Try Thai!

Updated: Jul 15, 2009, 00:22 AM IST

Shashank Chouhan

Thailand cuisine is an amalgam of Indian, Chinese, Malaysian and local flavours. Known for a heady mix of spicy, sour, sweet and salty taste, Thai cuisine is any sea-food lover’s delight. What’s more? It doesn’t disappoint the veggies either. So if you want a change from regular Chinese or our own Punju-Chinese food, try Thai!

Thai food is generally divided into four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern, Central and Southern. Each cuisine has its own distinct flavour or style of cooking. For ex. the curries made in south tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, while northeastern dishes have a dash of lime juice.

Be it Khanom chin namya (boiled noodles topped with curry sauces and eaten with fresh leaves & vegetables) or Kaphrao gai (minced chicken in chilly-garlic-basil sauce), Thai food is known for its use of fresh herbs, spices as well as fresh sauce.

What with sweet-smelling jasmine variety of it growing in abundance there, rice is a staple component of Thai cuisine. Just pour some curry and lime juice over piping steamed rice and viola! Thai fast food- Khao rad gang- is served in no time.

You would have gauged by now that Thai food is not a course-divided affair. One main solid food- rice or noodle- with any kind of curry, stir-frys, lime juice and other dishes is the general Thai serving. A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish.

If you know some Thai person, you might hear them say "gin khao yung" every time you meet them. It means "have you eaten yet?" or more precisely "have you eaten rice yet?".

The people of Thailand like to eat directly with their hands instead of using fork, spoon or chopsticks. In the northeastern areas especially, balls of sticky riced are dipped in curries and popped in with relish. Reminds of a friendly Madrasi enjoying sambhar-chawal-rasam, eh?

As mentioned earlier, the speciality of Thai cuisine is its aromatic rice & fresh herbs with fish sauce like nam pla. An ingredient which is rarely found anywhere else is Kaffer lime leaves. Its flavour appears in every soup or curry made in central and southern regions of the country.

With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling. Chinese influences saw the introduction of frying, stir frying and deep-frying. And yes some of them like to eat cockroaches or grasshoppers, too.

Try these:

Pad Thai

Khao soi

Som Tam (papaya salad)

Nam Prik Kung Siap

Po Pia Tot (Spring roll)