History has played a large role in the development of the Thai cuisine which exists today. Traditionally a nation of Buddhists meant that using large chunks of meat in dishes was frowned upon. Instead, large cuts of meat were shredded in order to make them more acceptable and this has remained the case throughout the centuries. Prior to the arrival of Chinese influence in Thailand, the cooking methods used were primarily stewing, baking or grilling. Now, however, you will also see the natives frying, stir-frying and deep-frying their dishes. Other nationalities which have also had a significant impact on the culinary traditions in Thailand include the Indian, French, Japanese and Dutch all of whom arrived since the 17th century. But, it is the Portuguese who have been credited with introducing the all-important chilli, an essential ingredient in so many Thai specialties.
Seasoning foods are another essential element of any traditional Thai meal. Either garlic, onion, ginger, basil, lemon grass, mint, lime or the aforementioned chili is included in every recipe. In most cases, however, it is usually a combination of at least three of these or other such flavourings which give your meal its unique sour, salty, hot and aromatic flavour. But, contrary to popular belief, and despite the liberal use of chilies when cooking, not all Thai food is particularly hot. Furthermore, if you are not a fan of food which makes your nose run and your eyes water, you will find a host of traditional Thai dishes to whet your appetite.
When eating a typical Thai meal, you will probably find it strange that all dishes, including soup, are served at the same time. And, while the soup is served individually all other dishes are served communally. Rice is given to each person and you can then sample every other dish on the table. It makes for an interesting meal but does give you the opportunity to sample several different specialties in one sitting.
If you’re wondering exactly what you should sample during your stay, the green curry is extremely popular and renowned around the world. Of course nothing quite compares to the real thing so this definitely comes highly recommended. Another favourite is som tam. A salad which usually accompanies most meals, this consists of grated papaya, tomatoes, garlic, dried shrimps, fish sauce and lemon juice and apparently it’s delicious. And for something to clear the sinuses, try the tom yam soup.