Thailand has become synonymous with good food and the country’s cuisine has an international reputation that’s as good as it gets.
From humble street food to upmarket restaurants, from tried and tested to trendy and new, from common and convenient kuai tiao (noodle soup) to popular khao man kai (chicken and rice) to spicy som tam (papaya salad), and other dishes too many to list, Thai streets and restaurants are teaming with food famous the world over.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been playing a significant role in getting the kingdom’s gastronomy word out.
Their priority efforts to increase awareness and appreciation for gastronomy tourism is partly driven to build bridges with the agricultural sector, which remains the country’s biggest employer and largest industry overall.
The Thai economy has revolved around agriculture for centuries –well before tourists were arriving in measurable numbers. TAT wants to highlight that and blend the two.
Many Thai dishes also place great emphasis on nutritional ingredients, including high-value herbs, which helps TAT focus on health and general wellness.
Promoting gastronomy tourism makes economic sense, too. Food tourism can generate billions of dollars in revenue, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), with international visitors to Thailand spending about 20 percent of their travel budget on food.
In a significant move in recent years, TAT teamed up with Michelin, renowned the world over for their restaurant star rating system.
The partnership produced the first Michelin Guide Bangkok, which highlights 98 restaurants including international, Asian and mostly Thai with 28 Thai street-food stalls. A first for Michelin.
Last year saw the release of The Michelin Guide Bangkok, Phuket and Phang Nga.
It increased the Bangkok section to include cities surrounding the capital and introducedPhuket island off the west coast, and Phang Nga, the province on the mainland next to Phuket.
The edition includes 217 dining locations, as well as lodging. Three restaurants in Bangkok that previously had stars kept theirs,even with new chefs running the restaurants. They are Elements, Nahm, and Saneh Jaan.
On Phuket, PRU restaurant was award a star. Located at a luxury resort, it uses fresh ingredients grown on its own 96-hectare organic farm.
The Michelin Guide Thailand project will run until 2022 and guidebooks similar to the one about Bangkok, Phuket and Phang Nga will cover other popular Thai destinations.
TAT’s gastronomy tourism efforts put the spotlight on how regionally diverse Thai cuisine is, with each of the kingdom’s five regions having distinct cuisines, and in some cases small areas and even individual towns within an area being known for their specialty. For example, if you are passing though Phetchaburi, south of Bangkok, Thais will suggest you pick up some khanom mo kaeng(egg custard), while the coastal areas each have their special seafood dishes.The variety of cuisine in Thailand is mind boggling.
Thai food is famous all over the world –it is rare if a major city in any country does not have a Thai restaurant. It could be a small simple takeout establishment or fine-dining, they are all helping brand Thai cuisine as world famous. But the best way to know about one of the world’s most identifiable cuisines is by word of mouth.
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