Trying to define Thai cuisine is quite difficult. Since Thailand is at the geographical crossroads of Asia, it's hardly surprising that other Eastern cultures have played a role in the development of its cuisine. It is more apropos, perhaps, to state what it is not: Chinese, Indian, nor Indonesian. It actually combines the best of these Eastern cuisines: the oriental bite of Szechuan Chinese, the tropical flavor of Malaysian, the creamy coconut sauces of Southern India, and the aromatic spices of Arabian food.

Thai culinary art has been regarded as the quintessence of Thailand's cultural heritage for centuries. But while the kingdom could have compiled a collection of over 5,000 recipes for traditional Thai and contemporary Thai style dishes, the first known collection of recipes didn't appear in print until after World War I. Even then, they were not widely circulated. Only within the last two decades have the unique flavors of Thai food a happy, harmonious blend of fresh herbs and aromatic spices gained increasing popularity with diners all over the world. Such ever-increasing international awareness and popularity can best be described as phenomenal. 

While Thai food itself has a special place in the kingdom's history and culture, so do the traditions surrounding the way it is served and enjoyed. In the ancient days, an ordinary family or group would sit on a floor mattress and surround the main courses while a pot of steamed rice, a jug of clean drinking water, a set of desserts (solid or liquid), and a tray of fruits sat behind some of the diners. Centuries later, Thai people adopted the western dinning table.

Families now sit down to a decorative table setting where all dishes are served simultaneously. This way, diners may select from each according to preference. The centerpiece is dominated by a large pot of rice surrounded by smaller dishes of snacks, such as a small side-dish of Naam Prig or Lohn with dipping sauce. A medium-sized dish of green or boiled vegetables usually sits nearby, along with medium sized dishes of Yaam (salad) either baked (Yaang or Phao), steamed (Neung) or fried(Paad) and either with or without mild spices.