Thai Food and Cooking | ATTA


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Thai Food and Cooking


Thai kitchens and their culinary delights are a meaningful blend of Asian and European influences adopted through centuries of trade and diplomatic exchanges, which is now enjoyed in the truest international sense.


Traditionally, Thai people have always made best possible use of what is available naturally from the land, rivers and the oceans. This is reflected in the makeup of original Thai cooking the chief ingredients being rice, fowl, fish, vegetables, herbs and of course seasoning. Very little meat was used except pork because cows and buffaloes were the mainstays of farm and village life.
In earlier times, the preferred methods of cooking included grilling, baking and stewing. These methods continued until the advent of the Chinese when the techniques of cooking with hot oil were introduced. Towards the beginning of the 16th century, European merchants, diplomats and missionaries began to arrive and these also contributed greatly to the expansion of the cuisine. Finally, due acknowledgment must be made to the Portuguese who we have to thank for introducing chillies (very hot types of spices) to Thai culinary arts.


Curries and more moderate spices, on the other hand, were brought to Thailand by the Indians. Over the years, Thai cooks have used their ingenuity to overcome difficulties in acquiring hard-to-find foreign ingredients with their own local variations and adapting the recipes to suit Thai palates.


A Royal Treat


Thai cooking has four major regional variations plus the highly refined “Royal” cuisine. The latter is sometimes translated into English as Palace Cuisine; this being a heritage from the days of absolute monarchy when only the best was served at the Royal table. Every dish must be pleasing both to the eye and the palate. Not only must the ingredients be carefully selected and the cooking techniques as perfect as possible, but the presentation must also be creative. Today, Royal cuisine can be sampled at some restaurants whose chefs are descended from, or were trained by, former palace chefs. Look for the keyword “Royal” or “Palace” in their names.


Some specialised schools offer training classes in this refined art, but if you don’t have the time or the inclination for detailed study, you can opt for just a vegetable and fruit carving class. Most schools and restaurants offering cooking classes can arrange such a course, which can take anywhere from an afternoon to a whole week. After a few basic sessions and some practice at home, you should be able to wow your dinner guests with your newly acquired skills.


A Thai Meal


A Thai meal is traditionally a communalaffair, with two or more people sharing several dishes all served at the same time and eaten with steamed rice. There is a wide variety of what can be called “snacks” or perhaps Hors d’oeuvres. These savory tidbits can be eaten alone or as side dishes to the meal as a whole. Traditional favorites include stuffed dumplings, sate, crisp-fried rice noodles topped with sweet-and-spicy sauce and spring rolls.


Creative presentation is a big part of Thai snack-making and a professional cook who is “worth his/her salt”, will strive to make them as much a feast for the eye as for the palate.




Thai salads which are called yam are sour, sweet and salty – all at the same time! A simple dressing works equally well for meat, seafood, vegetable and fruit salads. This is made from fish sauce, lime juice, and a dash of sugar. The heat comes from fiery little “bird” chillies but just how hot a salad should be depends on the texture and flavor of the meat, vegetable or fruit used. Fresh herbs such asmarsh mint, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro are usually used as garnish.


Chilli Dips


Usually served with vegetables, meat or fish, chilli ‘dips” are very versatile. A dip can be either a main dish or a side dish added to a pan of fried rice to flavor it, or sprinkled on chips to make them more appetizing. A skilled and experienced cook can whip up a bowl of dip from chillies, garlic, onion and shrimp paste or whatever ingredient is available-dried or fermented fish, sour tamarind, dried shrimp, etc in a very short space of time, and the result will create total happiness for the most jaded of palates!


Thai soups generally are well known for their flavor. Meat or vegetable is cooked in broth or coconut cream with a “liquid base,” which is usually a blend of spices and herbs which gives the soup its flavor. A soup is served not as the first course but together with other dishes, the idea being that it reduces the fiery heat of the more spicy dishes with which it is usually accompanied.




The heart of all Thai curries is the curry pastes. These unlike Indian curry are made from fresh herbs and spices. The paste is cooked in coconut milk before the meat, fish, fowl or vegetable is added. The main ingredients in most curries are chilli, garlic, shallot, galangal, coriander root and krachai (a small brownish orange indigenous root). Canned curry pastes are available at markets and grocery stores, but of course freshly-made pastes make more delicious curries.


Single Dishes


Fried rice or noodle dishes make quick, satisfying meals. You can improvise with different types of meat, vegetables and spices. When cooking the rice, use a little less water so as to prevent sogginess when you fry it. Separate the noodles by pouring in a little oil, then place the meat or fowl, etc. on top of the rice or noodles together with the sauce and stir frequently over high heat.




Thai desserts are legendary in terms of variety and taste. They are mostly sweet but not intensely so, amongst the favorites with visitors are: Banana or flour dumplings in sweetened coconut cream and seasonal fruit in sugar syrup topped with crushed ice. Thais also eat a lot of candied fruit, amongst which banana and breadfruit are two of the most popular, and these are served either alone or topped with coconut cream.