By: Madi Anderson & Dagny Helander
Thai food is usually recognized by its spicy quality. Thai food however strives to effectively combine the four flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and spicy. “Virtually every dish is an exercise in balancing these four tastes” (Williams, 738). In addition to the four flavors, “bitter also factors into many Thai dishes” (Williams, 738). Most people usually notice or taste the spicy element of Thai cooking, but once someone becomes acquainted with the spicy element of Thai food, one can begin to appreciate Thai food with all the varieties.
The common Thai foods are: soups, stir fry, salads, fluid chili, fruits, and sweets. All these foods are eaten with Thai staples, rice or noodles, and a meal without rice or noodles isn’t considered a real meal (Williams, 739). There are varieties of rice and noodles, all of which are consumed regularly; sticky rice, plain rice, long grain rice, noodles made from rice paste, wheat flour and egg noodles, and clear noodles (Williams 739).
Soups and curries are common foods, they refer dishes with liquid in them. Thai curries have a base of chili pepper paste, and are notoriously spicy. These curries are made by mashing ingredients in a mortar and pestle to form a thick paste and is cooked (Williams, 739). Stir fries and deep fries are commonly referred to as some of the simplest dishes in Thai cuisine. Stir fry was introduced to the Thai’s from the Chinese, and deep fries are usually used for snacks-such as deep fried bananas (Williams 740).
Hot and tangy salads are another part of Thai cuisine, the salads are “based around seafood, meat, or vegetables” (Williams, 740). They are created using lime juice for tang and chili and chili products for the hot factor. Other Thai foods with the hot factor are Nám Prík, or dips, which are chili based. These dips are usually eaten with rice or vegetables, but varies among different regions in Thailand (Williams, 740).
Thailand is a tropical country, and has a bounty of fruits, which are eaten in varying ways and throughout ripeness. Thailand has two different sweets: Kðrng wãhn- sweet things, and kà nðm– a dish similar to pastries. Sweet things are “small, rich sweets… [with] a slightly salty flavor” (Williams, 741). The pastries are “bite-sized items (sticky rice blend) wrapped in banana leaves(Williams, 741)”. It is easy to find treats and snacks from food stands along the road (Schmidt, D.)
As with any culture, there are rules when it comes to dining. In Thailand, meals are served family style, plates come in the order that they are prepared by the kitchen. Serving yourself by taking “your portion” is considered uncultured, rude, and unfamiliar (Williams 745). One dish being designated to a single person is also uncommon (Schmidt, D.) When serving oneself from communal plates, it is polite to put only a “spoonful on your plate at a time” (Williams, 745).
Thai food is an art form, trying to balance sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and bitter. There are varieties of foods where this favorable balance of vibrant flavors is achieved. When eating these foods, it is important to remember who to eat these foods in a culturally sensitive way.
SourcesSchmidt, D., Thai food and Culture. About.com Thai Food. Retrieved from: http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaifoodandculture/a/foodculture.htm Williams, China. Thailand. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet, 2012. Print.