How to cook Thainess into a tasty meal

April 29, 2015 by  
Filed under THAINESS

BANGKOK, 29 April 2015: Thai food is one of the world’s favourite cuisines. The sheer number of restaurants that have sprung up in capital cities around the world attest to its phenomenal popularity and this has made Thai food a compelling reason to visit the country for thousands of “foodies”.

Over centuries, different types of Thai food evolved mostly from necessity as people created simple, but tasty dishes from local spices and natural ingredients.

Many of the raw ingredients were endowed with medicinal qualities and when combined with spices it resulted in a healthy dining experience.

Thai food is famed for its balance and harmony offering a variety of flavours and tastes, with an enthusiastic use of herbs, spices, and market-fresh ingredients. It is cooked to offer five fundamental tastes – hot, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

2.1  This offers contrasting yet complementing flavours and textures to each dish. Coconut milk, seafood, and fruit also play a key part in Thai cuisine.

Thai food differs considerably in presentation and content depending on the region; north, northeast, central and south. With cultural and ethnic differences that have evolved over centuries, regional cuisines have also incorporated some eastern and western influences.

Here are some examples of speciality dishes that are linked to particular regions of the country.

North: Khao Soy (curry noodles), Kaeng Hang Le (pork curry), Sai Ua (spicy pork sausage), Khantoke dinner (traditional meal with diners sitting around a small low table), with servings of steamed glutinous rice.

Northeast: Som Tam (green papaya salad), Larp (spicy minced meat salad), Kai Yang (grilled chicken), and steamed glutinous rice.

Central: Kaeng Khiao Wan (green curry), Tom Yum (hot & sour soup), Tom Kha (creamy hot & sour soup), Yum (spicy salad), noodle dishes, and steamed rice.

South: Kaeng Tai Pla (spicy fish maw curry), Kaeng Leuang (yellow curry), Kaeng Mussaman (mild curry), Khao Yam Nam Budu (rice salad), Satay (skewered barbequed meat with spicy peanut sauce), and steamed rice.

This variety gives visitors so much to explore while they are in a particular region. Local restaurants and food stalls in each region differ and part of the holiday experience is to taste the different foods that change as we leave the Thai capital and explore other destinations.

2.2Thailand has a variety of Thai cooking classes and schools and finding them in Bangkok, or the major provinces is easy. Most five-star hotels have their own Thai restaurants, which also offer cooking classes.

Hotels and resorts in major tourist destinations, such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Samui, Hua Hin, and Pattaya provide cooking classes for their guests. In addition, there are specialised cooking schools that teach the basic skills to allow a visitor to prepare a tasty Thai meal when they are return home. There are also schools that teach chefs and professional cooks.

Most Thai cooking classes begin with a tour of a local market so the students can familiarise themselves with typical Thai ingredients. Often the teacher will also explain what alternatives can be used back home if the authentic ingredients are not available.

Once back at the cooking school, instructors demonstrate the process of preparing each course, after which students will cook a meal on their own, while the instructor observes. Students typically get to choose up to five dishes and normally cook the entire meal themselves.

However, some schools do not require you to pound your own chili paste, a mandatory ingredient for many Thai dishes, including curries. They shortcut the process and buy it in bulk, pre-ground and ready to use from the supermarket.

After cooking in the morning, your meal will be served at lunchtime. Students at most Thai cooking schools get to keep their recipe books and souvenir aprons. Many Thai cooking schools also offer take-home packages of Thai spices and curry paste.

Towards the end of September when the rainy season ends, Phuket will host the Thailand International Food Festival where Thai and international chefs meet and visitors can enjoy world-class food.

2.3Trang is also noted as a town for food lovers. The cuisine in Trang is deliciously different from other parts of Thailand, a blending of Thai, Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences. Good foods is, naturally, a major highlight, to be enjoyed in hotels, restaurants, and open-air cafes around the town.

The cakes made in Trang have a special characteristic in that the texture is similar to kanom khai (egg cake) and has many different flavours. The cake festival is held annually in August.

Besides Thai food, Thailand is a nation of fruits and they are usually sold everywhere at street-side stalls and markets.

Popular Thai fruits include: Banana, pineapple, watermelon, and papaya, as well as the exotic: dragon fruit, chompu (rose apple), durian, and jackfruit.

There are literally dozens of other Thai fruits, available seasonally, and always reasonably priced.

During the fruit harvesting season, April to July, the Eastern region offers some sweet diversions and a taste of tropical paradise which can be enjoyed in and around the lush orchards and fruit plantations.

Chanthaburi is one of the most famous provinces for variety of fruits. Tourists are invited to travel to fruit plantations to taste fresh tropical fruits at orchards and take pictures. This year, the province will host a fruit festival during 23 to 31 May.

From mid-April onwards, eastern provinces attract visitors who are keen to taste fresh fruits such as the durian, rambutan, mangosteen, zalacca, and dragon fruit.

But no matter what part of Thailand you are exploring, a variety of colourful and exotic fruits are bound to catch your attention either at the local market or at fruit stalls that cluster at junctions on most highways that link the main towns.

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