|THAI, THAI AGAIN: Eye-catching presentations and authentic ingredients are two reasons American diners keep coming back for more Asian menu specialties.|
With the explosion of interest in Asian cuisine, more Americans are discovering that what they always thought was Chinese is actually an Americanized version of the intricately complex regional cuisines harbored in the hearts and minds of vast numbers of Chinese who immigrated to California at the start of the Gold Rush in 1849.
Though they brought the foodways of their homelands with them, ingredients were left behind, and immigrant Chinese adapted their cooking to accommodate foods available here. The result was an amalgamation of China's millennia-old regional cuisines into a single, much-loved “ethnic” cuisine that endures to this day — but is a mere shadow of any cuisine found in China.
The advent of Thai cuisine in the United States is more recent but no less profound, for Americans embraced it quickly as one of their favorite ethnic cuisines. When Americans who enjoy Thai cuisine at U.S. restaurants travel abroad and taste the fare offered by street vendors or that cooked at home, they're astonished to discover that a beloved dish tastes better in Thailand than that same dish prepared stateside. Why? Because dishes prepared in their native lands capitalize on the fresh and flavorful local ingredients from which they were born.
That's why convenience-added Thai dishes produced in Thailand — such as crab rangoon and dim sum such as spring rolls, wontons, money bags, shomai and ha gao — simply have a different flavor to the American palate than those same dishes prepared with U.S.-grown ingredients. That's because in Thailand they're made with local chiles, lemon grass, garlic, kaffir lime, ginger, spring onion, sesame, galangal… the list goes on and on.
Thai cuisine is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (never dried) herbs and spices, and authentic Thai is an expert balance of spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter achieved over centuries through careful respect of and use of quality local ingredients.