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Since the explosion in tourism to Thailand in the 1980’s Thai food has established a foothold as one of the world’s leading schools of the culinary arts. It is one of the 5 most popular food types globally, the others being Indian, Chinese, French, and Italian. When you visit Thailand, although it is possible to enjoy western food, why bother? You are in the home of one of the world’s great cooking schools, so sit back and enjoy.
Thai food originated with the people who emigrated from the southern Chinese provinces into modern day Thailand many centuries ago. Historically there were many Szechwan influences in Thai cuisine, although over the centuries many other influences have affected Thai food. In a more distant past, Buddhist monk brought an Indian touch, and southern Muslim states influenced the cooking in the south of Thailand. Much later, Thai food was influenced by European cuisine after contact with Portuguese missionaries and Dutch traders. During these times there were even some influences from the Japanese. Today Thai food is its own, with a special unique blend of the 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy.
Thailand is a big country with a diverse geography, and over the years this has led to the development of regional differences in its style of cuisines. Currently there are 4 distinct styles of cooking in Thailand.
The cooking in northern Thailand is generally milder than in the rest of the country, sticky rice is preferred, traditionally it is kneaded into small balls with the fingers. There is a strong influence from neighbouring Burma with popular dishes like Kaeng Hang Le, a pork curry flavored with ginger, turmeric, and tamarind.
The food in the north east is influenced by Laos; as a general rule the food is highly spiced, and sticky glutinous rice is the preferred staple for north-eastern dishes. Although there are plenty of meat dishes, historically meat was scarce in the villages, and the main source of protein were shrimp and freshwater fish. These were often fermented to increase their shelf life.
The central region offers cuisine that is midway between the north and south, although fragrant Jasmine rice is preferred to the sticky variety. What makes the central region cuisine special is that it is home to royal cuisine. This type of cooking which originated in the royal palace involves much more elaborate meals, put together with complex techniques. It is more of an art form than just regular cooking.
Southern Thai cooking is the most popular outside of Thailand since that is the main tourist region of the country. In southern cuisine there is much more use of coconut milk in many dishes. Coconut replaces Ghee for frying and there is a heavy use of seafood in the dishes. Appetizers in the south use a lot of cashews from local plantations, and coconut flesh as a standard condiment.
Thai curries are identified by their color. There are four main colors: green, red, yellow, and orange. Counter-intuitively, the hottest of them is the green curry followed by the red, the yellow which is the Thai version of an Indian curry, and the mildest is the simple orange curry. In addition to the basic color curries, there are two other curries that ae immensely popular: Panang and Massaman. They originate in the south of Thailand, with Malay and even Persian influences. They have a much thicker sauce than traditional Thai curries.
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Khao Lak, with over 200 restaurants and chefs from all over the world, you can find food of a great variety of food choices. However, what makes the Thai food truly excellent in the area is the sheer freshness of the ingredients. Unlike some of the international cuisine on offer the Thai food ingredients do not travel far. Seafood comes from the sea and the vegetables and meat from many of the farms and local plantations nearby. This freshness gives Thai food in Khao Lak its own unique flavor and richness.