Interested in Thai cuisine history? Thai dishes are considered amongst the most fascinating cuisines in the world. Each meal is uniquely superb with its flavor and intricate features. And these dishes are known to carry five essential characteristics: spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.
Accordingly, Thai food is famous for its use of fresh herbs and spices that help harmonize all the flavors, making the dishes very delicious and tempting. It’s also a mirror of the country’s culture and family values that can be seen in the way Thai cuisine is prepared, presented, and enjoyed.
Traditionally, Thai cooking takes a lot of time to prepare. Therefore, preparing food requires lots of cooperation and teamwork involving the family members to do the cooking altogether. This leads us to an integral part of Thai cuisine history.
Thai food mirrors Thai people’s life, traditions, customs, and culture. Thai families are large and well-knit. In cooking, Thai family members help each other as a team. When preparing curries, children help with light work like nipping off basil leaves while adults squeeze coconut meat and pound chilies and spices.
In modern times, making Thai food is much easier as all the ingredients are readily available in supermarkets. However, there are still criticisms that it now lacks the traditional standards of the past of Thai cuisine history.
Despite that, the richness and culture of Thailand are still evident in its dishes that are being enjoyed by millions of people from different corners of the world. And it’s the goal of every Thai food lover to make sure that this treasure of Thai cuisine history won’t be lost.
Let’s Learn the Thai Cuisine History Ensemble of 4 Cuisines
Although considered a single cuisine, Thai food is more of an amalgam of cuisines corresponding to the four central regions of the country: Northern, North Eastern (or Isan), Central, and Southern. These cuisines share similar characteristics and each has derived foods from neighboring countries.
Let’s start our Thai cuisine history review at the heart of Thailand!
Central Thailand’s food flavor is moderate with herbs and sugar. Curries and dishes with coconut milk originate from this region.
Thus, Thai dishes from the central region are slightly sweet, salty, sour, and spicy. They are also not as punchy as those from north-eastern Thailand which are known for the use of strong flavors like cumin, coriander seeds, lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger), garlic, or kaffir lime leaves.
Northern Thailand boasts light flavors with a little spice that perfectly accentuates the fresh vegetables and other ingredients.
Dishes from this region are known for their use of ingredients like fresh herbs and spices, lime juice, and lemongrass. They are also mostly light-colored because they do not make much use of coconut milk in contrast to the central Thai kitchen. Hence, food from this region is perfect for those who prefer milder dishes.
Another intrinsic part of Thai cuisine history is the influence of Laos. The northern region is known for its Lap and Tom Sabb which are very spicy and intense tasting, showing the influence of the neighboring country.
Evidently, North Eastern Thais fancy powerful flavors and spices. Thus, for foreigners planning to visit the region, this is something they might want to take note of and prepare themselves for.
Southern Thailand displays a strong flavor of food with spicy herbs like turmeric and coconut milk. The most famous examples are Kaeng Leang, Kaeng Tai-play, and Kua Kling. These dishes are liked for their rich consistency, sweetness, and spiciness with a cool aftertaste–perfect for those who are looking for just the right mix of all these qualities.
Another distinct characteristic of Southern Thai cuisine is that it also makes extensive use of curry paste–an essential part of Thai cuisine history and culinary art. An example of a well-loved dish from this region is the Gaeng Som Pla or Gaeng Leung which literally translates to “sour curry”. This dish is often cooked with turmeric and its flavor is enhanced by adding pineapple slices.
Just like other cuisines, Thai cuisine history is also greatly influenced by other countries like China.
Several popular dishes of Thailand have originated from Chinese dishes introduced to the country by Chinese immigrants. As a result, Thai food incorporates several Chinese cooking techniques which are still used today. This is evident in the way that Thais marinate meats and cook them with soy sauce and other ingredients like chili, garlic, and ginger.
Another Chinese technique is stir-frying which explains why many Thai dishes tend to be stir-fried or grilled rather than steamed or boiled. The Chinese also introduced noodles, mooncakes, egg tarts, dim sum, and other similar dishes to the country, making Thai cuisine history even richer.
Before taking the first bite…
Next time, when you are enjoying Thai food at Yummy Thai Frisco, try to reflect on its rich Thai cuisine history and legacy. You will understand that Thai food mirrors folk wisdom, art, Thai culture, and the values of its people. It also speaks of their delicate tastes, discipline, rules of conduct, artistic flavor, and human relationship. Thai cuisine is not just food; it is an extension of high culture.
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