The Thai food you eat in western countries varies significantly from the food in Thailand. The Westernization of Thai cooking has created a hybrid cuisine aimed at satisfying the palate of Western consumers.
Thai Food: Hot, Sour, Salty and Sweet
Food preparation in Thailand is focused on maintaining a fine balance between the spiciness, sourness, saltiness and sweetness of each dish. Many Westerners mistakenly believe that spicy Thai dishes are the most authentic meals. While it’s true that the majority of Thai dishes are very spicy by Western standards, Thai meals offset the levels of heat and spice with equally important sour, salty and sweet flavors. This delicate balance isn’t often met in Westernized Thai restaurants, where meals are generally singular in their taste.
Westernization of Thai Cooking
Thai meals in the West tend to be less spicy than comparable meals in Thailand. Ingredients like lemongrass, chili peppers, fish sauce and garlic are frequently used in much smaller portions in Westernized Thai cooking. One reason for this is the difficulty in locating many ingredients in Europe and North America that are native to Southeast Asia. In order to appeal to western tastes, many Western Thai meals lower the spice levels and increase the sweetness. Additionally, the herbs and spices used in Thailand are normally fresh-picked, while those used in Westernized Thai cooking are dried.
Several spices and herbs that originate from Thailand have become staples in cuisines around the globe. For example, three varieties of Thai basil have seen significant popular growth outside Thailand: Thai sweet basil, Thai holy basil and Thai lemon basil. Thai sweet basil is often cultivated as Queen of Siam basil in the United States.
Westernized Thai Serving
In Thailand, meals are traditionally a communal affair where all dishes are placed in the center of the dining table and diners take samples of each dish. Thai restaurants in Western nations generally don’t follow this routine. Individuals each order their own meal, and you’re not expected to share your food with others. Appetizers are not a part of traditional Thai dining, but dumplings and other small morsels are often offered as an appetizer in western countries.
While Thai cuisine in Western countries has undergone a process of westernization, Thailand’s signature beverages have remained generally consistent.