Thai cooking and eating is a unique experience and it’s important to know some of the basics before you can fully immerse yourself in the Thai cuisine experience. Most of my information is a combination of the things I have learned, observed, and experienced in the last seven months, but I have also incorporated some information from a cookbook I received at my cooking class in Chiang Mai.
Thai people like to eat. There is no question about that. They are either making a meal, eating a meal, or talking about the next meal. They are constantly asking family, friends, even strangers whether they have eaten, what they have eaten, and how they liked whatever it is they had. If they haven’t eaten yet, they will always offer to make something. It’s just the Thai way.
Many people will tell you this is just because Thai people love food, but in reality it has much more to do with the Thai culture. Thai people are kind, warm, and generous and they are always willing to help others. The best method for sharing these qualities with others is through food.
The dinner table is always open and inviting to outsiders. There is always food available to serve. It’s in integral part of their community and their way of life.
Additionally, dishes are shared from a common plate. Rarely do Thai people fix or order their own dish during a meal. They are always communal, spooning bits of each plate onto an individual serving of rice. This eating from common platters enhances the togetherness of a Thai meal, with the diners courteously serving each other, and discussing any topics of the day.
The Thai Meal
As already stated, eating in Thailand is a social event and usually involves a large group of people. The meal consists of many different dishes that are shared by all. Each individual has their own plate of rice onto which they add all the other dishes.
Each meal usually includes a variety of foods including some form of soup, meat, curry, a fried dish and a steamed dish. Obviously all of this can vary from family to family and group to group but this is the typical standard. The choices of dishes are dependent of what is in season. The meal is almost always ended with some form of fresh fruit or fruit-based dessert.
Utensils are often a topic of debate in Thailand. Thai meals are typically eaten with a fork and a spoon. Unlike the states, the fork is used primarily as a means of scooping onto the spoon and the spoon itself is used for eating. Knives are rarely found on the table and chopsticks are only used for meals that include noodles. This can take some getting used to, but in the long run it is a far more convenient method of eating 🙂
One of the greatest things about Thai food is how easily adaptable the cuisine is. Most Thai dishes can be made either with meat or fish or in a vegetarian form. The level of spice can be adapted to the liking of the consumer and many of the ingredients can be substituted for other options (cheaper, more readily available, taste preferences, etc). This makes Thai food a great option for all dietary needs. Plus, it just tastes really good!