Understanding the Culture of Thai Food

Last Updated on November 6, 2020 by Aswetravel

Thai food Culture is one of the most internationally renowned cuisines, and is often considered a global favorite. Having spent some time in Thailand, I’ve noticed that they have a very strong food culture, which I feel is very special and unique to Thailand.

I noticed many things myself, but it wasn’t until I had that private cooking course in Chiang Mai that I got a true understanding of the Thai peoples food culture, and started to appreciate the little details they pay much attention to.

Here are some typical things that I found stood out in the Thai food culture:

Thai food culture is very social

In fact, I rarely saw a Thai person eating alone. Usually they eat in groups, either with family or friends. The Thai people are a very social people in general, and eating is something they like to do together.

Even at the restaurants and shops, all the staff sat down together at lunch time, with a big meal for everyone to share.

In Thai Cuisine there is no specific meal for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

They eat whatever meal they want. They can eat fried rice for breakfast, noodles for lunch and soup for dinner, or the opposite way around.

They never eat cornflakes and yoghurt as a meal. My cooking teacher GayRay told me that they see western meals such as cornflakes, toast and even pizza as just a snack.

Thai food culture balances the fundamental senses in their meals

What I love about the Thailand food culture is that they always balance their meals with the five fundamental taste senses.

In the West, we usually choose one or two per meal, either salty and spicy, or just sweet. In Thai food they combine all five senses; salty, spicy, sour, sweet and bitter – into one and the same meal.

This makes the food so interesting for your taste buds!

Thai Street Food Presentation

No matter whether it’s a street food restaurant or a hotel, your meal will always be served with pretty decorations. This could be flowers, nicely cut cucumbers or fruit.

Thais don’t eat with chopsticks or use a knife

Unless you’re eating a western style steak, you will be served with a fork and spoon. Thai people eat with their spoon in the right hand, and the fork in the left.

They often have chop stick available, which is something influenced from China, but most Thai people can’t actually eat with chop sticks.

This is what they told me, and I haven’t seen any Thai people using chopsticks yet.

The Thai people love snacking

Thai people love to snack, and often do so when they’re on their way somewhere. Sweets and desserts are usually not eaten on meal times, but as snack.

When you’re invited to a Thai person’s house you’re always greeted with a welcome snack, which for the record was the best snack I’ve ever had.

They put a plate on the table with roasted peanuts, coconut (sweet), ginger (bitter), lime (sour), shallots, and chili (spicy), which you fold into a betel leaf, drizzle some palm sugar and eat together with your host (shove it all in at once).

It’s a feast as well as a shock for your taste buds, but I couldn’t get enough of it!

Understanding Thai Food Culture What We've Learned
Understanding Thai Food Culture What We’ve Learned

Thai people never waste food

Thai people always finish the food on the plate. They believe that wasting rice brings bad luck.

When I think about it, all the healthy rules I’ve learned about food, what you should eat and how you should eat, the Thai people follow.

They don’t eat dessert after meals, they makes sure to get all the five food senses and they don’t eat bread and cornflakes for breakfast but proper meals …

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(photo credit: Marshall AstorDave_B_)