the appetizer:

Thai cuisine is really better described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country. The cooking of Thailand has been influenced by China and India while maintaining a unique taste of its own. Like Vietnamese food, Thai food uses fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as the ingredient found in almost all Thai dishes and every region of the country: nam pla, a very aromatic and strong tasting fish sauce.

Global Destinations
Pad Thai


Pad Thai Goong

Fried Rice Noodles with Shrimp

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer

Certain tastes—sweet, sour, salty, spicy, pickled—are always present in pad thai. One of the national dishes of Thailand, this tangle of noodles, shrimp, and seasonings offers a trio of textures—crisp, crunchy, soft—in one dish. Be sure to choose the correct rice noodles, called sen lek in Thai. They are flat and roughly 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide, about the size of linguine.


Preheat a wok over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the fresh shrimp and toss and stir until they curl and turn bright orange-pink, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and shallot and stir-fry until they turn golden brown, about 30 sec- onds. Raise the heat to high and crack the eggs into the wok. With the tip of a spatula, gently break up the egg yolks, but do not beat. Let them fry without stirring until they start to set, about 1 minute. Then add the dried shrimp, preserved radish, and noodles and, using tongs or 2 spatulas, break up the eggs and toss everything together like a salad, about 1 minute. Add each of the following ingredients, one by one, tossing and stirring between each addition to mix:

Start with the sugar, followed by the fish sauce, tamarind water, lime juice, dried chile flakes, half of the bean sprouts, all of the green onions, half of the peanuts, and all of the reserved stir-fried shrimp. Toss quickly and gently like a salad to coat each noodle strand, about 15 seconds. As soon as the strands begin to stick to one another, the noodles are cooked.

Transfer the noodles to a platter and garnish with the remaining peanuts and bean sprouts, the coriander sprigs, the chile slices, and the lime wedges. Serve immediately. Each diner squeezes a bit of lime juice over his or her serving.



In the searing afternoon heat of Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, residents sometimes take refuge under the spreading tamarind trees that line many of the streets. The sickle-shaped, thin-skinned fruit pods that hang from the branches are an invaluable ingredient throughout Southeast Asia. The pods contain a fruity, slightly citric sour pulp that is pressed into a liquid that is used in soups, salads, curries, meats, and fish dishes.

Tamarind water is easy to make and store. Look for tamarind pulp sold in blocks in Asian markets. To make about 1-1/2 cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) tamarind water, cut up 1/2 pound (250 g) of the pulp into small pieces, place in a bowl, and add 2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) boiling water. Mash the pulp to separate the fibers and seeds, then let stand for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl, pushing against the pulp with the back of a spoon and scraping the underside of the sieve to dislodge the clinging purée. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze in an ice-cube tray for up to 1 month. A tamarind concentrate, which dissolves instantly in hot water, is also available in some Asian markets and can be used in a pinch.


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This page modified January 2007