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   THE CUISINE OF THAILAND
 
 
 
2010 - Volume 1 Issue 1
¡Comidas Sabroso!
Thai Cuisine
 
Article: Bob Skolnick
 
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Thailand is situated in Asia with China to the north and Muslim Malaysia to the south. It would be false to assume these neighboring cultures were the sole influences on today’s cuisine of Thailand. In fact, European travelers had a significant contribution to the development of Thailand’s cuisine.

    Find It

Thai ingredients may be difficult to resource locally. You can order on-line at several Thai on-line stores.

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templeofthai.com
In the mid 1600s the introduction of cocoanut milk and chiles changed Thai cooking forever. It was westerners who had used milk in cooking and encouraged the Thai people to use cocoanut milk to temper their curries. Later in the 1600s the Portuguese missionaries brought to Thailand their fondness for chiles, which they acquired from their South and Central America exploration. Today, cocoanut milk and chiles are accepted key ingredients in Thai cooking. In the 1800s, Chinese travelers introduced noodles to the Thai people. Until that time rice was the primary starch in their diet. While rice still is primary, noodles are a prominent ingredient in Thai cooking. The Thai’s primary types of cooking was stewing, baking and grilling. The Chinese also introduced them to stir-frying and deep-frying. Both techniques are now firmly a part of Thai cooking principles.
 
 

In Thailand the cooking technique also has an important definition to the type of dish and the ultimate finished product. As in the cuisine of any culture there are key ingredients that lend a signature to each of the dishes. To learn more about Thai cooking techniques and key ingredients, click a link below to reveal or hide its cooresponding contents.

• Click here to view some Thai cooking techniques:

Pad (stir fried) – Stir-frying uses less oil than traditional frying methods and combines all the ingredients in one pan, bringing together a few complementary flavors. The juices yielded in stir-frying are usually sufficient to form a sauce.

Toad (deep fried) – Deep fried makes food crispy and crunchy, there are a lot of Thai dishes which are deep fried, such as Thai spring rolls, shrimps in a blanket, fried tofu and dessert like fried banana.

Nung (steamed) – Steaming is a gentle method that produces wonderfully moist results and is perfectly suited for vegetables and fish. A popular “Nung (steamed)” dish is Pla nung manow – steamed red snapper with lime, garlic and chile.

Yang (grilled) – Grilling meat usually takes place on a metal grate over hot coals or other heat source. Thai satay and marinated grilled chicken must be one of the favorite dishes for Thai people.

Tom (boil) – Boiling typically includes cooking vegetables and meat in a boiling broth. The favorite boiled item is “Tom Yum soup”.

Yum (Thai Salad) – “Yum” or Thai salad dishes have the same main ingredients which are limejuice, fish sauce, sugar and chile, but with different spices and herbs. A popular “Yum” dish is Yum Nue (spicy beef salad) – a grilled slice of beef with lime juice, fish sauce, chile, lettuces and shallots.

Gang Jeud – a clear broth soup that is made from ground pork, ground chicken or pork rib with all kinds of vegetables, fresh tofu, or clear glass noodle. It is very refreshing.

 

• Click here to view some key ingredients of Thai cooking:

Curry Paste (kreung-geng): The paste is made by pulverizing together chiles, peeled garlic, lemon grass, fresh turmeric, sea salt, and shrimp paste (kapee). This basic paste is the foundation of every Thai curry .

Cocoanut Milk (nahm gah-tee): The milk is made from fresh cocoanut by adding just enough water to cover the grated meat of a mature brown cocoanut, then squeezing, and straining. The cocoanut meat is discarded after all the juice is extracted.

Thai Chile Peppers (prik): Perhaps the most famous ingredient in Thai cuisine is the small fresh chile, known as prik kee noo, literally “mouse dropping chile”. Actually it is not the spiciest chile pepper in the world, but if one is unaccustomed to eating spicy food, or is caught off guard, they can pack a mighty punch!

Kaffir Lime (ma-groot): This distinctly Thai ingredient is essential to many dishes. Both the leaves and the fruit of the Kaffir Lime tree are used in Thai cuisine.

Fish Sauce (nam pla): The most essential cooking ingredient for Thai food is perhaps fish sauce. This is Thailand's equivalent to soy sauce or table salt. Uncooked it has an unpleasant smell, but it adds a subtle flavor, for which there is no substitute. Small anchovy fish are fermented and the resulting liquid is strained and bottled.

Lemon Grass: As its name suggests, it is indeed a grass. It looks a bit like a scallion or a leek, but is taller and paler with a distinctly citrus flavor. It is sometimes called citronella or sereh. Like most herbs, it comes in many varieties. Lemon grass gets its aroma from citral, an essential oil used in everything from aromatherapy treatments to soaps to insect repellents.

Galangal Root (hea-uh kah): Galangal or galanga root is similar to ginger root, but more delicate in flavor and texture.

Garlic (gra-tium): Fresh garlic is a key ingredient for many Thai dishes, including curry paste, which incorporates up to 30 small cloves in a dish.

Thai Basil (bai horapha): Tastes rather like anise, looks like sweet basil and is therefore sometimes called Thai Sweet Basil. Bai horapa is used in large quantities and in many dishes in Thailand, including stir-fries, salads and soups and Thai red and green curries.

Cilantro Leaves are used extensively in Thai cooking for many salads and to garnish soups. The stems and leaves are eaten raw, along with other raw vegetables like baby Thai eggplant and other herbs and served with nam prik.

 

The Thai people, with their Buddhist background, typically avoid large cuts of meat, using only small pieces seasoned with spices and herbs. The cuisine is influenced by the regions, its types of ingredients and the person doing the cooking. There are four primary regions that contribute to the cuisine.

    Information

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North - Northern Thailand is the area bordered by Burma to the west and Laos to the east. Thai curry in this region has Burmese influences; the curry is made without cocoanut milk and is fiery and thinner in consistency. Sticky rice is the preferred rice, the same as in the Northeastern region. The popular dishes from this region include Khao Soi (Burmese noodle) – flat egg noodles with curry, a specialty of Chiang Mai; Sai Ua – bright red sausages made with pork and chiles; Naam Phrik Ong – cooked minced pork, tomatoes and chile, served with cooked or raw vegetables and Naem Moo – fermented sausages made with pork rind and sticky rice.

Northeast - Northeastern food tends to be very spicy, with explosive salads and special broiled, minced meat dishes mined with tiny, high-voltage green chiles. Sticky rice is more popular in the region than loose, boiled rice, and exotic dishes like fried ants and grasshoppers and frog curry are not uncommon. A popular dish from this region includes Gai Yang – grilled chicken found throughout the region and often sold by roadside vendors. The chicken skin is rubbed with garlic, fish sauce, cilantro root or lemon grass and black pepper, and then the chicken is usually flattened and pinned on a bamboo skewer before being barbecued over coals and served with a chile dipping sauce. Larb is minced chicken, pork or duck with limejuice, fish sauce, lemon grass, chiles or chile powder, shallot, mint leaves and roasted rice. Som Tam is green papaya with chiles, peanuts, cherry tomatoes and dried shrimp. Individual portions are pounded together by hand and eaten with sticky rice.

Central - The central area where Bangkok is located, has no access to the sea, the waterways provide a host of freshwater fish, prawns and crabs. The cuisine of this region is what is generally considered to be classic Thai and includes what are probably the most recognizable Thai dishes. They include the following: green curry, red curry, Panang curry, Tom Kha (cocoanut soup), Tom yum (lemon grass soup) and Plah Goong (spicy shrimp salad).

South - Southern cuisine makes delicious use of the seafood so abundant in the coastal region. Lobsters, crab, scallops, fish, and squid are common ingredients, and unusual delicacies, like jellyfish salad, can also be found. The southern most provinces have a lot of Muslims, and their dishes use ghee and oil, rather than cocoanut, and a larger range of fragrant spices including turmeric, cardamom, cumin and cloves. The South is also the land of the palm tree. Cocoanut and oil palms are farmed in plantations, as well as growing wild, fringing the beaches on both coasts. Phuket is home to many pineapple plantations and rice is cultivated wherever it can be persuaded to grow. The popular dishes from this region include: yellow curry – very popular in the South, the turmeric spice has a strong flavor and makes the yellow color in this dish; Masaman curry – an Indian-style curry at its best in the South – the potato, yellow onion and beef seem to be perfect for Masaman curry and Khao Yum – cooked dry rice, toasted cocoanut, makrut (kaffir), lime leaves (kiffir lime leaves), bean sprouts and lemon grass. ///

 
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