Thai food has become very much popular due to its healthy mix of flavors. You love Thai food but may not be fully aware of how to enjoy it thoroughly just because you are new to it. Every culture has some specialities and norms when it comes to food. Thai food is no exception. If you know a few rules of how to eat it, you can enjoy it in a true way.
You can even join a Thai Chef School from Bangkok and learn Thai dishes and eating norms. Till then, here are a few Thai food tips for you.
1. Fork and Spoon
Thai food is eaten using a fork and spoon. Rice is scooped with your spoon aided with the fork. For eating rice or dry noodle dishes like Pad Si-ew or Pad Thai, chopsticks are not used. They are used only for eating noodles in soups.
2. Categories of Thai Food
Unlike the typical Western culture, which has food courses like appetizer, entrée and dessert, Thai food is classified into four categories:
- Wet – curry or soup
- Dry – a stir-fry or anything which doesn’t need a bowl
- Yum – salad
- Spicy – at least one spicy dish
Plus, there is always a mix of vegetables, seafood and meat.
3. Individual Meals and Sharing Platters
As a characteristic, Thai food is about sharing. Ordering individual meal in a restaurant can surprise others because in Thailand, food should be ordered in a group with the eldest member of the group having the main voice.
Thai curries are rich, whereas soups are breezy and light. There should be a wet dish and a dry one for a contrast. Dry dish may mean stir-fries or anything that doesn’t need a bowl to serve.
Shared dishes are typically placed in the middle of the table. Everyone should take her or his individual plate of rice and then start eating.
Then scoop food from the shared platter on top of your rice and scoop it with a spoon. Fork should be used to arrange the right quantity of food on the spoon before taking a bite. It’s just impolite to take huge mouthfuls no matter how tasty the food is.
Soups should be eaten by taking it into individual small bowls. If you wish to start first with the soup, remember to serve some to everybody on the table.
Never make a noise while eating. Don’t slurp, for example, to show that the food is yummy. Unlike the Japanese or Chinese, Thais eat quietly.
If you come across an inedible part, for example, a shrimp’s head, take it out from your mouth using a spoon and place it aside. Sometimes a bowl is provided to place ‘trash’.
When you finish the meal, arrange your spoon and fork neatly on your plate.
If you’ve used chopsticks to eat rice from a bowl in the Thai-Chinese style, never stick the chopsticks straight in the rice, because it’s done in that way while offering incense to the deceased, and so considered indecent.
4. Eating Simultaneously
It’s a norm of Thai food that you should try everything at the same time, although the dish that is ready first arrives first. There are no courses of meals. Everything including soups, dips, salads and even an entire fish is eaten together. The only exception to this is the dessert. Rice is a staple ingredient of Thai cuisine. Even in soups and salads, you’ll find rice.
Noodles are another staple of Thai food. Noodle soups and Pad Thai are considered perfect for lunch and dinner.
6. Ginger, Onion, Garlic and Shallot
Thai dishes contain aromatic spices and herbs such as ginger, onion, shallot, garlic, galangal and lemongrass in generous amounts. These spices are minced and added to stir-fries or ground up into curry pastes at the start of the cooking process and not in the end.
7. Coconut Milk
For making liquids for stews and soups, coconut milk is essentially used in Thai cuisine. Garlic, onion and other aromatic spices are sautéed in a large pan with a bit of oil for around five minutes and then added with salt and meat if you wish to use it. Then coconut milk is poured into it and the mixture is simmered for around an hour.
Coconut milk is typically thicker than regular milk or cream and therefore makes dishes richer. Due to its high fat content, spicy ingredients are tempered. That’s the reason why Thai cooks use it generously in spicy dishes. Moreover, it’s vegan and has a prolonged shelf life.
Coconut milk also replaces cream in desserts. For example, mango sticky rice is a traditional Thai dessert and contains glutinous rice (also known as sweet or sticky rice) which is starchier than the regular rice and is cooked with coconut milk and sugar instead of water, and then capped with sliced mango and sesame seeds.
8. Umami Flavor with Fish Sauce in Marinades and Sauces
Fish sauce in Thailand is an ultra-salty brown-colored solution and is a by-product of fish fermentation. It can be used to replace salt in savory dishes to offer the dishes a richer savory flavor. If you think that it would taste extremely ‘fishy’, don’t worry; it wouldn’t.
Since it contains salt, acid and sugar (three important factors required for marinating), fish sauce is an ideal meat marinade. It can even enliven simple pasta. Before you frown, understand that most fish sauces are made from anchovies, which are an inevitable ingredient of all pasta dishes. Also pouring some of it over cooked veggies is also a good idea.
So, are you ready to enjoy Thai food with these tips?