How to Mix Thai and Western Cuisine
Chefs and cooks are forever changing styles and bringing in new ideas and ingredients from different places. What we regard as distinctive international cuisines are really already a mixture of all the international influences that have affected a particular country. Think of something like the potato, which is so fundamental to European cuisines. If you’re English then imagine bangers without mash? Or try telling a Belgian he can’t have any frites with his moules. But remember that the potato was only introduced from South America four centuries ago. And just try to imagine how the chilli loving Thais survived before the chilli was introduced from the new world at around the same time. The point we’re trying to make is that many of the dishes that we regard as regional or national classics are really already a mixture of different influences from around the world.
All of which is a fairly long-winded way of introducing the idea of making simple and tasty fusion foods. Thai food is great. Other food is great. But there isn’t any reason at all why you shouldn’t mix things up a bit and take things you like from Thai cuisine and mix, match and combine them with anything else that takes your fancy. Below we’ll run thorugh some great and easy ways to mix Thai and international recipes and ingredients. But please don’t just follow our suggestions – make up your own combinations.
Change the Staple
Most world cuisines have evolved as a way to make the daily task of eating the cheapest and most plentiful local crop to hand a more pleasant experience. In Thailand, of course, this is rice. To give you an idea of the centrality of rice to Thai food consider that the Thai words for cooking are Tam Kap Kao, which literally means “to make with rice”.
But with the wide availability of all kinds of other carbohydrates we are free to experiment with pairing up Thai dishes with a range of other international staples. Below are some that work very well together:
Moist Thai curries such as Gang Panang, Green Curry or the Southern Thai classic Massaman are terrific if served with mashed potato instead of rice.
Pasta is great when served with some of the drier Thai dishes, particularly with stir-fried dishes like the classic hot basil dish Pat Gapow, or Pat Kee Mao or Chicken with Cashew Nuts.
And the list goes on; Gnocci, those delicious little Italian potato dumplings are also great with Thai dishes, Pizza is excellent when topped with Pat Gapow minced meat, hot basil and chilli and of course chips go well with Northern Thai Laap or for that matter with almost any Thai dish that you can think of.
There are plenty of ingredients that aren’t common to Thailand that actually combine very well with Thai dishes.
The spicy Thai salads called yam are healthy and delicious. Foreign ingredients like salami or chorizo sausage fit in very well. So does tinned tuna and Mediterranean ingredients like olives and capers. Similarly you can add all kinds of things like bacon or ham or vegetables such as spinach, leeks or even artichoke to Thai fried rice with good effect.
Combinations of Thai ingredients make great marinades for all kinds of meat, fish and barbeque dishes. Simply tenderise a pork chop and leave it overnight in a marinade of lime, honey, lemon grass, chilli and fish sauce (you can of course add pretty much any other Thai ingredients that you like!) and grill to bring out a great mixture of flavours.
Another good example is the marinated chicken breast recipe on the next page.
So whilst Thai food purists might roll their eyes at some of these ideas it’s your kitchen and you can do as you please so go on ahead and experiment with some fusion cooking.