The Importance of Food in Thai Culture
In Thai culture, food plays a big part in a social occasion. Food is also a social occasion in itself since dining alone is considered bad luck. In daily life, rice is the staple Thai food at every meal. In central and southern Thailand polished white rice is eaten, in the north and north-east people eat sticky rice. Rice is accompanied by types of dishes including sauces, side dishes, soup and a salad.
Whether eating out or at home, food is brought to the table all at once rather than being served in courses. In Thai culture, the general rule is to order at least the same number of dishes as there are people present and they are all shared and enjoyed together.
The formal presentation of food is another important aspect of Thai culture, with serving platters decorated with flowers carved from vegetables and fruits.
Thai Cutlery and Eating Style
Thai cutlery generally consists of a fork and large spoon. The spoon is held in the right hand and used in place of a knife. The eating style is generally to sample one dish at a time, always eaten with rice. Bowls are used mainly for soup.
Modern-day Thai food has an ancient history. By the thirteenth century, the Thai people had established Thai cuisine as we know it today, that being various types of meat and seafood combined with local vegetables, herbs and spices such as garlic and pepper, and served with rice. Later, the Chinese brought noodles and the steel wok to Thailand.
Thai cuisine is also heavily influenced by Indian spices and flavours, creating the famous green, red, and yellow curries. Whilst 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, such as Thai holy basil, lemongrass, and galangal, also known as Thai ginger. Other influences on the types of dishes in Thai culture come from Thailand’s neighbouring countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma and Malaysia.
Types of Dishes
In Thailand, all types of dishes place an emphasis on lightly prepared food with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge mixing sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy tastes. Thai food thus requires the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish, requiring much attention to detail to create the right balance of flavours as well as good presentation.
Fish and shellfish are popular foods in Thai culture. Curries are eaten throughout the country, but there are regional varieties and the Thai curries are very different from those eaten in India. Northern and north-eastern Thai food is similar to that of Laos and consists of more meat, including meat served as sausages, or as larb which are types of dishes made from raw meat into a salad.
Dessert in Thai culture is usually fresh, exotic fruit or colourful rice cakes, depending on the region.