A little bit of Thai

Joydip Sur

The Thai people migrated from valley settlements in the mountainous region of Southwest China between 6th and 13th century. Influenced by Chinese cooking techniques, Thai cuisine flourished with the rich biodiversity of the Thai peninsula. As a result, Thai dishes today have some similarities to Szechwan Chinese dishes.

Thailand was also a cross road of East to West sea routes causing its culture and cuisine to be infused with Persian and Arabian elements. Foreign recipes have been integrated with traditional Thai dishes, resulting in unique flavours that are unmistakably Thai.

What Comprises A Thai Meal?
The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet and sour. It is meant to be equally satisfying to your eyes, nose and palate. A typical meal might include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry sauce), a fried dish (fish with ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on a bed of lettuce, onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice) and a variety of sauces into which food is dipped followed by sweet desserts.

A good meal for an average person may consist simply of a soup and rice. Traditional Thai soups are unique because they embody more flavours and textures than can be found in other types of food.

A harmony of tastes and herbal flavours are hallmarks of Thai salads. Major tastes are sour, sweet and salty. Spiciness comes in different degrees according to meat textures and occasions.

These can be accompaniments, side dishes or snacks. They include spring rolls, satay, puffed rice cakes with herbed topping. They represent the playful and creative nature of Thai cuisine.

These include rice and noodle dishes such as Khao Phat and Phat Thai.

Whereas non-Thai curries consist of powdered or ground dried spices, most of Thai curries are fresh herbs. A simple Thai curry paste consists of dried chillies, shallots and shrimp paste.

Dips can be the major dish of a meal with accompaniments of vegetables and some meat. A simple dip is made from chillies, garlic, dried shrimps, fish sauce, sugar and shrimp paste.

No good meal is complete without a Thai dessert. Uniformly sweet, they are particularly welcome after a strongly spiced and herbed meal.

A Few Thai Delights:

  • Jok – a rice porridge very commonly eaten in Thailand for breakfast.
  • Khao Tom – a Thai style rice soup, usually with pork, chicken or shrimp.
  • Pad Thai – rice noodles pan fried with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice or tamarind pulp, chopped peanuts and egg combined with chicken, seafood or tofu.
  • Rad na – wide rice noodles in gravy, with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or seafood.
  • Khao pad naem – fried rice with fermented sausages.
  • Gai pad grapao – minced chicken with garlic, chillies and holy basil.
  • Gai pad med mamoung himaphan- juicy chunks of chicken with cashew nuts and chilies.
  • Massaman curry – an Indian style curry, usually madeby Thai-Muslims, containing roasted dried spices, such as coriander seed, that are rarely found in other Thai curries.
  • Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti – Pandan flavored rice flour noodles in coconut milk.
  • Nam prik num – dipping sauce made from roasted eggplant, green chillies and garlic ground together in a mortar and pestle.