Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thai Cuisine:

Original ?

In Thai, Gaeng means a product derived from cooking with a considerable amount of water i.e. a curry or a soup; there are several transliterations (romanization) into English in Kang, Kaeng, Gaeng and less correctly Geng. Cooking food in water creates a cooking style i.e. cuisine but which cuisine that is a matter for discussion.

In old Chinese, “hu” also meant a stew as in “liyu hu” (Carp Stew) and “geng hu fa” (methods for soup and stew) but during the Han Dynasty, “geng” also meant stew, e.g. Salt Fish and Lotus Root Geng, Venison and Taro Geng (records in the Mawangdui tomb slips).

On etymology of the Thai Gaeng, the description in the oldest printed Thai dictionary (1873 AD) described Gaeng as a watery accompaniment to rice whose ingredients included shrimp paste, chilli, shallot/onion and garlic.

It would be very interesting if we were to apply this combination of ingredients to hundreds of supposedly Thai Gaeng/ Kang recipes.

How many modern recipes would fail the old Gaeng test?

Anyhow, it would be more appropriate if Gaeng and Tom are to be used separately because, when they are used next to each other i.e.”Gaeng Tom”, the combinated name lacks backing and foundation.  Such a use would have been incorrect based on the oldest Thai dictionary.

To explain further, Tom means “to boil or a boiled dish” and one of the best example is Tom Kha Gai (a 1890 AD version of Chicken Galangal Soup did not have the combination of shrimp paste, chilli, shallot/onion and garlic).  Therefore it was a “Tom”not a “Gaeng”.

If there is chilli in in the paste for Tom Kha Gai (and there should not be), one should call it Tom Kha Gai with Chilli (Phrik). Anyhow, I am not going to be super strict on this matter.

On the other hand, I would like to ask Thai chefs:

“If the ingredients of the particular watery dish do not contain the combination of

shrimp paste, chilli, shallot/onion and garlic, by what standard are you calling it a Gaeng?”

By ignoring the old definition of Gaeng, anything goes.

Personally, I would like to suggest that we find new names for pseudo-Gaengs.

On the Chinese or Chinese-influenced Gaeng Jued, it would be too problematic to propose changes to so many dishes and I would like to make exceptions of these dishes but I would like to remind readers that, when you see Gaeng Jued on a menu, this name should be connected with a Chinese food dish or Chinese-influenced Thai food dish.

In brief, we should apply Tom to more Thai soups especially those without chilli and shrimp paste.  This is highly controversial and is one of the reasons I am writing this book.

Thai  Food  &  Cuisine:  Original,  Traditional,  Authentic ? ?  Kanit  Muntarbhorn  2010

Thai Gaeng was never supposed to be mild in taste and so Gaeng Jued (mild tasting soup)

should have been called Tom Jued all along.  Anyhow, it appears that Chinese restaurateurs have had their way and influenced the Thai customers to accept Gaeng Jued in their menus to the extent that most Thais accept this (I would like to be an exception).


Thai Fried Noodles Pad Thai, Kuay Tiew Pad Thai (Chinese…Thai)

Red Roasted Duck Curry Gaeng Phed Ped Yang (Thai + Chinese)

Satay Beef/ Chicken/ Pork Satay Nuer/ Gai/ Moo (Arabic…Asian)

Chicken Fried with Cashew Nuts Gai Pad Mamoung Himmapan (Chinese…Thai)

Beef with “Panang” Curry Panang Nuer, Panang Nuea (Asian Muslim…Thai)

Thai Muslim Curry Gaeng Massaman (Asian Muslim…Thai)

Hunglay Curry (northern) Gaeng Hunglay (Burmese…Thai)

Khao Soy Curry Noodle Khao Soy (Haw Chinese…Thai)

Naam Ngiew + Rice Noodles Khanom Jeen Naam Ngiew (Shan…Thai)

Naam Ya + Fish + Rice Noodles Khanom Jeen Naam Ya (Mon, Thai)

Gaeng Liang Vegetable Soup Gaeng Liang (Mon, Thai)

New Year Chilled Fragant Rice Khao Chae (Mon, Thai)

N.B. If one wants to choose the first choice of origin e.g. first choice as Chinese or Thai, more information should be obtained from both the pro-Chinese group and the pro-Thai group.


Chicken and Cashew Nut Chinese

Red Roasted DucK Curry Thai but with Chinese-style roasted Duck

Chilled fragrant Rice Thai and Mon (1st equal)

Phad Thai Chinese…Thai

Massaman Curry Asian Muslim…Thai

Anyway, the author is open to suggestions and criticisms by e-mail and, in the world of cuisines, we need more forums on cuisine origins and some ideas are given in the next chapter.

Thai  Food  &  Cuisine:  Original,  Traditional,  Authentic ? ?  Kanit  Muntarbhorn  2010

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