Thailand on a Plate
One of everyone’s favourite parts of living in or visiting Thailand has got to be the deliciously spicy food and wide range of tropical fruits that you get to enjoy on a daily basis. Thai cooking is simple and healthful, with spices adding unexpected zest to the most unassuming ingredients. Vegetarian dishes are commonplace and presented in a tongue-twisting array of flavour combinations, with ample doses of fish, pork and chicken making an appearance too.
Some of the most popular Thai dishes have made their way over to the West, but none of these can compare to an authentic Thai meal, prepared while you wait, by real Thai people.
One of my favourites is spicy Gai Pad Prik Gaeng which consists of nothing more than chicken fried with chilli paste and vegetables, with a smidgen of basil – the colonel wishes he knew this secret, especially at about $1 a serving! Make sure you have a slice of juicy pink watermelon at hand to soothe the bite of this fiery dish.
Pork appears in many forms in Thai cookery and I like it best as Khao Neow Moo Ping, barbecued and served on a skewer with sticky rice. Alternatively, moo satay is made from pork, marinated in turmeric-and-coconut-milk, grilled and served with peanut sauce – simply delectable, and the opportunity to try out Sai Ooh (Northern Thai Sausage) should not be missed.
Fish makes an appearance in shrimp soups and seafood stews as well as oyster omelettes if you can get them.
Vegetables play a major role in Thai cuisine and are served in or alongside almost every dish. Stink beans, despite their off-putting name, are appealingly flavourful, and dished up in stews and soups along with meat or on their own, while carrots and other crispy vegetables feature prominently too.
Fruit is also a big hit in Thailand and you will find yourself overwhelmed by the amazing variety available here. Some of these tropical treats are familiar, such as bananas, pineapple, mangoes, litchis, oranges, tangerines and papaya, although they seem much sweeter in Thailand.
Other popular Thai fruits are alarmingly garish in their outward appearance, such as the brilliantly hued dragon fruit or hairy red rambutan, while others feature a dull appearance that belies the complex tastes within, like the Sapodilla, Marina plum, and Langsart. There are a multitude of others in varying degrees of sweet and sour, or both, and some that are totally foreign to the Western palate.