Thai Food – An Introduction to Thai Cuisine

Thai Food

Spicy and delightful is how most people would describe Thai food or Thai Cuisine. A kaleidoscope of flavors in harmony – bitter, sweet, salty, hot, and sour all rolled into one delicious package.


Thai Food – It’s All About Balance

Thai food is internationally renowned and its spiciness in particular is well-known. Whether it is hot and spicy, sweet and sour, or bitter and salty, harmony is what makes each recipe unique. It is a combination of Eastern and Western influence perfectly mixed, with a distinct taste that is uniquely Thai. Thai cuisine is the balance of the fundamental taste senses in a single dish or the overall meal.

How the food is prepared, what’s cooked, who cooks it, where it’s cooked, and why it’s cooked determine the characteristics of each dish. The taste will still be recognizable and satisfying to the nose, the palate, and the eyes no matter what the process.

The proper Thai meal should have: Thai curry with condiments, fish and vegetables with a dip, and soup. It is either the Thai curry that is spicy or the soup, but not both. There must always be harmony between the textures and flavors of each individual dish within the entire meal, complementing each other rather than clashing with one another. This is what separates Thai food from the food found in its neighboring countries.


What makes up a Thai Meal?

The ideal meal consists of food with a blend of strong flavors paired with mild or subtle ones to create balance. Dining is usually a communal affair consisting of two or more people. Also, the more diners, the more dishes ordered. The meal may be composed of soups, dips, salads, tidbits, curries, desserts, and other dishes, depending on the diners.

The main ingredients of Thai food were originally aquatic animals, herbs, spices, plants, and chunks of meat. Later on, big chunks of meat were shredded and mixed with natural herbs and spices. Frying (deep or stir) was subsequently introduced by the Chinese. Other methods of cooking were influenced by countries such as the Japanese, French, Dutch, and the Portuguese. The Thais adopted some of the methods and ingredients used but added their own unique twist.


Proper Etiquette: the Do’s and the Don’ts

Wherever you are, it is always a good idea to know what you can do and what you cannot do. You would not want to be stared at while you are eating just because you unintentionally offended someone by doing something that they found offensive. Although they say ignorance is bliss, you’d rather be safe than sorry.

Observing a few basic rules will help you prevent any unpleasant Thai dining experience. Here are a few of these rules:

  • Take off your shoes: Some Thai restaurants will require you to remove your shoes before entering the establishment. If you are not sure, try keeping an eye out for a pile of shoes just outside the door or take a peek inside and see if other visitors are wearing shoes or not.  
  • Don’t point: In other cultures, pointing at someone may not matter that much. However, in Thailand it is considered offensive. Try waving your hands with your palms down and your fingers straight if you are trying to call the waiter or get his attention. 
  • Use your utensils: We all know how to use a spoon and fork but here’s a recap; because  when you are eating Thai Food, the rules are little stricter. Hold the spoon with your right hand, and the fork with the left. The spoon is used to bring food to your mouth. The fork is used to bring food onto your spoon. Do not use your fork the same way as you would your spoon, to put food in your mouth. Do not try looking for a knife. You won’t need it. Everything is already cut up for you. As for the chopsticks, use them for the noodle dishes and treats; do not leave them in the bowl; in some cultures it is considered as bad luck and symbolizes death, and it is the same way in Thailand. 
  • Respond to a greeting: The traditional Thai greeting is called the “wai”. It consists of slight bow with palms together in a prayer-like manner. As a foreigner, you are not expected to know how and to whom you are supposed to wai or wai back. So, a warm smile and a simple nod are sufficient responses people’s wai; especially to waiters and other individuals who provide service for you. 
  • Put a smile on your face: This applies in almost every situation. Especially in Thailand which is known as “The Land of Smiles”.

If you are in Thailand – but not eating at a Thai restaurant, you may do away with some of these rules. If you are in Thailand and eating Thai Food at a restaurant, do not worry too much about remembering and following the do’s and don’ts to a T. Thais are tolerant and will forgive slight infractions or deviations in etiquette.