by Julian Adikary
Dining in the UK is, like so many aspects of modern life, sometimes a compromise. In days gone by, when gender roles conformed to long-established stereotypes, a housewife would prepare a full, cooked meal for the family to share in the evening. These days, when it is more likely that both partners in a relationship will have careers, time is at a premium and many begrudge time spent cooking after a busy day at work. Consequently, takeaway food and restaurant meals account for a larger part of our diet then ever before.
While many of us avoid the kind of fast food that we consider to be junky American imports, such as burgers and greasy fried chicken, we do not seem to be so aware of the health aspects of other cuisines which, although established, are also relative newcomers to our shores.
Health in diet and lifestyle is a modern obsession. We shy away from overdoing the very obvious unhealthy foods. We limit our intake of cakes, sweets, chips, but we are less wary of eating Indian and Chinese restaurant meals or takeaways – perhaps several times a week – even though, at the back of our minds, we know that these are often as full of fat, sugar and salt as the more obvious junk foods.
Of the imported cuisines popular in the UK, Thai food offers one of the most consistently healthy and well-balanced diets available. Its various techniques and components are a fusion of contributions made by the Asian, European and African cultures that, at various periods, took advantage of the trade routes upon which Thailand was so well placed. It is almost as if it has embraced all the best elements from the many influences that played parts in its evolution, while leaving out most of the things which we now know are not healthy to eat.
An article in the health section of the BBC’s website stated that the popular Indian dish chicken tikka masala with pilau rice typically contains around 47g of fat, while a similar Thai food choice, stir fried chicken with plain steamed rice (phad khing hai) has just 13g of fat of which only 3g is saturated fat. The difference is striking, and the more dishes one compares, the greater the contrast one sees between the two cuisines so far as healthy eating considerations are concerned.
As well as a healthy, balanced overall diet, the individual ingredients used in Thai cooking are well known for their benefits and, in many cases, they are actually used in Southeast Asian medicine.