Thai recipes place emphasis on light dishes that evoke strong sensory emotions. This includes one of the most well-known factors of Thai food, the spice. However, the food is still known for each dish having 3 or 4 different tastes, including sour, sweet, bitter, and salty. Differing from other Asian meals, Thai food isn’t just about the simplicity. Rather, it is about everything in the dish working together for the greater good. Many outsiders will pick up on the many different flavors, thinking they have just all been thrown together. However, for the Thai people, the level of complexity in a dish is very important. These different flavors and levels are often times dictated by the region in which they are being prepared.
Being a diverse country, Thailand draws upon recipes from many different countries. Depending on where in Thailand you might find yourself, the taste will change. Broken down, there are four main cuisines in the country: Northern, Northeastern, Southern, and Central. The North draws heavily from China and Laos, the Northwest from Burma, the east from Vietnam and Cambodia, and the south from Malaysia.
It was only in more recent times that Thai recipes have become more common and popular in the western world. The rise of international tourism in the area in the 1960s helped fuel the spread of the cuisine. In addition, many troops were stationed there during the Vietnam War. In 2003, a survey found that Thai food ranked 6th in terms of people’s favorite ethnic cuisine, coming in behind Italian, French, Chinese, Indian and Japanese. Impressively, in 2011 CNN named Thai dish “tom yam kung” as the 4th most delicious food in the world.
When eating, meals are typically served with rice and many complementary dishes that are shared by everyone. Traditionally, food was eaten with the hands however this has changed with Western influence. Today it is common to use a fork and spoon, but very rarely a knife. In contrast to more Western styles, the fork is only used to push food onto the spoon, which is then inserted into the mouth. Chopsticks are also used, but almost only when eating noodle soups.