Originally, Thai cooking reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle.Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients.With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling.
These can be hors d'oeuvres, accompaniments, side dishes, and/or snacks. They include spring rolls, satay, puffed rice cakes with herbed topping. They represent the playful and creative nature of the Thais.
A harmony of tastes and herbal flavours are essential. Major tastes are sour, sweet and salty. Spiciness comes in different degrees according to meat textures and occasions.
Dips-Dips entail some complexity. They can be the major dish of a meal with accompaniments of vegetables and some meats. When dips are made thinly, they can be used as salad designs. A particular and simple dip is made from chilies, garlic, dried shrimps, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and shrimp paste.
A good meal for an average person may consist simply of a soup and rice.
Traditional Thai soups are unique because they embody more flavours and textures than can be found in other types of food.
Curries-Most non-Thai curries consist of powdered or ground dried spices, whereas the major ingredients of Thai curry are fresh herbs. A simple Thai curry paste consists of dried chilies, shallots and shrimp paste. More complex curries include garlic, galangal, coriander roots, lemon grass, kefir lime peel and peppercorns.
Single Dishes -Complete meals in themselves , they include rice and noodle dishes such as Khao Phat and Phat Thai.
As an acknowledged expert of Thai cuisine, David Thompson, explains Thai food (from a Western perspective): "Thai food ain't about simplicity. It's about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it's got to have a smooth surface but it doesn't matter what's happening underneath. Simplicity isn't the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it's a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that's important, it's the complexity they delight in."