Thursday, September 19, 2019

Give credit to the West for Thai cuisine

Nov 13. 2018
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The Minister for Culture, Vira Rojpojchanarat, has made headlines over the past week by complaining that Western influences are corrupting the character of traditional Thai food dishes.

He is so concerned at this assault on the purity of Thai cuisine that he has set up a committee to examine how to protect som tam (spicy green papaya salad), tam tua (spicy salad of smashed snake beans and tomatoes), and other Thai favourites.

If the minister wants a suggestion for something better to do with his time, I suggest he start studying history, for without Western influence som tam and tam tua would not exist, or at least not as we know them today.

Chilli and peanuts, essential ingredients of som tam, came to Thailand from the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries as a result of what is known as the Colombian Exchange. Without chilli and peanuts som tam would not exist.

The same goes for tam tua, which also came to Thailand as a result of the Colombian Exchange; you cannot make tam tua without tomatoes.

The list goes on… potato, corn, avocado, bell pepper, sweet potato and pineapple, among other fruits and vegetables.

If you have a sweet tooth, give thanks to the New World for giving chocolate to the Old World.

And, I almost missed one that so many Thais could not live without, even though it is killing them. Yes, tobacco.

David Brown


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