For anyone who visits Thailand for the first time, you might wonder: where is the knife? Well, in Thai cuisine, there is little need for it, as most dishes include bite-sized pieces with no need for cutting. As well, you might notice that the Thais use the spoon & fork to eat most everything! At first, it may seem odd to those accustomed to the Western way of eating, however, once you try it, you will be surprised how easy it is!
Typically, the spoon is used to scoop up the food off the plate or bowl and into your mouth, while the fork is used to help guide the food onto the spoon. Eating most dishes this way is quite logical as it is certainly easier to collect your rice with a spoon than with a fork or chopsticks!
In general, the fork & spoon are offered with most dishes, with the exception of a few that use chopsticks. Also, with the entrance of Western foods in Thai culture and more fusion cuisine taking center stage, you will occasionally find a knife out there too!
Here is a little rundown of some typical Thai dishes and which utensils you might be given when ordering:
1. Eaten with fork and spoon: most Thai dishes that go with rice such as soups, curries, stir-fries. Typically, the rice will be served on a separate plate and you take some of the soup or curry, add it to the rice and use the spoon and fork to scoop it up and eat! Even stir-fried noodles will often be eaten with a fork and spoon. Any cutting that is needed, which is minimal, is done with these implements…no knife needed!
2. Eaten with chopsticks: noodles are the one dish that is traditionally eaten with chopsticks here. Also, not just any noodles, but noodles in soup or those served at a restaurant specializing in this dish. The chopsticks are used to gather the noodles and then they are placed on a soup spoon to be put in the mouth. Of course, you will see chopsticks in Chinese restaurants, as well.
3. Eaten with hands: Thais eat sticky rice (khao niaw) dishes with their hands. Usually, this consists of some meat, either grilled or fried eaten along with the rice. Also, there is some chili-based sauce (nam phrik) dishes where raw vegetables are picked by hand and then mixed with the sauce. Of course, when eating seafood, especially shrimp and crab, it’s all hands for peeling and getting the best meat out!
Interestingly, those who come to Thailand and stay for awhile find themselves continuing to reach for the spoon & fork once they’ve returned home…it’s an addictive combination!