The Indian and Muslim cuisines present distinct approaches to using dried spices in curries, both of which influence Siamese cuisine in different ways. Indian-inspired Siamese curries spotlight chilies for their vibrant color, fragrance, flavor and heat, while spices like cumin and coriander play a supporting role. The spices complement and temper the chilies’ intensity, creating a rounded, multi-layered flavor profile; nonetheless, the chilies remain the star ingredient, gently complemented by the spices.
Conversely, Muslim-influenced curries, such as massaman curry, prioritize spices over chilies. Spices like cardamom, nutmeg and mace take center stage, while the chilies provide subtle background heat rather than being the primary flavor. In these curries, the focus is on the rich, warm and complex aromas created by the blend of spices, which is a defining characteristic of many Muslim dishes.
Moreover, Siamese cuisine favors using rehydrated dried chilies in curries for their depth; this depth is highly appreciated, along with the complexity, and comparatively milder heat of the rehydrated dried chilies. As well, the harsh grassy notes of fresh chilies are not favored; they’re referred to in Thai as “green rank” or “men khiaao (เหม็นเขียว)”. Muslim curries often use fresh green chilies, tempering their vibrant, grassy taste with dry spices and thus shifting the flavor from bright and fresh to more subdued and earthy tones, resulting in a dish that is perceived to be layered, despite the burst of fresh chilies.