Four Ways To Spot Authentic Thai Food
For the uninitiated, Thai food is all about sweet, sour and salty flavours in fragrant soups, aromatic curries and saucy stir-fries. The cuisine has long been a favourite of students thanks to the quick hit of protein and vegetables for under $10, and it has been permanently woven into Australia’s multicultural food framework – especially when it comes to Friday night takeaway choices.
Due to the cuisine’s ever-increasing popularity, a Thai restaurant is no longer a rare commodity – there’s barely a suburb in Sydney that doesn’t have one (or ten). But, how can you be sure your local spot is dishing up the real deal? Tanadie Thaisathian, owner of Plern Thai Restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s Thai Town, shares his insider knowledge in order to help you separate the professionals from the pretenders.
1. A simple menu
The menu will often be the first thing you see in a restaurant, and it can be the first sign of authentic (or inauthentic) Thai food. Tanadie advises that if it’s the real deal “there will only be Thai food on the menu”. Steer clear of establishments with large menus offering a range of Asian cuisines; instead, opt for restaurants that specialise in a small number of things – you’ll know they’ll be done well.
2. Traditional dishes & ingredients
Tanadie says keep an eye out for traditional Thai ingredients, for example Thai basil instead of just plain basil. Dishes like pad kee mao can be a tell-tale sign that corners are being cut, as this dish does not use traditional Thai basil.
For a true Thai culinary experience, Tanadie reckons you can’t go past authentic Thai fried rice. The dish differs to its Chinese counterpart by being flash-fried in a hot work for no longer than 40 seconds to keep it from steaming and going soggy. The rice is kept dry by adding in a special powder, giving it a unique taste and texture. Adding soy sauce is a no-no.
Your choice of cutlery ultimately depends on the dish you’re eating and your proficiency with chopsticks. However, the general guideline, according to Tanadie, is chopsticks for noodles and a spoon and fork for everything else. The fork is used to push the food onto the spoon, which retains some of the soup, sauce or broth for you to enjoy in one mouthful.
Those who have visited Thailand will recall small plates of condiments set out on tabletops in local restaurants. These dishes usually contain nam pla prik (thai chillies and fish sauce), prik dong (thai red chillies), plain white sugar and ground chili powder. The sugar can be added to tone down the spice factor while the ground chili powder is there to do the exact opposite.
Nam pla prik is the most common of the four condiments. Tanadie recalls that, in Thailand, “they have hundreds of [types] of nam pla prik; they are all different”. When it comes to the availability of the tangy sauce, Tanadie has found “you can buy [it] from the Thai supermarket, but you can’t buy anywhere else,” meaning Thai restaurants that do offer it are all the more authentic.
Now you know how to spot authentic Thai cooking, check out the delicious range of amazing Thai restaurants available on Groupon.