The top Phuket Thai restaurants distinguish themselves from their competition by offering what they call “Royal Thai” food. The meaning is pretty obvious – food fit for a king, or other members of the Thai royal family. However, what actually makes this regal cuisine different from the sort of Thai food Phuket night markets sell for a fraction of the price? Mostly, it’s down to the presentation. Here’s what to look out for:
Variety is the Spice of Life
A hallmark of Royal Thai cuisine is the serving of a broad selection of dishes with different textures, tastes and colours, each prepared in different ways. An example of this might be a table set with beef green curry, stuffed crab, stir-fried pork with salted egg, a sausage salad, stir-fried liver with sweet chilli and fruits for dessert.
The aim is to present the diner’s mouth with as many different experiences as possible, keeping every bite interesting. Naturally, this makes preparation quite arduous, which is why non-royal Thais would generally not bother with such a degree of variety in their meal.
A Feast for the Eyes
At a first-class Phuket Thai restaurant, you’ll find dishes prepared in such a way as to be as pleasing for the eye as they are for the stomach. For everyday dining, most Thais don’t really care how the food looks, but it matters when it comes to serving royalty.
The importance of plating is carefully balanced with the importance of practicality, though, and the dish will often be served in such a way as to make it easy to eat. This includes cutting vegetables into bite-sized pieces, removing prawn heads and removing the skeletons from fish. Importantly, everything on the plate must be edible, mostly to prevent any risk of the King choking.
Not too Sweet, Not too Spicy
Balancing flavours is also important in the preparation of Royal Thai cuisine. It would be mortifying for the chef if a member of the royal family rejected their food, so it is important that it be neither too sweet nor too spicy. So, if you’re a fan of sweat-inducing spiciness which is often a characteristic of Thai food in Phuket, you might be surprised by the comparatively mild flavours of Royal Thai cuisine.
On the other hand, the food can’t be bland and boring. It’s all about finding the perfect balance – something which comes with years of experience. Experimenting with the food is a recipe for disaster, which is why fusion dishes have no place at a royal table.