Official Language(s): Thai
Some Other Languages Spoken: Akha, Shan, Prai, Phuan, Nyaw, Mon, Khmer, Karen, Hmong, and Malay
Ethnic Groups: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, Other 11%
Food Facts: Thai cuisine is known for its use of several different tastes (e.g. spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter) in one dish to create a harmonious, albeit complex, balance of flavors. Thailand has four regional cuisines: Northern, Northeastern, Central, and Southern. Each cuisine borrows from the neighboring countries. The Central cuisine also contains “Thai Royal Cuisine”, which is influenced by the Royal Court. Dishes tend to be more elaborate and sophisticated and it’s known for being both an art form as well as a culinary delight. A Thai meal often consists of rice and several complementary dishes to be shared by all. Common ingredients include nam pla (fish sauce), lime juice, garlic, herbs and spices (basil, coriander, turmeric, curry powder), coconut milk, soy sauces, and various forms of chilies (dried flakes, chopped freshed chilies, chili sauces, chili pastes, and so on).
Recipe: Pla Sam Rot (Three Flavors Fish)
This dish is popular in coastal regions of Thailand where fish are caught and prepared daily. A sauce with tamarind, garlic, chili peppers, coriander, and fish sauce creates three flavors (spicy, sweet, and tangy) which is poured over a whole deep fried fish, topped with chopped cilantro, crunchy shallots, and more chili peppers, and served over rice.
4 cloves garlic
4 red thai chilies, seeded and minced
4 coriander/cilantro roots, washed and scraped to remove any traces of dirt, then chopped (can substitute parsley root)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons palm sugar (can subsitute brown sugar)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate, mixed with another 2 tablespoons of water
1 cup oil for frying
1 Snapper 500-600g for two people or 4 small filets (halibut or another white fish could be substituted)
3 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced (can substitute basil soaked in lime juice)
1 small bunch of cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon Thai basil leaves chopped finely
5 red chilies chopped finely
deep fried shallots (the ones you buy in a jar from Asian supermarket or you can mince fresh shallots and pan fry them until crispy)
For sauce, finely chop garlic, chilies, cilantro roots, and salt in a food processor. In a small saucepan heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add in mixture from food processor. Add palm sugar, fish sauce, water, and tamarind concentrate mixed with water. Simmer for five minutes and set aside. The sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated once the fish is done.
For fish, cut 3 slashes in the fish and sprinkle salt on both sides to taste. Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok until hot enough to pan fry. Slide the fish into the oil and cook for a couple minutes on each side or until golden brown. If cooking several filets, you may need to cook them in batches. Place onto a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Put fish on a platter, top with warm sauce and garnish with cilantro, chilies, and shallots.