Orchestration 101

Thai cooking is a paradox: it uses robustly flavored ingredients—garlic, shrimp paste, chillies and lemongrass—and yet when these are melded together during cooking they arrive at a sophisticated and often subtle elegance, in contrast to their rather coarse beginnings. Often the ingredients employed in a recipe can be an extraordinary, bewildering array of up to 20 items in a single dish. In any other cuisine this would guarantee a cluttered and confused finish, yet in Thai cooking these disparate ingredients are transformed into a seamless whole—the honed result of generations of Thai cooks. This does not mean that all the tastes are blended into an indistinguishable unity, but that the diverse flavors work harmoniously in concert—rounding, contrasting, and supporting each other.

—David Thompson, Thai Food

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