Sawatdii kh! This blog tells more about authentic Thai dishes, what influence do these dishes actually have in the rest of the world? And how did these dishes and taste sensations actually arise? How is the food culture in Thailand? You read it here!
The authentic Thai dishes
Eating in Thailand means a journey of discovery of the different flavors, spices, scents and structures. According to (Thailand voor beginners, 2020), when it says on the menu that a dish is spicy, you should realize that it is very spicy. No… you can hardly ignore the peppers in the Thai kitchen. Medium spicy dishes are already experienced as very spicy by people from Western countries. The dishes that you really must have eaten when you are in Thailand once are:
What Thai people are known for is that they make all curry paste fresh themselves. No packages and bags like you buy in Western countries! Curry is a spicy recipe that can be prepared in different ways. “Curries often eaten are the red (panang) curry and the green curry (kaeng khiao wan). You will also see yellow curry regularly. A standard Thai curry is made with coconut milk, curry paste (often freshly prepared), some meat, poultry or fish/shellfish and various vegetables and herbs. Curry is generally eaten with white rice. ” (Thailand voor beginners, 2020).
Khao Niaw Ma Muang
This is a simple and very popular dessert in Thailand. It is made from sticky rice, creamy coconut milk, sugar and salt. The topping is fresh pieces of mango.
Would you rather go for a comfort food dish? Then the typical pad Thai is something for you! This dish contains everything you need. “It is a one-plate dish that contains everything you need: carbohydrates (rice noodles), proteins (tofu, egg and, for example, chicken or shrimp) and vegetables. The dish is made from “a combination of fish sauce, tamarind paste, garlic and red chili peppers. Pad Thai should be served with palm sugar, a wedge of lime and finely chopped peanuts.” (Thailand voor beginners) Do you want it more spicy? Than you can just put some chili flakes on it. Most of the tourists like Pad Thai very much.
Eating insects? YES REALLY!
In most Western countries we do not know this yet, but in Thailand they are already very far in the field of eating insects. Research shows that adding insects to our diet is better for the environment. So you can eat insects throughout Thailand. For example on Khao San Road in Bangkok.
What to eat when you are in the north of Thailand? You can try this authentic soup: Khao Sao, “a curry-based soup, with chicken and / or beef, lime, shallots, herbs, coconut milk and egg noodles.” (Here is Thailand, 2020)
Above a few examples of popular Thai recipes, of course there are many more than this and there is so much more to discover. Different recipes are also eaten per region or local residents have their own way of preparing a recipe.
History of Thai food
Originally the Thai food comes from the Chinese, the chinese people brought their dishes with them when they emigrated from the southern Chinese provinces into modern day Thailand. The Chinese introduced the use of the wok method to Thailand, which is a technique of deep-frying and stir-frying dishes. Besides that, the Chinese also introduced various types of noodles, rice, tofu, different soy sauces and Tao Chiao (fermented bean paste). The Chinese have also brought chopsticks to Thailand, before that time chopsticks were unknown to Thai people (Hua Hin Today, 2017). The Thai dishes are based on 5 flavours, sweet, sour, salty, bitter and warm.
Over the years there have been many influences from the world in Thai cuisine, not only from the Chinese. Another big influence on the Thai cuisine comes from India. India brought spices to Thailand through international trade. Also, the well-known curry in Thailand is said to have its roots in India, the Buddhist monks from India brought the curry to Thailand. “The most popular curries today are the Masaman curry which contains dries spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg, and yellow curry which is infused with turmeric, cumin, ground coriander seed and chili powder.” (Proebst, 2017). Much years later, the Thai cuisine was influenced by western countries, mainly after they were in contact with the Dutch and Portuguese kitchen. The biggest western influence on the Thai cuisine was the introduction of the Chili pepper from America, nowadays the chili pepper is one of the most used ingredients in the Thai cuisine. Portuguese and Spanish ships brought new food to Thailand during the Columbian exchange, such as tomatoes, papaya, pineapple, cashews, etc. When there were western influences in Thai cuisine, there were also some Japanese influences.
So the Thai people were very good at using foreign cooking methods, they mixed these foreign methods with their own techniques. Some foreign ingredients were later replaced by local products, for example ghee, which was used in Indian cuisine, was replaced by coconut milk and coconut oil. This was therefore a good alternative to dairy products. In Thailand, many pure spices were also softened in taste by adding fresh herbs such as lemongrass and galangal. This also happened with the famous Thai curry, as time went by the spices were replaced by many more fresh herbs. This makes the curry spicy for only a short period of time, unlike the Indian curry, which remains spicy in the mouth for a very long time. (Gringo, 2020)
During the silk road and the various sea routes, the foreign influence on Thai cuisine was really enormous. In this period Asia was connected with Europe and Vice Versa. Spices were mainly traded at that time and spices were very important for Thai cuisine.
Herbs & species
The Thai cuisine is well-known for their strong and many flavours, herbs and spices makes Thai food so delicious. Herbs and spices are a very important part of Thai cooking, mostly they are used in combination to balance the tastings in a dish. I will highlight some spices and herbs that are indispensable in Thai cuisine! (Indulge Bangkok, 2019)
Here in the west we use cinnamon to make sweet delicacies, in Thailand they use cinnamon to season dishes. Cinnamon helps to prevent heat exhaustion, which makes it the perfect spice in Thai cuisine. Cinnamon is called “Ob-Choey” in Thai language.
Coriander Root & Coriander Seeds:
Not many countries use the root of coriander in their cuisine, Thailand does this regularly. The root is ground in a mortar and from this they make a paste, the taste is perfect for soups. The Thai name is “Rak-Pak-Chee”. The coriander seeds are also loved in Thai cuisine, they use the seeds to marinate red meat, because its nutty and earthy flavour goes well with the meat. This is called “Look-Pak-Chee”.
Dried chillies are simply on this list because Thai food is very spicy. They absolutely use it in every dish, even on top of dishes to give it an extra kick! In Thai it’s called “Prik-Haeng”.
Galangal is famous because of its role in the Tom Kha Gai. The galangal is similar to ginger, the taste is almost the same. The difference between them is that galangal has a mild flavor compared to ginger. In Thai they say “Kha”.
Ginger tastes spicy and they use it for toppings, fish and sauces. Ginger is also used as a natural remedy to cure indigestion. Ginger is “Khing”.
Garlic may be the most popular ingredient in Thai cooking. It can be found in soups, stir-fried dishes, curry pastes, toppings, etc. It is also used fresh in fatty foods. Garlic in Thai is “Kra-Tiam”.
What is the food culture like in Thailand?
Food is very important for the culture in Thailand. Traditional Thai dishes play an important role in social occasions in Thailand. Eating alone is Thailand is considered “bad luck.” Rice is served with every main course in Thailand. In the south of Thailand rice is eaten from porcelain plates. And in the North and Northeast, the locals only eat sticky rice. In addition, in Thai culture, food is always served in one sitting, you do not eat as in the west your food is a special order. In addition, it is normal in Thai culture to order at least as many dishes as people who are present, whereby the dishes are shared with all the people at the table. “The formal presentation of food is another important aspect of Thai culture, with bowls adorned with flowers carved from fruits and vegetables.” (about Thai Food and Culture, 2020)
The way how Thai people serve their food
Other facts about Thai eating habits is that you should never eat your plate completely. This is considered rude by the host and hostess. If you leave some food at the plate, it means that the hostess or host has served a large enough portion. Another fact is that in Thailand you only get a fork and a spoon while eating. A knife is not necessary because in Thailand everything is already cut into small pieces. “You take the fork in your left hand and with it you scoop the food into the spoon in your right hand – you then eat from the spoon. Forks and spoons are often of very poor quality, they bend and break very easily. Thai only eat with chopsticks if they eat Chinese dishes, such as noodle soup. ” (hier is thailand, 2020).
Street food culture
Many small tents with noodle dishes or plastic party tents with some seats on the street where you can eat. That is the street image in many Thai cities. In Thailand, many people prefer to eat on the street. Some people don’t even have a kitchen in their house because street food is so common. On the streets in Thailand you can order almost any traditional Thai dish where the portions are only slightly smaller than in a restaurant. This allows you to order many different dishes if you want (betterplaces, 2020)
Street food in Thailand
The fact that Thai takes their own kitchen very seriously is also evident from a series of initiatives to keep Thai cuisine abroad. “At the end of 2018, the Thai Minister of Trade came up with the Thai Select project, the Thai Michelin star.” Several restaurants from all over the world were able to obtain a certificate when the food in their restaurant is good and real food, with the right amount of ingredients, hygiene, atmosphere and service. Still, this failed every time because the real Thai ingredients are only available in Thailand. (offspices, 2020)
Influence of Thai food around the world
As already mentioned, street food is a typical thing in Thailand and throughout East-Asia. This concept is also increasingly evident in Western countries, such as Europe and the United States. Besides that there are plenty Thai restaurants in western countries, most Thai restaurants are also runned by real authentic Thai people. People in the western world who visit Thailand think that they really know how Thai food tastes before they arrive and love it, but nothing could be further from the truth, because Thai food in Western countries cannot be compared to authentic Thai food.
Even though the dishes are usually so similar that you cannot tell the difference, they do not taste the same (Iverson, 2016). There are some big differences. The first difference is not about the taste but is about the price, the dishes are much cheaper in Thailand than in Western countries. This is of course because the living standards in western countries are much more expensive so this is not a strange difference. Another difference is about the herbs, in Thailand there are quite a lot of herbs and spices in and on the dishes, in the western countries there are far fewer herbs in the dishes. This may be because western people are not used to these herbs or because the herbs in the west are much more expensive. Another difference is in the taste, often the Thai dishes in western countries are much fainter than those in Thailand itself. Thai dishes are also often very sour and in western countries they are often less sour than they should be (Wiens, 2015).
A Thai restaurant in Amsterdam
There are quite a few Thai dishes that are hugely popular worldwide. The popularity already started a few decades ago, since travelling to Thailand became more common. The tourists who came to Thailand ate Thai of course and because they probably liked it very much, they took these recipes with them to their own country. As a result, many people know what Thai food tastes like, even though they have never been to Thailand. Not everyone can go to Thailand to taste the flavours of the dishes, because it is not cheap to fly to Thailand, so they can taste it in their own country! However, the dishes in Thailand itself are much tastier. They can never completely recreate dishes because many pastas and soups are made by certain spices that are hardly available in other parts of the world. Popular dishes worldwide are green curry, tom kha kai soup, fried rice, pad thai, som tam (which is a papaya salad) and spice shrimp soup. (Lyck, 2017).
Khop khun kh (thank you)! Now you know more about the Thai dishes, the history of Thai food and the culture of Thai food. A nice tip is to go to your nearest Thai restaurant and have a good meal there or to order some good Thai food.
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