It is probably not an easy task for anyone to trace back the history of Thai food. However, the salient characteristics of Thai food are obvious, and they are hot, hotter, and hottest; to be more precise, spicy, spicier, and spiciest. Complementary to that, a myriad of tastes adds to the distinctiveness of Thai food. Thai cuisine is now one of the world’s most sought-after, and the famous dish, Tom Yam Kung, is definitely top on the list.
In terms of its unique place in the culinary world, Thai food has, for centuries, enjoyed the benefits of influences from the Chinese, Indian, Javanese (or Indonesian) and even Portuguese cuisines, among many others. There are many references to the introduction of their influences which have contributed to the amalgamation of the tastes, shapes and forms of Thai food. In several cases, Chinese dishes might have been incorporated into Thai dishes gradually, and have been accepted as part of the Sino-Thai cuisine.
The Royal Thai Government proclaimed, in 2004, that Thailand is going to be “The Kitchen to the World.” Now, Thai food has become even more widely known and appreciated by the world’s connoisseurs as well as the general public.
In the past, to savour the authentic and wonderful taste of Thai food, travellers had to make the long journey to Thailand. Today, Thai restaurants and Thai food can be found in almost every corner of the world, especially in metropolitan areas and major cities. As such, Thai food can comfortably rival its nearest competitors, namely Chinese and Japanese food.
The wide spectrum of tastes in Thai food is produced by the use of a great variety of herbs and spices. Naturally, the zest and potency of taste can greatly vary from dish to dish, but whether it is appetizers, soups, entrees, salads, curries, snacks, or sweets, these Thai delights reflect a
distinguished feature _ the blending of different tastes.
Most Thai dishes are eaten with rice, and Jasmine rice or Khao Hom Mali is the most famous Thai rice. The main ingredient in most dishes is Phrik Khi Nu, tiny, very hot chillies. If Thai food has to be differentiated according to its geographical milieu, then the four major regions of the country set the geographical distinctions: north, northeast, central, and south. Sticky rice or short-grained rice exemplifies the north and northeast regions, while the central plain and the south favour the long-grained rice, of which Jasmine rice is
creme de la creme, as their main accompaniment.
Northern Thai food has been influenced by the Chinese and Burmese culinary schools, and most of the food has a milder taste, in comparison to the food in other regions. Northeastern or Isan Thai food reflects the long relationship with a neighbouring country, the Lao PDR. The most famous dish, which has garnered its reputation both domestically and internationally, is the spicy papaya salad or Som Tam.
The Central Plain is a melting pot where different culinary spheres have mixed to create a perfect harmony. This, of course, is highlighted by the invention of the culinary arts of the royal courts throughout the long history of Thailand. These culinary arts focus on the beautification and presentation of the food as well as harmonization of its tastes. To be classified into the genre of real Thai food nomenclature, its root usually originates from the royal cooking households. The most striking feature is fruit and vegetable carving, which no other country in the world can match. Southern food is typified by the Malay culinary culture. The major influx is from Malaysia, the country that shares a border with the South of Thailand.
Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.
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