Ban Chiang, a significant Neolithic settlement in Udon Thani province. There is evidence of various artifacts in the form of cooking vessels, dishes, jars and bottles made from low fired earthenware. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. During this period people started the domestication of wild cereals, rice, beans, peas and nuts as well as the farming of animals such as pigs and cattle.
Chinese nomadic farmers from Guangxi province called the Ta’i migrated southward into northern Thailand. They came into contact with Theravada buddhism and adopted many of its core beliefs. As centuries past, they were victorious in many wars and became the ruling fathers of Nan, Phrae and Sawankhalok. Native ‘Mon’ people fell under the control of the T’ai.
‘The four bowls’ transcribed onto a solid stone tablet. This is the earliest surviving record of a Siamese dish. The simple dish consists of four bowls containing different kinds of desserts, served accompanied by coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar. It was a celebratory dessert, served to mark special occasions.
Sukhothai kingdom was established, 1238-1583. Ruled by King Ramkhamhaeng, in which time he established the Thai alphabet and cemented Theravada buddhism as the dominant religion. He was also instrumental in bringing master ceramic craftsman from China into Sukhothai. In the period that followed Celadon ware from Sawankhalok became a significant item for export.
Ayutthaya kingdom, 1352-1768. Founded by king U Thong and situated on a small island, it soon became a center for all trade in asia. With its rivers and canals it was once known as the venice of the east. With a population of over half a million, ayutthaya flourished and grew to rival many large cities anywhere around the world. The city was sacked by the invading Burmese army in 1767.
Arrival of the first europeans, Portuguese ambassador Duarte Fernandes. Trade treaties signed with the Portuguese, French, Chinese, Indian, Persian and Dutch. Trading posts were set up outside the city walls. A multitude of new ingredients were introduced for the first time, such as chilies, tomatoes, peanuts and various exotic spices, finding their way into traditional recipes.
Du Royaume De Siam by Simon de La Loubere gave an account of Siam, which gave a rare glimpse into Siamese culture. Although very rough, within the pages there exists a recipe for a classical relish of shrimp paste;
" Their sauces are plain, a little water with some spices, garlic, chibols, or some sweet herb, as baulm. They do very much esteem a liquid sauce, like Mustard, which is only Crayfish corrupted, because they are ill salted; they call it Capi."
Maria Guyoma de Pinha was appointed by king Thaisa to head the desserts section of the royal kitchen. She introduced the use of eggs into Thai desserts for the first time, adapting Portuguese recipes by using indigenous Thai ingredients. Most of these recipes still remain today are are regarded as the signature of Thai desserts.
Bangkok established on the banks of the Chaopraya river by King Rama I. The temple of the emerald buddha, in the center of the city also served as the grand palace, it is now considered as the most sacred landmark in all of Thailand. At the inauguration, various dishes were served such as dried ground fish with watermelon, panang curry of chicken, tawai salad with a rich curry dressing over an array of meats and vegetables.
Yaowarrat, Bangkok’s chinatown established, one of the oldest parts of the city. A large number of chinese merchants sailed down in junks and settled in the area on the western bank of the Chaopraya river. They started setting up shop selling a multitude of merchandise from china, from ceramics to various dried goods and also countless chinese style street food stalls.
Bowring treaty signed by King mongkut and Sir John Bowring, allowing free trade between the two nations. Forein merchandise and ingredients started flooding the marketplace on a large scale, such as canned asparagus, canned salmon and anchovies.
During the rein of King Rama V, lavish european style banquets were served at royal functions, displaying sophistication and prestige by the Siamese to embrace the dining traditions of the west. Dishes such as roast lamb and french fries, fish with tartare sauce and roast chicken with salad were served in several courses with stirling silver cutlery, fine european porcelain and crystal glassware.
Western influence in Thai culture is stronger than ever before. Thai cooks still continue to embrace new ingredients in the same way as they did five hundred years ago. With globalization, ease of long distance travel, western ingredients flood the market like never before. Bakeries, cafes, pizzerias, European fine dining establishments are all over the capital. Culinary institutions educate young chefs in classical French cooking techniques. Expensive imported ingredients, saturate the marketplace in the same way it was in the past, but this time on a much grander scale.
Slowly fading are the sounds of the pestle and mortar grinding the wonderfully aromatic, hand made curry pastes. Or the ritual of cracking open a coconut and, grating and squeezing fresh, luscious coconut milk. Traditional Thai desserts decline in popularity and give way to chocolate brownies and blueberry cheesecake. The future of traditional Thai cooking hangs in the balance, while new ideas, trends and innovations continue to influence the way of eating for generations to come.