To Westerners, cooking Thai food can seem a bit intimidating at first. Whereas some cuisines focus on making things simple and sticking to the basics, Thai cuisine goes the opposite way: every Thai chef will delight in making any given dish as complex and multi-faceted as possible while keeping it pleasant to the palate.
Because of this, first attempts at cooking Thai food can end in disaster. Aspiring cooks will often add too many spices, too much salt, an overabundance of ingredients and so forth, resulting in dishes that are best served to the family dog. Still, if you persist and don’t get discouraged, you’ll eventually gain a new skill and will impress friends and family with your knowledge of how to make exotic dishes they’ve never seen before.
Getting through the bumpy beginnings
The first mistake most cooks new to Thai cuisine make is trying to do too much, too soon. Yes, Thai cuisine is all about many tastes bunched together in one attractive dish, but that doesn’t mean every dish has to come out looking like a piece of art.
It’s always better to make a simple rice-and-spice combo with some fish than to combine spices and ‘wilder’ types of food you’re not that familiar with. Remember: the most important part of whatever you cook will always be its edibility.
There’s also a high probability that you’ll mess up more when making Thai dishes than most others types of food. Even for Eastern food standards, Thai cuisine has an amazing amount of diversity and ingredients that are unfamiliar to Western cooks. Every time you overcook or serve something that hardly tastes like food, remember that your efforts will pay off in the end.
The visual aspect is still important
No Thai chef is going to make a dish that doesn’t look good. In fact, a good part of being a master Thai chef is knowing how to make dishes that both look and taste good.
A good practice is to first learn how to make a dish taste well and then look to improve its appearance with each subsequent serving. Following this simple one-two will ensure that every Thai dish you make eventually ends up being a complete experience. You’ll also want to keep color in mind. Add a little greenery to make your dish look more appealing.
To help yourself out in this regard, try to limit the amount of dishes you initially prepare to only a couple. Pick out a few dishes and make a rule: only when you can make each of them tasty and visually-appealing will you expand the menu.
Keep in mind: you have everything you need
You don’t need dozens of fancy plates in various sizes to serve Thai food, nor do you need expensive and highly-specific appliances to prepare it (contrary to what commercials might have you believe).
A working stove will serve you just fine when you start, and will let you cook multiple dishes that can look as if they were made in Thailand itself. After all, the carts of street food vendors in Bangkok are probably far less equipped than your kitchen and the vendors serve food in simple plastic plates, yet you won’t hear their customers complaining.