Balancing the four Thai flavours

Incendiary curries, oodles of noodles, fresh seafood and the tropical fruit you’ve been dreaming about – Thailand has it all.

Simply put: sweet, sour, salty and spicy are the parameters that define Thai food, and although many associate the cuisine with spiciness, virtually every dish is an exercise in balancing these four tastes. This balance might be obtained by a squeeze of lime juice and a glug of fish sauce, or a tablespoon of fermented soybeans and a strategic splash of vinegar. Bitter also factors into many Thai dishes, and often comes from the addition of a vegetable or herb. Regardless of the source, the goal is the same: a favourable balance of four clear, vibrant flavours.

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Pàt tai: Thin rice noodles stir-fried with dried and/or fresh shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and seasonings, and traditionally served with lime halves, a few stalks of Chinese chives and a sliced banana flower. Simply put: heaven.

Nowhere else is the Thai reverence for food more evident than in Bangkok. The city’s characteristic scent is a unique blend of noodle stall and car exhaust, and in certain parts of town, restaurants appear to form the majority of businesses, typically flanked by street-side hawker stalls and mobile snack vendors.
The food of Bangkok is more urbane, with the rough and rambunctious tastes of the wild and remote regions polished off. There’s a huge Chinese influence here because Bangkok was a Chinese city. The central-plains food, which Bangkok is the epitome of, is refined and has the classic four flavours.

One of the many great experiences we had, was in China Town, Bangkok. We were looking for a place to eat and got lost somewhere in the dark streets of Bangkok’s China Town. We were starving and had no orientation on where we ended up. We then walked into a hawker-stall in the middle of the street which looked crowded. We gave it a try and attempted to order. As it turned out, the menu was not very helpful and we just got that one dish everyone was getting. It was a kind of omelette with fresh sea food… We had no idea what we were about to get as they were adding a few other things we have never seen before or were unrecognisable. After a few minutes of waiting, the dish came on a hot plate and it was so delicious we ordered a second round. We would die for getting another meal like this.

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Basically we couldn’t order a bad meal on the street as everything was as fresh as it gets, intense in taste and the greatest deal you could possibly get.

We were not afraid of trying out new things, meals or dishes. After almost three weeks in Thailand we knew what and where we had to get to taste the real Thai food. Also we got some great tips from our hostel staff and hence enjoyed the Thai cuisine through and through.

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Undoubtedly we will miss the Thai food with its flavours, freshness and ingredients. But Malaysia was next and from what we heard we were about to enter the next culinary heaven…

But until then, so long…
Chris’n Toby

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