Although thai food is enjoyed by millions of Americans annually, most who order it have very little understanding of the culture that created this popular style of food. Although it may be simply characterized as spicy veggies, rice, and protein variations, the thought and consideration that goes into these dishes has a much deeper origin then simply good flavor. The predominate buddhist religion and economic history of the country has played a significant effect on the foods thai people have adopted over the years.
Thai families are traditionally very large, and consist of many members, so meals are traditionally large portions that are intended to be shared and passed around between the many family members. Rice is typically the main course and served in the largest portion. Being that rice is affordable and has the ability for it to absorb the many flavors and spices of traditional thai dishes.
Thai food is typically consumed while seated on the ground, and after everyone has gotten their portion of rice and side dishes they then eat the food with their bare hands. After years of english exposure, cutlery was introduced to the thai people, and the fork and spoon became common practice, there are still those that eat with their hands. Most people have adopted the spoon and fork and use them skillfully to consume their dishes.
Being traditional at a thai restaurant
There are a few ways that you can really enhance your thai dining experience and make it as authentic as possible, beyond simply enjoying the delicious thai cuisines.
- Order Shared Plates – Sharing plates is the most authentic you can be at a thai restaurant, and something that really lets you enjoy the dishes as they were intended to be enjoyed. Let the most senior person pick the first side dish, and then order a variety of different protein and veggies dishes with different flavors and textures to make sure you have a balanced assortment of options that everybody will like, and have the full range of flavors. Be considerate to the taste buds of all that are joining you, and try and get a full spectrum of flavors if possible.
- Serve the food properly – Like we mentioned earlier, the spoon and fork are the traditional utensils used for consuming thai dishes, and each side dish is served with its own serving spoon. For contamination reason, people use the serving spoon that accompanies each dish as opposed to their individual utensils. Some dishes may include fish parts that are not intended for consumption, which are traditionally cut off using the serving spoon and moved to the side of the dish.
- Stack dishes when done – When everyone is finished with their meals stack the bowls on the edge of the table letting your server know you are done.
Thai food is not only good, but fun and enjoyable to eat in groups. Whether their is two or twenty of you, try ordering as a group, and experience thai food the traditional way.