A proper Thai meal should consist of rice or “kao” and some thing to eat with rice or “kab kao”. Each diner is served with an individual plate of rice while everything else is served in the middle of the table for sharing among diners. Normally rice arrives at the table first followed by non-rice dishes. Thais will not start eating until their rice arrives. This is a different concept from that in the Western world where rice is a side dish often ignored completely. In fact Thai food is cooked to “season” the rice and dishes are flavored to be eaten with rice – they aren’t meant to be eaten alone.
After rice is served and a few dishes of kab kao arrive, you then take a small portion of one of the dishes close to you and put it on your plate. Usually serving spoons or “chon glang” are provided. After trying a dish, you see what else looks good and try that. And so on through the meal. No one hogs a dish or overeats one item – there is care taken that food is truly shared. The dishes may be passed around the table or you just reach out for them, or someone may serve you. Food is eaten slowly and tastes savored and the sharing of food with others is part of the enjoyment.