Food is a massive part of the travel experience. Taking in the aromas of local fare at open-air food markets, indulging in memorable dishes at family-owned restaurants, and returning home with a new appreciation for the culture of a destination is what it’s all about.
Southeast Asia is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and Thailand is among the most popular countries for Canadians to visit. Before the pandemic, over 250,000 Canadians visited the tropical paradise annually. However, staying home this year doesn’t mean you should miss out on mouthwatering Thai cuisine.
Here in BC, there’s a slew of restaurants serving up authentic Thai food. And to make the most of the dining experience, you’ve got to order it like a local. This involves putting together a well-balanced meal with dishes that complement each other — an unspoken understanding between locals in Thailand.
By following these four essential steps, you’ll be saying “Aroy mak!” in no time.
Order for family-style eating
These days, most of us are limiting socializing activities to our small bubble. Since catching up over good eats is something many of us enjoy, Thai food is the perfect solution. It’s traditionally eaten family-style, with everyone sharing multiple dishes placed in the centre of a table. Most Thai meals served family-style are made up of at least three dishes, which means everyone gets a taste of something different.
Think “wet, dry, fresh, and spicy”
Nobody likes ordering takeout to discover they have made a big mistake with their choices. But it’s easy to avoid this with Thai food.
As explained in Hot Thai Kitchen, a cookbook by Chef Pailin Chongchitnant (who hosts a Thai YouTube cooking show by the same name), you can be sure to have a well-balanced meal by considering four key elements: wet, dry, fresh, and spicy.
Any dishes that come in a bowl, like green curry or the popular chicken coconut soup Tom Kha Gai, are considered “wet.” Items served on a plate, like stir-fries, grilled, steamed, or fried dishes are known as “dry.” Meanwhile, “fresh” dishes include Thai salads and fresh veggies served alongside a Thai dip. These items are typically packed with bright and refreshing flavours.
In terms of “spicy” dishes, it’s recommended to have at least one (that you can tolerate) on the table, bringing some heat to your meal. Pro tip: if you’re not having many dishes, choose items that double-up on elements. For example, Yum Woon Sen or glass noodle salad is both spicy and fresh.
Don’t forget the rice
Based on your experience of cooking Thai food and dining out, chances are rice made it onto your plate more than once. This is because rice is a staple with Thai food, and almost everything is meant to be eaten with it — even soups and salads.
One exception to the rule is noodle-based items. Chef Chongchitnant calls noodle dishes like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew “sandwiches of Thai cuisine” because they are typically eaten as a solo meal. But it is by no means “wrong” if you want to add noodle dishes to a family-style spread.
Balance meats, seafood, and vegetables
In Thailand, maintaining a balance of the key ingredients in each dish is important to the overall mealtime process. You can achieve this by ensuring there is a variety of different meats, seafood, and vegetables in the dishes you order.
To put all this into practice, a well-rounded Thai table might include a yellow curry with chicken (wet and spicy), a vegetable-heavy stir-fry (dry), and Yum Neua Yang or grilled steak salad (fresh). The key is to not have too much of one thing, so it all balances out and you get the best of everything.
This summer, get a taste of genuine Thai food at home by ordering from one of the authentic restaurants in Vancouver listed on thaiselect.ca.
Or, if you prefer to dine at home, you can cook an appetizing meal using the aforementioned guidelines. Check out Chef Chongchitnant’s must-try recipes and video tutorials on hot-thai-kitchen.com.