Floating markets, where
everything you might need is pilled onto a boat and paddled along rivers
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"In the water
there are fish, in the fields there is rice"
. found on a stone tablet credited to King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai in
the 13th century
THE SECRETS OF CLASSIC THAI
COOKING HAVE BEEN LIKED TO CULINARY TREASURES
THE ONLY KINGDOM IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA TO REMAIN
INDEPENDENT DURING THE ERA OF COLONIZATION - GIVING RISE TO A CUISINE THAT BALANCES THE SWEET AND THE SOUR
WITH THE HOT AND THE SALTY. THAI FOOD HAS AN ELEGANCE AND REFINEMENT THAT
IS ALL ITS OWN.
A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict.
After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1995 - averaging almost 9% annually - increased speculative pressure on Thailand's currency in 1997 led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the government to float the baht. Long pegged at 25 to the dollar, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.2% that same year. Thailand entered a recovery stage in 1999, expanding 4.2% and grew 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports - which increased about 20% in 2000. An ailing financial sector and the slow pace of corporate debt restructuring, combined with a softening of global demand, however, slowed growth in 2001 to 1.4%.
THE THAI KITCHEN & TABLE
Rice is the mainstay of Thai meals, mostly
steamed long-grain jasmine rice, a nod to the traditions and ritual of its
cultivation. All other dishes, called gap kao, are to be
served with rice. There is not set progression of dishes; all main course
dishes are served at once. The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of
the spicy, sweet, hot, wet, mild, crisp, sour and soft, and is meant to be
satisfying to the eyes, nose and palate.
Complex dishes are accompanied by simpler
ones; the richness of this dish may be cut by the spiciness of that
dish; the saltiness of this recipe is a perfect foil another. As a result,
the palate will never be overwhelmed - there is give and take. The
Thais call this harmonious layering of flavor upon flavor rot chart
- the heart and soul of true Thai cuisine.
Thai desserts are mainly based on glutinous
rice, coconut milk, palm sugar, pandan leaf and agar-agar. Common desserts
usually consist of one or more of the abundant fresh fruits found locally.
Snacks are also popular in Thailand. They may consists of nothing more
than freshly sliced fruit sprinkled with salt, sugar, dried chilies or a
combination of these seasoning. A more elaborate snack would consists of
fresh rice noodles cooked in meat stock or stir-fried. Whether eaten in a
restaurant, on a city sidewalk, on the opened verandah of a farm house,
even in the middle of a rice field at harvest time, a Thai meal is almost
always a social affair.
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ESSENTIAL FLAVORS OF THAI
Thai cuisine uses the redolent fish sauce
in almost everything besides desserts. The curries are built on
subtle blends of cilantro, lemon grass,
galangal, chilies and
kaffir lime leaf and
rind. Other typically Thai flavors
include Thai sweet basil (horapa),
ginger, shrimp paste and
Coconut milk and palm sugar
are added to curries and sweets. Staples include
jasmine and glutinous rice.