A Taste of Thailand ~ Review of Thai Cuisine

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Travel Features >> A Taste of Thailand ~ Review of Thai Cuisine

A Taste of Thailand ~ Review of Thai Cuisine

March 14, 2012

Like a giant sponge, absorbing all that came its way, later releasing it in an effervescence characterised by fragrance, flavour and beauty, Thai cuisine has elevated itself into an art form - and once you have a taste of Thailand, there truly is no turning back. A unique culinary experience that evokes nostalgia in its special amalgam of the tastes and flavours of South-East Asia - a Thai meal leaves the palate fresh, tingling and wanting more…and more.

Thai cuisine owes much of its character to the cuisine of the region - Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian and Burmese – and to the spices that came alongside invasive cultures and marauding armies. The latter faded away in the natural course of time, leaving behind a plethora of herbs, spices and seasonings. The Thai blended these to create a subtle cuisine—which is only now coming of age. As more Thai restaurants and take-aways open, their success assured because its taste and visual presentation appeals to one and all.

Four years after my first exposure to authentic Thai food, all I need do is close my eyes, inhale deeply and in a jiffy I’m inundated by once-eaten-never-forgotten aromas of lemon grass, galangal ginger, kaffir lime leaves, fresh coriander and giant prawns, combining to make that queen of all soups-‘Tom yam kung’— gently releasing its wonderful fragrances as it simmers away in a charcoal heated copper steamboat. If it’s a first time feast, the tom yam kung is highly recommended, and is a guaranteed addiction.

As with all Asian cuisine, food arrives in no particular order and is shared by the diners. Soup, salads, veggies, dips, sauces, rice, noodles arrive simultaneously, mingling their colours and aromas to tantalize the tastebuds.

Rice, plain boiled or fried (khao phat phrik), is a staple and may be accompanied by kaengs—curries, which are either red or green depending on the use of red or green chillies. With vegetables, the best way is to eat them raw with fiery and fishy nam phriks (dipping sauces ), made as they are with chillis, shrimp\fish sauce, garlic and molasses.

Sea-food is the leitmotif of Thai food, springing from an abundance of the freshest catches off its extensive coastline. Its an experience of mixed reactions—to see a pool of twitching antennae attached to prawns, lobster, crabs jostling and clambering over comatose frogs and the occasional snakes. If you have the stomach for it—which I definitely don’t, preferring my food well and truly dead and not sending out feelers for selection—pick your favored one, which is the killed, cleaned, charcoal broiled or tossed up as you watch. Food doesn’t come fresher than that! Sea-food salads are an excellent choice, treating you to the natural taste of a large variety of prawns, oysters, molluscs, mussels and the absolutely delicious squid, all tossed in a dressing of lemon juice, sweet basil, fresh coriander, fish sauce and chillies.

A wonderfully refreshing way to round off a meal is with loi kaeo—beautifully cut fruits served in iced sweet syrup scented with jasmine or rose petals. Thailand offers a magnificent variety of unusual fruits magically available the year round . It’s the only place I’ve seen and eaten a yellow water-melon! Then there’s the rambutan, pretty hairy outside but a superior sort of litchi inside; and if you can eat without breathing, there’s the durian.

A Thai meal is, indeed, a many splendoured feast. It is zesty and piquant, fresh and fiery, sweet and sour, spicy yet simple and above all its a thing of beauty. While some way off from being a classic cuisine, like the Chinese or French, it’s definitely gourmet - and always an invitation to gormandise.

View our Thailand Travel Guide for more information on restaurants and things to do in Thailand

-This article has been contributed by Smriti Bhargava

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