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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Thailand performed an extraordinary feat in the last three decades of the 20th century by invading the cities and even towns of the English-speaking world and studding them with Thai restaurants. In speed and scope this feat is unique. It reflects in equal measure the attractive qualities of Thai cuisine and the entrepreneurial abilities which many Thai people have developed in recent times (see also asian restaurants).

It is tempting to connect this striking success with one other aspect of Thailand’s history which again makes the country unique in SE Asia; it was never colonized. Moreover, broadly speaking, the country has a remarkably long history of stability, to which the Buddhist religion, the social structure, and the monarchy have contributed. These features have combined with a wealth of indigenous produce to establish a coherent and highly developed cuisine. The royal court has not only helped generally to establish and enhance Thailand’s cultural identity, but has also served in highly specific ways to promote (in the sense of ‘bringing forward’) Thai cuisine. The royal kitchens have been a forcing house for the talents of Thai cooks. Kings of Thailand have written cookery books; and the category of royal cookery books has overlapped occasionally with another and exceptionally interesting category which seems to be peculiar to Thailand, namely funeral cookbooks; see funeral food.