Southern Thailand dishes
Southern Thailand is located on the Malay Peninsula. The eastern side is built up by large river plains from the rivers Tapi and Phum Duang and the western side has steeper, rockier coastlines. Separating east and west are several mountain chains, with the highest peak at Khao Luang of 1835 metres. This lush and fertile region blends seafood with fruit and nuts in a taste bud pleasing way. Many of the more traditional curries are intensely hot and spicy. Chilli is therefore used profusely and turmeric, in its fresh form, is used abundantly.
Another regional favourite is seeds from forest trees. The most popular of which is sadtaw which looks like a giant version of a green bean. Because of the climate, coconut groves are everywhere, meaning it is widely used in both savoury and sweet dishes. The curries in Thailand are more like soups, i.e. more liquid is used to create a smooth, runny texture and coconut milk is usually the ingredient to do so.
Nuts, particularly cashews, are plentiful and therefore used to add a stronger flavour to some of the more subtle tasting dishes. Even the cashew leaves are used as a kind of starter in many southern Thai restaurants.
Fish sauce is used in pretty much all Thai dishes; however, the south has its own variation on this pungent ingredient called Nahm boodoo. It is the only region to use a fermented prawn paste known as gkabpi too.
Seafood, because of the geographic location, is obviously the key ingredient in most southern Thailand dishes. Almost every kind of seafood, from tropical fish to crabs, is grilled on an open flame seasoned with coconut and served with sweet and sour chilli dipping sauce.
Because it borders Malaysia, southern Thai food is heavily influenced by its Muslim inhabitants. Unlike the rest of Thailand, which is predominantly Buddhist, the south has a large Muslim population so therefore much of its food is more similar to Indian cuisine than Thai. However, unlike Indian curries, Thai curries use fresh herbs and spices so the taste is less sweet and more fragrant.
Rice, although still popular is sometimes supplemented for flat breads such as roti or naan which are usually stuffed with curried meat and vegetables and can be eaten alone or as an accompaniment to a main meal. Roti can also be sweetened with condensed milk, coconut milk or stuffed with bananas to satisfy the sweet tooth of many of southern Thailand’s Muslims.
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