Thai Restaurant Seattle: The History of Thai Food in Seattle

January 30, 2023
IN Thai Cuisine

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, over 1 million Americans visited Thailand in 2017. It was the highest number ever reached.

The earliest Thai restaurant in Seattle opened in the mid-1980s. The boom that followed is directly related to the rise in Thailand’s tourism industry. 

The history of Thai food in the USA is fairly recent but it’s a direct reflection of the colorful Thai culture. Read on to learn the history of Thai food in Seattle, what makes Thai cuisine so delicious and where to find the best Thai restaurant in Seattle.  

Seattle Thai Food History

Thai food hit the scene in Seattle during the pop-culture excess era of the 80s and food critics were fast to try it first. John Hinterberger wrote columns with phrases like “taste-bud pyrotechnics” for the Seattle Times.

As it appeared in more newspapers and magazines, it gained in popularity. If you wanted a reputation for good taste, you had to explore options like Thai cuisine. Soon, visitors would have to wait 30 minutes or more for tables. 

There are surprisingly few immigrants from Thailand in Seattle, even now. Only about 6,000 Thai people live here with some sources stating even fewer. These are small numbers considering that there are over 110 Thai restaurants in the city. 

How Thai Food Promotes Thailand 

A clever marketing tactic known as gastro diplomacy was used to create a large uptick in Thai restaurants around the world.

The concept is that if people love Thai food, they will be curious about Thai culture. And if people are curious they will visit Thailand. If people visit Thailand they will love it.

Getting people to love Thailand is good for the government and for public relations. It’s also good for Thailand’s tourism industry and the country’s economy. 

What Makes Thai Food Special? 

Every Thai restaurant in Seattle is pinching off the stems of fresh herbs. They’re slicing perfect strips of meats and vegetables. But we expect fresh ingredients at any quality restaurant. So why does Thai food taste so unique? 

Thai food seems to “pop” on your palate while still feeling like comfort food. The secret is in the way contrasting flavors combine. It’s more than just sweet and spicy. 

Lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander, and basil elevate the main ingredients with bright flavors. Peppers, Thai curries, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns add a burst of contrasting heat. Then, rich broths, coconut milk, and peanut sauces bring it together and give it depth. 

Some of the most interesting combinations can be found in dishes like Yum Woon Sen Talay, Halibut Cheeks, and Pla Lard Prik.

Find the Best Thai Restaurant in Seattle

Knowing a little more about the history of Thai cuisine can make your next Thai meal a more cultural experience. At Thai Ginger, our Phad Thai was named Best Bite at the Bite of Seattle so that’s a great dish to start with. 

When you’re looking for the best Thai restaurant in Seattle, be sure to find yourself at one of our Thai Ginger restaurants. We have several locations including Redmond, Sammamish, Bellevue, and Seattle.

Come visit us today to be immersed in Thai culture and discover your own favorite Thai dish.

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