Secrets of Thai Cooking

By Kayla Allen -
Like 5 years ago it seemed that every time I was going out to dinner with a friend, that friend was telling me about this amazing Thai restaurant we just had to go to. Consequently, I've been to Thai restaurants in San Francisco, Portland, Olympia, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tucson, etc. basically everywhere in the US that my friends have lived. I don't think I enjoyed a single one of those meals but I know that has no bearing whatsoever on Thai food in general. It's me. It's my quirk (one of many).
Although I love eating out it's always sort of a harrowing experience for me because I'm cursed with the inability to order the item on the menu that I actually would like to eat. I feel this weird pressure when the waiter or waitress asks, “what would you like?” and inevitably, even though I've already settled on what I would like to order, at the last minute I pick the dark horse, something I was momentarily interested in and yet had quickly decided against. Before I know it, my order is in, is being prepared and I sit and hope beyond hope that I've unwittingly ordered a great new dish, although I absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm lying to myself. The truth is, it will be virtually inedible.
As you would imagine, I cook at home a lot which allows me to totally avoid the inevitable, “what would you like?” question faced in restaurants. But because of my bad luck in Thai restaurants I've never ventured that direction in the kitchen. However, I do realize that all my friends and their friends can't be wrong, I'm sure Thai food is delicious…when ordered or prepared correctly. For me, that's the real secret, how to order what I might actually like.
But others might find this helpful:
Thai food is heavily influenced by a wide variety of cooking styles including Portuguese, Dutch, French, Japanese and Chinese. Thais were very good at integrating foreign ingredients as well as substituting with local, more readily available ingredients. Herbs contribute a lot to the overall flavor of the food and spices are toned down. Two herbs that you find frequently in Thai food are lemongrass and galanga. To serve a Thai meal properly you should include a soup, a curry dish, and a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. Sometimes the curry dish is replaced with a spiced salad. If you'd like your soup spicy you should then replace the curry with something less spicy. The trick is to serve or order a variety of flavors that compliment each other even from dish to dish.
With food I definitely follow the philosophy that if you fall off the horse you should get right back on. So Thai food hasn't seen the last of me.

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