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The History, Characteristics and Structure of Thai Meals

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Regardless of where you are in the world, Thai food is recognised as one of the best cuisines. Perhaps, the most defining factor of this infamous cuisine is the harmony of flavours in each dish; whether it is a hot or mellow dish, each ingredient is carefully considered to provide diners with a well-balanced meal.

Thai cuisine has adapted throughout the years, with meals displaying a marriage of ancient Eastern and Western influences. It is fair to say that Thai cuisine is perhaps the most unique in comparison to the rest of the world.

Typically, the meal you have will depend on many factors: the cook, the occasion and who the meal is for. If you dine out, the Thai dishes you have will be adapted with the diners in mind.

The roots of Thai cuisine originate with seafood, with aquatic animals, as well as an array of plants and herbs, used as the main ingredients for dishes. Sizeable chunks or shreds of meat were slowly introduced over time as an alternative to the predominately sea-food based dishes, with traditional cooking methods including grilling, baking or stewing. Thailand then became inspired by Chinese cooking, with frying, stir-frying and deep-frying becoming alternative ways to cook.  

The 17th-century, and beyond, brought Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese and French inspirations to the culinary scene. The Portuguese missionaries brought chillies, from South America to the Thais in the late 1600s, and soon it became a staple of the majority of Thai dishes. In addition to chillies, hot flavours were also introduced through the influence of Indian cuisine; however, the Thais did not like the overpowering flavours typical of Indian dishes, and so replaced the ghee used within Indian meals with much mellower alternatives, which have now become a staple of Thai dishes, coconut oil and coconut milk. The Thais also used ingredients such as lemon grass and galanga to further lighten these Indian adaptations. It is therefore known that while Thai curries can have a kick, it is only briefly in comparison to other curry dishes of the world.

An authentic Thai meal should consist of a soup dish, a curry with some condiments and a dip that compliments the selected fish and selection of vegetables. In some cases, the curry is replaced with a spiced salad. The Thai meal combines these elements to provide a harmonious experience of tastes and textures. Emphasis is also put on the other senses, with Thai meals also considering the look and smell of the dish for an overall enjoyable experience.

Unlike other Eastern cultures, Thai food is eaten with a fork and spoon. Knives are not required because food will be served in bite-sized chunks allowing for easier consumption.

Structure of a Thai Meal

Thais use meals as an excuse for a get-together with loved ones, and meals are shared around the table. Typically, four dishes are ordered for two diners, and the numbers adjust accordingly with the more diners there are.

If you are looking to make your own Thai meal for a dinner party, the following guide should help you structure your meal accordingly. Thai meals are split into the following structure:

Titbits

Titbits are side dishes, accompaniments and/or snacks that compliment your main courses. These can include spring rolls or satay.

Salads

Salads typically accompany the main meal and will be a mix of herbal flavours. The dominant taste will depend on personal preference, but the choices are between sour, sweet or salty flavours.

Dips

Dips allow for the Thai meal to have some complex flavourings. The simplest dip is one that is made up of chillies, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, shrimps, and shrimp paste.

Soups

The main sides for the main course will either be a soup or rice if you do not want all the other additions. A traditional soup will embody the flavours and textures that can be found in the rest of the meal.

Curry

Most curries will typically contain ground dried spices, however, Thai curries utilise a variety of fresh ingredients.

Single Dishes

Single dishes refer to the main course, which is accompanied by a type of meat, fish or a plethora of vegetables. They will include oriental rice or noodles.

Desserts

A Thai dessert completes the meal. They are typically very sweet, which is a treat to the taste buds after a spicy main course.

If you are looking to bring some Thai cuisine into your own kitchen, be sure to search our online shop for all your authentic ingredients. We have an array of oriental produce, perfect for your experiment with Thai cooking. Don’t forget to share your Thai meals with us on our social media platforms; we’d love to see what you have made!

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