Do you like Thai food? It is one of the world’s five most popular culinary styles, along with those of the Chinese, Indian, Italian and French. It features hot and spicy tastes with colorful ingredients of fresh herbs and vegetables which not only coordinate to boost appetite but also contain medicinal properties.
Traditional Thai medicine regards food as a fundamental of a person’s physical and mental health. If one consumes food which harmonizes with the seasons of the year, the geographical condition of his locality and the chemical elements in his body, good health and clear state of mind will be his. This principle has been observed by the Thai people for a long time to keep the body and mind in equilibrium.
The Harmony of Flavours and Elements
According to traditional Thai medicine, a human body consists of four elements– earth, water, wind, and fire. In the human body, all solid structures and compact tissues are obtaining from the earth element. They exist in various structural parts such as the bones, nails, teeth, muscles, skin, and hair. Water element encompasses all fluids in the body, such as saliva, bile, blood, plasma, and lymph. Wind or air is the breath of life. It is a factor in body movements. Fire provides heat and energy to keep the body warm and help with digestion. A balance of these four elements enables the body to function well.
However, for each person, only one element is predominant while the other three are supplementary. For example, a person born on 14 May has Earth as a predominant element, with water, wind, and fire as supporters. To maintain the inner balance, it is important to take food with opposing properties. Below are some dietary guidelines for people of each element, according to traditional Thai medicine.
Earth dominated people are those born a Taurus (14 May-14 June), a Virgo (17 Sept.-16 Oct.), or an Aquarius (14 Jan.-12 Feb.). They tend to be obese and easily develop diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatism, asthma, coughing, and cold. Food that has an astringent, salty or sweet taste is recommended to them, such as the following:
Samples of vegetables: unripe bananas, unripe jackfruits, lead plant, spinach, dishcloth gourds
Samples of Thai dishes: saute dishcloth gourds with shrimps, fried rice with shrimp paste, banana blossom spicy salad, Thai style stir-fried noodle with shrimp
Samples of beverages: coconut milk, soya milk, orange juice, guava juice, pumpkin juice, corn milk
Water dominated people are those born a Leo (16 July-16 Aug.), a Scorpio (16 Nov.-15 Dec.) or a Pisces (14 Mar.-12 Apr.). They tend to have a lot of throat mucus and get the flu in winter. Their health problems are similar to those of the Earth-type people. They should eat something sour or slightly bitter, such as:
Samples of vegetables: limes, morinda leaves, bitter cucumbers, Thai cassia siamea leaves, trumpet flowers
Samples of Thai dishes: spicy papaya salad, hot and sour shrimp soup, crispy catfish with green mango salad, stir-fried sweet and sour pork
Samples of beverages: lemon juice, orange juice, tomato juice, tamarind juice, pineapple juice
Wind dominated people are those born a Gemini (15 June-15 July), a Libra (17 Oct.-15 Nov.) or an Aquarius (13 Feb.-13 Mar.). There is a tendency for them to develop problems with joints and bones, the digestive system and constipation. They also tend to get sick during the rainy season. They are recommended to eat something hot and spicy and eat less meat.
Samples of vegetables: ginger, galangal, pepper, holy basil, turmeric, chili, mint, lemongrass
Samples of Thai dishes: chicken green curry, hot and sour shrimp soup, coconut chicken soup, fried mackerel with shrimp paste sauce
Samples of beverages: ginger juice, galangal juice, lemongrass juice
Fire dominated people are those born an Aries (13 Apr.-13 May), a Leo (16 Aug.-16 Sept.) or a Sagittarius (16 Dec.-13 Jan.). These people often have problems with stomach malfunction, aphthous ulcer, allergies, and diarrhea. They tend to have a fever or flu in the hot season. Foods with bitter or cooling tastes and low-fat food are suitable for them.
Samples of vegetables: swamp morning glory, water mimosa, Chinese cabbage, bitter gourd, eggplant
Samples of Thai dishes: saute swamp morning glory, stir-fried eggplant, ivy gourd soup with minced pork, bitter gourd pork ribs soup
Samples of beverages: watermelon juice, apple juice, pandanus leaf juice, chrysanthemum juice
The Harmony of Flavours and Seasons
Even though one eats in conformation with the above principles, one might still be affected by seasonal changes which result in the imbalance of the body. Trying to eat properly will help maintain the body in a healthy condition. These are some dietary guidelines for each season in Thailand.
Hot Season (Feb.- May)
The fire element is directly affected by heat. In this season, people frequently have fevers or other symptoms such as fatigue, and thirst. One should avoid oily and fatty foods in order to reduce body heat. Eating bitter or sour food like papaya salad, bitter gourd pork ribs soup and spicy prawn soup will cool down and refresh the body.
Rainy Season (June – Sept.)
People tend to catch a cold and have feverish symptoms because of the increased moisture and coolness in the air. One should eat food that contains hot herbs like ginger, galangal, and basil to increase fire element in the body. Hot and spicy dishes such as spicy, sour shrimp soup and stir-fried chicken (or pork) with holy basil and stir-fried mixed vegetables are highly recommended.
Cool Season (Oct.-Jan)
The dry weather disturbs the water element. The coolness and the dryness decrease moisture in the body, resulting in dry skin, headaches, running nose and sprains. One should eat food which has bitter, hot or sour flavor and contains kra chai, ginger, pepper, and chili. Some recommended dishes are chicken soup with onion and tomato, spicy soup with sweet basil, dishcloth gourds and minced shrimps.
Our teachers know about Thai food; please do ask them during or after class about the names and how to prepare.