Thai Food from Foreign Influences

Aug 18, 2014

Thai food is internationally famous with such a long history.  Whether chilli-hot or comparatively bland, harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish.  Not many people know that some of the well known Thai dishes and desserts originated from foreign influences, such as curry, noodles and Tong Yip/Tong Yod/Foy Tong (desserts/sweets).

Here are some examples of foreign influences on Thai food:

Indian Influence

About curry

Thai Curry

The origin of the curry could go back to 1700 BC in Mesopotamia, according to Curry Flavor.  While cooking of curry probably originated in India, it was also became known in England as early as the 1300’s and could be even earlier.

Word of curry , who create original?

The word “curry” comes from “Kari” which is from the Tamil language and was later anglicized into “curry.”  Curry powder is one of the oldest spice mixes and is most often associated with Indian cuisine.

Paneng curry

India curry

The original Indian curry did not have any peppers in it since peppers were not originated to India. Christopher Columbus brought chili seeds from the new world and traded to India.  Because of the long history and adaptation into so many different cuisines, curry can have many different tastes and colours.

Thai curry ways of cooking differently


Thai people can have about 3 colors in curry which use different kind of chilly as main ingredient. Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.

Thai people have taken foreign influences and transformed them into a cuisine uniquely their own.  They were learning foreign cooking methods and adapting them with substituting ingredients. The ghee used in Indian cooking was replaced by coconut oil, and coconut milk substituted for other dairy products.


greenCrurry (3)

Curry power to curry paste

Overpowering pure spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh herbs such as lemon grass and galanga. Eventually, fewer and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs increased.

How was curry introduced to Thailand?  Some say Buddhist monks from India brought curry to Thailand.  Indian curry and Muslim cuisine were introduced at a palace feast in honour of King Rama I at the turn of the 18th century.  

Some of these dishes are still popular today including Masaman curry.  Massaman curry contains many dried spices including cinnamon and nutmeg.

Thai , India and Japanese curry

   Thai curry is quite different from Indian or Japanese curries.  Its main ingredient is coconut milk.  Thai curry does not use curry powder.  There are four kinds of Thai curry; red, green, Massaman and Panang curries.

   The red curry is the most popular, the green is most spicy, Massaman is a little bit sour taste and Panang is basically peanut curry.  Whereas the Indians eat curries with Roti or Naan (Indian bread), the Thais eat them with steamed rice.

japanese curry


panang curry


india roti<br />


Chinese influence

Thai Noodle

Noodles – “ Pad Thai” (fried noodles) : For many westerners, “Pad Thai” or, more accurately,  “Guay Teow Pad Thai (stir-fried rice noodles Thai-style) symbolises Thai cooking.  The name gives a hint that it is possibly of Chinese origins.

Golden Pad Thai shrimp

The word “Guay Teow” in Chinese refers to rice noodles.  “Pad” in Thai means to “fry” food.  It is likely that some early version of the dish came to Thailand with settlers crossing from southern China, who brought their own recipe for fried rice noodles.

noodle - guay teow

Certainly the cooking style, stir-frying, is Chinese, and most food historians credit the Chinese with the invention of noodles. Thai food is basically Indo-Chinese in origin.  The cooked meats and vegetables in pad Thai resemble dishes prepared by the Cantonese and Tae Chiew (Chao Zhou in Mandarin) from China’s eastern Guangdong province.

Nevertheless, the flavours and textures are pure Thai.   History could be traced that Thai ancestors may be the Chinese T’ai (phonetically, “Dai”) people who migrated from southwest China in what is now the Yunnan province.   T’ai is the largest ethnic minority there still.

Who create pad thai?

Pad Thai” was made popular by Prime Minister Pibulsonggram (also known as Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram) during World War II by codifying and perhaps even creating it.

The government gave support and encouraged to popularise it because of its nutritious recipe. By adding bean sprouts, peanuts, eggs, and meats to the noodles, the dish could dramatically improve the Thai diet and shift people away from the more traditional dietary staples of rice with Narm Prik (chili paste), leaves, and salt.

Pad Thai

Now it has slightly been adapted to add tofu, shrimps, fish sauce and other seasonings as well.  “Pad Thai” became a convenient food and it may be the original fast food in Thailand.  Along with many other types of noodles, one can find “Pad Thai” in the roadside food stalls or at street vendors on wheeled noodle carts.  These vendors have perfected the recipe and become artists, specialists in making “Pad Thai”.

Japanese Influence

Japanese cuisine has gained popularity in Thailand, and elements of Japanese cooking have found their way into Thai food. Sushi, sashimi, and Japanese-style presentation can be found in Thai restaurants. Thai dishes like Yum Nua (Thai beef salad) often incorporate Japanese flavors.


Yakitori, a popular Japanese dish consisting of grilled skewered meat, has inspired Thai street food vendors to create their own versions. In Thailand, you can find stalls selling grilled skewers known as “Moo Ping” (grilled pork skewers) or “Gai Yang” (grilled chicken skewers), which share similarities with yakitori in terms of cooking technique and presentation.

Kai Yang

Gai Yang

Moo Ping

Moo Ping

With the increased availability of international ingredients in Thailand, Japanese ingredients have found their way into Thai cooking. Ingredients such as miso paste, nori (seaweed), and Japanese soy sauce are now used in certain Thai recipes, infusing Japanese flavors into traditional Thai dishes.

Malaysian Influence

The southern region of Thailand, in particular, has been greatly influenced by Malaysian cooking, leading to a fusion of flavors and ingredients.

khanom jeen

Mee Siam, a popular Malaysian noodle dish, has been adopted into Thai cuisine as Khanom Jeen Sao Nam, a rice vermicelli dish served with a tangy sauce. Additionally, Malaysian-style fried rice, known as Nasi Goreng, has become a beloved street food in Thailand.

Malaysia’s coastal location has influenced the use of seafood and coconut milk in Thai cuisine, particularly in southern Thai dishes. Both countries share a love for seafood curries, such as Malaysian-style fish curry (Gulai Tumis) which has influenced Thai fish curries like Chu Chee Pla.

Paneang dis
moo stay

Thai adaptations of Malaysian snacks include grilled skewers of meat or seafood, similar to Malaysian Satay, and Khanom Bueang, a crispy crepe filled with a sweet coconut filling, inspired by Malaysian Apam Balik.

Vietnamese Influence

Vietnamese cuisine has influenced certain aspects of Thai cuisine, particularly in the northeastern region of Thailand.

Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh herb usage and vibrant salads, and Thai cuisine has incorporated these elements. Thai salads like Larb (spicy minced meat salad) and Som Tam (green papaya salad) showcase the influence of Vietnamese flavors and the use of herbs like mint, cilantro, and Thai basil.

Vietnamese rice paper rolls, known as Goi Cuon, have influenced Thai cuisine, leading to the creation of similar dishes in Thailand. Thai-style rice paper rolls, often filled with fresh vegetables, herbs, and grilled meats, can be found in certain regions.

vietnamese roll

Vietnamese cuisine is also known for its grilled and skewered meats, and this influence can be seen in Thai street food. Thai grilled meats, such as Moo Ping (grilled pork skewers) and Gai Yang (grilled chicken), share similarities with Vietnamese grilled dishes like Naem Nueong (grilled pork patties) and Thit Nueong (grilled meat skewers).

vietnamese food-thit nuong

Indonesian Influence

Thai cuisine has indeed been influenced by Indonesian cuisine, particularly in the southern regions of Thailand where the two countries share a border. The historical connections and cultural exchanges between Thailand and Indonesia have contributed to the culinary influences.

miang kham

Miang Kham is a traditional Thai appetizer that consists of bite-sized parcels filled with various ingredients, including toasted coconut, lime, ginger, shallots, peanuts, and a sweet and tangy sauce. It is believed to have originated from Indonesia’s betel leaf snack called “peyek daun sirih.”

Satay is a popular Thai food that is believed to have originated from Indonesia. The word “satay” itself comes from the Indonesian term “sate” or “saté.” Satay is a dish made of skewered and grilled meat, typically served with a peanut sauce. It is a common street food in Thailand and can be found in restaurants, night markets, and food stalls across the country. The skewered meat, often chicken or pork, is marinated in a flavorful mixture before being grilled over charcoal or an open flame.

grilled skewered

Portuguese Influence

Thai dessert

Tong Yip/Tong Yod/Foy Tong :  These Thai desserts/sweets are influences from Portuguese who were the first European to visit Thailand in the 16th Century. 

Thai dessert


The most important person in the history of Thai desserts was Marie Guimar.  She was born in Ayuttaya 1664, whose father was Portuguese and mother was Japanese (who migrated to Thailand due to the repression of Christianity in Japan). 

Married life of Maria Guidmar

She married to a Greek sailor, Constantine Phaulkon, who quickly became highly influential at the Siamese court as he gained the trust and respect of King Narai.  This had caused great envy amongst the natives.

So after King Narai fell seriously ill and during the Siamese Revolution in 1688, Phaulkon was arrested and put to death.  Marie was sent to prison until the new reign of King Thaisa (1709-1733) who recognized how she could contribute her cooking skills to the palace.  She was put in charge of the royal household kitchen with troops of helpers working under her.

Certainly the cooking style, stir-frying, is Chinese, and most food historians credit the Chinese with the invention of noodles. Thai food is basically Indo-Chinese in origin.  The cooked meats and vegetables in pad Thai resemble dishes prepared by the Cantonese and Tae Chiew (Chao Zhou in Mandarin) from China’s eastern Guangdong province.

Nevertheless, the flavours and textures are pure Thai.   History could be traced that Thai ancestors may be the Chinese T’ai (phonetically, “Dai”) people who migrated from southwest China in what is now the Yunnan province.   T’ai is the largest ethnic minority there still.

French Influence

During the reigns of King Rama IV (King Mongkut) and King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) in the 19th century, Thai royal chefs were indeed trained in French culinary techniques. This was a period of modernization and international exchanges in Thailand, and the royal court had close interactions with European countries, particularly France.

french dessert

Thai bakeries offer a variety of French-inspired pastries, including croissants, baguettes, éclairs, and tarts. These pastries often incorporate local flavors and ingredients, creating a fusion of French and Thai culinary traditions. French culinary culture’s emphasis on presentation and fine dining has influenced the way Thai cuisine is presented in upscale restaurants. Thai chefs have adopted the concept of meticulous plating and garnishing, elevating the visual appeal of Thai dishes and providing a sophisticated dining experience.

7 History Thai Desserts that got the name from their Originate country ?

1. Kanom  Tokyo

Is a popular Thai dessert , that takes its inspiration from Japanese cuisine, particularly the Japanese-style pancakes known as “dorayaki.” The name “Kanom Tokyo” translates to “Tokyo snack” in Thai, reflecting its association with Japanese flavors and style.

Kanom Tokyo consists of two fluffy pancake-like layers that sandwich a sweet filling. The pancakes are typically made with a combination of flour, eggs, sugar, and coconut milk, resulting in a light and spongy texture. The filling can vary but commonly includes sweet ingredients such as sweetened coconut cream, shredded coconut, or pandan-flavored custard.

2. Lod Chong Singapore

Lod Chong Singapore, also known as Cendol, is a popular Thai dessert that has gained popularity in Singapore as well. While it originated in Southeast Asia, its specific origins are debated among countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. However, it is widely enjoyed and recognized as a refreshing and sweet treat in various countries, including Thailand and Singapore.

Lod Chong Singapore, Chinatown

Lod Chong Singapore is typically made with green rice flour jelly noodles, known as “lod chong” in Thai, which are combined with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, and other toppings. The dessert is often served with crushed ice to provide a cooling sensation.

lod chong<br />

In Thailand, Lod Chong is commonly enjoyed as part of a dessert called “Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti,” where the green rice flour jelly noodles are served with sweetened coconut milk, diced jackfruit, and other toppings. The addition of pandan flavoring gives the coconut milk a fragrant and distinct taste.

 3.Kanom  Mochi  Nakornsawan

Kanom Mochi Nakornsawan or Mochi snack from Nakornsawan province in Thailand. Mochi is a well-known snack from Japan . It is told that one day Thai tourist went to Japan to travel and brought Mochi back to Thailand as a souvenir. Apparently , the Mochi was hard and not delicious as the Thai taste expectation.

4. Gluay Keak

Gluay Kaek or Fried Banana ; “Gluay” means banana. It is believed that Gluay Kaek was born in Krungsri Ayuttaya for the first time. Muslim people or Thai people call them in Thai ‘’ Kaek ‘’ created how to cook fried banana  by coating ripe bananas in a batter, typically made from rice flour or all-purpose flour, and then deep-frying them until they become golden brown and crispy.

The result is a delightful combination of sweet, soft banana on the inside and a crispy outer layer. Therefore , Thai people name this recipe after the people who created it “ Gluay Kaek’’ . Fried bananas are commonly sold by street vendors throughout Thailand, especially at night markets and along bustling streets. They are often served on skewers or in small paper bags for convenient snacking.

5. American Fried rice

American Fired Rice or Khao Pad American ; It is called”American fried rice” because it has a lot of side dishes such as: Sausages, fried chicken, fried eggs, ham The rice has sweet and sour flavor from tomato sauce and raisins.

If you go back in history, there are two currents in the story. Some say it’s from Lady Sureepan Maneewat,  who invented the American fried rice recipe by chance. During her time as a restaurant manager, Restaurants of the Railway Department in Don Mueang Airport .That morning, an airline canceled its flight. She cooked an American-style breakfast prepared with sausages and fried eggs with some leftovers. She arranged to bring rice to stir fry with tomato sauce. Then place the sausages and the remaining fried eggs side by side with the plate. 

American Fired Rice

But the Royal Thai Air Force saw it, so he was interested and ordered the same fried rice to eat. When the American soldiers saw it , they asked about the name of the menu. And because the lady herself didn’t think that anyone would be interested, she came up with a name. “American fried rice” went out immediately. American fried rice is also known internally. It is widely spread to this day.

Another said that during the Vietnam War, which occurred during B.E. 2,500 year Until  B.E.2,518 year, there was a chef named Gojek. He invented an American fried rice menu for American soldiers stationed in Nakhon Ratchasima and in the Rama Soonr camp in Udon Thani province. Until ,it is famous and widely known today

6. Kanom Jin

Kanom Chin or Chinese desserts ; This food is fresh, thin rice noodlesin Thai cuisinewhich are made from rice sometimes fermented for three days, boiled, and then made into noodles by extruding the resulting dough through a sieve into boiling water. Khanom chin is served in many kinds of stock: coconut milk, fish curry, and chilli.

greenCrurry (2)

Kanom Chin or Chinese dessert is not Chinese food, but the word “Chinese” is assumed to come from Mon, which calls Chinese dessert “Konom Jin”, meaning ripening 2 times.

curry kanom jin

Pisan Boonbprook, Thai person of Raman descent who are interested in studying Mon food and culture say, “In fact, Chinese dessert is the food of the Mon or Raman people. Mon people call Chinese sweets “Konomjin”.

7. Singapore  Cookies

Singapore Cookies ; has a crispy, crumbly, sweet and salty taste on the tip of the tongue. It has the crunchiness and oily taste of cashews It is a Thai cookie, but the reason why it is named Singapore is because in the mixture of this cookie there is starch and starch that this is tapioca starch, which in the past had to be imported from Singapore.(Some call it Singapore potato flour)

The blending of foreign cuisine influences with traditional Thai ingredients and techniques has created a remarkable balance of sweet, sour, spicy, and savory flavors that are characteristic of Thai cuisine. From fragrant curries to zesty salads, noodle dishes, and street food snacks, Thai food offers a delightful journey for the taste buds, highlighting the cultural exchange and the rich diversity of culinary traditions from around the world.

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