Many people say that Thai food, with its balanced mix of hot, sour, bitter and sweet, is a good enough reason alone to visit Thailand. Thai food is characterized by the use of fresh herbs and flavors, such as lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander. As in other Asian countries Rice is the main component in Thai food.
Thai cuisine has four main food regions: Northern, Northeastern, Central, and Southern. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there’s also the Thai Royal Cuisine which was created during the cosmopolitan palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom.
Southern Thai curries tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, whilst Northeastern dishes often include lime juice. Many popular Thai dishes were originally based on Chinese foods. The Chinese also introduced the use of a wok for cooking, deep and stir-frying dishes, and noodles. Dishes such as kaeng kari (yellow curry) and kaeng matsaman (massaman curry) are Thai adaptations of Indian and Persian dishes.
The ingredients found in almost all Thai dishes and every region of the country is nam pla, a very aromatic and strong tasting fish sauce. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Thai cuisine and imparts a unique character, Thai food is also served with a variety of condiments including dried chili flakes, sweet chili sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, sriracha sauce, or a spicy chili sauce or paste called nam phrik
Thai food is known for its use of fresh herbs and spices, such as cilantro, lemongrass and Thai basil. Other common flavors come from ginger, galangal, tamarind, turmeric, garlic, soy beans, shallots, white and black peppercorn, kaffir lime and, of course, chilies.
Fish sauce is prepared with fermented fish that is made into a fragrant condiment and provides a salty flavor. Nam phrik are Thai chili pastes. Each region has its own special versions. The wording "nam phrik" is used to describe any paste containing chilies used for dipping.
The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known and places great emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. Thai food is known for its balance of three to four fundamental tastes in each dish: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.
Rice is a staple grain of Thai cuisine. The highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice is indigenous to Thailand and grows in abundance in the central plains. Steamed rice is accompanied by highly aromatic curries, stir-fries and other dishes. Noodles are also popular but usually come as a single dish, like stir-fried phat thai or in the form of a noodle soup.
The characteristic flavor of kaffir lime leaves appears in nearly every Thai soup; hot and sour Tom yam. Chilies are also an essential ingredient and five main chilies are generally used. One is very small and is known as the hottest: phrik khi nu suan. The slightly larger chili phrik khi nu is next hottest. The green or red phrik chi fa is slightly less spicy.