In the list of good reasons to go to Thailand, the cuisine always comes in good place on the podium. An express journey into a world of flavours where wonder is always just around the corner, whatever the destination, whatever the journey.
Alert: the number of Thai restaurants in Paris will soon surpass the 200 mark! This shows the power of attraction of a cuisine that seduces people all over the world for its sense of aesthetics as well as for its ability to take you on a journey through new flavours. In this fabulous universe, the selection of the « 7 essentials of Thai cuisine » was a high-risk operation and it is with regret that we had to sacrifice the praise of Kuai tiao, Tom Yam Kung or chicken with cashew nuts, and pass over in silence the farandole of tropical fruits (pineapple, guava, mangosteen, dragon fruit) or the rainbow of curries (green, yellow, red, panang or massaman). Here is nevertheless enough to make you salivate and to arouse an irrepressible desire to go and taste all these marvels on the spot.
The Som tam: attention, freshness
We start this gourmet journey in Isaan, in the north-east of the country, where this dish with its perfect visual and gustatory balance was born and has conquered the « cooking » pages of the whole world. Som tam is a matter of yin and yang: the acidity of green papaya is compensated by the sweetness of tomato and carrot, and that of lime by a subtle pinch of palm sugar. In the same way, the crushed peanuts add a little pep and crispness to the softness of this salad with its delicate flavours.
Chicken satay: much more than a skewer
This street cooking classic was long balanced against the inimitable moo yang pork skewers, but the chicken won by a short margin for the sophistication of its accompaniment. Because the chicken satay skewer is not just a piece of white on a stick. There is the marinade, with its coconut milk, soy sauce, ground coriander, curry and a touch of galanga. And then, once the finely browned skewers are on the barbecue, there’s the creamy satay sauce, in which peanuts reign supreme. The most delicate street vendors will accompany it with a small cucumber salad with rice vinegar, chopped shallots and bird pepper. The perfect match.
The Ho mok Pla: as beautiful as it is good
The art of presentation: this is one of the great strengths of Thai cuisine. And in this game, dishes prepared in banana or pandanus leaves are bound to make a little impression on visitors. Probably the most illustrious of these dishes is the ho mok pla, in which the fish fillet trapped in the banana leaf slowly simmers in its bath of red curry, coconut, basil, together with pepper, bamboo shoots and sliced kaffir lime leaves.
But how on earth do you prepare the banana leaves so that they can accommodate all these beautiful people without overflowing? It is quite an art, which you can perhaps discover on the spot in one of the very many cooking classes that will be proposed to you from the south to the north of Thailand.
Khao soi : made in Chiang Mai
If you go through the Chiang Mai region (which we can obviously only recommend), don’t forget to hunt for this unique soup, difficult to find anywhere else than in the North, even in Bangkok. What makes the difference between khao soi and a « classic » curry soup: the addition of a few fried noodles that add a little crunchy touch that changes everything. A delight.
The Gay Tom khao: the queen of Thai soups
We’re still in the soup with this great classic, capable of awakening the most jaded taste buds. Coconut milk, galanga, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, nam pla sauce, red chillies, coriander and melting slices of chicken: there’s no doubt about it, the tom kha gai concentrates all the star ingredients of Thai cuisine, to which the most generous cooks add some very welcome mushrooms. To be enjoyed with a small basket of sticky rice on the side, to let each spoonful soak in the divine beverage.
Pad thai: the faithful travel companion
Like khao pad (fried rice), pad thai is a safe and certain refuge when you find yourself totally lost on the menu. Pad Thai is a bit like the Siamese version of Jifoutou: in a wok, fry an egg, rice noodles, garlic and a few stalks of green onions and then add the shrimp.
But, as is often the case in Thai cuisine, it is the side dishes that really make the difference: the crushed peanut (again her) and the lime carefully placed on the side of the plate allow the pad thai to give its full measure. Better than a fallback solution, a sure thing.
The Roti: this is a pancake
Who said there’s no dessert in Thailand? A simple bite of mango with sticky rice and coconut milk would be enough to sweep away the ridiculousness of such an assertion. Besides, in Thailand, you’ll always find a street vendor to make you a roti. To sum up, a roti is a small fried, flaky pancake with the added bonus of a drizzle of condensed milk or a few slices of banana. The kind of little pleasure that would almost make you want to get on a plane right now, right now…