Every country has a specific food profile. The distinct food habits it maintains, is a result of an evolved process. They are a reflection of countless influences, culture, environment, ingenuity and values. Thai cuisine is the most popular and internationally loved food. It is known for its aromatic flavors and freshness of food. In fact in 2011, seven of the Thai recipes made it to the’ World’s 50 most delicious foods’ show cased in CNN.
Thai Cuisine – What makes it special?
Thai cuisine is not about simplicity. It is about juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. It is known for a meal that juxtaposes the five fundamental tastes – sour, sweet, spicy, bitter and salty. The ideal Thai meal is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose and palate.
Interestingly, Thailand was the only South Asian country that was never colonized by the west. This made the land maintain its special cuisine. However, the Thai food was already influenced by its neighboring countries even before the concept of colonization. While it adapted the sauces, woks, noodles and fries from China, it accommodated the Indian spices into its fresh herb curries. And the Malays to the further south shared other seasonings and their love for coconuts.
And it is here, about approximately 2000 years ago, Thai food began its courtship with thecoconuts.
Coconuts – The dominant and most loved
Like Cheese is for Italian, Turmeric is for Indian, Coconut is for Thai. Thais love coconut and have made it a staple ingredient of their everyday living.We find coconuts being used in almost all recipes of Thai cuisine– Curries, soups and sweets. As Thai food is all about balance, every ingredient used in the Thai cooking, strives to bring the harmony in the food. And coconut being its oldest and most loved fruit is the all-rounder of the Thai cooking show! It acts as a balancer, sweetener, and an enticer. It adds color, flavor and mood to the food cooked.
Let us look through the three roles it plays in the Thai cuisine.
Curries are a mainstay of Thai cooking. Although they are hot and spicy, they are carefully balanced to bring out all the different flavors in a dish. And it is here the coconuts role come into play as they have the quality of blending together and mellowing the flavors of the dishes in which it is used.The spicy garlic, chilly, cardamom and the fresh basil and zucchini flavors are mixed up with the coconut milk. This amalgamation balances out the pungency and makes it milder. The milk wonderfully churns with the green curry paste and brings out an appealing color for presentation.
Coconut is a natural sweetener. And Thais have a great flare for sweets. Theyare an integral part of their festivals and special occasions. One of the most important feast days is Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year. Egg rolls and Sang ka Ya (Thai coconut dessert) are traditionally eaten on this day. Thai coconut dessert is a flavorful dish, fed to each other on that day, symbolizing the upcoming year to be sweet and happy. Khanom kork an ancient sweet coconut dish marks the legacy of Thai traditional food.Banana coconut milk is another recipe cooked as a holiday dish. Thais replace the regular milk and this recipe serves as a cold beverage.
Coconut flavor is enticing.Their flavor is loved all over the world and it blends smoothly when mixed with variety of ingredients. While some love their aroma with the sweet meats, other love to have them in their curries and soups. Thai cuisine has its flavor instilled in almost every kind of dish.Unsweetened coconut milk is the basis for the coconut flavor in every sauce recipe. Its flavor is enticing and most prominent in green and red curries, coconut chicken soup and rice dishes like khao phat.
In a nut shell:
Thai cooking is a typical example of ‘cooking as an evolved process’.It has been influenced by numerous cooking styles and has incorporated all and created an identity of its own. Coconut is the hallmark of Thai Cuisine. Albeit being influenced by China, Burma and India in food customs, blending coconut in their recipes gives Thai food its special identity. Coconut for them is an integral ingredient from health, culinary and traditional outlook. So to the all food lovers and innate house chefs, make sure to try these wonderful Thai cuisines on your stove to bring out the enticing aromas and tastes. Cooking Thai is definitely an unwinding experience for your senses and mind.