Thai cuisine is well-known for being spicy and hot and for its balance of five fundamental flavors in each dish or the overall meal-sweet, sour, hot (spicy), salty and bitter (optional). Some people take to the food in Thailand immediately while others don't. Although popularity considered as a single cuisine, Thai food would be more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northeastern or Isan, Central, Southern and Northern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or derived from those of neighboring countries.
Northeastern dishes often include lime juice, while southern curries tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric. The cuisine of Northeastern is heavily influenced by Laos. Many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes. Thai food is known for its use of fresh, rather than dried, spices and herbs as well as fish sauce. Thai food is popular in many Western countries especially New Zealand, Australia, some countries in Europe, as well as the Canada and United States. Instead of a multiple main course with side dishes found in Western cuisine, a Thai full meal typically consists of either a single dish or rice (khao) with many complementary dishes served concurrently. Rice is a staple component of Thai cuisine. The highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice is indigenous to Thailand. Steamed rice is accompanied by highly aromatic stir-frys, curries and other dishes, incorporating sometimes large quantities of lime juice, lemon grass and chillies. Thai food is generally eaten with a spoon and a fork. Chopsticks are used rarely, primarly for the consumption of noodle soups. If you are not offered chopsticks, do not ask for them. When westerners (farang) ask for chopsticks to eat Thai food it only puzzles the restaurant proprietors. For white rise, use the fork and spoon provided, fork in the left hand, spoon in the right, or the reverse for left-handers. An even more embarrassing act is trying to eat sticky rice with chopsticks. Use your right hand instead. For the majority of Thais, eating is an informal, social activity. Whether it is an important family occasion, such as a wedding, an impromptu outdoor garden party, or a colorful festival, food will play a central role.