A paradox of cooking...
In Thailand and Laos, eating is always considered to be more fun in a group and the larger the better. We love to party! Except for the "rice plates" and the noodle dishes, Lao and Thai meals are typically ordered “family style”, which is to say that two or more people order together, sharing different dishes. Traditionally, the party orders one of each kind of dish, for example, one chicken, one fish, one soup, etc.
Rice and noodles are the staple food and are eaten throughout Laos and Thailand for breakfast, lunch and dinner and no meal is complete without fresh vegetables and herbs. Most Lao and Thai dishes are eaten with sticky rice or steamed jasmine rice. Sticky rice is served up in little baskets called tip khao and eaten with the hands. The general practice is to grab a small handful of rice from the tip khao, then to roll it into a rough ball which is than used to dip into the various dishes. Watching others is the best way to learn. At the end of the meal, it is considered bad luck not to replace the lid on the tip khao.
Thai and Lao cooking is thus a paradox: it uses robustly flavored ingredients garlic, shrimp paste, chilies 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.
Seasoning is the considered application of flavors: sweet, sour, hot and salty. Two, three or occasionally all four of these primary tastes create the ultimate level of taste that so distinguishes Thai and Lao cooking. Balance is paramount. Thai and Lao food strives to achieve a balance where the tastes, textures and seasonings are assembled in every dish to the intended degree, enhancing and defining it. This is rot chart – rot meaning "taste" and chart meaning "proper", "unified", "balanced" or "appropriate" - and is the ultimate goal of Thai and Lao cooking.