Thai cuisine is a simple yet clever combination of Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into that je ne sais quoi. Sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy flavours work together to make each dish come alive. Thai food varies depending upon the area or region of Thailand the dish originates from. These regions include the north, northeast, south and central.
Historically, aquatic animals, plant and herbs were popular ingredients included in most meals. Large quantities of meat were mainly avoided, thanks in part to the Buddhist background, and instead strips of meat were flavoured with herbs and spices, or meat was cooked or roasted and then shredded.
Traditional Thai cookery involved stewing and baking, or grilling. However, the area that is now Thailand, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Vietnam were settled by the ancient Chinese an estimated 1,400 hundred years ago. With the migration of Chinese people into Southeast Asia, frying, stir-frying and deep-frying of food became more popular techniques, and to this day pad thai (fried noodles) and khao pad (fried rice) remain classic Thai dishes.
Other culinary influences from the 17th century onwards included Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese.
Chillies initially came to Thailand during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had taken a liking to the fiery ingredient in South America. It might be hard to believe, but Thai food used to be a lot more spicy than it is now, but over the years to was toned down, and fewer and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs, such as lemon grass and galangal, increased.