Photo: lookslikeamy, Flickr
Pailin Chongchitnant, a culinary student and guest writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, first noticed the drastic differences between Thai and North American culture when she moved from Thailand to Canada. Having been hit with this culture shock, Pailin offers her personal guide to ordering Thai food, to enable you to venture beyond curry and partake in a more authentic Thai dining experience.
At the core of Pailin's advice is the notion that "four words are the key to ordering." Rather than the typical Western courses of appetizer, entree, and dessert, Thai food is served family-style and separated into "wet, dry, yum and spicy" categories. The wet course can be satisfied by a soup or curry, the dry dish would be a stir-fry (or anything not in a bowl), the "yum" refers to salad (specifically the light and acidic dressing that goes on it), and at least one dish should be spicy. In addition, there should be a balance of meat, seafood and vegetable-heavy plates.
Read more about the role that rice and noodles play in the meal, and the order that food should be eaten in, and then recreate a Thai dining experience in your own home by trying out Pailin's recipe for Tom Yum Goong, her favorite soup.
At the end of the day, Pailin reminds you of her number one rule: don't stress. "Let's face it -- it's just food," Pailin writes. "Order whatever makes you happy."