Thai meal is traditionally a communal affair,
with two or more people sharing several dishes,
all served at the same time and eaten with steamed
and Hors d'oeuvres
These savory tidbits can be eaten alone or
as side dishes. Traditional favorites include
stuffed dumpling, satay, crisp-fried rice noodles
topped with sweet-and-spicy sauce, and spring
rolls. Creative presentation is a big part of
Thai snack-making, and a professional cook worth
his salt will strive to make them as much as
feast for the eye as for the palate.
salads, called yam, are sour, sweet and salty.
A simple dressing works equally well for meat,
seafood, vegetable and fruit salads. This is
made from fish sauce, lime juice and a dash
of sugar. The heat comes from fiery little bird
chilies, but just how hot a salad should be
depends on the texture and flavor of the meat,
vegetable or fruit used. Fresh herbs such as
marsh mint, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and
cilantro are usually used as garnish.
served with vegetables, meat or fish, chili
dips are very versatile. A dip can be a main
dish or side dish, added to a pan of fried rice
to flavor it, or drizzled on chips to jazz them
up. A cook can whip up a bowl of dip from chilies,
garlic, onion and shrimp paste or whatever ingredient
is available—dried or fermented fish, sour tamarind,
dried shrimp, etc.
soups generally are very flavorful. Meat
or vegetable is cooked in broth or coconut cream
with a “soup base,”
usually a blend of spices and herbs, which gives
the soup its flavor. A soup is served not as
a first course but together with other dishes.
This way you can wash down the fiery heat of
the more spicy dishes with it.
heart of all Thai curries is the curry pastes,
which, unlike Indian curry, are made from fresh
herbs and spices. The paste is cooked in coconut
cream before meat or vegetable is added. Main
ingredients in most curries are chili, garlic,
shallot, galanga, coriander root and krachai
(a small brownish orange, indigenous root).
Canned curry pastes are available at markets
and grocery stores, but freshly-made pastes
make more delicious curries.
Fried rice or noodle
dishes make quick, satisfying meals. You
can improvise with different types of meat,
vegetables and spices. When cooking the rice,
use a little less water so it won’t become soggy
when you fry it. Separate the noodles before
adding them to the oil. Add the meat and sauce,
then the rice or noodles, and stir frequently
over high heat.
Ideal for washing down the spices, Thai desserts
are sweet but not intensely so. Banana or
flour dumplings in sweetened coconut cream and
season fruit in sugar syrup topped with crushed
ice are some of the easy-to-make favorites.
Thais also eat a lot of candied fruit — banana
and breadfruit being two of the most popular
— alone or topped with coconut
Up a Thai Kitchen
You need a few
utensils to start. A wooden chopping block,
a set of knives, a set of mortar and pestle
(an electric blender will also do), a Chinese-style
frying pan or wok, a soup pot and a brass pan
for desserts should be enough for daily cooking
or an occasional dinner party. Spoon and fork
are the only cutlery you need.
cooks always have to hand dried chilies, garlic,
shallot, shrimp paste, and a good bottle of