Friday, 10 July 2009

Tasty Thai Food

Thailand’s cuisine is a unique combination of flavors and techniques that has, over the centuries, been heavily influenced by Asia and Europe. The Thais’ love of curries and spices comes from India, the method of stir-frying food in a wok comes from China and rather surprisingly, traders from Portugal first brought the chili to Thailand.

Food is the Thai nation’s favourite topic of conversation. Instead of enquiring after your health or commenting on the state of the weather, a Thai will greet another with a cheerful; ‘Have you eaten yet?’ If the answer is; ‘not eaten’, whether you are family, friend, neighbour or even the visiting repair man, you will be invited to eat. Hospitality and community are very important to Thai society and so the bonding formed whilst sharing food is central to every household. At anytime of the day, no matter where you look, someone will be eating, preparing or cooking food.

During a traditional meal, a cloth will be laid on the floor and everyone will gather around it, the women sitting with their legs to one side, the men cross-legged. The food is placed in the centre and the diners will help themselves and each other. The meal is eaten using a fork and spoon (with the fork being used to push food onto the spoon). The Thais only use chopsticks when eating noodles.

Along with the staple food of rice, the typical Thai meal will consist of a soup, a spicy hot curry or spiced salad, a dip with accompanying fish/meat and vegetables and sometimes a creamy sweet desert. Ideally, the meal will offer a delicious combination of sweet, salty and sour, with spicy hot and bitter as minor accents to the flavors. There must be a harmony of tastes with the spicy hot dish being balanced with other milder dishes.

Each of the four regions of Thailand has its own speciality. In the north, the food tends to be saltier, sweeter and spicier (hotter). Southern Thais have more curry dishes than the rest of Thailand and they prefer their food a little more sour.

There are no real food taboos in Thailand, in the rural Northeast eating insects is common and crickets, silkworms, mealworms and the giant water bug (mang da) are popular snacks. But eating cheese and milk products are considered strange and to some disgusting, especially by the Northern Thais (Isaan)

As well as Pad Thai, Red and Green curries and Thai fish cakes – dishes that regularly appear on Western menus, there are many more delicious taste sensations for you to explore.