Friday, December 19, 2014

thaifoodcuisine.com Kanit Muntarbhorn suggests that classification of authentic cuisines is an international issue.  Original Thai cuisine and even non-original Thai cuisine can become “traditional and authentic” Thai cuisine with time.  Examples include Pad Thai/ Phad Thai (Thai fried noodles) and Matsaman Curry/ Massaman Curry (Thai Muslim Curry) as confirmed by the “Five-decade Traditional and Authentic” Thai test, devised by Kanit Muntarbhorn (author of “Thai Food and Cuisine: Original, Traditional, Authentic ?”, published in 2010 as Gastronomy in Asia II ?  Kanit  Muntarbhorn 2010, ISBN  978 974 4016 15 7).  The author has access to data in more than 90 old books (1889 – 1960 AD) relating to Thai food or recipes and is preparing Gastronomy in Asia III and Gastronomy in Asia IV.

DEFINITION OF THAI FOOD

Kanit Muntarbhorn offers his criteria for defining “Thai food”. “Thai food” may be defined according to one or more of the following criteria:

(i) food which first appeared among a Thai ethnic group or within the land(s) of Siam or Thailand,

(ii) food which was first produced by a Thai ethnic group or within the land(s) of Siam or Thailand,

(iii) food which became a part of tradition or culture of a Thai ethnic group before that of other ethnic groups,

(v) food whose availability was or is exclusively or almost exclusively within the land boundary of Siam or Thailand,

(vi) food whose records were first made by a person or persons of a Thai ethnic group ahead of members of other ethnic groups,

(vii) food which is more compatible with tradition, culture, and customs of a Thai ethnic group than that of other ethnic groups in the world,

(viii) food which first appeared in the lands of one of the Thai Kingdoms i.e. Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Dhonburi and Bangkok/ Rattanakosin, and

(ix) food which has gained international acceptance as Thai food, and

(x) food accepted by Thais as Thai food.

In 1999, the Office of the National Culture Commission, Royal Thai Government, announced the results of a questionnaire survey of 1,500 Thai restaurants in the continents of Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe.  Top ten favourite Thai dishes according to consumer popularity were: (1) Tom Yum Kung/Gung (Hot and Spicy Soup), (2) Kang Khieu/Khiew Wan Kai/Gai (Green Chicken Curry), (3) Pad/Phad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles/ Fried Thai Noodles), (4) Pad/Phad Kaprao/Kaprow (Fried Hot Basil), (5) Kang/Gang/Gaeng Phed Ped Yang/Yarng (Roasted Duck Red Curry), (6) Tom Kha Kai/Gai (Chicken Galangal Soup), (7) Yum Nuea/Nuer (Beef Salad), (8) Satay Nuer/Gai/Moo (Grilled Meat on Skewers),  (9) Kai/Gai Pad/Phad Mamoung Himmaphan/Himmapharn (Fried Chicken and Cashew Nut) and (10) Panang Nuer (Dryish Beef Curry).  Among the ten criteria offered, one may apply criteria (ix) and (x) to all these top ten dishes and to say or claim that all these dishes are Thai.

However, opinions in world of cuisines may differ.  Other ethnic groups may make their claims: Chinese on Pad/Phad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles), Chinese on Kai/Gai Pad/Phad Mamoung Himmaphan/ Himmapharn (Fried Chicken and Cashew Nut), Malays on Satay Nuer (Grilled Beef on Skewers), Indians on Panang Nuer (Dryish Beef Curry).

If we consider that claims are claims unless proven, we need more clarifications and definitions:

1. “Thai Food Dish” or “Thai Food Item” or Thai Food Menu Item”

2. “Original Thai Food Dish”

3. “Traditional Thai Food Dish”

4. “Authentic Thai Food Dish”

5. “Traditional and Authentic Thai Food Dish”

DEFINITION OF “THAI FOOD DISH” OR “THAI FOOD ITEM” OR THAI FOOD MENU ITEM”

The author offers his criteria for defining “Thai Food Dish” Or “Thai Food Item” Or Thai Food Menu Item” as follows:

“Thai Food Dish” may be defined according to one or more of the following criteria:

(i) ingredient(s): a “food dish” whose main ingredients first appeared among a Thai ethnic group or originated in the land(s) of Siam or Thailand,

(ii) cuisine: a “food dish” whose style of cooking (cuisine) or preparation is uniquely Thai and has been created by Thai person(s),

(iii) geography: a “food dish” that, in the past, either originated in or first appeared within the boundaries of the lands of Siam and/or Thailand,

(iv) ethnicity: a “food dish” created by a Thai ethnic group which has become established as part of tradition or culture of that ethnic group and appeared before any other similar food dish of other ethnic groups,

(v) availability: a “food dish” that is available exclusively or almost exclusively within the land boundary of Thailand,

(vi) records: a “food dish” whose details have been recorded by a person or persons of a Thai ethnic group ahead of other groups, or whose historical records took place before those of others,

(vii) tradition, culture, and customs: a “food dish” with substantial historical and other evidence linking it to the tradition, culture, and customs of a Thai ethnic group within the lands of Siam and/or Thailand,

(viii) kingdom: a “food dish” with local ingredients which originated during one of the Thai Kingdoms i.e. Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Dhonburi and Bangkok/ Rattanakosin, and

(ix) international acceptance: a “food dish” which has gained international reputation and acceptance as a Thai food dish.

TRADITIONAL THAI FOOD DISH(ES)

Evidence on Thai tradition (customs and culture) can be easily found in books on these subjects.  The author offers a test which involves published recipes over a “five decade period”.  In a book entitled: “Thai Food and Cuisine: Original, Traditional, Authentic ?”- published in 2010 as Gastronomy in Asia II, a “Five-Decade Traditional and Authentic Thai” test is proposed.

The idea for “five-decade” is linked to the fact that any tradition needs time before becoming established and a “five-decade” period is sufficient for two generations of people to get accustomed to a particular food dish or recipe.  Evidence on “tradition” is based on published recipes over five decades.

We know that Panang, a dry-ish curry, was introduced to Siam by Khaek (e.g. Indians) according to an old Thai dictionary (1873 AD).  Then, how can one justify that Panang as a “traditional” Thai food dish?

In putting Panang to the “five-decade” test or “Five-Decade Traditional and Authentic Thai” test, one finds recipes over five decades to justify evidence of “traditional” Thai food dish:

  • First decade (1930- 1939 AD)-  Panang Srisa Pla Chon in “Tumrub Sai Yowabha” (Thai language), Bangkok,  1935 AD/ 2478 BE,
  • Second decade (1940- 1949 AD)-  Naam Phrik Panang in “Tumub Suepsai” (Thai language), Bangkok,  1942 AD/ 2485 BE,
  • Third decade(1950- 1959 AD)-  Panang Plang in “Tunra Kub Khao Tipparos” (Thai language), Bangkok, 1951 AD/ 2494 BE,
  • Fourth decade (1960- 1969 AD)-  Panang Gai in Memorial book: Khun Rattavejjasaka (Thai language), Bangkok, 1963 AD/ 2506 BE, and
  • Fifth decade (1970- 1979 AD)-  Panang Bung in Memorial book: Khun Mae Sa-ard Sirisamphand (Thai language), Bangkok, 1971 AD/ 2514 BE.

The verdict on Panang is that it is a “traditional” Thai food dish (despite its origin).

Among the top ten Thai dishes, we know that the English name for Gaeng Massaman/ Gaeng Matsaman is “Thai Muslim Curry”.  Therefore, questions may be raised about the origin and originality of  Gaeng Massaman/ Gaeng Matsaman and whether or not it is a “traditional” Thai food dish.

Although some ingredients e.g. cumin and  cardamom may suggest foreign influence (probably that of Asian Muslim), Gaeng Massaman/ Gaeng Matsaman can also undergo the “five-decade” test (“Five-Decade Traditional and Authentic Thai” test).  Its evidence over many decades are:

  • First decade (1880- 1889 AD)- Massaman Gai in Patinnabutr Lae Jod Mai Het – I (Thai language), Bangkok, 2432 BE/ 1889 AD,
  • Second decade (1890- 1899 AD)- Massaman Gai in Tam Ra Kub Khao by S. Rajanuprapun (First Thai Cookbook, Thai language), Bangkok, 2433 BE/ 1890 AD and Gaeng Massaman Gai in Patanukrom Karn Tam Khong Khao Khong Waan by Darunee (Thai language), Bangkok,  2441 BE/ 1898 AD],
  • Third Decade (1950- 1959 AD)- Massaman Gai in Tamra Kub Khao by HSH Princess Chanchareon Rajani.  (Thai language),  2495 BE/ 1952 AD, and Gaeng Massaman Gai/ Nuer in Tamrub Aharh Khaow by P. Malakul (Thai language), Bangkok, 2501 BE/ 1958 AD,
  • Fourth decade (1960- 1969 AD)- Gaeng Massaman Kai in a memorial book, Khun Mae Nid Suwannasangkha (Thai language), Bangkok,  2508 BE/ 1965 AD,
  • Fifth decade (1970- 1979 AD)- Gaeng Massaman Gai/ Nuea in Tamtub Gaeng Thai Lae Tes by Sapa Satri Hang Chart (Thai language), Bangkok, 2518 BE/ 1975 AD, and Musaman Curry in Modern Thai Cooking by ML T. Kritakara and MR P. Amranand (English language), Bangkok, 2520 AD/ 1977 AD.
  • Sixth decade (1980- 1989 AD)- Gaeng Matsaman Nuer in Thai Life: Recipe by S. Sonakul (English language), Bangkok,  2529 BE/ 1986 AD, and
  • Seventh decade (1990- 1999 AD)- Gaeng Massaman in Aharn Toong Tin Thai by A. Liabwan (Thai language), Bangkok, 2542 BE/ 1999 AD.

The verdict on Gaeng Massaman/ Gaeng Matsaman is that it is a “traditional” Thai food dish is spite of its possible foreign origin.

AUTHENTIC THAI FOOD DISH(ES)

Deciding on authenticity of a food dish is a much more difficult task. One can expect more disagreements in the future. The author is placing more emphasis on main ingredients as contained in food dish recipes.

By applying the “Five-decade Traditional and Authentic” Thai test, both the Panang and Gaeng Massaman are “ authentic” Thai food dishes.

On the other hand, Fried Chicken and Cashew Nut may be Thai but it has not passed the “Five-decade Traditional and Authentic” Thai test.  Therefore, more time and more recipes are required for this dish to pass the test.  At this moment in time,  Fried Chicken and Cashew Nut may be either Thai  or Chinese in the world of cuisines.  For the Chinese to claim Chinese authenticity, the Chinese may wish to produce evidence of Chinese recipes over five decades to tell the world.  Besides, if the Thais wish this dish to pass the “five decade” test, Thais would need more time for publishing more recipes.  The author has high hopes that, one day in the not too distant a future, the Fried Chicken and Cashew Nut will pass this test.

IS PAD THAI/  PHAD THAI A TRADITIONAL AND AUTHENTIC THAI FOOD DISH?

In applying the “Five-decade Traditional and Authentic” Thai test, evidence on Pad Thai / Phad Thai also known Fried Thai Noodles / Thai Fried Noodles are :

  • First decade (1960- 1969 AD)- Kuay Tiew Pad Thai in Tamra Aharn by HSH Princess Chanchareon Rajani (Thai language), Bangkok, 2509 BE/ 1966 AD,
  • Second decade (1970- 1979 AD)- Kuay Tiew Pad Thai in a memorial book, Khun Phad Anuson (Thai language), Bangkok, 2514 BE/ 1971 AD,
  • Third decade (1980- 1989 AD)- Pad Thai. in Aharh Ros Vises by P. Uluchada (Thai language), Bangkok, 2531BE/ 1988AD, and Kuay Tiew Pad Thai Sai Khai in a memorial book, Khun Unroen Pipattanakul (Thai language), Bangkok, 2532 BE/ 1989 AD,
  • Fourth decade (1990- 1999 AD), Phad Thai Goong Sod in Kuay Tiew by N. Kuamornpattana (Thai language), Bangkok, 2540 BE/ 1997 AD,
  • Fifth decade (2000- 2009 AD)- Kuay Tiew Pad Thai in Kuay Tiew by P. Kongmuang (Thai language), Bangkok, 2545 BE/ 2002 AD.

The verdict on Pad Thai/ Phad Thai is that it is a “traditional and authentic ” Thai food dish is even with

its possible Chinese and Thai origins.

RECIPE DATES AND AGE PERIODS FOR THAI FOOD DISHES

Time-based differentiation is suggested:

  1. Ancient “Thai Food Dish” must be related to Thai recipe(s)  over 100 years’ old
  2. Old “Thai Food Dish” must be related to Thai recipe(s)  50 – 100 years’ old
  3. Contemporary “Thai Food Dish” must be related to Thai recipe(s)  less than 50 years’ old
  4. Modern Thai Food Dish must be related to Thai recipe(s)  less than 50 years’ old and requires a description to whether it is current (today,  this year ?) or within a modern period (which decade?).

PROBLEMS ON AUTHENTIC FOODS OR FOOD DISHES AND ETHNICITY

Classifying authenticity can be difficult.  Some examples can highlight some problems.

  • As rice is a staple food for southern Indians and Thais, can fragrant rice be authentic Indian food as well as authentic Thai food?
  • As “baguette” is a staple food for French people and as “baguette”  is becoming increasingly popular among Laotians at least since 1980s AD, can French “baguette” be recognized as authentic French food as well as authentic Lao food in 30 years’ time?
  • If  Thais were to develop a “Green Kangaroo Curry” with imported kangaroo meat and if recipes (Thai language) were to appear frequently in Thailand for the next five decades, can this be classified as an authentic Thai food dish in the future?
  • If Australians were to develop a “Green Kangaroo Curry” with imported Thai green curry paste and if recipes (Australian English) were to appear frequently in Australia for the next five decades, can this be classified as an authentic Australian food dish in the future?
  • Today, can we say that “Grilled Beef on Skewers” or Satay Nuer is an authentic Malay food dish as well as an authentic Thai food dish?
  • Today, can we say that “Grilled Pork on Skewers” is both an authentic Thai food dish as well as an authentic Chinese food dish in Malaysia and Singapore?
  • Today, is “Chilled Fragrant Rice” with side dishes both authentically Thai as well as authentically Mon?

PROBLEMS ON THAI CUISINES AND ETHNIC GROUPS

In considering Thai ethnic groups, examples include: 1) Tai Bueng (Lopburi),  2) Tai Dam (Chiang Khan  District, northeastern Loei Province), 3) Tai Gapong (northeastern Sakhon Nakhon Province), 3) Tai Khoen (northern Chiang Mai Province), 4) Tai Mao (northern Chiang Mai Province), 5) Tai Yai (Provinces of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Mukdahan), 6) Tai Yong (Provinces of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Lamphun), 7) Tai Yor (Provinces of Sakhon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan and Nong Khai), 8 ) Southern Tai (mainly southern Thailand), 9) Thai (all of central Thailand) and 10) Lao I-san/ Lao I-saan (mainly northeastern Thailand).

Therefore, there are at least 10 Thai ethnic cuisines in Thailand.  In many books, Thai cuisines are divided into or classified as regional cuisines perhaps because it is much more difficulty to classify Thai cuisines according to Thai ethnic groups.  Nevertheless, one hopes to see more efforts towards classifying Thai cuisines according to Thai ethnic groups in years to come.

NEED TO EXAMINE CLAIMS AND AUTHENTICITY

Some guidelines are required to examine claims on authentic Thai food dishes.  The author has tasted Tom Yum Goong (sold as Thai Hot and Spicy Soup) without any hint of Thai/ Kafffir lime leaf and lemongrass.  Clearly this is a misnomer for such dish with chillies and lime juice cannot be labelled as a authentic “Thai Hot and Spicy Soup”.

By applying authentic Thai recipes and examining authenticity of some Thai food dishes, one can make progress in differentiating between authentic Thai dishes in Thai restaurants and non-authentic Thai dishes in questionable Thai restaurants.

E-mail  drkanitfood@yahoo.com ?  Kanit  Muntarbhorn 2010

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