THAI FOOD HERITAGE
The culture of Thailand is rich and varied, and its food a magnificent reflection of this diversity.
Thailand’s location in the middle of Southeast Asia has made it both a crossroad and a destination for a wide array of cultural and ethnic groups. Each group, whether transitory or permanent, has left an imprint on the country's ever changing cuisine.
The classic example is the chili pepper, probably the signature ingredient of Thai cooking. Native to the Americas, it was brought to Thailand long ago by Portuguese traders passing through the region. Groups that have migrated to Thailand and taken up residence have had a less incendiary, but even broader impact on the cuisine that we see today. It would, for example, be impossible to talk about Thai food without looking at the enormous contributions made by Chinese immigrants.
But it must never be forgotten that none of this has taken place in a vacuum. These culinary imports have interacted with each other, the culture present in the country when they arrived and, perhaps most importantly, the diverse geography that makes up Thailand. This means that Thailand’s cuisine is not part this and part that; it is, instead, a unique blend that varies significantly from one part of the country to another.
Although Thailand’s cuisine is diverse, there are significant unifying elements. Rice, for example, is the staple item everywhere. In the north and northeast, short grain, glutinous rice is common and in the remainder of the country, the preference is for long grain rice. Thai's everywhere also like their food to highlight the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy hot.