The history, the variety, and the delicacy of Thai cuisine

Overview of Thai Cuisine

Thai cuisine is one of the most famous and cherished cuisines globally; originated from Thailand, Thai food has quickly become a staple food for people to indulge in.

Thai food is often considered to be comforting food because of how easy it is digestible and has flavors that salivate the palette. Thai cuisine is most popular for its distinct features; the aromatic components, the contrasting blended flavors, the rich, silky smooth texture, and vibrant colors. The ingredients used in this cuisine have proven to have medicinal benefits that set this cuisine further apart. In fact, Thai cuisine is categorized as a cuisine that has harmony in every dish of theirs. The commonly known dish of Thai cuisine would be by far the Pad Thai, which is a global phenomenon in the food industry.

The popularity of the cuisine has become so big that often people traveling to Thailand go specifically to explore the famous authentic Thai cuisine. As a matter of fact, in 2017, seven Thai dishes appeared on the list of the World’s 50 best food.

What sets Thai Cuisine apart?

Most of the Thai dishes are influenced by Chinese dishes because centuries ago, a big group of Chinese people migrated to now Thailand and got settled. They bought their way of living, which over the years merged with the lifestyle of locals and became common; food was also a big part that defined this newly merged community. The Chinese infused their cooking style with Thailand’s exotic spices and resources and created numerous dishes that, along with time, got refined and popularized.

Not only Chinese but Szechwan dishes influenced Thai cuisine too; the Buddhist monks bought an Indian touch, the southern Muslims bought subcontinental touch, and later down the history, the Portuguese missionaries and Dutch traders added their culinary style into the mix. In fact, Japanese has some influence over the cuisine, too; hence it is understandable why Thai dishes are so popular amongst a wide range of consumer base.

The characteristic feature of Thai food is the balance of 5 contrasting flavors sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. Traditionally the cuisine falls under four food categories; Tom (boiled dishes), Yam (spicy salads), Tam (pounded foods), and Gaeng (curries) and four sub-Thai cuisine categories; Northern, Northeastern (Isaan), Central, and Southern Thai Cuisine.


Thai Cuisine


The regional take on Thai Dishes

Thai food differs from region to region and adds to the wide variety of cuisine; that is why everyone is able to find solace in this cuisine as it appeals to everyone. The appearance tempts the eye; the aroma salivates the palette, and the connection to the neighboring countries influences the food and elevates its overall appeal. Let’s dive into the categories and see how each one is distinctive and how they enrich Thai cuisine.


Northern Thai cuisine is famous for its usage of a wide variety of exotic herbs, condiments, and flavorsome broths. Heavily influenced by Burmese cuisine, northern Thai cuisine is complex in flavor and leans towards the spicy spectrum of the overall cuisine.

However, due to the use of many tropical spices and ingredients, the spice level may not usually be much; in fact, for a few, it may not necessarily be spicy but may have that kick. Foreigners generally love this version of the Thai cuisine, and Khao Soi is the most popular dish amongst the variety of dishes in this sub-Thai cuisine.

Northern Thai Cuisine is often described as an herby, aromatic dish with rich flavor and texture.


Khao Soi Thai noodle soup



The most popular food region in the country, The Northeastern Thai Cuisine, offers the most interesting and palatable variety. The cuisine has its roots in Laotian food, and just like Lao cuisine is more or less dependent on the use of raw ingredients to great spectacular dishes. Marination is also a key component of Northeastern Thai cuisine to elevate the natural taste of the ingredients. The dishes are often served in a family-style manner to foster community and togetherness.

The region is most commonly known to serve incredibly seasoned dishes and uses loads of herbs, chilies, garlic, and veggies. This Thai cuisine is usually associated with fresh, herby light meals but offers a great deal of heavy main courses too. The popular dish will by fair be Som Tum, also known as papaya salad.

However, despite the delicate nature of the dishes, the flavors are bang on and maybe overwhelming to the foreigners. The cuisine may differ from other Thai dishes, but the blend of sour and spice is what the palette craves once the taste is familiarized. The first sip, gallop, and bite may feel intense, but the texture, taste, and aroma soon take over and win overall human senses.

Northeastern Thai Cuisine is often described as raw, heavily spiced, smoked, and commonly known to spicy and sour.


Som Tum (Papaya Salad)



As the name explains, central Thai cuisines are the most commonly consumed sub-Thai cuisine in the country and around the world. Encompassing crowning elements of every sub-Thai cuisine, the dishes of this region are what attracts the tourist.

Many years ago, when the Chinese came to Thailand and settled here, they made central Thailand their base; hence the food has had a big influence on their culture. The dishes are often mild in nature and make use of sweeter tropical ingredients with silky smooth textured rice, broth, noodles, soups, and more to appeal to a wider customer base.

Northeastern Thai Cuisine can be described with the following words: sweeter, not always spicy, a little bit of everything, Chinese-influenced.

Central Thai Cuisine is often described as sweet, mild, and Chinese styled.


Thai Peanut Chicken Rice



Last but certainly not the least, Southern Thai Cuisine might be the underdog of the lot but has a loyal fan-base. Influenced most by Malaysian cuisine, Southern Thai dishes are mostly curries and offer a wide variety. 

The curries are a staple of this cuisine, identified by their thicker sauce and distinct vibrant colors, which tells the spice level of the dishes; Green being the hottest, then red, yellow, and orange (the mildest one). The most popular mild curries are; Panang and Massaman, loved by foreigners, and Khua Kling and Gaeng Tai Pla, the spiciest curries this cuisine has to offer, which is loved by the locals and spice fanatics.

Southern Thai Cuisine is often described as spicy, bright curries.


Thai curry food


The classification of Thai Cuisine

Thai foods are generally classified into four dish types;


A common ingredient for Thai food that varies from region to region. The Northern and Northeastern cuisines use a variety of sticky rice. At the same time, the central region has a more neutral texture but a fragrant version.


Not a very common term, by it, encompasses a wide mix of ingredients from a variety of meats to vegetables, fried rice, and noodles. These dishes are often one meal and offer a wholesome, fulfilling experience. These are flavorsome, appetizing, aromatic, and appealing to the palette.


This category is bigger than others as it consists of all sorts of broths, curries, soups, stir-fries, salads, and condiments. Locally known as “Naem,” these dishes are the life of any Thai meal, elevating the taste, texture, look and appeal of it.


Dessert may not be the immediate dish category that may come to mind when thinking about Thai cuisine, but it is an important and exquisite part. The decadent desserts are often comprised of sugar, rice flour, and coconut. Sweet potato, taro, and water chestnut are also part of many desserts. The desserts are very lightweight and tropical in nature, making it the best part of ending the Thai food experience.


Thai desserts


The Culture of Thai Cuisine

Thai dishes are exquisite, they are mouthwatering, aromatic, and stunning looking, but this is not all that makes this cuisine distinctive and popular.

This might not be common knowledge, but Thai culture has its nuance when it comes to food. To have an authentic and wholesome Thai food experience, there are some etiquettes that is expected to be followed, especially in the presence of Thai people;

To start with, it is expected to start the meal with a spoonful of plain rice, an important part of the Thai culture; after that, only a few spoonful of other items are expected to be taken, leaving some in the dish. After completion, just make sure to leave some on your plate, which is considered a sign of generosity and welcomeness. Most importantly, though it is a common practice to eat Thai food with chopsticks in the presence of Thai people, please don’t ask for chopsticks until and unless they are offered; originally, the food is consumed with spoon and fork and ideally with the hand for sticky rice.

All in all, Thai cuisine sets apart with this distinctive origin, cultural expectation, and delicious looking dishes, and if you are a foodie or planning to expand your palette, Thai food is highly recommended, this unique yet comforting food is a staple with which no one can go wrong with. The world loves it, and you will too!