The History of Thai Food in America

February 20, 2023
IN Thai Cuisine

Did you know that Tom Yum Goong is one of the most-eaten foods in Thailand? It’s one of many dishes that make up the exotic cuisine that comes from the heart of Southeast Asia. 

But how did Thai food make its way from Asia all the way to the United States? Thai food history in America may surprise you. So if you’re curious about how your favorite Thai cuisine landed in the States, keep reading to discover more.

The Vietnam War

The 1960s were a turbulent time for America. Civil rights movements were springing up, society was rebelling, and unwanted wars boomed. One of these controversial wars was the Vietnam War, but with it came a new discovery for the American people.

During the war, Americans were introduced to the culture of Southeast Asia. Thousands of American soldiers became stationed in Thailand while they served. In addition, journalists and other Americans brought the cuisine of Thailand back to the US.

Thai Immigration in America

Thai food in America grew more popular as immigrants began to make their way to the United States. Thailand was a US ally during the decade-long Vietnam war. And Thai immigration to America was a slow process that started after the war ended. 

By 1970, around 5,000 Thai immigrants had relocated to America. With them came a revolution of foreign cuisine that made its way to the hearts of the American people. And one city helped take Thai food nationwide, becoming a hotspot for the cuisine.

Thai Food in Los Angeles

After Americans in the 60s brought their newfound knowledge of Thai culture to America, it attracted a large number of Thai immigrants to the Los Angeles area. The people of Thailand began studying in LA and opening restaurants in the busy city.

With this movement came the parents of Jet Tila, a famous American chef who starred on many hit TV shows like Iron Chef America. In 1972, his family opened the first Thai grocery store in Los Angeles. They named the establishment the Bangkok Market.

Before the Bangkok market, Thai cooks had to use Chinese ingredients to replicate classic Thai dishes like Pad Thai, Green Curry, and more. But the Bangkok market allowed the authentic culture of Thailand to finally take root in Los Angeles.

A Nationwide Cuisine

In addition to LA, Thai immigrants also moved to areas like California, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, and DC. These immigrants also opened Thai restaurants and shops, furthering the Thai food movement. With LA as a central hub, these areas all came together.

LA chefs influenced the expansion of Thai food into major areas around the US. Other major LA chefs like Tommy Tang began the fusion Thai movement and opened an NY restaurant in the 1980s. Through Hollywood, Thai foods also exploded across America.

Thai Food Bellevue: Order Today

Thai food has a rich history in America, spanning many decades and rising from humble beginnings. Since 2000, Thai food has continued to increase in popularity around the country. Today, Thai food is celebrated for its wide range of flavors and offerings. If you’d like to try authentic Bellevue Thai food, Thai Ginger is here to serve you! Order now from our website and get the best Thai catering in the area.

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