Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Therefore, authentic Thai cooking refers to the traditional cooking ingredients, customs and culinary found in Thailand. Balance, detail, and variety are of paramount significance to authentic Thai cooking.

Until 1939, the country we call Thailand was known as Siam. It was the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by the West. This helped Thailand maintain its own special cuisine (cooking style), with some influence from its neighbors - most notably are Vietnam, India and Malaysia. From India came not only the Buddhist religion, but also spicy seasonings such as cumin, cardamom, and coriander, as well as curry dishes. The Malays, to the south, further shared seasonings, as well as their love of coconuts and the satay (skewered and grilled meat, served with a sauce). When the Ming dynasty in China fell, Chinese refugees migrated to Thailand and brought with them the use of noodles, dumplings, soy sauce, and other soy products.

Authentic Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. It is known for its unique combinations of seasoning and complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal - sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Unlike many other cuisines, Thai cooking rejects simplicity and is about creating harmony of disparate elements. Thai food is sometimes characterized as demonstrating intricacy, attention to detail, texture, color, taste, and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, along with good flavor.  Food appearance, smell and context are also important when cooking authentic Thai food.

There are several basic ingredients needed for cooking authentic Thai. The first is fish sauce, or nam pla in Thai, a pungent brine made from fermenting fish with salt. It usually contains anchovies, salt and water. Typically, Thais make fish sauce mixed with minced fresh Thai chili peppers (and, occasionally, with sliced raw garlic), called prik nam pla in Thai, and use it as a condiment.

The second ingredient is curry paste used in Thai curry dishes. There are red and green curry paste varieties. Both red and green varieties have notes of galangal, lemongrass and coriander root. Green is flavored with fresh green chili peppers and red with dried red chili peppers. Although you can make your own, in Thailand most home cooks and professional chefs buy premade curry pastes from fresh markets. They can also be found at supermarkets.

The next staple Thai ingredient is coconut milk, used mostly in Thai curries. Fresh coconut milk is made by rinsing the oils out of coconut flesh with warm water. Although canned coconut milk is an easy option and widely available in the supermarkets in Thailand, many Thais still buy freshly made coconut milk from fresh markets because it is the freshest and so the most flavorful. Shredded coconut is used in many dishes, especially desserts. Coconut rice (rice cooked with coconut milk) is also everyone’s favorite.

Thai fresh and dried chili peppers are used often in authentic Thai food. Dried red chili peppers are commonly used to make curry pastes and add heat to soups and stir-fries. Other ingredients that are often used in authentic Thai cooking are limes, kaffir Lime Leaves, shallots, garlic, cilantro, mint, Thai holy basil, Thai basil, dried shrimp paste, cumin, lemongrass and galangal.

The authentic way to enjoy Thai food is to have several main dishes with rice, the main dietary staple of Thailand. Thais eat two kinds of rice - the standard white kind and glutinous, or sticky, rice. Sticky rice rolled into a ball is the main rice eaten in northeastern Thailand. It is also used in desserts throughout the country. Rice is eaten at almost every meal and is also made into flour used in noodles, dumplings, and desserts.

Although Thai cuisine is brilliantly complex tasting and known for its amazing balance of sour, sweet, bitter and salty, it’s quite easy to make at home, especially when all needed ingredients and easy Thai recipes are provided by Thai Direct. Ready to explore and try authentic Thai cooking? Click the button below to see our menu.