Thom's Recipe File
The food of Thailand is unique among the cuisines of
Southeast Asia. It has the quality and consistency of Chinese food and the
spiciness of Mexican. The genesis and principal culinary influences on Thai
cooking are Chinese and Indian. The hot, spicy, and distinctive seasonings
of Szechwan province's dishes have many similarities to Thai dishes. This
may be partly because the Tai [the historical ancestors of the Thai, Lao,
Shan and other modern Tai-related ethnolinguistic groups], who originated in
the southwestern provinces of China, later migrated to the Thai peninsula.
Thai gaeng som is a hot and sour soup similar to Szechwan hot-and-sour soup,
Thai stir-fried cuisine has neither the cornstarch thickening and
complicated sauces of Chinese cooking nor the use of dairy products and the
heaviness and rich aromatic curry powder of Indian food. Indian style has
influenced Thai food in the use of spice mixtures or khreuang gaeng,
curries, and similar stewed dishes. Thai food is a distinct cuisine in its
own right, largely due to the ability to the Thai to absorb outside
influences and transform them into something uniquely their own. Thais eat
with a fork and spoon, but not a knife. Ingredients --- meat and vegetables
--- are cut into small pieces to meet the short stir-fried cooking style.
Thai dishes are generally long on preparation but short on cooking time.
Everything is served at once, and diners take this or that dish according to
individual taste, combining or tasting separately each dish against the
bland background of rice. There is no particular order or structure of
courses served. The meal is planned so that textures, flavors, and food
balance each other.
The skill of blending the five flavors --- sweet, sour, salty , bitter,
and hot --- is the hallmark of Thai dishes.
|What is Pad Thai?
| This is the one noodle dish to master and to love, over all
the others (including the best that Italy has to offer). It's so
addictive that it alone would keep Thai cuisine alive, were we
ever to become too jaded for our own good and eschewed
Pad Thai is a splendid lesson in how the simple, and bland, rice stick
(a.k.a. rice vermicelli) can evolve in the culinary hands of a
tasteful culture. The result is so harmonious, so perfect in
every way that it would be hard to imagine it without even one
of its vast symphony of flavors and ingredients. Though daunting
at first (so many ingredients), it is actually relatively easy
to concoct. The only caveat is that one cannot stint on the oil
content, although it appears excessive. Too little oil, the
noodles will stick and you'll have a mess in your wok.