Thai Cuisine at its best

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food,” said the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.  And I cannot agree more. In Thailand one can enjoy a range of local cuisines that explode with a palette of gorgeous flavors. My love of food is also one that is spread across the length and breadth of Thailand.
It is the same love that drives me to take you through the best of Thai food.

Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. As with other Asian cuisines, balance, detail and variety are of great significance to Thai chefs. Thai food is known for its balance of three to four fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.

As an acknowledged expert of Thai cuisine, David Thompson, explains Thai food (from a Western perspective): “Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it’s a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that’s important, it’s the complexity they delight in.”

Pad Thai
From Cape Town to Khao San Road, the default international Thai dish! Dropped in a searing hot wok, fistfuls of small, thin or wide noodles (you choose) do a steamy minute-long dance alongside crunchy beansprouts, onion and egg, before disembarking for the nearest plate. A truly interactive eating experience, half its fun (and flavour) lies in then using a quartet of accompanying condiments – fish sauce, sugar, chilli powder and finely ground peanuts – to wake it from its slumbers.

Gaeng Daeng (Red Curry)
Made with morsels of meat, red curry paste, smooth coconut milk and topped off with a sprinkling of finely sliced kaffir lime leaves, this rich, aromatic curry always gets those taste buds tingling. At its best when the meat is stunningly tender, it could be likened to a beautiful woman: it’s mild, sweet and delicately fragrant. And like all true love affairs, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Red Curry

 

Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
Fried rice, egg, onion, a few herbs – nothing more, nothing less. A popular lunch dish served typically with a wedge of lime and slices of cucumber, the secret of this unpretentious dish lies in its simplicity. The concept is this: you’re the one devouring it, so you dress it. To do so, Thais use everything from prawns, crab or chicken to basil, chili and left-over vegetables, in the process turning an unremarkable pauper into a gastronomic prince!

Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
The quintessential Thai aroma! A bold, refreshing blend of fragrant lemongrass, chilli, galangal, lime leaves, shallots, lime juice and fish sauce shapes this classic soup, giving it its legendary herbal kick. Succulent fresh prawns and straw mushrooms lend it body. A versatile dish that can fit within virtually any meal, the distinctive smell reminds you of exotic perfume, while it’s invigorating sour-spicy-hot taste just screams ‘Thailand’!

Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
Hailing from the Northeast state of Isaan, this outlandish dish is both great divider – some can’t get enough of its bite, some can’t handle it – and greatly distinctive. Garlic, chilies, green beans, cherry tomatoes and shredded raw papaya get dramatically pulverized in a pestle and mortar, so releasing a rounded sweet-sour-spicy flavour that’s not easily forgotten. Regional variations throw peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab into the mix, the latter having a gut-cleansing talent that catches many newcomers by surprise!

Sum Tum

Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green Chicken Curry)
Morsels of fresh chicken. Cherry-sized eggplants. Tender bamboo shoots. Sprigs of Coriander. Generous handfuls of sweet basil. These humble elements form the body of this seminal curry. But how does it get so gloriously green you ask? Oh, that’ll be the spoons of green curry paste that’s stirred furiously into hot creamy coconut milk. Served alongside a bowl of fragrant Thai rice, Gaeng Keow Kan Gai is a must try dish.

Pak Boong (Morning Glory)
Found all across Southeast Asia, the leafy plant with hollow green stems and thin fragile leaves forms the main component of this super easy favourite. Cloves of garlic and birds eye chilies join it in a wok alongside oyster sauce, fish sauce and black fermented bean. A few lazy stirs, until the leaves are shrunk and soft, and it’s done! The result is an alluring favourite with an unobtrusive flavour, a staple for those who love their Thai food but not spice induced sweats.

In Thailand, food is culture and vice versa. To experience Indian food is to taste Thailand in all its colorful and vibrant forms.
What’s not to love about that?