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As with a lot of cultures food in Thailand is a central element in social gatherings and mealtimes are a very sociable experience. Thai cuisine draws on influences from many countries in the world and it’s origins can be traced right back to the 13th centuries. Thai cuisine is some of the most elaborately presented food in the world consisting of large ornate platters and even statues. In Thailand all food is shared and the ‘starter’ does not exist when dining out, a number of different dishes are ordered and everyone shares them. Generally one dish for every person present is ordered so it is better to dine in a large group as eating alone is considered to be unlucky. Thais usually do not use a knife as food is served in a way that it does not need to be cut, a spoon and fork is used with the spoon in your right hand and the fork in your left. Thai people generally do not combine different foods together instead prefer to eat one bit of one dish at a time.

The main ingredients that you will find in Thai cooking are:

garlic
chillies
lime juice
lemon grass
fresh coriander
fish sauce (nam pai)
shrimp paste (kapi)
rice – (rice is the main staple of Thailand and is eaten with almost every meal.)

Thai cuisine differs from region to region and the different areas can be defined by certain taste criteria:

North – mild/hot, salty/sour, but never sweet
Central – hot, salty, sweet, sour
Northeast – hot, salty, sour (salads popular)
South – very hot, salty, sour (curries popular)

In the north of Thailand glutinous rice is preferred and in the central regions they prefer to eat fragrant rice.

The central regions of Thailand also have the royal cuisine, which was influenced by the monarchy; the north has influence from their neighbouring country Burma and the south use a lot of coconut and fresh seafood. Thailand have a historical and very unique cuisine but there have been certain influences from other countries also for instance the Chinese introduced noodles and the Indians introduced certain spices although Thai curries are distinctive in their taste and nothing like Indian versions.

If you like the sound of Thai cuisine and would like to have a go at cooking some for yourself why not have a go at this recipe which I sourced from the Channel 4 recipe archives. Although there are quite a lot of ingredients they are easily available in the UK and the whole recipe only has three steps and is ready in just twenty-five minutes.

Pad Thai Noodles

Ingredients

175g flat rice noodles
3.5 tbsp sunflower oil
12 large raw prawns peeled with the tail shells left on
2 garlic cloves sliced
half a red chilli de-seeded and sliced
2 medium eggs beaten
3 tbsp fish sauce (nam pai)
juice of one lime
1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp roasted cashew nuts
6 spring onions sliced on the diagonal
50g beansprouts

Method:

1. Cook noodles according to pack instructions, drain and toss with half tbsp of oil.

2. Heat the rest of the oil in a large pan. Add the prawns and stir-fry for one and a half minutes. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further thirty seconds.

3. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir-fry until they begin to look scrambled then lower the heat. Add the noodles, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar toss for one minute, then add the cashews, spring onions and bean sprouts toss for a further minutes then serve immediately.

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