A Thai meal consists of first and foremost, rice. It is the most important aspect of the meal itself, with a collections of dishes served alongside of the rice. If the rice is poorly cooked or not good quality, the whole meal suffers and as a result,becomes disjointed and inedible. The composition of a meal is also very important, repetition is avoided and dishes selected compliment and contrast, creating interest and depth. There are no courses, all of the food is served at the same time and dishes on the table can be eaten in any order. In the past, people used their hands, and a communal spoon may be used for soups at the center of the table. Since the reign of king Rama V, people were introduced to forks and spoons. Thais eat from their spoons and not forks, the fork is there to guide food onto the spoon. Food is spooned onto your own plate of rice as needed and not piled on all at once. Dishes are eaten alternately, after a spoonful of spicy curry, one might have the soup to neutralize the platte. After a fried dish, a salad might be appropriate to add tartness and freshness, and so on, there is inherent balance in the act of eating.
RICE / ข้าว
An integral part of the meal, it is always served hot, usually placed in a large bowl with a lid and kept warm during the meal, table side. Only a small amount of rice is spooned onto the plate at a time, this stops the rice from getting cold and also reduces any wastage. Well cooked rice is the key ingredient to an excellent meal.
RELISH / น้ำพริก
Essentially a savory dip, always accompanied with various kinds of raw or cooked vegetables cut into bite sized pieces and fried fish. It can simply be eaten using the hands to pick up the vegetables and dipping it into the relish, or alternatively the relish is spooned onto the vegetables and eaten with a spoon and fork. The vegetables which accompanies a relish reflects regionally and seasonality.
SALAD / ยำ
Most Thai salad employs a large assortment of ingredients, skillfully sliced, packed with herbs and often dressed with a dressing which is sour, salty and sweet in varying degrees. A salad adds welcomed freshness, lightness and a wonderfully crisp texture to a meal, it is always served slightly above room temperature.
STIR FRIED / ผัด
A chinese influenced cooking method, it usually consists of a few ingredients simply tossed together in a hot wok, retaining its texture, freshness and colour. In a traditional Thai style, stir frying is not a rapid process, a medium heat is used and a small amount of water or stock is added to the wok, which moistens the stir fry.
SOUP / แกงจืด
A wonderful palette cleanser, soups are always served in small individual bowls, each person takes a spoonful throughout the meal. Sometimes soups are served simmering away in a chinese style hot pot, each person can choose their favourite ingredients and add to their own bowl. A clear soup usually consists of a few fresh ingredients simmered in a lightly flavoured broth.
CURRY / แกงเผ็ด
There are two main types of curries, the first and more ancient is a curry in which a paste is simply dissolved in water or stock. Another type of curry, utilises a fried paste and is simmered in coconut milk. The curry adds complex aroma and richness to the meal, it is spooned onto hot rice and sometimes comes accompanied with it own complementary side dishes.
DEEP FRIED / ทอด
Items are usually battered or coated in flour or beaten eggs and deep fried until it develops a golden colour and crisp texture. These items are often served with a dipping sauce and fresh vegetables. A whole fish deep fried in the Thai style is scored, rubbed with salt and is fried at a low heat until the fish is very very crispy, it is served whole accompanied by a sauce.
SIMMERED / ต้ม
Fish or meats are cut into chunks with bones attached or sometimes kept whole and slowly simmered in a seasoned broth at a very low heat until tender. The flavour of the broth permeates the meats and vegetables, the bones attached adds depth of flavour to the cooking liquid, resulting in a well rounded sauce.
STEAMED / นึ่ง
There are two main types of steamed items, the first is a chinese influenced dish, lightly seasoned and steamed inside a a ceramic container. The second variation is distinctively Thai, Various types of meats are combined with an aromatic paste, it is then seasoned and wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until cooked. Steamed items are always served hot at the table.
DESSERT / ของหวาน
Served in small bowls or saucers and eaten with a small spoon, a small fork and sometimes with the hands. Desserts encompass a large range of sweet dishes and can be served hot, at room temperature or cold, with a liberal addition of crushed ice.
FRUIT / ผลไม้
A selection of seasonal fruits are often served at the end of the meal, either by itself or accompanied by the chili and salt dip. Fruits are peeled, seeds are removed and cut into bite sized pieces and served at room temperature.