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Guide to Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is a unique blend of hot, sour and sweet, and is frequently highlighted with citrus flavours such as lemongrass and lime.

The guiding principle behind traditional Thai cooking is harmony. Balance, detail and variety are very important to Thai chefs.

Categories of Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine can largely be divided into four geographical regions: northern, north-eastern, central and southern.

Differences reflect the climate and geography of the region, as well as cultural influences from Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and China. For example, southern curries use coconut milk and turmeric and northern dishes tend to include a lot of lime juice.

Major ingredients in Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is probably most famous for its use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices. Common flavours include lemongrass, mint, basil, chillies, turmeric, garlic and ginger.

Fish sauce is a staple of Thai food. It's a strong, salty sauce made with fermented fish or shrimp.

Because of the country's large coastline, seafood is frequently used in Thai cuisine. Meat tends to be shredded and laced with herbs and spices.

Rice or noodles will be served with most Thai meals.

Popular Thai dishes

Some of the most popular Thai dishes are:

  • Khao phat pu - fried rice with crab meat
  • Khao soi - crispy wheat noodles in sweet chicken curry soup
  • Khao man kai - rice steamed in chicken stock and garlic, with boiled chicken, chicken stock and a dipping sauce
  • Khanom chin namya - boiled rice noodles with a fish based sauce and fresh leaves and vegetables
  • Phat khi mao - noodles stir-fried with Thai basil
  • Phat thai - rice noodles fried with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg combined with chicken, seafood or tofu
  • Kaeng som - a hot and sour soup/curry usually eaten together with rice
  • Tom yam - hot and sour soup with meat

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