Thai cuisine is famous for its exotic flavours and freshly prepared food. Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. As with other Asian cuisines, balance, detail and variety are of great significance to Thai chefs.
Thai cuisine is more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, North-eastern, Central, and Southern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or foods derived from those of neighbouring countries and regions: Burma to the northwest, the Chinese province of Yunnan and Laos to the north, Vietnam and Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south of Thailand.
In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai Royal Cuisine, which can trace its history back to the palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351–1767 CE).
The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet and sour, and is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose and palate. Indeed, most Thai dishes are not considered satisfying unless they combine all four tastes.
A typical meal might include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry sauce), a fried dish (fish with ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on a bed of lettuce, onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice) and a variety of sauces into which food is dipped.
Dessert may consist simply of fresh fruit, such as pineapple, or something more exotic, such as colourful rice cakes, depending on the region.
When eating, Thais do not combine various foods on their plates, but rather, they sample one dish at a time, always eaten with a mound of Thai fragrant rice on the side. Bowls are used mainly for soup, not in place of a plate
Although the Chinese brought chopsticks to Thailand long ago, today most Thais prefer to use Western cutlery, though in their own special way. Thai cutlery generally consists of a fork and large spoon. The spoon is held in the right hand and used in place of a knife.