Popular across the globe, Thai cuisine has earned its place in the pantheon of great food. Renowned for its complex flavours and fragrances, Thai foods aim is to strike a balance between spice and sweetness. When done well, this combination of heat and sweet is just the most delicious food that will pass your lips. And you can be fairly sure that they get it right in Thailand. Getting there is not even as expensive as you might think. Try DialAFlight for reasonably priced flights to Thailand. In the meantime, let’s examine the culinary wonders of this beautiful country…
Thai cooking has always reflected its aquatic origins. Fish is a staple, combined with a colourful variety of plants, spices and herbs. Traditionally, land meat was used sparingly, and usually shredded rather than eaten in large chunks. In the heat of Asia, herbs and spices are vital to the preservation of meat – which is why the Thais have got so damn good at wielding them.
Cooking methods vary widely, but include grilling, baking and stewing. We think of ‘fusion’ foods as a modern idea, but Thailand has been absorbing culinary influences from across the world since the 1600s. Stir frying, for example, was picked up from the Chinese. The use of ghee as a cooking fat was imported from India. Portuguese missionaries introduced the chillie to Thai cooking around this time too, and other influences include Dutch, French and Japanese cooking.
The characteristics associated with Thai cooking are so idiosyncratic it’s hard to separate them from the country. Chief among these has to be the widespread application of coconut milk as a dairy substitute. Galanga and lemongrass are two of the most commonly used fragrant herbs, used to brilliant effect in order to balance out the heat from the spices.
A typical Thai meal consists of soup, a curry dish with assorted condiments, various dips, a spiced salad and mixed fish and vegetables. Traditionally, everything is served together. This is key to the experience, as all the flavours are designed to compliment one another. The different tastes working together in harmony is the very essence of Thai cooking, and reflects the wider (largely Buddhist) culture, in which people and nature are as one.
Food is eaten with a spoon and fork. A knife is unnecessary, as meat and vegetables are already cut into bite-sized chunks. Everyone eats together as a family, sharing all dished (something westerners, with our ‘me’ culture, have a hard time getting used to). The ratio is generally three dishes ordered for every two people. Go out to eat in a big group and follow this methodology – you will definitely not go hungry!
Once in Thailand, it’s highly recommended that you pay a visit to the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School where you can learn all the tricks of the trade. Bring this information back home with you and your popularity will soar! There are a number of locations across the country so you should never be too far from one.
Image by Yu’an