Thai food is becoming increasingly popular, with a growing number of Thai restaurants opening throughout the UK. The consumption of foreign foods is now a common occurrence in our daily lives, possibly encouraged by the increase in people choosing to take holidays in more exotic locations.
Either way, food manufacturers at home are noticing that there is a growing demand for flavours that are more exotic. They are supplying that demand with an ever-increasing amount of foreign dishes for us to choose from.
Despite the increase in choice, the most obvious way to truly appreciate foreign food is still to experience it first-hand in the country that it originates from. There is no substitute for freshness of ingredients, and Thai food in particular is famous the world over for using only the freshest of ingredients. Often, when people return from a trip to Thailand, it is the food they miss most. They find that what faces them on the dining table at home to be bland by comparison.
It is no secret that Thai people love to eat, and dining in large groups is something that they have down to a fine art. Whereas Westerners tend to order individual dishes they share only when offering the occasional ‘tasters’ to friends, Thais prefer to go about it in a far more communal manner.
Thai diners pass dishes around, with all the food available being shared. It’s a social event, with everyone making sure they have a dip of all that is on offer. It would be an alien concept for a Thai person to go to a restaurant and order only the one dish for themselves.
An interesting mode of Thai communal eating, uniquely perfected over the centuries, is called Moo Kata – which literally means ‘pork skillet’. It consists of a dome shaped metal pan with a trough running around the edge, not dissimilar to a large, metal bowler hat.
This strange contraption sits on top of hot coals and is placed in the centre of the table. It is then loaded up with a variety of meats while the trough around the edge is filled with hot water. Juice from the meat runs down the side of the dome and mixes with the hot water, quickly turning it to a broth. Green leafy vegetables such as water spinach are added to the mix. In time, this turns into a tasty soup, which is in then ladled into individual bowls.
You really can’t compare the experience to anything else; at times it feels like a team sport, where cooperation and skill is required to ensure that every one gets their fair share and that what’s cooking on the Moo Kata is cooked to perfection before being served.
If you happen to be with a large group, however, make sure your chopstick skills are up to scratch, as everyone will be working feverishly to cover every square inch of the hot surface.
To travel and to not experience the food is a trip wasted, and Thailand has such a vast array to be discovered that you could possibly eat a different dish every day for the duration of your stay, no matter how long that stay may be!
With the increase in cheap flights there has never been a better time to explore Thai food at its source.