Religion & Food

RELIGION

Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist countries in the world.  The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, a branch of Hinayana Buddhism, practiced by more than 90% of Thai people.  The remainder of the population adheres to lslam, Christianity, Hinduism, and various other faiths, all of which are allowed full freedom of expression.

Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on the daily life of Thais.  Senior monks are highly revered.  Thus, in towns and villages, the temple (or Wat) is the heart of social and religious life.  Meditation, one of the most popular aspects of Buddhism, is practiced regularly by manyThais as a means of promoting inner peace and happiness.  Visitors, too, can learn the fundamentals of this practice at several centers in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.
 

THAI FOOD

Thai food is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as fish sauce.  Thai food is popular in many western countries, especially in Australia, New Zealand, several European countries such as the United Kingdom, as well as the United States and Canada.  Instead of a single main course with side dishes, as is the norm in western cuisine, a full Thai meal typically consists of either a single dish or rice (khao) with many complimentary dishes served concurrently.

Thai food is generally eaten with a fork and a spoon.  Chopsticks are used only occasionally, primarily for the consumption of noodle soups.  The fork, held in the left hand, is used to shove food onto the spoon.  However, it is common practice for Thais and hill tribe peoples in the North and Northeast to eat sticky rice with their right hands by forming it into balls then dipping them in sauces.  Thai-Muslims also frequently eat meals only with their right hands.  Thai food is usually served with a variety of spicy condiments to enhance each dish.  This can include dried chili pieces, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, and/or spicy chili sauces.