Thai Food and Culture

Thai food has been recognized and popular across the world for number of years. Food in Thai is called A-harn. It is as rich and exquisite as its culture and history.

It is one of the famous Asian cuisines for being spicy and balanced of five flavors. See Taste of Thai Food

Thai cuisine truly indicates the way of life, thoughts and spirits of Thai people which had been created to suit lifestyle of each region in Thailand.

Importantly, Thai cuisine has helped create tradition, culture and practice amongst Thai communities. Read more about Thai food and culture about, Authentic Thai Food, Royal Thai Cuisine, Modern Thai Cuisine, Thai Desserts, Thai Breakfast Dishes – A-harn Chao, Method of Cooking

Kin Kaow in Thai Style

Thai people generally like to share their meals with their family and friends.

When it is a meal time, one of a member of family will call everyone Kin Kaow literary means " to eat rice" as in let’s eat!

In general, for a big families, a large pot of steamed rice will be prepared ahead of time while several combined Thai dishes are served up at the table "family style" and are shared amongst diners in no particular order.

However, it is traditionally to allow an elderly sit at the table before you sit, and the foods from the table should be served to an elderly first before you can start.

It is customary to include a dish of soup called Tom, usually is a clear soup made with meat and vegetables, a dish of stir fry called Pad, which can be a choice of meat stir fried with vegetables and oyster sauce, a dish of curry called Kaeng, a dish of fried food called Tod, and the most traditional type of food that has been part of Thai cuisine for centuries, it is a dish of dips (mostly made of shrimp paste, chillies, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice) called Nam Prik or Nam Prik Kapi served with assorted fresh veggies.

All of these food dishes except the rice are called Kab Kaow literary means "with rice".

Thai foods cooked in the country side are normally simply prepared and enjoyed in casual settings. Dinner time is usually early in the evening around 5-7 pm. Fork and spoons are often used while some families in rural areas use only short spoons or even hands on rare occasions.

Generally, Thai people from each region of Thailand eat their comfort foods or their signature dishes. For example, people in the south mostly enjoy traditional southern dishes in their daily diet.

Thai people like to have 3 to 5 meals a day with a small portion per serving in comparison to western servings which are normally 3 meals a day with larger serves.

Types of Rice Dishes and Recipes

Authentic Thai Food

Authentic Thai foods have been cooked for centuries combining locally grown produce with original recipes, techniques and practices which has remained largely unchanged throughout generations.

Most popular traditional dishes are dips or "Nam Prik" called in Thai (made of shrimp paste, fresh herbs, fresh chillies, lime juice, garlic, fish sauce and variety of dried fish and prawns and more) served with fresh vegetables.

Authentic Thai soup and curry dishes are Tom Yum Goong , Tom Kha Gai, Panang Curry, Green Curry, Massaman Curry and so forth.

Authentic Thai food is still very popular among Thais and has become part of life integrating Buddhism, traditions and culture.

Royal Thai Cuisine

I’d like to introduce you to one of our most culturally rich food styles, "Royal Thai Cuisine" or "A-harn Chao Wang" called in Thai.

The royal Thai cuisine is the most authentic cuisine style and is still the food style of the royal Thai family today.

Royal Thai cuisine reflects, the creativeness invented by Thai noble women in the past.

The unique, exquisite and elegant art in preparing dishes, cooking, techniques and serving are what sets the cuisine apart from other styles.

Royal Thai Cuisine originated during the establishment of Ayutthaya in 1351.

Ayutthaya was friendly toward foreign traders and opened minded to the new cultures, and it was described by foreign traders as one of the wealthiest and biggest cities in the South East of Asia.

Thai royal cuisine recipes have been traditionally served for Thai royal families for generations. It is truly the most exquisite style, beautifully displayed and placed in colorful porcelains and hand carved fruit and vegetables containers decorated beautifully.

Since the knowledge of creating Royal Thai Cuisine was limited amongst the community only small group of people knew the secrets of the cuisine style.

It had been practiced by royal and noble families and the servants who learned the special skills and techniques. Over generations this has been passed down to family members and friends.

In later years, the art of royal Thai cuisine has been integrated in domestic science curriculum. It was presented for the first time in "Visaman Housework School" the primary school provisioned under Prince Abhakara Kiartiwongse or known as Prince of Chumphon in 1934.

Royal Thai Cuisine can be enjoyed in restaurants in Bangkok. Today many good quality restaurants produce authentic Royal Thai Cuisine.

Modern Thai Food

Bangkok is a big hub for international food. Modern Thai food known as "A-harn Thai Pra-Yuk" is a combination of using Thai ingredients with Asian or Western ingredients. It is also known as Thai fusion.

Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines have played an important role in many of Thai modern dishes as much as some western cuisines. Undoubtedly, these dishes are very popular among locals and tourists.

The Asian influenced dishes are wok tossed stir fry’s, fresh noodle salads, steamed wonton recipes, rice noodle rolls, and many of rice and noodle based specialties.

Some of the popular Western influenced dishes are green curry spaghetti, stir fried garlic, chili, bacon with spaghetti, tom yum soup with salmon, Thai fried rice with chilies and ham and so forth.

There are plenty of modern or fusion Thai dishes seen in number of restaurants around the world. They are often seen as Thai ingredients integrated with a modern display, cooking and decoration.

Fusion Thai can be any new ideas that bring a modern touch and help to create innovative and contemporary Thai dishes.

Thai Desserts

Thai food has played an important role in vital traditional ceremonies since the establishment of Ayutthaya in 1351 which had been explained in one of the King Chulalongkorn’s diaries which recited the 12 month ceremony process.

Each month a ceremony was followed by making merit by inviting monks for Buddhist chanting in the morning, with a particular type and mostly seasonal food or dessert served.

The 12 month ceremonies are a significant part of Thai history reflecting Thailand’s food culture used in royal vital ceremonies.

Thai culture in the Ayutthaya era reflected multicultural influence. During Somdet Phra Narai, the king of Ayutthaya from 1656 to 1688, Maria Guyomar de Pinha or Thao Thong Kip Ma in Thai (the Japanese-Portuguese lady born in Thailand), worked in the palace’s kitchen where she was responsible in making desserts for the royal family and their foreign guests and the French ambassadors.

Maria Guyomar de Pinha became famous for introducing her new dessert recipes that were adapted from Portuguese culinary influence with the using of local ingredients of coconut cream, rice flour and sugar.

Her well known desserts are egg yolk-based recipes such as thong yip, thong yord, foi thong ("golden threads") and sangkhaya. She was named as the “Queen of Thai Dessert”.

Her desserts have been used and have been passed down. Such examples are kari puff, kanom mor-gaeng, kanom ping, kanom sam panny, kanom kai-toa, thong yip, thong yord, foi thong and sangkhaya.

Western culture were significantly integrated with Thai food culture when King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri accepted the use of folk and spoon for dining in place of hands.

Thai Breakfast Dishes – A-harn Chao

Even though western breakfast such as American or Continental are popular among many Thais, most Thais still live their life in a traditional way in term of food, eating and so on.

Local markets have become tourist attractions since it is one of the best places to see Thai food and culture. Every early morning, the local markets become lively as they offer wide range of raw food and cooked food for take away especially Thai traditional breakfasts. Local markets have been playing an important role as part of people life for a very long time.

Thai breakfast consists of a variety of foods; rice, curries, stir fries, soups and sweets! However, there are breakfast specialties from the local food venders, in most local markets, that line up around the outer area offering traditional dishes such as hot soy milk, deep fried Chinese doughnuts or deep fried bread sticks “Pa Tong Go”, coconut sticky rice with egg custard and so forth.

  • Hot Soy Drink “Nam Tao Hu” called in Thai, is normally served hot with sweets such as sweetened coconut sticky rice with egg custard topping, deep fried bread sticks “Pa Tong Go” and/or without pandan flavored custard.

  • Rice Porridge “Joke” called in Thai, is normally cooked with minced pork, egg, ginger, spring onion. Another popular hot rice dish is boiled rice soup “Khao Tom”. It can be made with fish, prawns, seafood.

  • Chinese doughnuts or deep fried bread sticks called Pa Tong Go in Thai are usually a good combination with a hot drinks; soy, coffee or Thai tea. The bread sticks are served with pandan flavored custard or just dip in a condensed milk for sweet and creamy flavors.

  • Sweetened Coconut sticky rice comes with variety of sweet toppings; egg custard, sweet coconut with prawns or fish, wrapped in banana leafs. There are white, black and infused yellow sticky rice.

  • Dim sums are often served as breakfast accompanied with hot drinks as coffee, tea or soy milk.

This traditional meal is enjoyed early in the morning daily and can be found at most Thai fresh markets including street food markets across Thailand.

Method of Cooking Thai Food

These below methods are traditional practice used in Thai cooking by many generations. The methods of cooking are used to make both Thai food dishes and desserts.

"Tam" is to pound food with mortar and pestle. Food that used this method of cooking are traditional dips "Nam Prik", papaya salad "Som Tum", or garlic and chilies for all stir fries.

"Yum" is another popular method to cook Thai food. It is used to combine your favorite cooked meat with vegetables, fresh herbs and seasoning with salad dressing. Thai salads have three balanced flavors; sour, sweet and sweet. Here are examples of popular yum (salad) dishes; Yum Tue Poo, Yum Sai Krok, Yum Moo yor.

"Kaeng" means to cook food with either water ( soup) or coconut milk with meat and vegetables. Kaeng also means curry dishes or a clear soup dish (kaeng jud). Here are examples of Thai "Kaeng"; Kaeng Som (Southern curry dish), Kaeng Ped Ped Yang (Roasted Duck Curry), Kaeng Jud Moo sab ( clear soup with minced pork).

"Lon" is to cook food with rich coconut milk. There are many recipes for this cooking method. "Lon", considered as dip or starter served with fresh veggies, has three balanced flavors; sour, sweet and salty. Here are examples of Thai "Lon"; lon tow jiew, lLon pla ra.

"Tom" is to boil water and cook meat, vegetables or eggs.

"Yang" is to grill food until cooked through with charcoal over low to medium heat. Food we cook with this method are Gai Yang (grilled chicken) or Pla Yang (grilled fish).

"Kuan" is to stir liquid over medium heat until the liquid becomes sticky and thickened. Here are examples of Thai "Kuan"; Kalamae, Thai caramelized sweet made from rice flour, coconut milk and palm sugar.

"Jee" is to cook food quickly with non stick pan and glaze oil on the surface before cooking. This method of cooking may require a specific type of equipment for a dish. Many desserts are required to cook with this method.

"Larm" is to grill food, especially rice, in fresh bamboo flasks. For example, Khao Larm, Grilled sweetened coconut rice in bamboo.

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