Thai food is one of my absolute favorite cuisines and frankly it's shocking to me sometimes that not everyone is as familiar with it as me. I had the fortune of growing up in two of the most culturally dynamic places in the United States - San Francisco's Bay Area and Washington DC - where Thai and other Asian cuisines were just part of the normal course of life when it came to dining out. Not everyone is so lucky though to be this familiar and so I'm excited that the Thai Trade Center - part of Thailand's government has created Thai Select to help turn their food into even more of a cultural ambassador than it already is.
In this interview, we're talking about Ms. Nithima from Thai Select to learn more about what guys should know about Thai food as well as how to use their website to find some great options around the country and across the globe.
I love the idea of helping people find better choices when it comes to foods they might not be familiar with; how did the idea for Thai Select come about?
The Thai Trade Center is part of the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), Ministry of Commerce, Royal Thai Government. Currently. There are 58 Thai Trade offices in major cities around the world. Our main objective is to promote the export of Thai products. Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, and Thailand exports billions of dollars of food products and ingredients each year. Thai restaurants are one of the Thai food industry’s main global distribution channels. In the U.S. alone there are at least 5,000 Thai restaurants. The idea is that if we can maintain Thai restaurant authenticity and quality, consumers will keep supporting Thai food, and result we will be able to maintain exports of Thai food products and ingredients. Thai SELECT project was created to certify and guarantee the authentic Thai restaurants that meet the Thai Government’s standards through the “Thailand Kitchen of the World” campaign.
Many of my less adventurous friends sometimes prefer less "authentic" but more "Americanized" food - that is still delicious. How do you separate those two types of restaurants?
Well, I won’t judge or criticize your friends who prefer Americanized or fusion Thai food. It is easier to enjoy things that feel more familiar, and we all seek the comfort of familiar foods. The best way to distinguish authentic Thai restaurants is to look for the Thai SELECT seal. If you see the seal you can rest assured that the restaurant serves authentic Thai food guaranteed by the Thai Government. If I had the chance, I would suggest your friends give authentic Thai food a try. It is a culinary and cultural experience. You can feel part of our exquisite culture heritage through the food.
Personally, I absolutely love Thai food for how flavorful and light it is. What factors come together to make this such a delicious cuisine?
Answer: I think the major factors that make Thai cuisine distinctive are 1) the balanced tastes and flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and spicy; 2) the perfect amount of spices, herbs, and aromas: for example, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, Thai jasmine rice, etc.; 3) the precise preparation: some Thai dishes take days to prepare from scratch, for example curry (pastes) and boat noodle soup; 4) the delicacy presentation: Thai food is focused on good taste and good presentation. We often see delicate carved fruit and vegetable served with Thai food to visually complement the dish.
For those who may not be familiar with Thai cuisine outside of the iconic "Pad Thai," what are some popular dishes that they should try?
The rise of technology and social media helps us to get connect with one another much easier. It also creates a new generation of young American that are more receptive the new cultures and foods. We have seen Thai street food and regional Thai foods becoming more popular in the U.S., for example Khaow Soi (curry noodle from the North), Larb Gai (minced chicken spicy salad from Northeastern), and Gaeng Som (sour curry soup with fish from the South). So if you have a chance give them a try, you will not regret it.
What is the review process to be featured in Thai Select, and how does a restaurant apply to be part of the directory?
The basic requirements are that you must be in business for at least 6 months and your menu must be at least 80% Thai dishes. If your restaurant serves authentic Thai food and you would like to be part of this exclusive program, you can contact the Thai Trade Center in your area to begin the application process. Currently, there are 4 offices in the U.S.: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami. The program representatives will perform a random inspection to test the food quality, restaurant atmosphere, etc. If the restaurant meets the standards, the Thai Trade Center will submit the information to DITP for final approval.
Thai Select focuses on Thai cuisine worldwide, but what are some of the top Thai restaurants that really stand out here in the United States?
It might take days to discuss about the top Thai restaurants in the U.S. I recommend you to check out our website: https://thaiselectusa.com/ We have information that you need about the authentic Thai restaurants in the U.S. based on location and style. There are 3 main categories: Thai SELECT - Signature for Thai fine dining restaurants; Thai SELECT - Classic for middle-range Thai restaurant; and Thai SELECT - Casual for Thai street food or trendy restaurants.