top of page

W H A T  I S  T H A I  F O O D

Every country in the world has its own food profile. It reflects its culture, environment, ingenuity and values. In the case of Thailand, these words come to mind: intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor.

We not only pay attention to how a dish tastes: we are also concerned about how it looks, how it smells, and how it fits in with the rest of the meal. We think of all parts of the meal as a whole - sum rap Thai (the way Thais eat). Sum rap Thai is the term we use for the unique components that make up a characteristically Thai meal." Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. It known for its complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. Australian chef David Thompson, a prolific chef and expert on Thai food, observed that unlike many other cuisines:

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.

-: Vegetables, Herbs and Spices :-

Thai dishes use a wide variety of herbs, spices and leaves rarely found in the West. The characteristic flavor of kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut) appears in many Thai soups (e.g., the hot and sour tom yam) or curry from the southern and central areas of Thailand. The Thai lime (manao) is smaller, darker and sweeter than the kaffir lime, which has a rough looking skin with a stronger lime flavor. Kaffir lime leaves or rind is frequently combined with galangal (kha) and lemongrass (takhrai), either kept whole in simmered dishes or blended together with liberal amounts of chilies and other aromatics to make curry paste. Fresh Thai basil, redolent with a distinctive scent reminiscent of cloves and stems which are often tinged with a purple color, are used to add fragrance in certain dishes such as green curry. Other commonly used herbs in Thai cuisine include phak chi, (coriander or cilantro leaves), rak phak chi (cilantro/coriander roots), spearmint (saranae), holy basil (kraphao), ginger (khing), turmeric (khamin), fingerroot (krachai), culantro (phak chi farang), pandanus leaves (bai toei), and Thai lemon basil (maenglak). Spices and spice mixtures used in Thai cuisine include phong phalo (five-spice powder), phong kari (curry powder), and fresh and dried peppercorns (phrik thai). Northern Thai larb uses a very elaborate spice mix, called phrik lap, which includes ingredients such as cumincloveslong pepperstar aniseprickly ash seeds and cinnamon.

-: F r u i t s :-

Fresh fruit forms a large part of the Thai diet, and are customarily served after a meal as dessert. The Scottish author John Crawfurd, sent on an embassy to Bangkok in 1822, writes in his account of the journey:

"The fruits of Siam, or at least of the neighbourhood of Bangkok, are excellent and various, surpassing, according to the experience of our party (...) those of all other parts of India." The Siamese themselves consume great quantities of fruit, and the whole neighbourhood of Bangkok is one forest of fruit trees.

Fruit is not only eaten on its own, but often served with spicy dips made from sugar, salt, and chilies. Fruits feature in spicy salads such as som tam (green papaya salad) and yam som-o (pomelo salad), in soups with tamarind juice such as tom khlong and kaeng som, and in Thai curries such as kaeng kanun (jackfruit curry), kaeng pet phet yang (grilled duck curry with pineapple or grapes), and kaeng pla sapparot (fish and pineapple curry). Fruits are also used in certain Thai chili pastes, such as in nam phrik long rue made with madan (a close relative of the mangosteen), and nam phrik luk nam liap, made with the fruit of the Chinese olive.

-: Desserts and Sweet Snacks :- 

Khong wan (Thai: ของหวาน; lit. "sweet things"). Although most Thai meals finish with fresh fruit, sometimes sweet snacks, often eaten in-between meals, will also be served as a dessert.
Grass jelly is often served with only shaved ice and brown sugar.

Kanom khrok
Coconut-rice pancakes, one of the ancient Thai desserts

Khao tom mat
A traditional Thai dessert prepared from sticky rice, coconut milk, and banana.

Khanom bua loi
Mashed taro root and pumpkin are mixed with rice flour into small balls, boiled and then served in coconut milk.

Khanom chan
Multi-layers of pandanus-flavoured sticky rice flour mixed with coconut milk. It is the one of The 9 auspicious Thai desserts.

Khanom mo kaeng
A sweet baked pudding containing coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar and flour, sprinkled with sweet fried onions.

Khanom tan
Palm flavoured mini cake with shredded coconut on top.

Khanom thuai tala
Steamed sweet coconut jelly and cream.

Khao lam
A cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk.

Khao niao mamuang
Sticky rice cooked in sweetened thick coconut milk, served with slices of ripe mango.
Kluay buat chee
Bananas in coconut milk

Lot chong nam kathi
Pandan flavoured rice flour noodles in coconut milk, similar to the Indonesian cendol.

Ruam mit
mixed ingredients, such as chestnuts covered in flour, jackfruitlotus root, tapioca, and lot chong, in coconut milk.

Jasmine scented coconut pudding set in cups of fragrant pandanus leaf.

Thong yod
a sweet round egg ball one of the nine auspicious Thai desserts.

:- D r i n k s :-

Khrueang duem (Thai: เครื่องดื่ม; lit. "beverages")
Cha yen - Thai iced tea.

Krating Daeng - an energy drink and the origin of Red Bull.

Nam maphrao - the juice of a young coconut, often served inside a coconut.

Nam matum - a refreshing and healthy drink made from the fruit of the Bael tree.

Oliang - a sweet Thai black ice coffee.

Satho - a traditional rice wine from the Isan region.

Other alcoholic beverages from Thailand include Mekhong whisky and Sang Som.
Several brands of beer are brewed in Thailand, the two biggest brands being Singha and Chang.

:- Street food, food courts, and market food :-

The quality and choice of street food in Thailand is world renowned. Bangkok is often mentioned as one of the best street food cities in the world, and even called the street food capital of the world.
The website VirtualTourist says: "Few places in the world, if any, are as synonymous with street food as Thailand. For the variety of locations and abundance of options, we selected Bangkok, Thailand, as our number one spot for street food. Bangkok is notable for both its variety of offerings and the city's abundance of street hawkers.

Sources :

bottom of page