Thai Culture & Food
The Mani and Orang Asli were the earliest inhabitants of Thailand. They emigrated from the African continent over 50,000 years ago. One must ask, “Does civilization begin when the indigenous inhabitants arrive or when the dominant ethnic group records their history?” Many will say that Thai civilization began when the Dvaravati arrived from India in the 7th century. Chinese ethnic groups influenced the nation’s culture upon arrival in the 13th century. If you take a cursory look at the map of Thailand, you will see that it is in close proximity to many nations. Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India and Bangladesh each had a major impact on the history and cuisine of Thailand.
History and Influences
Interactions with the Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese have left their imprint on Thai cuisine, languages and dress. Portuguese missionaries arrived in Thailand in the late 1600’s. While in South America, they took a liking to red chilis and brought the spice with them upon landing in Thailand. To this day, our Red Curry is made from the paste of red chilis. Traditional Indian curries are made with tumeric, cumin and coriander. Along with rich coconut milk, you will find these exact ingredients in our yellow curry sauce. The indigenous Mani have incorporated bamboo shoots into their diet. You will see that bamboo is a main ingredient in our delicious Basil Tofu.
Flavors and Ingredients
Bold, aromatic, floral, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Thai cooking. Unlike some cuisines which are one note. Thai cuisine is designed to take your palette on a multi-cultural odyssey. Through early trade and migration, we have had the luxury of being exposed to a myriad of spices, ingredients, techniques and flavors. Imagine if your mom was from Louisiana and your father from New Mexico. We can only fancy what would come out of your kitchen. It’s the same in our galley with our chefs hailing from various regions in Thailand. Coconut milk, lime, Thai lemon basil, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chilis and shallots are used to bring out the best in a dish.
How to Eat Traditionally
Even though we have significant Chinese influences, Thai typically do not eat with chopsticks. We believe that for food to be truly enjoyed, one must use their hands. Modern Thai will eat with a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left. The idea is that you use the fork to maneuver the food onto your spoon. Sauces are part of everything we do and you can’t slurp up all that good sauce with a fork. A traditional meal is savored on the floor. Meals are served family style, typically with one large bowl of white rice and several accompanying dishes. There are always more dishes served than there are people.
Try This Dessert At Home: Kluay Tod