Apart of their eternal smile, Thais have another quality. Like other Asian societies, the people of Siam have a natural ability to produce choice cuisine. There aren’t just temples, beautiful beaches, rice paddies and smiling people in Thailand, there’s also the gastronomy and the seasoned traveller will tell you that the fine Thai cuisine is well worth the detour.
The art of Thai cooking is based on simple principles but it is vast, sumptuous and can be elaborate – in any case, its possibilities are endless. The immense menus in the local restaurants bare witness to this. No matter where you go in Thailand, food is never far away. The variety of places to eat is simply astonishing. Street stalls, food courts and outdoor markets may be the cheapest and tastier option.
Showing its Burmese, Chinese and Shan influences, the north prefers curries that are more stewlike than the coconut-milk curries of southern or central Thailand. Sour notes are enhanced with the addition of pickled cabagge and lime. Of course many dishes are accompanied by the inevitable Thai rice, which can come in two forms – the classic long grain rice or as rice noodles (khoueitiao). With the latter, however, there are, like a lot of other foods, a lot of different ways to cook them. Asians have a reputation for cooking ‘light’ by boiling ingredients or by steaming food. They do use oil as in deep-fried dishes and to sauté food in their famous stir-fried wok dishes.
One of the inconvenients that we have found related to food is that Thai people are usually not vegetarians. They love adding any kind of meat or fish to their dishes (beef, chicken, pork, duck, porcupine, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crickets, silk worms and cockroaches among others). So one of the first sentences that we learnt quickly was Diichãn kin ahãan mangsàwirát (I am vegetarian).