Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. As with other Asian cuisines, balance, detail and variety are of great significance to Thai chefs. Thai food is known for its balance of three to four fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.
Coconut milk is the rich base for many Thai curries and sweet dishes. Coconut milk or ‘ga-ti’ is traditionally made by mixing the grated meat of a ripe coconut with warm water and then squeezing out the juice. Now there are machines that grate and press coconut to produce the white, sweet-aroma coconut milk. Coconut milk comes in a can for convenient use.
If there’s any one key ingredient that is critical to cooking Thai cuisine, it is fish sauce–for that reason alone, it’s difficult to find vegetarian recipes that actually taste like Thai cuisine. Fish sauce provides the salty dimension in Thai cuisine, and it’s high in protein as well as minerals and vitamins. It’s made from small fish, salt-fermented for a long time, then the juice is extracted and boiled. Good fish sauce should be clear and brownish in color.
This is a key taste in Thai food, and many recipes use palm sugar. The sugar is harvested from a sugar palm tree, produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds. The sap is collected each morning and boiled in huge woks on the plantations until a sticky sugar remains. This is whipped and dropped in lumps cellophaor filled into containers.