If you’re planning a trip to Thailand or going out to a traditional Thai restaurant, learn about Thai culinary customs to prepare yourself for an authentic meal. Some Thai dining customs are significantly different from the Westernized practices you may have experienced in the past.
Thai Dining Utensils
A traditional Thai meal is normally served with a fork and spoon. Meals are chopped finely into bite-sized pieces before they are served, so you won’t need a knife, and the spoon is held in your right hand in its place. Contrary to western norms, the fork is not used to put food in your mouth–this practice is considered rude in Thailand, the equivalent of eating from your knife in western cultures. Instead, use your fork to push food onto your spoon. Chopsticks are only used for Chinese dishes and are not common in Thai dining.
Dining is seen as a time for socializing in Thailand. Meals are generally shared among diners at the table, family-style. You can order your own dish, but it’s expected that all meals will be enjoyed together. Sample a small amount of a dish at a time so there is enough to go around. In some settings, diners will pass serving dishes around the table and you’ll serve yourself. Other times, you’ll pass your individual dinner plate around and be served by your fellow guests.
It’s customary to refrain from eating until the host or the eldest person in attendance has begun.
Moo Kata is a unique method of meal preparation and serving that takes place outside of the Thai kitchen. A device resembling an inverted metal bowler hat is placed in the center of the table, and is heated either by gas or charcoal. A trough filled with hot water runs around the edge of the Moo Kata. As you put meats and vegetables onto the Moo Kata to be cooked, the juices from the ingredients run down into the water and create a delicious broth, which is served in a bowl alongside your main meal of cooked meats and vegetables.
Thai cooking often incorporates ingredients that you’ll be unaccustomed to, and you’ll benefit from learning about common Thai cuisine staples.