What Italians and Thai have in common - Food

Do Italians and Thai have anything in common? Well, you will be surprised how much!

When we first came to the land of smile in 1998, we realized, that Thai people love food as much as Italians do. And then, with time, we found more and more common ground.

We always say, when Singapore is considered to be the Switzerland of Asia, then Thailand is the Italy of Asia.

pad thai, spaghetti al pomodoro, kao soi soup

Let's start with Food:

Eating well, choosing good and healthy food, and having regular meals at a set time, is important to both, Italians and Thai. Both nations always have a variety of dishes to chose from for each meal.  Eating alone is not fun. Especially Thai would go in a group to enjoy together the pleasure of eating. Eating with friends, and with the whole family on weekends, is very common for both nations. Thai people eat even more than three times a day. Sometimes it seems they are always eating. But it is probably five times a day, and mainly small portions, which is very healthy. Also they tent to eat early, lunch around noon and dinner around 7pm.

Talking about food at any time of the day, is what Italians do, and, well, Thai too. Asking what you ate (when not having eaten together) is a popular topic. Sometimes it is almost like a greeting: "Did you ate yet?". And "Buon Appetito" is what you might hear around lunch time in the streets of an Italian village. However, talking about recipes, knowing where to buy the best ingredients, is maybe slightly more Italian, since working middle class Thai often don't cook themselves. But every Thai is able to tell you where to find their best favorite dish.

And what is on the menu? Loving all kind of noodle dishes, is typical Italian - and typical Thai. Thai have at least as many different types of noodles as Italians. Egg noodles, rice noodles, short, thin, wide versus spaghetti, linguine, penne, farfalle, orecchiette ... OK, Italians have more shapes. Although Thai love it more spicy than Italians, the most loved foreign food by Thai is the Italian cuisine! That is why Italian restaurants are very popular in the land of smile. And you will see many Italian chefs with a big smile on their face.

But, when it comes to cooking, there is another slight difference. In Italy, la donno di casa cooks herself. In Thailand, you usually have domestic help and a Thai puying (wife) would have one or even two helpers to prepare a dinner for guests. In Thailand it is also popular to buy ready cooked food in the supermarkets, restaurants or even in street stalls, since it is so cheap - and always yummy. Young, working middle class people who often do not have domestic help would rather go to a restaurant or buy food to take home.

When it comes to eating food with others, especially eating in restaurants, there is another small difference. Thai would put all the dishes in the middle of the table and everyone can try everything. Even a plate of pasta would be shared. While Italians would only share a mixed appetizer plate, and then everyone orders its own dish(es).

If you think all Asians eat with chopsticks, you are wrong. Thai eat with spoon and fork. There is no knife. All veggies and meats are cut bite-size in the kitchen. With the fork you would shuffle the food onto the spoon and eat from the spoon. (Since many Chinese have immigrated into Thailand in the past, there are of course dishes and regions where chopsticks are used.)

This reminds me of a funny observation I made at one of the finest Italian restaurants in Bangkok: There was this very elegant, elderly Thai lady, with a bulky hair style. She was sitting well-mannered and slowly eating a fish. She carefully shuffled with her fork the food onto the fish knife - which, well, had a bit of a spoon shape - and then ate from the fish knife!

But what the Thai lady has in common with Italians is the love for good (Italian) food!

+++ this post belongs to the new "Life in Asia" label where I will write about observations on life in Asia +++ we spend time in spring and summer in our house in Italy +++ the rest of the year we live in Thailand +++