Saturday, March 14, 2009


When most people hear 'Thailand food', they think of spicy-hot chili paste, but the real scope of Thai cuisine is much broader than that. Thailand food itself has been developed over centuries of contact with foreign countries and their cooking. Originally, Thailand food was traditionally baked, grilled, or stewed, and the strong Buddhist influences in the area meant that Thai cooks eschewed the use of big chunks of meat. As a coastal country, a diet of Thailand food traditionally relied heavily on aquatic herbs, plants, and animals. Rice remains a cornerstone of the Thai diet, as in much of Southeast Asia, but the possibilities are endless.

From the curries of India—adapted to Thai ingredients and methods with fresh herbs used instead of dried and pungent spices, and the milk and oil of coconuts used in place of ghee and other day-to-day ingredients—to Chinese methods of frying, deep-frying, and stir-frying, to the introduction of chilies through Portuguese missionaries, fresh from service in South America, Thailand food has incorporated a number of influences from around the world and harmonized them into its own distinctive cuisine. Unlike some Indian food, Thailand food does not avoid the use of meat (especially beef) despite the mutual influences of Buddhism on the diet, relying heavily on fish and shrimp pastes and sauces for flavor in cooking, and using both red meat and poultry.

Eating Thailand food is traditionally and ideally a communal activity, with diners sharing several main dishes and selecting the food they wish to eat to add to their own plates, heaped with steamed rice. Food is eaten with a spoon and fork, as the bite-size chunks Thailand food tends to be prepared in eliminates the necessity for a knife.

A perfect and harmoniously balanced meal of Thailand food should blend spicy heat, subtle flavors, sweetness and sourness, and should be equally as appealing to the diner's eye and nose as it is to the palate. A typical meal of Thailand food might involve a soup—of which Thailand's are considered unique around the world for the uncommon variety of flavors and textures found within—served with a fried dish, something steamed (perhaps seafood in a curry sauce), dipping sauces (usually found in a wide selection), and a salad (which might often contain meat, and be flavored sweet, sour, or salty), rounded off by a dessert of fresh fruit or some sort of pudding.

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