Authentic Thai Cuisine – What Is It?

Does Joy Cook Authentic Thai Cuisine?

There has been a debate raging about what authentic Thai cuisine is, for years. Apparently it’s a big topic that most people that blog outside Thailand get all worked up about. I just read an article by SheSimmers about this and thought I would weigh in.

Joy grew up in Sisaket, Thailand. It’s a small town, or at least it was at one time – a very small out of the way town that was the last stop on the train before Ubon Ratchathani, way to the east of Bangkok, near Laos and Cambodia.

She grew up cooking what I can only term, authentic Thai food. She ate what her parents were eating. She ate what her aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends, schoolmates, teachers, and strangers were all eating. Authentic Isaan style Thai food from recipes that were never really written down, but just passed down from adults to kids in the new generation.

Joy learned to cook at such a phenomenal level, you really couldn’t understand until you eat some Thai dishes she made. When I first tasted some of her food, I was astonished. It was better than any Thai restaurant I’d ever eaten at. The vegetables were always cooked perfectly – never too little, or too much. The salt level was always perfect. The spice level was whatever I asked for. Eventually she came to know what was too much or too little for each dish.

Thai Food According to Regions

There are regional differences in Thai food. When I go to Bangkok a couple of times a year, I don’t tend to eat Thai food there. I don’t like it. It’s dumbed-down. It doesn’t seem like northeastern (Isaan) style, or Southern style Thai like where we live now. It’s muted. The food isn’t what I’d consider authentic. Too many people, cultures, regions, and even countries, have conspired to change the taste so much that nobody even knows what authentic Thai food in Bangkok is any more. It’s almost like what I found at restaurants in the USA when I lived there. The spice is toned way down. The spices used are sometimes swapped for others, or sometimes left out. In Isaan they don’t leave something out – they have everything they need and half of it is coming directly from their backyard. If they can’t find something at the market, they’ll cruise the sides of the road with their motorbike and find it growing wild and grab some.

So, that’s just a bit about Thai food in the country of Thailand here. I’ve been here straight for ten years. I can see a lot of differences between regions. I don’t think some of the authentic spices are available all over the USA. Substitutions are OFTEN made. I remember water chestnuts in my Tom Yum Soup! What the heck!

So, I think there is such a thing as authentic Thai food – but it comes from each region. Bangkok is a region that some consider Thai food. I see it as a melting pot where the authenticity has dissipated… evaporated. I’ll continue to eat pizza in Bangkok!


Vern – Joy’s hubby