There is much more to Thai food that first comes to the eye for the visitor in Thailand. Some of the best restaurants in Pattaya, such as Ruen Thai, offer a comprehensive selection of the foods available all over Thailand.
There are four main regions in Thailand that all have their own distinct cuisines based on the produce they raise and the influences by nations that have gone before. They are the North, Northeast, Central and the South and in this blog we look at the differences between them.
The mountainous northern region was originally a state called Lanna with Chiang Mai at its hub. It has a cooler climate than the rest of Thailand it produces some fantastic vegetables commonly used in northern food.
Roots and herbs feature heavily and the dominant tastes are sour and bitter which combine into making great soups. The closeness of Myanmar has its influences also, curried broths flavoured with tamarind and turmeric are used to make delicious thin curries.
The kingdom of Laos heavily influences the culture of Issan, or the northeast, in food as well as music, architecture and dance.
Sticky rice is loved in the region, and the most popular way of cooking is grilling and roasting which imparts a great smoky taste to the food. Somtam is an art form in Issan, crammed in pounded dry shrimp, and including black salty field crabs.
Eating Somtam can be an eye watering experience, and the addition of the glutinous rice is a welcome accompaniment.
The central region includes Bangkok, and has rich soils by the many rivers and streams that flow through the region. Perhaps the best quality rice in the whole of Thailand is grown here and in Bangkok the best restaurants in Thailand can be found.
Perhaps the order of the day would be to sip a cocktail before diving into a dish of tom kha kai or one of the regions specialities Haw Mok which is a small banana leaf that is filled with a mix of egg, coconut milk, seafood and red curry paste.
Chinese influences can be seen everywhere in the central region, you can see it in the plain but delicious soups that can include ground pork, or tofu cooked in small clay pots. Expect an omelet of sorts in nearly every meal served in the central region.
The southern region is famed for its wonderful seafood and takes many influences from Malaysia with its spicy curries. The food here reflects the diversity of the region, when India and Java were dominant cultures.
The coconut is prevalent in most dishes, and the waters surrounding the south offer an abundance of fish, big lobsters, crabs, mussels squid, prawns and scallops. Southern Thai’s like their food spicy and dishes like Kaeng Tai Pla, which is hot curry made with a fish stomach, green beans, bamboo shoots and potato is common.
If you would like to sample dishes from the four great culinary regions of Thailand come and visit Ruen Thai in Pattaya, where we have an exhaustive list of Thai specialities on the menu.