It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Thai food became ubiquitous
Time Out Bahrain staff
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Thai food became ubiquitous. One moment people are picking up packets of dried coconut milk and popping them in the frying pan trying to melt them like butter, and the next everyone professes to be an expert at making a Thai green curry. To celebrate the Thai Food & Cultural Festival (May 23-28) at the Movenpick Hotel Bahrain, and the Amazing Thailand Fair (May 26-29) at Al A’ali Shopping Complex, we catch up with three people at the forefront of promoting Thailand’s vibrant and colourful cuisine.
What is the Amazing Thailand Fair? For a few years now Thailand has been transporting its cuisine to the world, but while it is very popular in some countries, in the Middle East it is still very new, so we wanted to let people know what Thai food was and give them the chance to experience Thai culture.
What will the fair consist of? The main idea in the fair is food, so we will have food stalls, cooking demonstrations, food arts like vegetable carving, as well as a selection of Thai food products for sale ranging from curry paste and sauces to Thai fruit and vegetables. There are about 17 Thai food restaurants in Bahrain, and we will be selecting the best of those to participate. Although it is not just food that we will be exhibiting. Local Thai businesses will have a reception area to promote their services, there will be a selection of some of the best Thai handicrafts on sale, and there will be a big tourism angle. Representatives from the Thai embassy will be on hand to tell people a little more about Thailand, the best regions to visit, the things you can do there and the visas you need to travel.
Will the fair have any entertainment? Sure, there will be Thai dancers who will form the main act of a Thai cultural show, and there should also be a fashion show by Thai designers and showing the Thai national costume, along with traditional umbrella painting. For more information about the Amazing Thailand Fair, contact the Royal Thai Embassy on 17 246 242.
What makes Thai cuisine unique? Variety – Thai cuisine is a combination of delicacies from five culturally different geographical locations in the country, giving the cuisine its diversity. In addition, Thai food has always been about crafting. Although a lot of people that cook Thai food at home tend to use pre-made pastes, there are a lot of traditional labour-intensive recipes that can take days to cook.
What are the core ingredients of Thai cuisine? For the base flavour, Thai cuisine puts the emphasis on garlic and cilantro; for the spice, Thai bird chilli, for sourness, lime; for the aroma, scented plants like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, pandan leaves, basil, coriander and cumin; for the sweetness, sugar; for the richness, coconut milk.
What advice would you give to people who are trying to cook Thai food at home? The first thing you should learn to cook is sam-rab, a set of dishes that are served on every Thai dining table, and which consist of a hot soup, a vegetable dish, meat dish, salad dish, pan-fried fish and chili paste. Try to design your own meal by balancing the flavours and textures: cook something fried, something spicy and something soothing such as soup or a mild flavoured dish. Once you understand the qualities of Thai ingredients, you can begin to learn how they are used. For more information about Triplets, head to www.tripletsbangkok.com.
Why do you think Thai food has become so popular globally? I think it is a combination of presentation, taste and nutrition. In most Thai restaurants the way the food is presented can be impressive, it almost always has rich combinations of sweet, sour, salty bitter, and spicy, giving the food the perfect blend, and nutritionally it is the perfect diet food!
Describe a typical traditional Thai meal The traditional Thai meal is something that is easy to cook, like tom klong (spicy herbal soup) or Thai traditional dip (nam phrik) and some grilled fish or meat with rice.
How is Thai food evolving? The uniqueness of Thai cuisine is its ability to adapt to the outside influences, while creating its own identity. Thailand has so many cultural influences from across Asia, and this is reflected in the food. Take two of the most famous dishes in Thailand – Pad Thai and Green Curry. The former was inspired by China and the latter by India. And as food from other parts of the world begin to make an impact in Thailand you can expect to see unique Thai versions of them both in Bangkok and around the world at Thai-influenced restaurants and cafes. That is part of the creative tradition of the country. Check out Pailin’s food blog at www.hungryguide.wordpress.com.