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Thai Cuisine

Food Traditions and Development

Thai Steamed Fish with Lime.

Rice and fish are an important part of Thais’ daily meals and has always been, since the Sukhothai period about 700 years ago. There are many Thai foods that have been handed down from generation to generation, preserving the culture of the past.

Thailand owes it’s variety of dishes and tastes to the foreign influences that have come into contact with the country over the centuries. During the reign of King Narai the Great, there were many countries that came to establish diplomatic relations with Siam. Some of these foreigners were from Greece, Persia, Holland, Japan, Portugal, France, China, India and other nations.

Despite their prohibition by monks, nuns and other strict adherents, many pungent and flavourful ingredients are extremely popular today in many predominantly-Buddhist societies, such as the use of hot chilies and garlic in Thai Cuisine.

Vegetables are commonly used in Thai cuisine.

Traditional Thai cuisine mirrors the Thai’s waterborne lifestyle via the use of aquatic plants, animals and herbs. As Thais are generally Buddhists, large chunks of meat are rarely used. Instead, meats are usually served in smaller portions.
During meals, dishes are served at the same time instead of in courses. This is to spread the idea of community-eating and family.

Thai cuisine emphasizes the need for balance in flavors, incorporating sweet, spicy, salty and sour tastes into each meal. Complementary sets are also balanced accordingly. For example, spicy soup is usually served alongside a mild-flavored stir fry; a sweet salad is paired with a sour stir-fry.

Many of Thailand’s renowned dishes use tons of hot spices, such as ‘kaeng’ in Tom Yum Goong.

Around Thailand, there are many Burmese-style curries and soups, and close to Malaysia, Muslim recipes are also commonly incorporated into Thai cuisines such as massaman and roti. The most significant addition to Thai cuisine came not from Asia but from South America, via European trade over the years. In the 16th century, the Portuguese introduced what was to become one of the hallmarks of the cuisine; chili.

During the Ayutthaya period, the Thais ate rice with dishes such as fresh and dried fish, vegetables, fruits. Thai cuisine, like that of other cultures that readily accepted the taste of chili, had long included an element of heat by way of fresh green peppercorns, dried white peppercorns and galangal. Foreign vegetables and fruit (tomatoes, eggplants, asparagus, carrots, snow peas and corn) have also been cultivated for the last couple of centuries as it seems to suit the taste of Thais.

Interesting Fact

Did you know that Thais use forks and spoons for food rather than chopsticks, like other Southeast Asian countries? This is because, in the 19th century, King Rama IV wanted to westernize Thailand so as to discourage western countries from colonizing Thailand, and thus decided that they should use the same utensils as the West; forks and spoons.

The use of forks and spoons in Thailand is normal, unlike its’ neighbouring countries where chopsticks are more frequently used.

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