Guide to Thailand’s Unique and Distinctive Cuisines
Geographically, Thailand is a diverse country, that is often divided into four distinct regions, namely, the Central region, the North, the Northeast (often referred to as Issan) and the South. Until the early twentieth century, travel within Thailand was difficult and so the four main regions developed their own unique and distinctive cuisines.
Cuisines on Central Region of Thailand
The Central region is largely delta country, dominated by the Chao Phraya River, and with rich soil that is perfect for growing a wide variety of vegetables. The region is also known as the rice bowl of Thailand, producing fragrant jasmine rice that is famous throughout the world. The familiar green curry also originates from here as does Tom Yam, the famous hot and sour soup and Yam, the tangy salads, which are also a Central creation.
Cuisines on North of Thailand
The North of Thailand is largely mountainous and because of the cooler mountain climate, there is a lager variety of vegetables than in other regional Thai cuisines, and roots and herbs have a strong presence. There are many sour and bitter flavours, especially apparent in the soups, such as Kaeng ho, a soup made with pickled bamboo shoots.
The influence of neighbouring Myanmar and Laos is a strong one in the cuisine. Khao Soi, a curry broth with egg noodles and chicken, pork or beef; and kaeng hang lay, a pork curry seasoned with ginger, tamarind and turmeric are thought to originate in Myanmar and can be found throughout the North. Sausages are also specialty, with the best known being sai ua, which blends pork with dried chilies, garlic, shallots and lemon-grass to produce a spicy and delicious sausage that is hard to resist.
Cuisines on Northeast of Thailand
Like the North, the Northeast was also long regarded as remote form Bangkok and shares many cultural similarities with neighbouring Laos and even Cambodia in the lower Northeast. Perhaps the most famous dish to come from the Northeast is somtam, a spicy and addictively tasty papaya salad. The green papaya is pounded in a mortar with time juice, garlic, fish sauce and a number of other ingredients often including dried shrimp, cherry tomatoes and roasted peanuts. Others contain pickled crab and a pungent fish sauce named pla ra. Eating somtam can be and eye-watering experience, and so it is often eaten with sticky rice to help extinguish the fire in your mouth!
Cuisines on Southern Thailand
Southern Thailand is a long, narrow peninsula stretching down to Malaysia with the Andaman Sea on one side and the Gulf of Thailand on the other. The South is home to most of Thailand’s Muslims and a large ethnically Malay as well as Chinese population. Southern food reflects all this diversity, and is famous for being hot and fiery. Coconut features strongly, whether used for its milk, its oil for frying or grated fresh as a condiment. Cashew nuts and pineapple also grow in volume, and form an important part of the cuisine. The warm seas produce an abundance of fish, big lobsters, crabs, mussels squid, prawns and scallops, prepared simply by steaming or frying, or more elaborately by cooking in a clay pot with noodles. A dish very typical of the South is Kaeng tai pla, a very hot curry made with fish stomach, green beans, pickled bamboo shoots and potato. Fresh turmeric turns this and many other southern curries a distinctive yellow.
Plan your Thailand Vacation, Holiday or Getaway
As we have seen, Thailand really is a sumptuous melting pot of mouth waveringly delicious and distinct cuisines, little wonder then that Thai food has become so popular the world over. Well that’s all we have time for today. If you have a favourite Thai dish do get in touch to let us know, we’d of course love to hear from you.
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