Thai Food Thai food is a hybrid, influenced by many cuisine similar to a creature in Thai Mythology: the head of an elephant (strength), the body of a lion (power), and winds sprouting from 4 legs (ability to fly).
Influences from other cultures • Chinese: noodles, techniques of wok cooking (pad Thai-a snack food similar to sandwich in US) • Indian: curries (yellow, green, red) • Spanish and Portuguese: chilies for Thai paste • Greeting: Khin Khao Roue Yung (have your eaten yet)?
General eating cultural • Thai-Thai: freedom in eating anywhere anytime • Thai eat together with family and friends; eat alone is considered bad luck. • Most home-cooked meal are combination of new and leftover dishes, because a house cook always make extra food for unexpected guests or for a second serving and they do not want waste any food. • Children are told to eat leftover first or to pets or pigs, never waste rice • Appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and deserts are served at the same time and can be eaten in any order, except deserts. • A meal consists of several dishes with combination of flavors: sweet, hot, sour, and salty (2-3 types of meat) • A typical comb: sharp-flavored salad and plenty of fresh vegetables. A soup, including curry dishes; a stir-fry of meat and vegetables; a meat dish such as deep-fried fish or fried chicken; a basic sauce or chili dip with a dies dish of vegetable; dessert is a sweet base of coconut or a variety of fruits • Sometimes, one dish meal for convenience: noodle soup, fried rice, or curry and rice with an accompaniment of vegetable, sauces, or condiments
Chilies in vinegar (Prik Nam Som) is important for noodle soup • Fresh chilies in fish sauce (Nam Pla Prik) for fried rice • Crushed dried chilies (prik Poan) for extra heat • Palm sugar for sweet, lime and tamarind for sour, chilies for hot, fish sauce for salty • Herbs and spices that grow in tropical climate: 3 kinds of basils (Thai sweet basil-Anise or licorice flavor for coconut curries or vegetable, lemon basil-nippy peppery and lemon flavor for soup and salad, holy basil-mint-like zesty, and very spicy flavor for stir fry); cardamon; chili-smaller and hotter; Thai chilies (bird-eye chilies); Prik Chee Fa (a little milder); Serrano (mild multi-purpose chili); chives; Turmeric; Yanang leaves (use in bamboo shoot salad, to count-act the bitter taste of other veg.)
Diversity in vegetables and fruits • Many variety of eggplants: (3 most common ones are) • Ma-kheua Pro: golf-ball size, light green. (in red or green curry or fresh with a chili dip) • Ma-Kheua Puang: small marbles size in clusters with bright green color • Ma-Kheua Yao: long green fruit, stir-fry or salad • Many mushrooms • Straw mushroom; oyster mushroom; shiitake mushroom; mouse’s-ear mushroom or wood ear mushroom (crunchy texture) • 30 varieties of banana; 70 different kinds of mango (green ones for salad)
Geographical Features Thai is divided into four distinct regions: North, Northeast, Central, and South. Each has its own unique character, climate, language, personality, and cuisine. Climate: subtropical with long hours of sunshine and high humidity. Three seasons: hot-march to June, Rainy-July to Oct, Cool-Nov to Feb. Low 20˚C, high 37˚C. The climate is suitable for the cultivation of a wide range of tropical and semi-tropical agricultural crops Land: arable land 34%, permanent crop 6%, permanent pastures 2%, forests and woodland 26%, others 32%.
Northern region • Mountains, forests, and fertile valleys. Bordered by Myanmar and Laos, Lower extremities of Himalayan foothills-forest mountains, and fertile river valleys, encompasses part of the fabled Golden Triangle. • Pleasant cool climate; 4 sister rivers (the Ping, the Wung, the Yom, and the Nan) flow into the Chao Praya river in Central Thai • “mellow” people. They seldom had to face economic hardship; crafts, architecture, language, cuisine, and conduct are the highlight of Thai civilization • Cuisine is influenced by Myanmar and Lao (curry dish by Brumese, sticky rice by Laotian) • A chili dip or sauce accompanied by fresh or cooked vegetables; mild minced pork with tomato and spice mixture to fiery dried chili with spices and shrimp paste; Longan fruit in rice pudding, syrup, beverages
Northern region (continue) Traditional feast called Khuri Toke-dinner for important guests or dignitaries 2-foot-tall round table with upward rim with northern delicacies: a curry fish, vegetable soup, chicken salad, pork rinds sausages, rice puff, fresh vegetables and Nam Ton beverage. Bamboo container with sticky rice, bowl of water for rinsing hands, hand-rolled local cigarettes, northern classical dances and music.
Northeastern Region A high semi-arid plateau used mainly for cattle and growing crops such as rice and maize. Poorest region due to drought Small lunch box: creative eating making use of most of resources of sticky rice (heavier to stomach) Soup: one or two dominant flavors from local herbs and spices, in clear broth (no coconut milk, too luxuary), simple dishes, easy to prepare Papaya salad with fish sauce, lime juice and herbs Produces most of the preserved products in meats and vegetables, example: raw salt fermented fish, dried and salt-cured beef, and bamboo shoots in brine (prepared for drought or flood) Local delicacies to survive extreme environment: deep-fried silkworms, grilled lizards, crickets, and red ants salad.
Northeast-continue • Traditional dinner are similar to the north • Pork salad, bamboo shoot soup, sour fish, salted beef, Tumsom (papaya salad), BBQ chicken, Jaew dip, vegetables, sweetened puffed rice, sticky rice in bamboo container, water for hand rinsing
Central region • Flat and fertile due to the large Chao Praya river. • Main rice growing of Thailand with complex irrigation network. Year-round crop growing “Venice of the east”, large cities with all kinds of people from different background • Elaborate, sophisticated and contemporary food (Royal food with a touch of sweetness). • Abundant seafood. Produces best fish sauce and shrimp paste • Sweet tangerine and mango • Food kept on changing to follow trend and new taste, utilize new ingredient from outside.
Southern Region • Hilly and mountainous, covered mainly by rainforests. Stretch Gulf of Thailand to Indian Ocean. Cashew nuts abundant, coconut, pineapples are common. • Great religion diversity • Cuisine has Malaysia influence. • Grilled fish, Prawn skewers, yellow soup, fish tripe soup • Some local food are modified to western palate. Sticky bean dish with shrimp