A favorite soup for food lovers of all ethnicities is Thai soup. But Who Invented Thai Soup? Thai soup has a long and varied history, with many countries claiming its creation. Let’s look at the various origins of Thai soup and find out which country deserves the title of ‘inventor’!
A brief history of Thai soup
Thai soup has a long history and is an essential part of Thai culture. It’s even depicted in ancient Thai artwork, including murals on the walls at the legendary Wat Pho complex in Bangkok. At this temple complex, which dates back to 1785, there is an ancient mural depicting a vendor selling ingredients for Thai soup.
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Thai soup is believed to have been invented sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries by Mon people who left Africa and traveled through China to Thailand. Thai soup was initially made from whatever ingredients, including meat, seafood, or vegetables. These foods were not just thrown into a pot together; instead, time was taken to create the perfect blend of flavors.
Since rice is not native to Thailand, the Mon people were the ones to cultivate it and make it a staple part of their cuisine. The Mon people also introduced noodle-making to the Thai people, and from there, Thai soup began incorporating noodles into its recipe.
The next wave of influence came from Vietnam around 1300 AD. During this time, the Chinese started coming to Thailand and influencing the food culture with their recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques.
So how did it all start?
The first recorded Thai soup creation took place in the Sukhothai era (roughly 800 years ago). It was a traditional New Year dish prepared with rice and fish. This first Thai soup arguably predates the modern Thai soup we know today, but the various ingredients and cooking techniques used to make it are very similar to what you see in (what is now) modern Thai soup.
The ingredients that make Thai soup unique
The foods used to prepare Thai soup are unique and vary from region to region. While they’re often lumped into one category, they aren’t comparable. For example, it’s hard to pinpoint what defines a Thai soup as a ‘Thai’ soup. Some argue that coconut milk makes it a ‘Thai’ soup (Thai people have traditionally consumed this milk for centuries).
Others claim it’s the use of chiles (indigenous to Thailand). While both are true, they’re not the only factors that make a soup ‘Thai’; different regions use different ingredients and techniques. For example, Northern Thai soup often uses meaty pork shanks and eggs, while Central Thai soup often uses an abundance of veggies and more variety in their dishes.
How to make Thai soup at home?
While the ingredients differ from region to region, the basic cooking techniques are similar throughout the country. Since Thai people and those living in Thailand don’t really use measurements, there is no official recipe for ‘Thai soup’ used across all regions of Thailand. Yet, there are many similar recipes in use today.
Ingredients you’ll need
Here’s a list of the ingredients that you’ll see in many recipes for Thai soup (and some examples of how they’re used):
Rice: white or brown rice is often used as the base for Thai soup. Rice is typically cooked with lots of water and a pinch of salt until it becomes very mushy (this step varies from region to region). Once the rice is cooked, it’s typically broken up and added to the soup along with other ingredients.
Fish: catfish, eel, and various fish species (such as shrimp) are often used in Thai soup. Most of these fish are prepared without bones, so caution is essential as you cook your fish or shrimp. You can add this portion of your dish to the broth of your soup at any time.
Rice noodles: Rice noodles are essential to most soups, including Thai soup. As with the fish, caution is necessary when preparing these noodles. They often come in large packages, and it’s straightforward to over-prepare them if you’re not careful. Once cooked, they form a perfect addition to many types of Thai soup.
Chiles: Chiles are another ingredient that defines Thai soup. They are typically added whole and lightly cooked with broth. This gives them a crisp texture, making them a well-liked addition to many Thai soups.
Chili Peppers: Red chili peppers are often used in the same way as the green chiles mentioned above. But chili peppers have a more defined taste, so you can’t compare them to green chiles. However, they’ve still added to many Thai soups, and their flavor is hard to miss.
Chili Paste: This ingredient is a staple in many Thai soup recipes. It’s easy to make and offers many of the same benefits as chili pepper without the added crunch factor. Furthermore, it’s a popular condiment in many Thai dishes, so it’s an integral part of any Thai cook’s pantry.
Coconut Milk: Most varieties of coconut milk are essential to Thai soup. They add a rich texture that blends nicely with the other ingredients in your dish. Some people consume coconut milk in its pure form, while others cook it down first before adding it to their dishes.
Spring or Hot Water: Many Thai soups are made with hot water instead of boiling water. This makes cooking the ingredients more accessible and promotes even heat distribution throughout your soup. You can also use spring water instead of tap water if you prefer.
Tofu: Tofu is an essential part of many Thai soup dishes and is typically added toward the end of the cooking process. This helps it soak up the broth and become a part of the soup instead of sitting atop it.
The method for cooking Thai soup:
Fastly: The most popular method for cooking Thai soup is to simmer it over low heat. Most people use their electric rice cooker, but a simple pot on the stove will suffice.
Slowly: The second most common method for cooking Thai soup is to use a bamboo steam basket. This aluminum sheet has many holes in it that you put over a pot of boiling water. As it cooks, the holes allow steam to permeate your dish from all sides and cook every ingredient evenly.
Thai soups are traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to spicy dishes. But in many regions of Thailand, they are eaten as a main course dish. Since Thai soup varies across the country (and often from one cook to another), there are no clear ‘rules’ for how you should eat it.
For example, some people prefer their soup with a more liquid consistency, while others prefer a thicker texture.
Some popular variations of Thai soup
One of the most popular Thai soups, Tom Yum, gets its section on this list because it’s unique. The main ingredients of Tom Yum are similar to many other Thai soup dishes: fish, chili peppers, and coconut milk. But it’s the ingredients that set this dish apart. It’s common to find lemongrass, galanga (a type of ginger), and kaffir lime leaves in Tom Yum soup. Unlike most Thai soups, Tom Yum is typically quite sour from the lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal. This is what makes it so unique.
Like Tom Yum, Tom Kha gets its section because it’s unique. The main difference between the two is that instead of a combination of spices that flavor the broth, they are used as garnishes on top of your soup (usually accompanied by raw fish). Tom Kha is made the same way as Tom Yum but with more ingredients.
Pad Kee Mao
One of the most popular Thai soups, Pad Kee Mao, also gets its section because it’s another fantastic noodle soup. The main difference between Pad Kee Mao and other Thai soups is that Pad Kee Mao contains only rice noodles and no other ingredients. This makes it a simple dish to make at home and very easy to mess up. It’s an acquired taste for many people.
Translated to ‘curry noodle soup,’ Khao Soi is famous in Thai cuisine mainly because tomatoes don’t grow very well in Thailand. As a result, the use of tomatoes in this dish makes it unique.
Translated to ‘toma’ and ‘som’ (meaning sour), this dish is one of the most popular variations of traditional Thai soup. It combines anchovies, sour tamarind, chiles, and other everyday ingredients with a spicy tamarind broth. It’s usually consumed as a side dish to many Thai dishes.
This is another more traditional Thai soup where fish is essential. Phak means ‘fish’ in Thai and the dish typically contains catfish or whole eels that are included with the rice noodles when you cook this soup.
The health benefits of eating Thai soup
1. Improves digestion
One of the main benefits of Thai soup is that several of its ingredients are digestive aids. For example, coconut milk is high in fiber, and this helps your body break down food. The same goes for certain fish that are often used in Thai cooking.
2. Promotes weight loss:
Because Thai soup is usually consumed as an accompaniment to spicy dishes, it fills you up faster than most other meals and prevents you from overeating. When your appetite is reliably satisfied, losing weight is much easier.
3. Helps you lose weight and keep it off:
Eating Thai soup as part of your diet makes you more likely to lose weight because Asian cooking is renowned for being very low in fat (but high in calories). If you’ve been struggling to shed pounds, Thai soup may be a good strategy for losing weight.
4. Helps alleviate cold symptoms:
One of the reasons that Thai soup is so prevalent in Thailand is because it acts as a remedy against many of the symptoms of the flu or common cold. Since many of the ingredients are either high in Vitamin C or have anti-viral properties, you may feel better after eating this Asian dish.
5. Helps you sleep better:
Some Thai soups contain ingredients like ginger and lemongrass that help improve your sleep quality. This is because they have sleep-inducing properties. So if you’ve been having problems sleeping, Thai soup can help.
The taste of Thai soup:
Thai soup is commonly used as an accompaniment to other Asian dishes (especially spicy dishes). So the flavor of this dish may seem bland compared to many other Asian words you’re used to. But there are still plenty of exciting flavors in most Thai soups that make them worth a try.
What is the famous soup in Thailand?
Today’s most famous Thai soup is “Tom Yum Kung”, a spicy and sour soup made with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass stalks, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk. This soup is usually served with white rice and basil leaves.
This famous dish has a long history. In 1873, European doctor Alphonse Pinard described it in detail in his book ‘Dining customs of the East.’ His research also helped establish the first written record of this recipe.
Thai soup is a great way to eat Thai food. Like Samosas and Sambar, Thai soup is a tasty snack that can be eaten between meals or accompaniment to another dish.
This ancient recipe is still prevalent in modern-day Thailand, and you’ll find it served in every restaurant, cafe, and street stall across the country.
Thai soup is a fantastic choice for vegetarians and can be enjoyed by meat eaters. You’ll find that this dish is prevalent in almost every restaurant you visit and is probably the easiest way to eat Thai food.
Thai soups can be made with different soup bases, including coconut milk, clear broth, Chinese herbs, and many more. So you are sure to find something that will appeal to you.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on Thai Soup as much as I did writing it. If you want more information on Thai soups, you can always ask your favorite Thai restaurant server to recommend one.
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