is tamarind”? ()r galangal‘.’
in the past few years. a scattering of Thai restaurants have begun to appear around Scotland. a small section of Thai recipe books have crept into book shops and the occasional jar of green curry paste. tub of dried galangal or packet of lemon grass can he found in most supermarkets. We seem a little tentative. a little unsure of this distinctly exotic cuisine. hailed by most as one of the finest in the world. ls chicken cooked in fish sauce going to taste like old haddock‘.’ What on earth
Although the ingredients tnay sound bizarre, these are not the main reason behind the exotic taste of Thai food. In fact we are more familiar with these ﬂavourings than you might imagine: Tamarind. a pod-shaped fruit w ith a bitter sweet pulp. is the main ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. (ialangal is closely related to ginger and was frequently used here in medieval 'cooking. Fish Sauce is really a liquid used instead of salt — it imparts no
FOOD & DRINK
All Thaid up
The aromatic fresh flavours of Thai food are becoming increasingly popular. Hannah Robinson gets high on lemon grass and reveals the exotic secrets that make it
lishiness. and in fact the Km it. under the name of gamut liquunu’n. until they discove plentiful supplies of salt on t
into the fragrant pastes and such as basil and mint. seem
the combinations ~- basil wit
coasts. And many of the herbs thrown
liuropean although doubtless they were brought back by Marco Polo. What makes Thai food so special are
aubergincs with dried shrimps. chicken with coconut and mint. llerbs grow
abundantly in Thailand and are not just
used in cooking. They are al
healing technique based on t
and not by Bangkok prostitu , are pounded and rubbed on t
Kaftir limes with their leaves, and ordinary lim 3:
sometimes used in traditional Thai massage. a spiritual and medical
manipulation ofenergy lines or Sm '— practised by Bhuddist monks and nuns
tes. llerbs he skin.
infused in steam baths. or tied up in muslin bags. boiled. and dubbed.
scalding. on the muscles. Th is often quite a painful expel
. . a;
a friend who went to the Wat Po Temple in Bangkok. famous for its huge reclining Bhudda and school of massage. said he arrived home knackercd. with his clothes and skin stained a lurid shade of yellow by the herbs.
At the bottom ofcvet‘y Thai bowl is the staple. rice. Thai rice is often stored with Jasmine flowers and so develops a unique lloweriness. labelled here as Thai fragrant rice. or Jasmine rice. This
Herbs grow abundantly in Thailand and are not just used in cooking. They are also sometimes used in traditional Thai massage, a spiritual and medical healing technique based on the manipulation of energy lines or Sen.
simple grain is highly respected. almos: as a holy substance. by the Thais who are an enormously spiritual people. The country is 90 per cent Bhuddist and every building. every ediﬁce has its own spirit house. to which you would wai. place your hands together and how your head on passing. Thousands of employees will wai twice a day to their office. A building cannot be opened without a blessing ceremony by several monks. ()fferings of food to the spirits
Tamarind: more familiar than you might imagine
will be made during this ceremony each day by placing little bowls of rice or fruit at the altar.
The Thais are a nation of grazers. and the same friend described how his colleagues were forever popping ottt to get a little of this and that from the streets outside. which are lined with hawkers. These are often folk who have come to the city from the countryside. each specialising in cooking their own particular recipe. so that you can eat huge varieties of regional food straight from your doorstep. Thai food in British restaurants is not only modified in flavour for the western palate but also served in a completely different manner. Food served here as appetiscrs is usually the snacks that you would buy all day in the street. Soup is not served as a different course. nor salad. In fact all the food is set on the table at once. with lots of different dishes to choose from. which are a lot hotter and a lot more pungent than the westernised versions available in Britain. So if you find Thai food strange. then you ain‘t seen the half of it.
To cook Thai food at home. is really very easy once you‘ve got hold of the ingredients. which are available in Chinese grocers and posh supermarkets. You will need fish sauce. num p/u. which is sold in large bottles often with pictures of fish happily swimming around on the label. Look for a tawny whisky colour. a darker
W The List I‘) May-l Jun 1995