An article about Thai food, where it comes from and traditions.
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There are hundreds of Thai dishes. Each dish has its own characteristics in flavor and feature.Thai Cuisine is well-known for being hot and spicy and for its balance of five fundamental flavors in each dish or the overall meal – hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and bitter (optional). Thai food is also known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as fish sauce. Each Thai dish has more than 3-4 flavors. The ingredients of each dish helps to not only harmonize all different flavors but also to make it mouth wateringly delicious.
Traditionally, Thai cooks & families usually needed quite a long time to prepare the ingredients and to cook, therefore, cooperation and team work is needed to cook a family meal. The process of Thai cuisine explains Thai life: its traditions, customs and culture. It shows Thai families were large, in which its family members live together with a warm, close relationship. In cooking, Thai family members have their fair share of helping as a team. For example, in cooking curry dishes, the children would help with light work like nipping off basil leaves and adults could squeeze coconut meat and pound chillies and spices. Nowadays, Thai food is easy and simple to cook as you can find cooked or ready made ingredients in supermarkets. However, it lakes of traditional standard like in the past.
Although considered as a single cuisine, Thai food would be more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central, and Southern. Each cuisine sharing similar foods or derived from those of neighboring countries.
Central Thailand has a moderate flavor with herbs and sugar. Most curry with coconut milk dishes origin from central Thailand. For example, Kaeng Kaew Wan (Green Curry), Tom Yam (Spicy & sour soup), Tom Kha (Coconut milk soup), Panang Curry (Dry red curry).
The dishes of Northern Thailand have light flavors, with a little spices, not very hot with chillies, not salty and most without sugar. The popular dishes are Sai-ua (Thai northern sausages), Nam-Prig Ong (Minced pork and tomato chillies paste), Kaeng Kare (vegetarian curry), and Cap Moo (Som Tam (papaya salad) is a north-eastern dish).
North Eastern (or Isan)
The cuisine of Northeastern (or Isan) Thailand is heavily influenced by Laos. For example, Lap and Tom Sabb. Traditionally very spicy and strong tasting dishes, which show that north-eastern Thais like strong flavors with chillies, salt, herbs, and spices.
The south has a very strong flavor of food with spicy herbs, like turmeric, and tend to contain coconut milk. For example, Kaeng Leang, Kaeng Tai-pla, and Kua Kling.
In fact, Thai food always has various kinds of vegetables as a main ingredient. These can be found in many curry dishes with or without coconut milk, stir fried, salad, and eaten with chillies paste. As the Thai food’s ingredients have small quantities of fat and meat, Thai people are fortunate in their fat intake being far less than most westerners.
Many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes which were introduced to Thailand by Chinese emigration. Such dishes include Jok (Rice soup), Kway teow (noodle dishes), Khao Kha Moo or Moo Pa-loh (Pork stew, with or without rice) and Khao Mun Gai (Boiled chicken on lightly oily steamed rice). However, Thai people adapted and modified these dishes for local Thai flavor and taste.
Why is Thai food an international favorite?
Not only the unique taste in each dish, there are more reasons why Thai food is popular among foreigners. Decoration, Thai food has an attractive decoration inducing appetites. Such as, Thai fruit and vegetable carving is an art which has been introduced to dishes, which makes you feel fascinated with the delicate preparation. Also, Thai food has both values of nutrition and medicine, obtained from ingredients such as vegetables, spices and herbs and without artificial flavoring substances. Moreover, Thai food can be harmoniously taken with other food, for example, Pad Kaprao as spaghetti sauce, and Nam-prig Pao, chili paste, as sandwich filling or bread spread.
Thai folk wisdom, art and Thai culture is translated in Thai food. It reveals the characteristics of Thai people: their delicate taste, discipline, rules of conduct, artistic taste and human relationship. Hence, Thai cuisine is not only about food but it is an art to learn.
By Supapan Lane (Jiab)