A small Thai, also called a Sala Thai, stands open in a large open pavilion, generally used as an outdoor meeting area and to provide shady people shelter. With etymology from the Sanskrit, the word literally means wooden buildings for certain purposes, including sala kang. The majority of them are open on all 4 sides. They may not have a central area where the rituals and meals are performed. There may not be a paved area outside to use as seating or as the dining area, depending on the rules of the particular Thai temple.
Most common in rural areas, salas are usually built in rice paddy fields and along the Riverside. In other locations, they may be built next to a small stream or pond or even in a field near a small tree. The first salas were used by Buddhist monks who went into meditation. Their food was very simple, consisting mainly of rice and vegetables. As the people began to experience better living conditions, they expanded their practices and now most houses in Thailand are equipped with at least one such facility.
Most westerners picture a typical sala as being red brick and decorated with pictures of Buddha and flowers. This image has been largely outdated. Although there are many Thais who still live in the traditional spirit of a traditional Thai meal, modern self’s tend to look more like the elaborate, Western-style eating area found in many fine restaurants. Today’s sala’s are multi-tiered, often built in residential areas, with carpeted floors and even sitting areas on the top few levels.
One of the biggest changes in Sala Thai activities has been the widespread use of mechanized equipment. Although most restaurants still employ cooks and chefs, the bulk of the work is now done by sophisticated mechanized equipment. Most commonly used equipment is the rice cooker. It is so simple to use that most Thais find it easy to master the process. The rice is placed inside the cooker where it is heated through oil or coal. The oil or coal is then used to fill the inside of the rice cooker making it easier to mix the ingredients.
When cooking rice in a sala (not only in Thailand but also in other parts of the world), coals are not used. In most cases, wood or charcoal ashes are used instead. Sometimes, water is also added to help improve the burning process.
The main components of most Sala Thai recipes are herbs, vegetables and proteins. Often, curry powder is added to the food as well as onions, garlic and other spices. Meat is also an important component, usually chicken. Today, most Thais make the majority of their meals themselves. This has caused a big increase in the production of fresh produce.
Most Sala Thai recipes require that you soak your foods in some sort of liquid before preparing them. Typically, this is water. Many believe that the best way to do this is with lime juice. You should also be sure to marinate your food in lime juice for a couple of hours prior to cooking.
The price of food in most countries is rising, and so is the price of Sala Thai food. This has caused many Thai’s to try to cook their own food. While it can be a very rewarding experience, it is not for everyone. There are plenty of excellent cookbooks on the market that teach how to prepare authentic Thai dishes. Also, most areas have excellent schools that teach basic cooking and recipes. If you are adventurous, you can cook your own food and enjoy the food that you create.