Foreign diners always surprise with their first formal Thai meal. Rather than serving into courses, most dishes are brought to the dining table at the same time. On the table, it is a marvellous array of dishes – one is different from others in some ways – which can be a curry, a soup, a stir-fry, a deep-fry, a grill, a barbecue or even a steamed dish. The scene is a riot of variety, balance, contrast, harmony, colour and texture.
Thailand has been the Asian crossroads and never had any colonial past for centuries. Though this country’s cuisine has retained its distinctive character, at the same time, its culinary art of cooking also gradually adopted the cuisines of other countries such as India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and even the far one like Portugal.
Thailand, The Land of Smiles, is the diverse country divided into several regions, mostly having a tropical savanna climate. The north, neighbouring Myanmar and Laos, is mountainous, verdant and cooler than the others. The South, the long-narrow peninsula with steamy dense jungles and famous-beautiful beaches, is flanked by the long coastlines on the both sides. Also, it is the only part of Thailand, having a tropical monsoon climate. The East, its geography is short mountain rages alternating with basins of short rivers, neighbours Cambodia. The West, the narrow region neighbouring Myanmar, is geographically characterised by high mountain ranges alternating with valleys. The Northeast or Isan, neighbouring Laos and Cambodia and flanked by the Mekong river, is large plateau likely drought-prone. And the Central is a plain having fertile river basin with rice-growing areas and orchards. Since these are distinct regions, each has its distinctive food characteristic. As the result, foods here are always classified into 4 styles such as northern food, southern food, north-eastern or Isan food and central food. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is the cosmopolitan melting pot of all regions that all sorts of Thai foodstuffs are available and easily accessible, and the food prices here, of course, are really reasonable.
Since most areas of Thailand have been used for farming purposes, natural ingredients are plentiful and easily obtainable. Both sides of the South and some parts of the Easts and the Central are flanked by the endless coastlines, giving the country the fresh supplies of fish, crabs, prawns, lobsters or even shellfish. The fertile river basin of The central is also abundant with limitless freshwater fish species. And temperate fruits and vegetables can be obtained from the North. As the results, Thais have a wide choice of ingredients to choose for creating many and many delicious Thai dishes.
Thais rarely use cookbook in cooking. They acquired perfectly cooking skills from their parents or relatives. In truth, recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. The success of this country’s cuisine lies in the blend of basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, hot and sometime bitter – which form a wide range of flavours. Sweetness comes from sugar, fruit and sometime honey. Lime and tamarind are mainly used to add sour. Saltiness obtains from fish sauce, salt, soy sauce and sometime shrimp paste. Before chilies were brought to Siam (the former name of Thailand) by Portuguese traders during the late Ayutthaya kingdom period, peppercorns had been used to add spiciness. Though, today, Thais amply use the chilies for this instead, the peppercorns are still added in some spicy dishes. And the bitter gently obtains from herbs and dark green vegetables added.
Making Thai food, it is necessary to have profound knowledges in the nature of each ingredient, especially meat, fruit and vegetable and temperature and time controls needed in each cooking step. The goal of these is to create each wonderful Thai dish with colours, aromas and textures, which does not only appeal to the diners but also offers taste sensations as impressive as its appearance. Meat, vegetables, and fruit are mostly cut into bite-size pieces before being incorporated with other ingredients, making diners feel convenient during entertaining with their Thai meal.
Eating a Thai meal is always a great time of sharing a good experience. Each diner is given with a plate of the plain cooked rice, the mainstay of Thai meal, to eat along with various dishes on the table. Everything is shared, and there is also a great deal of conversation during the meal. Spoon and fork are eating implements, rice and food are pushed onto the spoon with the fork. A knife is unnecessary since the food is already cut into small pieces. Also, it is notable that Thais likely perfect their meal by ending it with fruit or sweets, especially for the formal Thai meal, a bowl of fruit is the thing signalling each diner that the dining adventure is nearly coming to the end.
Making Thai food is not too difficult and very adaptable. The selection is up to the diners’ fancies, especially meat, vegetables and even fruit. The notable thing about Thai meal is that it should consist of variety, contrast, balance and harmony in it.
Enjoy your adventure with Thai cuisine