Gin kaow reu yung , “Have you eaten yet?”, is a common greeting when you meet somebody in Thailand. It is most likely to be followed up with an invitation to a meal if you reply in the negative. A mouth- watering medley of sweet and sour, salty and spicy- that’s Thai food for most of us. When it comes to food, even for the most unadventurous among us, pad thai, that iconic symbol of Thai cuisine has figured somewhere in our experience. So its no wonder that a significantly small nation like Thailand has exported its cuisine worldwide and has garnered popularity to the point that it is the world’s sixth most well- known/favorite kind of cuisine. To top that, seven Thai dishes appear in the list of “50 Most Delicious Foods” in the world in a survey conducted by CNN, the highest representation from a single country.
Thailand is surrounded by Burma, China and Laos in the West, North and East and is bordered by Malaysia in the South. Food influences from all these cultures are reflected in the local food, which is a fascinating melange of flavors, colors, textures and aromas. Thailand has four major regions- Northern, North Eastern, Central and Southern Thailand, and each of these regions differs slightly from the others in terms of local food practices, cooking methods and ingredients used.
There are a number of factors that add to the allure of Thai food.
Based on starchy staples of rice and noodles, Thai food incorporates a whole lot of vegetables, sauces, dips and a variety of meats and seafood. A typical Thai meal would consist of a soup, a raw salad, a curry served with rice, a meat/seafood dish that might be accompanied by a dip, stir fried vegetables and of course, dessert. Incorporating various flavors and textures, all the items are served and eaten together so that the sweet is offset by the salty, the sour by the spice. Traditional Thai methods of cooking involved stewing, grilling and baking. The Chinese influence added deep frying and stir- frying as prevalent cooking techniques.
- Aroma and flavoring:
Incorporating many vegetables, Thai food is particularly focused on the aromatic aspects of cooking. Herbs and spices such as galangal (Thai ginger), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, cilantro and other fragrant spices are generously used to infuse wonderfully subtle, yet powerful flavors in Thai cooking. Lime and tamarind add the sour notes while palm sugar is used to sweeten the experience.
Shrimp paste, fish sauces and a variety of chili pastes and powders come in handy, contributing to the levels of heat and adding depth of flavor.
4. Local ingredients:
Peanut is another distinctive ingredient that recurs in Thai cooking. Ground and mixed with chilies and other condiments, the distinctive peanut sauce is globally popular and accompanies satays and other grilled meats. Coconuts grow in plenty in Thailand and are consumed widely. Coconut milk is also liberally used in soups, curries and desserts, adding a mild, creamy dimension to everything.
The fragrant Thai Jasmine rice is an important element of all Thai meals. Among other varieties of rice, the glutinous sticky rice also stands out as a universal favorite, especially when it is used in khao neeo mamuang, a dessert of sticky rice and coconut sauce served with fresh mangoes.
6. Dessert and Fruits:
The Thais keep their dessert simple and use local fruits generously in their sweet preparations. Dessert is a combination of fruits and other ingredients including coconut, coconut milk, tapioca, grass jelly, taro root, pumpkin etc. Palm sugar is used as a choice sweetener. Local Thai fruits like bananas, mango, jackfruit, durian, longan, pommelo, mangosteen, guavas, rose apples and lychees are luscious and usually come at the end of a meal.
It’s worth it go to Thailand, not just for its pristine beaches and friendly people for the amazing variety within its cuisine. You might forget the feeling of the sand between your toes in a hurry, but the taste of authentic Thai food will stay with you for years to come!
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