The Thai cuisine
The difference between Thai and European cuisine lies not only in the ingredients used and the style of cooking, but in the manner in which individual dishes are selected to form the meal.
A group of Thais ordering a meal would start by selecting one or more appetizers (aharn len) to be nibbled accompanied by a drink whilst each group member selects one or two dishes from the menu as his or her contribution to the meal.
The individual choices are then the subject of much animated discussion to ensure that each dish selected compliments those chosen by the other members of the group, thus forming a well rounded and balanced meal to be enjoyed by all.
Once the meal has been ordered, (3 to 5 dishes are typical for a group of 2-4 people), they are placed on the guest's table. The meal is commenced once all group members have been served their first portion of rice, soups are invariably served in a soup kettle with each guest being provided with a small soup bowl, but the meal is served as a single course, fruit and coffee being ordered after the main meal.
"Thai Etiquette" requires that each guest transfers only a spoonful from a particular dish onto his plate at one time. This spoonful is then eaten accompanied by rice before taking a spoonful from another dish, and so on.
The most common mistake made during the meal by non-Thais is the tendency to ladel a spoonful of each dish onto their plate (buffet style) before they commence eating. This mixes all the individual tastes of each dish together, so should be avoided.
The pace of a meal
The meal should be eaten slowly with particular favorites reordered, or alternative dishes added to compliment the meal. Thai customers invariably order rice by the "bowl" for the group allowing the waitress to replenish each guest's rice as required.
Spices are integral to the taste of Thai food. Not all Thai dishes are hot, many are mild or not spicy at all. The "Spiciness" of any particular dish can be diluted by mixing a little of it with a spoonful of rice. In this way almost anybody can enjoy "hot dishes" and the brave amongst you a "very hot" dish. Asking for a traditionally "Spicy Dish" to be toned down will only ruin the taste of that particular dish, and no doubt offend the chef. Note - if you have mistakenly eaten something that is far too hot for your individual taste, ask for a "sliced banana" , this will help remove the sting.