Rice is the main dietary staple of Thailand. Thais eat two kinds of rice: the standard white kind and glutinous, or sticky, rice. Sticky rice rolled into a ball is the main rice eaten in northeastern Thailand. It is also used in desserts throughout the country. Rice is eaten at almost every meal and also made into flour used in noodles, dumplings, and desserts. Most main dishes use beef, chicken, pork, or seafood, but the Thais also eat vegetarian dishes
Thai food is known for its unique combinations of seasoning. Although it is hot and spicy, Thai cooking is carefully balanced to bring out all the different flavors in a dish. Curries (dishes made with a spicy powder called curry) are a mainstay of Thai cooking. Hot chilies appear in many Thai dishes. Other common flavorings are fish sauce, dried shrimp paste, lemon grass, and the spices coriander, basil, garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon. Soup, eaten with most meals, helps balance the hot flavors of many Thai dishes as do steamed rice, mild noodle dishes, and sweet desserts. Many dishes are served with sauces, such as Nam Pla Prig, for dipping.
Coconuts play an important role in the Thai diet. Coconut milk and shredded coconut are used in many dishes, especially desserts. Thais eat a variety of tropical fruits for dessert, including mangoes, papayas, custard apples with scaly green skins, and jackfruit, which is large and prickly and has yellow flesh.
Thai food differs somewhat from one region to another. Seafood is popular in the southern coastal areas. The Muslims in that part of the country favor curries. The spiciest food is found in the northeast.
Nam Pla Prig (Dipping Sauce)
This sauce is used as a dip. It is provided on the table at every Thai meal, in the same way that salt and pepper are provided on most tables in North America.
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
4 Tablespoons fish sauce (available at supermarkets and Asian food stores)
2 Tablespoons water
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
If sauce is too salty, add more water.
Serve at room temperature in individual bowls.
Keeps for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
Thai Beef Curry
10 ounces beef flank steak with the fat trimmed off
2 cups coconut milk, unsweetened
2 Tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 cup bamboo shoot strips
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons water
20 leaves of fresh basil
¼ medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
2 Tablespoons green peas, frozen
2½ cups rice, steamed
Slice the steak into pieces ¼-inch thick, 2 inches long, and about 1-inch wide.
Heat 1 cup of the coconut milk in a wok or frying pan and add the red curry paste.
Stir to dissolve and cook at high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until the oil of the coconut milk rises to the top and the sauce thickens.
Add fish sauce and stir it in.
Add the second cup of coconut milk and the beef. Reduce heat to medium.
Add the bamboo shoot strips and the sugar. Return the heat to high and add 3 Tablespoons water.
Cook, stirring for 3 minutes until bubbling.
Add ¾ of the basil leaves, the red pepper strips and the green peas.
Stir and cook for another 30 seconds, folding all the ingredients into the sauce.
Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish.
Top with the rest of the basil leaves and the additional red pepper strips.
Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed rice.
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Small amount of oil or coconut milk
Fresh coriander leaves
Slice chicken breasts into thin slices lengthwise. Each slice should be about 4 inches by 1 inch by ¼ inch. (Optional: place chicken in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to make it easier to slice.) Place the chicken strips in a mixing bowl.
Add remaining ingredients, first the solids, then the liquids, to the bowl. Toss until well mixed.
Let the chicken marinate (absorb the flavoring) in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and as long as 24 hours.
When ready to cook the satay, stir the chicken in the sauce and remove.
Thread each slice onto a skewer, pushing the skewer in and out down the middle of the slice.
Baste (rub) the chicken with oil or coconut milk and grill on a barbecue or under the broiler.
Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, watching carefully and turning to keep the chicken from burning.
Baste once more with oil or coconut milk. The satay is done when it’s golden brown and crispy along the edges. Serve with optional garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
1 long cucumber
½ small red onion
⅓ medium red pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh coriander leaves
Wash and dry the cucumber, and peel it if desired.
Cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters.
Slice the quarters into ¼-inch pieces and arrange on a plate.
Slice the red pepper and onion into thin strips. Scatter them over the cucumber.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, and salt.
Pour dressing over the vegetables and top with the coriander leaves.
Serves 4 to 6.
Few information about Thailand
Comprising an area of 514,000 square kilometers (198,456 square miles) in Southeast Asia, Thailand (formerly known as Siam) extends almost two-thirds down the Malay Peninsula. Comparatively, the area occupied by Thailand is slightly more than twice the size of the state of Wyoming.
Thailand may be divided into five major physical regions: the central valley, fronting the Gulf of Thailand; the continental highlands of the north and northwest, containing Thailand’s highest point, Doi Inthanon (2,565 meters/8,415 feet); the northeast, much of it often called the Khorat Plateau; the small southeast coastal region facing the Gulf of Thailand; and the Malay Peninsula, extending almost 960 kilometers (600 miles) from the central valley in the north to the boundary of Malaysia in the south.
Until 1939, the country we call Thailand was known as Siam. It was the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by the West. This helped Thailand to maintain its own special cuisine (cooking style). However, that cuisine had already been influenced by Thailand’s Asian neighbors.
The Thai (pronounced TIE) people migrated to their present homeland from southern China about 2,000 years ago. They brought with them the spicy cooking of their native Yunan province, as well as its dietary staple, rice. Other Chinese influences on Thai cooking included the use of noodles, dumplings, soy sauce, and other soy products. Like the Chinese, the Thais based their recipes on blending five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot.
From nearby India came not only the Buddhist religion, but also spicy seasonings such as cumin, cardamom, and coriander, as well as curry dishes. The Malays, to the south, further shared seasonings, as well as their love of coconuts and the satay (a dish that is similar to shish kebabs). Since 1970, Thai cooking has become extremely popular in both North America and Britain.