Mee krob anyone? Thais try to revive ailing cuisine

Tue Dec 9, 2008 4:08am EST
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By Chawadee Nualkhair

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - Varisa Thongsripong spends much of her time at her Som Tum Bangkok restaurant, making sure the green papaya salad doesn't get too spicy or the grilled chicken too tough. Just don't ask her what she eats at home.

"I cook at home three or four times a week," said Varisa.

"But sometimes I do buy the prepackaged Thai food in the supermarket, usually curries, even though they taste different from homemade. It's easier, and it's a lot cheaper."

Convenience and cost are two reasons why Thai food is changing, spurring many locals to bemoan what they think of as the death of their renowned local cuisine.

They say the balance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy flavors meant to underpin Thai dishes has been replaced by something saltier and a lot sweeter than it should be.

The reason? Changing tastes wrought by globalization and culinary shortcuts have ended up changing Thai flavors, and placing some dishes in danger of extinction altogether.

"Bangkok 30 years ago and today, totally different," said Triphong Kohengkul, CEO of a group of restaurants that includes Bussaracum, which serves what it calls royal cuisine.

The change in food knowledge among Thais marks such a "big difference," Triphong now finds it difficult to hire suitable chefs for his restaurant.   Continued...

<p>A chef at Bangkok's Blue Elephant restaurant, which also conducts traditional Thai cooking classes, shows a creation featuring a giant shrimp in this September 6, 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang/Files</p>