While chili peppers give Thai cooking a reputation for being firecracker hot, they are just one ingredient in the harmonious whole. Thai culture and cuisine is as diverse as Thailand itself, and there is no single dish or ingredient that truly exemplifies Thai food. Much like the distinct regions that compose Thailand, Thai meals are made up of contrasts—hot and spicy, sweet and sour, pungent and fragrant. Yet they all combine to create a brilliant tapestry of taste, texture, and aroma.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, and seafood are the main medium to which the Thai cooks add their potpourri of flavorings—combinations such as chilies, garlic and onions, curry mixtures, coriander, coconut cream, basil, lemon grass, mint, kaffir lime, and tamarind. Additionally, Thailand’s unique varieties of sauces are used to bolster the spiciness and flavor of a dish, or to temper its heat. Not to be forgotten are the meat and poultry. Culturally, Thais are not vegetarians (Thai barbeque is quite marvelous). As opposed to Americans who see meat and poultry as a dietary staple, Thais see them as a garnish, placing the emphasis on the fruits, vegetables, and fish, serving smaller portions. These low fat-meals burst with flavor and are typically much more healthyhealthier than the average American diet.