A Thai restaurant is often the face of Thailand
In a recent worldwide poll, Thai restaurants and Thai cuisine were voted No.1 out of four of the world’s most popular cuisines.
The growth in the number of Thai restaurants continues worldwide despite the economic downturn and the political crisis in Thailand. There are now estimated to be over 15,000 Thai restaurants worldwide and the success of the business has been spearheaded by the Thai government which since 1998 has been promoting the development international Thai restaurants as part of its ‘kitchen of the world’ policy for expanding the Thai food sector. For many thinking of Thai dating or finding a relationship partner, a visit to a Thai restaurant is often one of the first steps in getting acquainted with Thai culture. Indeed, as part of the Royal Thai governments’ initiative, an alluring atmosphere and the traditional Thai smile are essential components in making the Thai restaurant experience ‘not just a meal but a journey’.
Thai restaurants are at the center of Thai emigration to countries across the globe as they offer job opportunities for Thai immigrants and are key to emerging Thai communities as centers of culture and meeting points. Under the Thai government’s policy, Thai restaurants are seen as the showcase for Thai agricultural produce and Thailand’s growing food business which now gives employment to over 20 million people in Thailand. Thailand exports over 100 varieties of food to over 100 countries worldwide and is a leading supplier of rice and tropical fruits.
The Royal Thai government’s Thai select programme has already certified over 1200 restaurants worldwide which have attained the highest standards of hygiene, quality, and presentation. Under the programme, restaurants are required to employ suitably qualified Thai chefs and adhere to quality standards in order to earn the award. Significantly over half the Thai restaurants certified are in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Germany is also well represented while other key countries are Singapore, Australia, France and the Netherlands.
Even without such a programme, there has been a surge in interest in Thai cuisine and Thai restaurants worldwide.'There's a mass-market consciousness of Thai food that wasn’t there ten years ago,' says one food industry commentator. ‘In contrast to Chinese cuisine, which is primarily soy sauce and vinegar, Thai food is an explosion of tastes and flavors.’
What has Thai food got going for it?
- It’s a delicate balance of flavor and taste sensations.
- It is seen as healthy and light with an emphasis on fruit, vegetables, fish and noodles. It is almost an antidote to fast junk food and the emerging world health crisis increasingly associated with this.
- It is inexpensive and relatively accessible. In most foreign countries Thai restaurants are reasonably priced.
In addition to the growth of Thai restaurants throughout the world many large food companies have now adapted Thai cuisine to products which have begun to appear on supermarket shelves. For instance, Lipton has Thai sesame Noodles while Nestle has a developed a range of products such as Thai chicken in peanut sauce. Another trend has been the introduction of Thai dishes into other Asian restaurants and local cuisines. One celebrity chef in America’s Deep South has introduced Thai flavors and ingredients into his American country cooking range. A Singapore couple launched a Thai restaurant chain, Thai Express, which has introduced a franchise model for Thai restaurants with numerous outlets in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and even one in Hyderabad India.
However, Thai cuisine has not as easily made the transition from dining experience to mass market. In October 2004, Subway tested a Thai chicken sandwich product but did not expand the concept. Some commentators suggest that some kinds of Thai cuisine particularly those which are very hot or which use fish sauce may not adapt that easily to mass-market tastes.
Thai food and cuisine is an integral part of Thai culture and Thai people are particularly proud of it. Many foreigners to Thailand fall in love not only with Thai women but also Thai food. We have mentioned that often the first step taken by many contemplating Thai dating is a visit to a Thai restaurant to become familiar with Thai culture and the country.
Here are some tips for foreigners on Thai cuisine and Thai restaurants:
- Many of Thai restaurants outside of Thailand tend to ‘dumb down’ the Thai food experiencing by blending it with accepted Asian food fare. We recommend that you look for a restaurant which has been awarded the Thai Select award from the Royal Thai government if this is possible.
- Do not be put off by very hot dishes or dishes with the distinctive flavor of Thai fish sauce as both of these types of dishes may not suit your tastes. Thai cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes and tastes which you should begin to test. Establish a few firm favorites; there is something there to suit everyone.