FOOD+DRNK Vegetarian cuisine
The food is pushed by the fork, held in the left hand, into the spoon held in the right hand, which is then brought to the mouth. A traditional ceramic spoon is sometimes used for soup, and knives are not generally used at the table. It is common practice for the both the Thais and the hill tribe peoples who live in north and northeast Thailand, to use sticky rice as an edible implement by shaping it into small, and sometimes flattened, balls by hand (and only the right hand by custom) which are then dipped into side dishes and eaten. Thai food was traditionally eaten with the right hand while seated on mats or carpets on the floor, customs still found in the more traditional households. The dishes are all served at the same time, including the soups, and it is also customary to provide more dishes than there are guests at a table. In Latin America, dishes may be claimed or designated as a "plato nacional" although in many cases recipes transcend national borders with only minor variations. Cucumber is sometimes eaten to cool the mouth with particularly spicy dishes.
The plain rice, sticky rice or the khanom chin (Thai rice noodles) served alongside a spicy Thai curry or stir-fry, tends to counteract the spiciness. "rice curry"). With over 40 distinct ethnic groups each with its own culture and even more languages, it comes as no surprise that Thai cuisine, as a whole, features many different ingredients (suan phasom; Thai: ส่วนผสม), and ways of preparing food.
Meats used in Thai cuisine are usually pork and chicken, and also duck, beef, and water buffalo. Other varieties of rice eaten in Thailand include: sticky rice (khao niao), a unique variety of rice which contains an unusual balance of the starches present in all rice, causing it to cook up to a sticky texture. Sticky rice, not jasmine rice, is the staple food in the local cuisines of Northern Thailand and of Isan (Northeastern Thailand), both regions of Thailand directly adjacent to Laos with which they share many cultural traits. Non-glutinous rice is also used for making fried rice dishes, and for congee, of which there are three main varieties: khao tom (a thin rice soup, most often with minced pork or fish), khao tom kui (a thick, unflavored rice porridge that is served with side dishes), or chok (a thick rice porridge that is flavored with broth and minced meat). When placing their order at these places, Thais will state if they want their food served as separate dishes, or together on one plate with rice (rat khao). Australian chef David Thompson, a prolific chef and expert on Thai food, observed that unlike many other cuisines: "Thai food ain't about simplicity. The dishes are all served at the same time, including the soups, and it is also customary to provide more dishes than there are guests at a table. Common flavors in Thai food come from garlic, galangal, coriander/cilantro, lemon grass, shallots, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and chilies. It reflects its culture, environment, ingenuity and values.