The Cooking of Thailand

by Matthew Locricchio

The Regions of Thailand and How They Taste

For the people of Thailand, it is important that every aspect of life - even hardwork - have a sense of sanuk or "fun". This is especially true with Thai cooking, since sanuk is always present in the preparation and the enjoyment of meals. Maybe that is why food is such a key part of many Thai celebrations.

Located where it is, in Southeast Asia, Thailand has been at the crossroad of many culinary influences. India, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam have all contributed to the range of exciting flavors found in Thai cooking. Even the cuisines of southern Europe and the Middle East have left their mark. Sugar, eggs, tomatoes, asparagus, peas, carrots, and chile peppers, to name a few, were all introduced to Thailand by its bordering nations. So what is it about Thai cooking that makes it different from its neighbors? The answer is the taste. The flavors created in Thai food go beyond the classic tastes of Southeast Asia - hot, sweet, spicy, sour, and salty. Thai cooks blend ingredients such as curry paste, Thai fish sauce, shrimp paste, coconut, palm sugar, and hot chile peppers into the complex, fragrant, and layered flavors that make their dishes distinctly Thai. For a country that is a little smaller than the state of Texas, with apopulation of about 64 million people, Thailand's naional cuisine enjoys an ever growing popularity around the world. The cooking of Thailand has developed and thrived by opening its kitchens to the influences of the flavors of neighboring cultures.

Thai restaurants have cropped up in cities across the globe. But now here is Thai food more appreciated that in the nation that started it all. For the people of Thailand, sharing food with family and friends is one of the greatest pleasures of life. To them, a meal is much more than a collection of ingredients or a blending of flavors. The real essence of a dish is in its presentation. Thai cooks take great pride in their creations. They strongly believe that the appeal of a dish should go beyond its taste. A truly Thai meal should be beautiful to look at as well. Delicately carved vegetables and fruit flowers grace dishes that are served to guests and family alike. The garnish that is used to accent a dish is always fresh and colorful, to add that signature touch to a memorable meal.

The best way to discover what makes Thai cooking so appealing is to look more closely at its culinary parts. For this purpose, we will divide Thailand into two regions, the north and then the area commonly referred to as the central plains and the south. Along the way we will stop and explore the role of street food - foods prepared by vendors mostly in cities but in the surrounding countryside as well - which is a major part of the cooking of Thailand.


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