Royal Thai Cuisine

Lots of restaurants are pitching for their "Royal Cuisine" these days with the design, staff outfit, food presentation and menu. Many of them are just another tourist trap. Well, what do commoners like me know? We read of course. There are plenty of books written by people who served the royal families in the old time, in various topics from the life in palace to recipe and domestic management... giving us some clues. So, in short, what is  Royal Cuisine?

 We call these food A-harn Chao Wang, meaning food for people living in the palace.  Here are some of the few key characteristics of the A-harn Chao Wang based on my reading:

  • Food is served in set or Sum-rub (สำรับ) with variety of dishes having different tastes, texture, colours, kinds and ways of cooking. We call each of those individual dishes Kub Kao, meaning a dish to eat with rice, there is no equivalent word for this in English. The portion of each Kub Kao is quite small. Variety seems to be the key. Samples of different Sum-rub to give you some ideas below:

    • Clear Soup (Gang Jued) + Fried Chicken + Pork Curry + Stir-fried Kale with Oyster Sauce + Chili Paste Northern Style (Nam Prik Ong) + Pork Salad in Esan style (Laab Moo) + Lychee in syrum for dessert.
    • Chicken Massaman + Stir-fried Crab with Curry Powder + Mushroom Salad + Chili Paste with Fresh Vegetables (Nam Prik) + Braised Beef + Pan-fried Fish + Sago and Black Beans for dessert.
    • Beef Green Curry + Crab Meat Dip (Lon Poo) with Fresh Vegetables + Stuffed Crab (Poo Jha) + Stir-fried Pork with Satled Egg + Sausage Salad + Stir-fried Liver with Sweet Chili + Fresh Fruits for dessert.

  • The dishes are prepared to please the eye and the palate always, with a lot of attention to details
  • As convenient to eat as possible: vegetables cut into bite size so you won't have to cut them again on your plate, the prawn head removed, the long vegetables tied into a knot (therefore no cutting on your plate is required) etc. A book written by a royal chef, who cooked for princes and princesses, mentioned that the whole fish was served boneless... not fillet but someone spent time removing bones from the whole fish! 
  • The rule of thumb is that everything on the plate must be edible.
  • Not necessary sweet. There has been misconception that the royal food will have to be sweet. This is not true.
  • Not too spicy. The taste in a dish will blend smoothly but not be bland.... no taste will spike.
  • The cooking will follow the original recipe exactly - there is no room for fusion here if the dish is claimed to be royal.

  • The following pretty and yummy dishes seem to be quite common in the restaurants that claim to be royal or traditional. Many of them are "old" food that is not easy to find anymore because it is not easy to make them at home, unless you have all day and a troop of helpers like they do in the royal kitchen -- yep according to the book the royal cooking team is huuuge.
    • Purple Dumpling - Cho Muang (ช่อม่วง)
    • Tawai Vegetables Salad - Yam Tawai (ยำทวาย)
    • Kra-tong Thong กระทงทอง
    • Mee Grob
    • Summer Rice - Kao Chae (ข้าวแช่), which is a cooked rice served in fragrant, ice water... accompanied with 4-5 deep fried Kub Kao like
    • Egg Sausage Soup - Gang Jued Look Rok (แกงจืดลูกรอก)
    But again, it is not about which dishes are being royal and which are not.  All those Thai dishes we have every day could actually be royal, depending on its recipe and how they are prepared.

    Now, where?  One place can really give you the thrill is Thanying Restaurant in Pramuan Road, in Silom ~ Sathorn area.  If you are in Phuket, the closest you can find is probably the Blue Elephant  in Phuket Town.

    Last but not least, there are actually plenty of restaurants that never pitch on their royal-ness, but do serve authentic Thai food following Chao Wang recipe.
    Mee Grob
    Coconut Milk Ice Cream
    Nam Prik
    Poo Jha
    Royal Thai Cuisine
    Rice, with Bai Sri cone
    Mixed Appetizers
    Thanying Restaurant in Bangkok
    Blue Elephant Phuket

    Diet on Holiday - What to Eat and What Not to Eat in Thailand

    Maintaining your ideal weight, let alone reaching it, is very hard. For some people this can be a lifelong battle. Don't let your holiday spoil it - here are some useful tips to keep your diet while you are in Thailand.

    Thai food in general is very healthy but there are few dishes to avoid if want to cut down your calorie. So what does it take to lose weight while on holiday?

    • Noodle Soup. It has to be the soupy one rather than dry (hang) version. Kuay Teaw Hang is usually full of fat to keep the noodle from sticking together. See my post on how to order noodle soup in Thailand for more information.
    • Tom Yam Goong is safe! Be specific that you would like Nam Sai - which is clear soup version
    • Clear Soup or Gaeng Jued - Thai clear soup with vegetables
    • Nam Prik or Chili Paste with boiled or steamed vegetable.
    • Thai Hot Pot or Sukiyaki. Make sure you only stick to the hot pot and avoid roast duck and roast pork. Order lots of greens
    • Som Tam: good source of fibre and hardly any fat
    • Steamed Fish is quite a popular dish that most restaurants have in their menu and it is very tasty. They usually serve it as a whole fish rather than a fillet though.
    • Brown Rice has more fibre than white rice. Glass noodle or Woonsen usually has less calorie than the white or yellow noodles.
    • Stir-fried vegetables such as Morning Glory (Phad Pak Boong), Beansprouts (Tua Ngawk)
    • Barbecued seafood (if you don't have cholesterol problems)
    • Fruits, lots of them! easy to find Thai Fruits already peeled and cut in by the road side of most beaches

    Don't Eat
    • Curries. These are made from coconut milk which is high in calorie, fat and cholesterol. If you really want to have some, go for Green Curry (Gang Kiew Whan). It is not less fattening than any others, but for the least it usually has plenty of pea aubergine and eggplants which are a good source of fibre and known to cut down your cholesterol intake. But better avoid this altogether, it is really fattening.
    • Massaman another popular curry with beef is in your no-no list as well
    • Tom Kha Gai or any Tom Kha is also made from coconut milk: high in fat
    • The famous Phad Thai and Phad See-ew unfortunately is quite high in calorie from the cooking oil. One dish can be as much as 600 calorie. Sampling is enough.
    • Chicken Rice or Kao Mun Gai is also quite fattening. The rice is cooked with chicken fat.
    • Hoy Tod - Mussels Pancake - just 100 gram can be as much as 300 calorie!
    • Fried Rice or Khao Pad - from the cooking oil again
    • Rice Topped with Barbecue Pork (Kao Moo Dang) or pork leg (Kao Kha Moo). The pork leg has a lot of fat, which is obvious. Barbecue pork is high in calorie from its the sauce.  See my post about Moo Dang, Moo Grob, Kha Moo - so you know how it looks like.
    • Durian - if the smell didn't repel you, the calorie count should!
    • Thai sweets are either made from coconut milk and sugar, or yolk and sugar. Avoid...
    Overall, Thai food is quite diet friendly if consumed in moderate. The average calorie per meal is not very high, and the portions of food is not too big.

    Enjoy your holiday!


    Noodle Soup
    Green Curry
    Clear Tom Yum Goong
    Tom Ka
    Som Tam
    Pad Thai

    Learn Thai? How to use 'Jai'

    Jai is one of the most used words in Thai.  This one word means mind or heart but combined with other adjectives, verbs or nouns, it usually means state of mind. The credit of this post is not mine, but inspired by my great teacher.

    Listed here are only few of the many words in Thai with Jai in it, and their meaning.  The list is by far not complete!

    Som Tam - Thai Papaya Salad

    Som Tam in Thailand
    Som Tam is a very well known dish I believe. It is very popular in Thailand, across the whole country... not just in the Northeastern or Esarn where it originated from. And most Thais have a feeling that the best Som Tam does not come from a fancy restaurant, but a very local vendor. We normally pay about 20-30 Baht for a dish... when the price goes up to 50 Baht we start to feel that it's expensive.

    Thai Clear Soup (Gang Jued)

    Thai Clear Soup or Gang Jued is a lot less famous than Tom Yam or Green Curry.  If, however, you are looking for something light and healthy especially when you don't feel well, then Gang Jued won't be disappointing.  As a matter of fact, this Thai dish is often brought to the bed of the ill one.

    Tips to avoid spicy food in Thailand

    Chili as condiments to noodles, from left chili in vinegar (Prik Nam Som) and Chili Powder (Prik Pon)
    I know there are people who don't like spicy food or are allergic to chili even.  Not all Thai food is made spicy you just have to know which one to avoid.

    How to Order Noodle Soup in Thailand

    Noodle or Kuay Teaw can be regarded as one of the Thai national dishes. You can find it in all variety and in every part of Thailand. How complicated can this be? It can be as complicated as ordering coffee at Starbucks actually. Ordering a bowl of noodle soup is pretty much the same!

    Garlic in Thai Cooking (Kra-tiem), where it all begins

    Garlic is the key ingredient of Thai food.  Thai stir-fried dishes all start with garlics.  Soup is based on garlics.  Deep fried dishes are marinated with garlics.  Curry and chili paste, of course, have lots of garlics in it.

    Sweet Bread with Ice Cream (Kanom Pang Wan)

    Look closely under the pink ice you'll find sliced bread that will slowly absorb the syrup very well. Great snacks on a hot day.

    This one is quite special though as any other vendor will only roughly crush the ice and top it with syrup, followed by sweet condensed milk.  This shop blends the ice with syrup then packs it in this shape.

    Rolled Noodle Soup - Kuay Chap Nam Sai

    There are two kinds of Kuay Chap noodle soups. Nam Sai is this one with clear soup, the other one,  Nam Kon is in brown soup and is very nice too.