A Taste of Thailand
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN MALAYSIA
WHILE walking down a crowded street in Bangkok, Thailand, you may suddenly feel pulled in by an irresistible aroma wafting from the side of the street. There, open-air chefs are preparing typical dishes of Thai cuisine. After filling your nose with the tantalizing odors and your eyes with the appealing colors, you might be tempted to taste the succulent food.
The appeal of Thai food comes from a mix of carefully selected herbs, roots, leaves, and seeds. These produce a blend of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and hot flavors and smells that make it very difficult to walk by without at least taking a taste. How did Thailand come to have such an unusual cuisine? The answer lies in the distant past.
An International Mix of Flavors
Thailand is located at a crossroads of Asia. For centuries Chinese, Laotians, Cambodians, Indonesians, Europeans, and others traveled through Thailand, and many of them took up living there. These people brought the foods of their homelands with them, and the tastes and aromas of all those different victuals have remained in Thailand.
Sometime in the distant past, Indian travelers showed the Thai people how to use curry when cooking. In the 16th century, the Portuguese brought chilies and perhaps tomatoes. Today, the cuisine of Thailand is very extensive, but most Thai meals include a variety of yellow, green, and red chilies with curry pastes of the same colors. This mixture of curry and chilies gives Thai cuisine the rich flavors characteristic of foods from the East.
Many Courses, Many More Flavors
A typical Thai meal consists of different dishes, which may include soup, salad, stir-fry, curry, and dipping sauces. Steaming white rice is always on the table. Then there is dessert, which may include sweets based on sugar and eggs. The coconut meat and coconut milk are also part of the sweet side of Thai cooking.
A key to good food anywhere is fresh ingredients, and in Thailand these are often right around the corner. In the cities and towns, markets sell fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and such spices as lemon grass, coriander, garlic, ginger, galangal, cardamom, tamarind, and cumin. At such markets you will also find plenty of hot chilies and limes, which are a big part of Thai food.
Whether you are visiting Thailand or wish to taste Thai cooking at home, try tom yam goong, the hot-and-sour shrimp soup that is a specialty of Thailand. Other good choices are spicy papaya salad, glass noodles with roasted chicken or duck, shredded pork, or marinated fish. Ma ho, meaning “galloping horses,” is a mixture of pork, prawns, and peanuts heaped on fresh pineapple and garnished with red chilies and coriander leaves. To top off your meal, try a dessert of sticky rice with coconut milk and mangoes.
What is the best way to eat Thai food? In some parts of the country, custom calls for using your fingers to press the specially prepared sticky rice into small balls, which you then dip into sauces and pop into your mouth. When eating noodle dishes, you may prefer to use chopsticks. But if the chopsticks leave you fumbling, you can always resort to using a fork and a spoon.
Is your appetite now whetted for Thai cuisine? The delicacies of this beautiful Asian country may open up a world of tastes you have not yet explored—that of delicious food from the Orient.
[Pictures on page 23]
1 Tom yam goong soup
2 Glass noodles salad with minced pork and shrimps
3 Spicy papaya salad
4 Ma ho
5 Sticky rice with coconut milk and mangoes