Our guide to Thai cooking
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to Thai cooking

First published date January 17 2014 Amended date January 22 2014

Thai food is known for perfectly balancing a number of different flavours, with each dish usually blending hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and bitter flavours to create a harmonious meal overall. Because of the number of ingredients that typically go into a Thai meal, looking at a Thai cookery book can be a little daunting. A Thai cooking course can take the fear out of preparing Thai cuisine, and give you the skills to recreate authentic Thai food at home.


A brief introduction to Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine draws upon the influences of a number of Southeast Asian countries – Burma, Laos, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia are all nearby and have all had their part to play in the development of a national cuisine in Thailand over several centuries. In recent decades, since the 1960s, Thai cuisine has become known internationally thanks to the rise in tourism in Thailand.

                Did you know? There were just four Thai restaurants in London in the 1970s. This rose to             between two and three hundred in the following 25 years.

Thai food was traditionally eaten whilst sitting on mats or carpets on the floor, and this practice continues today in more traditional households. Thai meals tend to consist of a number of dishes that are all served at the same time, forming a harmonious contrast of ingredients.

Did you know? Some Thai people use sticky rice as a form of edible cutlery - by shaping it into small, flat balls which are then dipped into food.


Ingredients in Thai cookery

Thai food varies massively regionally, but there are some common ingredients found in nearly all regions of Thailand, that you will come across on a Thai cooking course:

·         Nam pla – a strong and aromatic fish sauce. The fish sauce is extracted from fish during the fermentation process.

·         Nam phrik – Thai chilli paste. The paste is made by crushing chillies and other ingredients such as garlic and shrimp paste.

Another feature that is shared across Thai regions is the use of fresh (not dried) herbs and spices in food. Some of the most common herbs and spices are:

·         Coriander

·         Lemongrass

·         Thai basil

·         Mint

·         Ginger

·         Galangal

·         Tamarind

·         Turmeric

·         Kaffir lime

·         Chillies – lots and lots of chillies!

Did you know? Many Thai market stalls sell deep-fried grasshoppers, crickets, bee larvae, silkworm, ant eggs and termites. Yum!


Top fiveThai dishes

·         Tom Yam Goong – jumbo shrimp and mushrooms are cooked with lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, shallots, chillis and fish sauce in this dish, sometimes called the ‘national aroma’ of Thailand.

·         Pad thai – probably Thailand’s most famous culinary export, pad Thai is a noodle dish. The noodles are served with tofu, bean sprouts and onion, and a lot of the taste is added at the table – you add fish sauce, sugar, chilli powder and more crushed peanuts once the dish is served.

·         Som tam (Papaya salad) – shredded green papaya served with lime, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar.

·         Geng Kheaw Wan Gai (Thai green curry) – green curry is made with green curry paste (made with green chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime peel, coriander root, roasted coriander and cumin seeds, white peppercorns, shrimp paste and salt).

·         Kao Phad (Thai fried rice) – fried rice is usually served with shrimp or chicken, egg, onion, coriander, garlic, and tomato.

Did you know? Traditionally, Thais believe that throwing food away is bad luck and may anger the god of rice, causing her to unleash starvation upon on the land.


 After a Thai cookery course

A Thai cooking course will introduce you to Thai cuisine and give you an opportunity to get some hands on experience at making Thai food. Many Thai cooking courses culminate in a meal where you get to sample the delights you have made on the day. After the course, you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of the rich heritage of Thai food, and some recipes that you can impress your dinner party guests with!

Other courses that may be of interest to you into include Indian cooking courses, since the two types of cuisine share some features. Plus, if you enjoy your Thai cookery course and find yourself daydreaming about embarking on a career in cookery, find more information about chef careers.


By Fiona Hughes