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A basic guide to Thai cuisine – Thai curry and ingredients for Thai cooking

Thai food has always been colourful and is influenced from cuisines, all over the world in terms of spices, food presentation, techniques and methods.

Thai food is one of the most popular cuisine and is a preferred choice by many. Thai cuisine is a culinary delight with the use of a lot of local ingredients. It is generally spicy and has many herbs and spices. The reason being that the Thais like spicy food and also the spices are considered to have a lot of medicinal benefits.  Thais rarely eat alone and everyone shares each other’s plates of food. Thai food encourages the use of spoon and sometimes fork obviating the use of knife. Traditional Thai cooking involves grilling, stewing and baking.

Influences – “Siam-ising,” or incorporating the culinary techniques of foreigners, is an important historical aspect of Thai food.

Chinese for frying and stir frying and introducing the most important cooking tool – “wok”.

Portuguese for introducing Thais to chilies and using eggs in the desserts.

French for presentation and techniques.

India for spices and flavours, which is evident in their curries. Although Thai curry incorporates many Indian spices in its pastes, it still manages to maintain its own unique flavour with the addition of local spices and ingredients.

Other influences on Thai cooking may be found in the countries near or surrounding Thailand, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia.

Buddhist influence on food – with their Buddhist background, serving meat in large pieces is considered deeply offensive. Due to this reason, big cuts of meat is always shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Every meal is balanced in terms of flavours – if one part of the meal is spicy, it will be balanced with a bland dish. If part of your meal is sweet, another component will be sour.

Thai chillies, galangal and kaffir lime leaves are used for flavouring in almost all Thai dishes.

Ingredients for Thai cooking – Thai food is a major mix of vegetables and seafood. Vegetable oil is replaced with coconut oil or sometimes with peanut oil. Coconut milk or cream is used in both savory and sweet dishes. The flavours are enhanced by fresh herb such as lemon grass, coriander leaves or Thai basil. The other common ingredients used in Thai cooking are – kaffir lime leaves, galangal (Thai ginger), tofu, shrimp paste, soy sauce, tamarind, palm sugar or coconut sugar and peanuts or peanut sauce.

A typical Thai meal – Thai meal is served all at once, permitting dinners to enjoy complimentary flavours of each dish. A basic Thai meal consists of a soup, a dip served with fish, meat or vegetables, a curry dish served with rice or a spicy salad and Thai condiments from spicy to sweet and sour sauce. Most of the dishes are served with rice. Noodles are also commonly used – thin or flat in making the popular dish pad Thai – flat noodles mixed with veggies, meat or seafood and flavoured with sauces and herbs. Thai cuisine does not differentiate between breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A typical Thai meal will incorporate the following dishes:

Tidbits or appetizer – maybe served as individual portions or as a spread

Soups – can also be considered as a one pot meal for an individual.

Salads – tastes involves sweet, spicy, sour and salty. It can be a mix of raw or cooked vegetables and cooked meat or seafood.

Side dish – a sweet and sour dish, omelet or a stir-fried dish.

Dips – is very common and is served with almost everything as a condiment.

Desserts – are based of coconut cream or milk based served with fresh local fruits.

Papaya salad - crunchy, spicy, with sweet and sour taste.

Popular dishes – fried spring roll (por pia tord), spicy chicken soup (tom yam kai), spicy papaya salad (som tam), stir-fried chicken with cashewnut (kai pad med mamuang himmapan), Thai sweet chilli sauce, red or green chicken curry (kang keaw wan kai), fried noodles (pad thai), mango with sticky rice are some of the popular Thai dishes.

Thai Curries – consists of wet or dry grounded spices, flavoured with fresh herbs. Curries mostly has fish and meat in them.

Thai green and red curry are very popular across the globe. You also get ready-made packets of red and green pastes which requires minimum effort to prepare the dish. The curries are served with steamed rice.

Thai green curry – is made with green curry paste by grounding green chillies, basil, lemon grass etc. It is a coconut milk based gravy made with vegetables, chicken  or seafood (mostly prawns).

Thai red curry – is made with red curry paste by grounding wet and dry ingredients like  Thai red chillies, lemon grass, galangal, onions, cumin, white pepper etc.  Chicken or seafood(mostly prawns) along with vegetables is added to the coconut milk based curry.

Thai cuisine is considered good for health if consumed in moderation. Thai cuisine can support  vegan options since usage of dairy products is moderate. Thai cuisine is very popular even in India and most of the ingredients is easily available in most of the super markets or can be ordered online. Exploring Thai cuisine is fun and  exciting for the health conscience too. So go ahead and explore the plethora of Thai cooking and I’m sure you will enjoy it to the fullest.