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Promoting Thai cuisine and culture in the US

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Policies to preserve a country's ancient culture, language and culinary traditions and promote them to the outside world are an essential part of economic and political development. 

sticky rice and nam phrik

Mention Japan and you will conjure up images of Samurai, Sumo wrestling, Judo, Ikebana, tatami mats, bonsais and tea ceremonies.

Mention Korea, Kim Chi, Tae Kwon Doh and dramas of court ladies dressed in traditional hanbok dresses on TV will come to mind.

Korean popular culture has permeated all over Asia through the popularity of its singers and TV programs. Western universities such as UC Berkeley in the US even have Korean Studies departments and classes to teach the Korean language (See website).

Thailand has one of the richest culinary traditions in the world. Thai massage also has quite a reputation. Today's article is about promoting Thai cuisine and culture in the US. The following is an extract from a longer article which can be read here.

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Culinary connections by Yvonne Bohwongprasert

Despite having resided in the US for over three decades, academic-turned-restaurateur Arun Sampanthavivat has never forgotten his roots. During this period he has made a name for himself as a top Thai chef in Chicago, managing his own upscale restaurant, Arun's, for 24 years.

While all the hard work has paid handsome dividends, Arun thinks the time is now ripe for him to promote his country of birth by building a development called Thai Town Centre which is due to open in mid-autumn 2011...

The project is a collaboration between the Thai community and the City of Chicago ...Arun came up with the idea in 2005 after noting the great success of "Taste of Thailand: Partnership for Life," a showcase of Thai cuisine and food products which did much to unify the Thai community in the greater Chicago area...

...The principal investors are members of the Thai community in Chicago and Thai friends of ours from Thailand. It is important to note, however, that we are officially supported and partly sponsored by the City of Chicago. We are also counting on support from our own [Thailand's] government...

Could you tell us more about the facilities at TTC and what activities you're organising for customers' enjoyment?

...We'll be cooking food from the four regions of Thailand and it will be served in a casual, tapas style. This will allow those who enjoy Thai cuisine a chance to sample, for the first time, all the various regional flavours in a single place.

Customers will also be able to purchase all sorts of Thai food products, from packaged products like spices and sauces, to ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook meals. There will also be a daily delivery service. And classes in Thai cookery will be offered occasionally.

All the food-service activities will operate from the first [ground] floor and there'll be seating for as many as 150 people. On the level above we're constructing an elegant Thai spa and a traditional Thai massage parlour. The spa will also sell various spa and spa-related cosmetic products...

You're a chef by profession. Did that help in any way when you set about drumming up support for the Thai Town Centre idea?...

You've lived in the US for quite a long time now. What sort of misconceptions do Americans tend to hold about Thailand? 

We're viewed in a rather ambiguous way. On the one hand, our cuisine is much appreciated, but, as a people, we are not always admired. Visitors who pass through our country fall in love with our rich culture, especially the friendliness of the Thais. Yet, many return [to the US] questioning the genuineness of our "Thai smile" especially if they've been taken advantage of by people with bad intentions. I don't think that this behaviour is true of the majority of Thais, but it does mar the experience for tourists and leaves them with a negative impression of our country.

To contact the writer, email

(Source: Bangkok Post, Culinary connections, 16/12/2010, Yvonne Bohwongprasert, link)

Thai cuisine - the Thai style of cooking and preparing food (See Wikipedia and list of Thai dishes)

culinary - connected with cooking or kitchens เกี่ยวกับการทำอาหาร
conjure up - create or make appear (as if by magic)
hanbok - the ancient traditional style of Korean dress (See Wikipedia)
come to mind - remember something (when you see or think of some other thing)
permeate - diffuse, pervade, permeate, mix in with and interpenetrate ฟุ้ง, แผ่ซ่าน, แพร่กระจาย

connections - phones that are connected to the network (could either make or receive calls)
reside - live
decade - period of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี
academic - someone who teaches at a college นักวิชาการ
restaurateur - someone who owns or manages a restaurant เจ้าของร้านอาหาร
roots - where a person comes from, their native place or hometown, where they were born

made a name for himself - became successful and well-known
chef - a trained professional cook in a restaurant (See Wikipedia)

- high quality expensive products (for customers in higher social classes or incomes) (See glossary)
dividends - benefits; good results ได้เปรียบ
handsome dividends - very big benefits, very good results 

time is ripe -
it is a very good time (to take some action or do some activity)
promote - to move someone to a job at a higher level เลื่อนตำแหน่ง
development - the gradual growth and formation of something

collaboration - when people work together to achieve a goal
community - the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
showcase - show the best qualities or parts of something (here: big event that does this) แสดงจุดเด่นของสิ่งของหรือคน
principal - main or most important สำคัญ เป็นหลัก

counting on -
expecting to get (need it to do their project)
counting on support - expecting on getting support (for their project)
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
facilities - the buildings, equipment and services provided for a particular purpose สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก

formal - following strict rules or ceremonies ตามธรรมเนียมปฏิบัติ, ตามประเพณีนิยม, เป็นทางการ
informal - not formal, relaxed, not following strict rules 
casual - same as "informal"

tapas style - a kind of Spanish appetizers or snacks, served to encourage conversation  (See Wikipedia)
chance - an opportunity, a situation in which it is possible to do something you need or want to do
sample - try out (see how it tastes for the first time)

purchase - buy
occasionally - done sometimes, but not frequently or regularly บางครั้งบางคราว
elegant - lookiing high-class (done with grace and dignity) ที่สง่างาม ที่หรูหรา
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
cosmetic - involving substances, treatments, etc. that which are intended to improve the appearance of your face or body ซึ่งทำให้สวยงาม
profession - a type of job requiring advanced training and education
drum up support - take actions to make people want to support something

misconceptions - things that people do not understand about something
tend - to be likely to behave in a particular way or have a particular characteristic มักจะ

ambiguous - unclear, definite and easy to understand, so it can be understood in more than one way, vague, obscure, implicit and not explicit ที่ไม่ชัดเจน ที่ไม่ชัดเจน, เคลือบคลุม, คลุมเครือ, ไม่กระจ่าง
- the style of cooking in a country or a region of a country
(adjective) - to look up to and feel respect for
admired (noun) - people look up to it and respect it
rich - interesting, with a lot of different qualities, experiences or events อุดมไปด้วย

genuine (adjective) - being the real and true thing, not fake ซึ่งเป็นของจริง, ซึ่งเป็นของแท้
genuineness (noun) - the state of being genuine

advantage - a condition giving a greater chance of success ความได้เปรียบ
take advantage of - to use people or a situation to get what you want (often means "unfairly" too)

intention - a plan in your mind to do something ความตั้งใจ, เจตนา
bad intentions - making plans to do things that are bad (violate moral rules or the law)

majority - most of the people in a group เสียงส่วนใหญ่ คนส่วนใหญ่
mar - to spoil or ruin something
negative - bad ที่เป็นด้านลบ
impression - an opinion or feeling that you have about someone or something ความรู้สึก,ความประทับใจ
contact - to communicate with someone ติดต่อ

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