Thai cuisine has become globally popular as a result of its unique characteristics and its rich flavours, derived from a huge variety of ingredients. Each dish has its own flavour from different signature ingredients as well as the delicate and detailed process of preparation and cooking. The ingredients and the cooking process contribute to dishes that are a feast for the senses, with a vast array of flavours, be they sourness, saltiness or sweetness not to mention the richness of coconut milk and the heat of chillies. They all add to the colour and flavour of Thai food as well as the popularity of this cuisine among Thais and foreigners alike.
The variety of ingredients in terms of both herbs and spices, in the dishes has also led to Thai cuisine being widely accepted in foreign circles as a healthy cuisine. Thus, the massaman curry through hits rich, spicy flavours that appeals to the tastes of foreigners, has become the most popular dish on the menus at Thai restaurants overseas. Apart from the famous massaman curry, there are other dishes that have been acclaimed overseas for a long time and have since become signature dishes of Thai cuisine. These include Tom Yum Gung (spicy sour prawn soup), Pad Thai Thai-style stir-fried flat rice noodles, Som Tam (papaya salad), Gaeng Khiao Wan (green curry), Khao Pad (Thai-style fried rice) and Nam Tok Moo (Thai-style spicy pork salad). The list keeps growing as more and more people explore Thai cuisine, for example Pad See Ew (Thai-style stir-fried noodles with sweet soya sauce) is currently gaining widespread popularity.
In addition, Thai cuisine has four regional variations corresponding to the four geographical regions of Thailand. Each has its own unique characteristics, derived from local and tastes. Southern Thai cuisine has a strong, spicy flavour with turmeric as the signature ingredient in almost every dish. This spice also assists in the healing of stomach ulcers. The North, with its mountainous topography and its cooler climate, calls for dishes that are more fattening to warm the body.
The Northeast or lsaan region has two main flavours: saltiness and spiciness also as the main accompaniment to meals in this region. Finally, the Central region is the most gastronomically blessed, with access to ingredients from across the country, leading to a wide variety of dishes, such as snacks, chili sauces, dips, various curries (both with and without coconut milk), Yums (spicy salads) and Thai desserts.
The writer is Ambassador of Thailand.