cooking and eating in paradise city ...
Thailand is at the crossroads to Asia, so it's not surprising that its cuisine has been heavily influenced by other countries and cultures in the region.
Although food here owes a lot to Indian and Chinese cooking, the Thais have managed to develop their own unique style and flavours and as the country was never under colonial rule, any influences have occured slowly and only whilst retaining the tradional character of the dishes.
It would have not been that many years ago that only the lucky few who had travelled to The Kingdom would have tasted the food. It was pretty unknown in the West. The same cannot be said now and Thai cuisine has to be one of the fastest-growing all over the world.
Most ex-pats and those who are considering a move here will be conversant with the food. Of course once you've arrived, it's not exactly difficult to find all the herbs and spices you'll need to experiment with some Thai cooking yourself. A wander around any of the markets in Hua Hin will reward you with lavish displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices. Enough to whet anyone's appetite.
This section is designed to help you understand the riot of ingredients that go into a Thai dish and how to combine them properly to achieve the correct taste.
A popular misconception about the food is that it must all be fiercely chilli hot. Certainly some dishes will be, but others will contain little or even no chilli, yet still manage to excite your palate. Cooking techniques are all about balance - that of a mixture of herbs, spices, roots and leaves. Combined with these will be an paradoxical blend of chillis, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime and lemongrass. Just how the locals manage to create such wonderful tastes from ingredients that, at first sight, you would not expect to be complimentary, is the art of the cooking. For those of you keen to try it out for yourself, it can be an idea to attend a cooking class in Hua Hin first, or just head to a local market, buy your produce and with the aid of a decent Thai cookbook, give it a go. Always try to get a Thai person to taste your results. They will be happy to give advice - but don't expect any two people to have the same ideas!
To follow and join in with lively disussions on food, take a look at our Feeding Time forum.
There's no real set order of progression in a Thai meal. All the main course dishes are served at once and there should be a balance of tastes so that things do not get repetitive - so for example, there may well be wet, dry, sour, sweet, hot, mild and crisp dishes all served at the same time. The one constant is rice and this will be served with everything. Indeed the generic name for any other dish is known as "gup kao" - with rice. Rice is also refered to as "kao bplao" which means plain or "empty" rice. Thai food is normally served with a spoon and fork. A knife is not necessary as the food is already cut into bite size pieces. The exception to this is when you eat noodles - chopsticks will then also be provided.
You may see some Thai people eat a spoonful of rice first before they combine it with anything else. This is to respect the fact that rice is the staple diet. If you are invited out for a meal by a Thai person, they will expect to pay for the bill as there is no concept of "bill-sharing". It is often also polite to leave a little food on your plate at the end to show the host that you're full else they will keep giving you more.
So, do try to cook it yourself. The food is light and nutritious and just takes a bit of time with preparation and the patience to learn.
Thailand is a fruit and vegetable heaven and almost all varieties can be found in Hua Hin at any of the local markets.
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All the herbs and spices can be readily found in Hua Hin markets. Probably the easiest to shop at in terms of its location and the range of produce available, is Hua Hin day market, which is situated right next to the night market, off Petchkasem Road.
Read more on herbs and spices »