Top 3 Thai Food and Olive Oil Myths
By ‘Chef Nan’ Hongwiwat
From mystical abilities to altered food flavours, and atomic-bomb qualities when heated, as a chef I have heard it all, when it comes to myths surrounding Thai food being paired with olive oil. What if, I told you, olive oil is actually one of my secret weapons when it comes to cooking Thai? Would you still think the same? It also amazes me that one of the most famous global food trends today, just so happens to be, cooking with olive oil, and yet it has been slow to catch on in Thailand – and we are the food-trend champions!
In fact, when I talk about olive oil to other Thai people, I am usually met with shock, horror or both. Personally, I have used olive oil for traditional Thai cooking for the past seven years, and I know that it not only tastes delicious, but is versatile and healthy too. So let’s discuss the main misconceptions surrounding one of my favourite food duos.
Myth One – Olive oil changes the flavour of Thai food
Olive oil has been used in Europe since around 8BC. By 2016, the world consumed 2,904 tons of the glorious golden liquid. In my opinion so many millennia of olive oil love, can’t be wrong! Olive oil itself is famously used by people all around the world for frying, sautéing, deep frying and even to make your favourite dessert. It is this versatility that makes olive oil so good for all your favourite Thai cooking.
Believe me, I have put olive oil to the test with my Thai repertoire! From Massaman to Kai Jiao, and from Muu Ping to Krapow, I use olive oil and it doesn’t change the taste of my Thai food – in fact, it enhances the flavours food.
Myth Two – Olive oil cannot be heated to high levels
Please try to tell me this again after you have tasted my signature Thai-style chicken, fried in olive oil! Did you know that olive oil is heat resistant and perfect to use in hot cooking – even super-high heat Thai dishes like Hoy Tod or Phad See Ew. To prove this, extra light olive oil has a smoke point of 468°F (242°C). Now a smoke point is the temperature at which the fats in the oils begin to break down and turn into smoke. When you find out that deep frying oil temperature is approximately 375°F (191°C), its easy to see that this a myth.
Also, if we look at other oil’s smoke points, extra light olive oil is higher than canola, soybean, corn, peanut, palm, and coconut oils!
Myth Three – Olive oil is not healthy
People have actually told me that heated olive oil is not healthy. This is a fallacy, because olive oil instead it links to the heat stability of olive oil. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, which are resistant to heating with only a low level of damage-prone polyunsaturated fats.
Olive oil is also full of Vitamin E, has zero cholesterol and has 77% unsaturated fat – which minimizes the risks of heart disease and lowers bad cholesterol levels in blood. It is also one of the key stars of the world-famous ‘Mediterranean Diet,’ renowned as one of the healthiest diets in the world and linked to the good health, and high life expectancy in the region where large amounts of olive oil are consumed.
As a chef, I can say with conviction that our Thai cuisine is one of the world’s best. It’s nice to see our cuisine evolve, into new and meaningful – and of course delicious – incarnations. And olive oil is my pick for the perfect international partner for our globally adored cuisine. Let’s stop the myths and start the cooking!