.
These can be hors d'oeuvres,
accompaniments, side dishes, and/or snacks. They include
spring rolls, satay, puffed rice cakes with herbed topping.
They represent the playful and creative nature of the Thais.
A harmony of tastes and herbal
flavors are essential. Major tastes are sour, sweet and
salty. Spiciness comes in different degrees according to
meat textures and occasions.
A sweet and sour dish, a fluffy
omelets, and a stir-fried dish help make a meal more
Dips entail some complexity. They can be
the major dish of a meal with accompaniments of vegetables
and some meats. When dips are made thinly, they can be used
as salad designs. A particular and simple dip is made from
chillies, garlic, dried shrimps, lime juice, fish sauce,
sugar and shrimp paste.
A good meal for an average person may
consist simply of a soup and rice. Traditional Thai soups
are unique because they embody more flavors and textures
than can be found in other types of food.
Most non-Thai curries consist of
powdered or ground dried spices, whereas the major
ingredients of Thai curry are fresh herbs. A simple Thai
curry paste consists of dried chilies, shallots and shrimp
paste. More complex curries include garlic, galanga,
coriander roots, lemon grass, kaffir lime peel and
in themselves , they include rice and noodle dishes such as
Khao Phat and Phat Thai.
No good meal is
complete without a Thai dessert. Uniformly sweet, they are
particularly welcome after a strongly spiced and herbed
Titbits: A simple kind of titbit is fun to make. You need
shallots, ginger, lemon or lime, lemon grass, roasted
peanuts and red phrik khi nu chillies. Peeled shallots and
ginger should be cut into small fingertip sizes. Diced lime
and slices of lemon grass should be cut to the; same size.
Roasted peanut should be left in halves. Chillies should be
thinly sliced. Combinations of such ingredients should be
wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves and laced with a sweet-salty
sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, dried shrimps and lime
Mixing crushed fresh
chillies with fish sauce and a dash of lime juice makes a
general accompanying; sauce for any Thai dish. Adding some
crushed garlic and a tiny amount of roasted or raw shrimp
paste transforms it into an all-purpose dip (nam phrik).
Some pulverised dried shrimp and julienned egg-plant with
sugar makes this dip more complete. Serve it with steamed
rice, an omelets and some vegetables.
dressings have similar base ingredients. Add fish sauce,
lime juice and sugar to enhance saltiness, sourness and
sweetness. Crushed chillies, garlic and shallots add
spiciness and herbal fragrance. Lemon grass and galanga can
be added for additional flavor. Employ this mix with any
boiled, grilled or fried meat. Lettuce leaves, sliced
cucumber, cut spring onions and coriander leaves help top
off a salad dressing.
generally need good stock. Add to boiling water crushed
peppercorns, salt, garlic, shallots, coriander roots, and
the meats or cuts of one's choice. After prolonged boiling
and simmering , you have the basic stock of common Thai
soups. Additional galanga, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves,
crushed fresh chillies, fish sauce and lime juice create the
basic stock for a Tom Yam.
To make a
quick curry, fry curry or chilli paste in heated oil; or
thick coconut milk. Stir and fry until the paste is well
cooked and add meats of one's choice. Season with fish sauce
or sugar to taste. Add water or thin coconut milk to make
curry go a longer way. Add sliced eggplant with a garnish of
basil and kaffir lime leaves. Make your own curry paste by
blending fresh (preferably dried) chillies, garlic,
shallots, galanga, lemon grass, coriander roots, ground
pepper, kaffir lime peels and shrimp paste.
Single Dish Meals:
the cooking oil, fry in a mixture of crushed chillies,
minced garlic, ground pepper and chopped chicken meat. When
nearly cooked, add vegetables such as cut beans or
eggplants. Season with fish sauce and garnish with kefir
lime leaves, basil or balsam leaves. Cooked rice or fresh
noodles added to the frying would make this a substantial