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Quick History of Thai Cuisine

Among the cuisines of Southeast Asia, Thai food is unique. Thai cuisine is distinct from Chinese and Indian cuisines, both of which influenced Thai cooking. Thai cooking is completely identifiable in its own right, incorporating all 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. Thai people have taken foreign influences and transformed them into a cuisine uniquely their own.

Thailand was a cross roads of East to West sea routes causing its culture and cuisine to be infused with Persian and Arabian elements. Foreign recipes have been integrated with traditional Thai dishes, resulting in unique flavor that is unmistakably Thai.

The 'Tai' people migrated from valley settlements in the mountainous region of Southwest China (now Yunnan province) between the sixth and thirteenth centuries, into what is now known as Thailand, Laos, the Shan States of upper Burma, and northwest Vietnam. Influenced by Chinese cooking techniques, Thai cuisine flourished with the rich biodiversity of the Thai peninsula. As a result, Thai dishes today have some similarities to Szechwan Chinese dishes.

The influence of the foreign trade was also important. The Portuguese brought their sweets to King Narai's court in the seventeenth century. Some say Buddhist monks from India brought curry to Thailand. Indian curry and Muslim cuisine were introduced at a palace feast in honor of King Rama I at the turn of the 18th century. Some of these dishes are still popular today including Masaman curry and yellow curry. Masaman curry contains many dried spices including cinnamon and nutmeg. Yellow curry can be spiced with turmeric, cumin, ground coriander seed and red chilies powder.

Today Thai cuisine is a continual exploration of old and new, with master chefs in four star hotels and restaurants innovating new fusion foods with the continual import of foreign ingredients and the arrival of foreign chefs working in Thai kitchens. Thai home cooks are also discovering foreign cooking with newly published cookbooks in Thai covering Japanese foods, Chinese cooking, American cuisine and more. The influence of foreign foods on Thai cooking has never been so great as in the modern age.

See our home-style, authentic Thai recipes.

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