Food is one of the great pleasures in life, and Thailand is a country with delicious and diverse cuisine. However, it can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to cooking Thai food. After all, there are many unfamiliar ingredients and flavors.
Don’t worry, though. This guide will help you get started with cooking Thai food, and you’ll be an expert before long. We’ll cover everything from the basics of Thai cuisine to more advanced topics, like how to order food in a Thai restaurant. By the end of this ultimate guide, you’ll be able to go from being a complete beginner in Thai Food to enjoying all the beautiful flavors Thailand has to offer.
Thai Food Culture
Before we get into the food, let’s look at the culture surrounding it. In Thailand, food is more than sustenance; it’s a way of life.
Thai people love to eat, and mealtimes are always social occasions. Whether dining with family or friends, enjoying a good meal is integral to daily life.
Eating together is also a way to show respect. In Thai culture, elders always eat first, and the most honored guests receive the best dishes.
If someone invites you to their home for a meal, it’s impolite to refuse. It’s also rude to waste food; your hosts will think you didn’t enjoy the meal. Once you start eating, try not to leave anything on your plate.
Regarding dining out, there are two main types of restaurants in Thailand: sit-down places and street stalls. Sit-down restaurants are more expensive but usually offer a more comfortable setting and better service.
Street stalls, on the other hand, are cheaper and more casual. They’re a great way to try authentic Thai food, but they may not be as clean as sit-down restaurants.
Thai food is usually served family-style, with all the dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to share. It’s common to order several dishes and then share them among the group.
Common Thai Food Dishes
Now that you know a little about Thai food culture, let’s look at some of the most popular dishes.
One of Thailand’s most well-known dishes is pad Thai. This stir-fried noodle dish uses rice noodles, tofu, eggs, and various vegetables. It usually comes with a wedge of lime and crushed peanuts.
Another popular dish is green curry. You can make this flavorful curry with green chili peppers, coconut milk, and other ingredients and serve it with rice or noodles.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter, try a Thai salad. These salads often contain green papaya, mango, or cabbage. They usually come with lime juice and fish sauce.
Many different types of soup are available, including tom yum soup and chicken coconut soup. These soups often contain various fresh herbs and spices, making them both flavorful and healthy.
Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert. Thai desserts often incorporate fruits and coconut milk, giving them a sweet and refreshing taste.
Most Common Thai Ingredients
One must be familiar with some of the most common ingredients to cook Thai food. Below is a list of ingredients you’ll commonly find in Thai cuisine.
Rice is the staple grain of Thailand, and you’ll find it in various dishes. You can cook it plain, use it as a stuffing, or make it into noodles.
Noodles are also a staple in Thai cuisine and can come from various grains, including rice, wheat, and egg. They work well in soups, stir-fries, and salads.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are in many Thai dishes, including soups, curries, and stir-fries. Common varieties include black beans, kidney beans, mung beans, and tofu.
Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are common ingredients in Thai dishes. Commonly used meats include chicken, pork, and beef. Seafood is also popular in Thai cuisine.
Many vegetables are in Thai dishes, including cabbage, kale, spinach, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
Fruits are common as a garnish or added to sweeten a dish. Commonly used fruits include bananas, coconuts, and pineapples.
Herbs and Spices
Various herbs and spices add flavor and heat to Thai dishes. Commonly used herbs and spices include chili peppers, cilantro, lemongrass, and ginger.
All About the Chilis
Almost every dish in Thailand contains chili peppers, which add heat and spice. Chili peppers come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and range from mild to hot. The most common chili pepper in Thai cooking is the small, reddish-brown bird’s eye chili.
When preparing a dish that calls for chilies, always use gloves to protect your hands from the fiery peppers. If a recipe is too spicy for your taste, try removing the seeds and membranes from the peppers before using them.
The different types of chili peppers used in Thai cuisine include:
- Bird’s eye chili: small, hot chili pepper, typically red or green
- Thai chili: small, red or green hot chili pepper
- Serrano chili: medium-sized chili pepper, generally red, orange, or yellow
- Jalapeño chili: large, green chili pepper
- Habanero chili: scorching chili pepper, usually orange or red
When dining in Thailand, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind to avoid offending your host or fellow diners.
First and foremost, remove your shoes before entering a home or temple. Also, it’s impolite to point with your finger, so if you need to point to something, use your thumb instead.
When eating rice, use your fork to push the rice onto your spoon, and then eat the rice off the spoon. Don’t leave food on your plate when you finish eating.
It’s often rude to pour your drink, so always pour for your fellow diners and let them pour for you.
You typically won’t use chopsticks, except when eating noodle dishes. When using chopsticks, never stick them into your food since this is offensive.
Finally, always wait for the most senior person at the table to start eating before digging in.
Thai cuisine blends sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors. Learning how to cook Thai food as a complete beginner can be a fun and rewarding experience. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to create delicious Thai dishes that will impress your family and friends. You can even use Thai for two cooking kits to get started.
Verve Culture has a variety of products and information to help you learn about and cook Thai food. Visit their website to learn more and check out some meal kits.