From hot and sour soups to sweet and fragrant sticky rice dishes, Thai cuisine is as rich in its variety as the flavour many of its dishes are known for. Thanks to this variety, Thais have their own dining style and cutlery to enjoy Thai cuisine in their own special way.
A typical Thai meal consists of a soup, a curry, a salad, a fried dish, and desserts and fresh fruits to top it all off. There’s normally a blend of spicy and mild dishes for balance and to neutralize tastes. Thai meals are usually served all at once, as opposed to serving dishes in courses. It’s also noteworthy that Thais enjoy having spicy food even in the morning. Different kinds of curry on top of rice with a fried egg, accompanied by ‘Prik Nam Pla’ (sliced chillies in fish sauce), are common for breakfast.
Due to their busy lifestyles, most city dwellers prefer something quick and easy like ‘Kao Niew moo ping’ (grilled pork with sticky rice), the equivalent to sandwiches in the West, or something light like ‘Johk’ (rice porridge). Lunch is a little heavier and dinner is often shared among family and friends.
It’s not entirely true that Thai people tend to eat all day. Generally, they eat three main meals a day just like the rest of the world, but they have a habit of ‘Gin Len’ (‘snacking’) between meals. While eating, the Thai do not combine various foods on their plates, but rather, sample one dish at a time, with a mound of Thai fragrant rice on the side (unless the dish happens to be noodles). This ensures that individual dishes don’t lose their appeal, which is what happens if eaten in a combination.
The Thai love sharing food. As a rule of thumb, Thai diners order the same number of dishes as people present; however, all dishes are shared and enjoyed together. For this reason, it is better to have many guests at the table rather than just one or two. In fact, many Thais believe that eating alone is bad luck.
The tastes of modern-day Thailand boast an ancient history. As early as the 13th century, what might be considered the heart of Siamese cuisine as we know it today – various types of meat and seafood combined with local vegetables, herbs and spices such as garlic and pepper, and served with rice – was established.
Later, the Chinese brought noodles to Thailand, as well as the introduction of the most important Thai cooking tool: the steel wok. Although the Chinese brought chopsticks to Thailand long ago, today most Thais prefer to use Western cutlery, though in their own special way.
Thai cutlery generally consists of a fork and a large spoon (tablespoon). The spoon is held in the right hand for scooping food into your mouth and is also used for cutting (in place of a knife). With their Buddhist background, the Thai shunned the consumption of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Hence, there is no need for a knife. The fork is usually held in your left hand and is used to push food onto your spoon.
The formal presentation of food is another important aspect of Thai culture. Developed primarily in the palace to please the King of Siam, Thai food presentation is among the most exquisite in the world. Serving platters are decorated with all varieties of carved vegetables and fruits transformed into flowers and other pieces of beauty. For such artwork, Thai chefs use a simple paring knife and ice water (the ice water prevents discolouration of the vegetables as they cut them).
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