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Flower Food

Photographer: Barbara Walton


Delicious and beautiful, Thai food is appreciated the world over for its striking tastes and surprising combinations of sweet and salty, spicy and sour.


But lesser known is that flowers also bloom in Thai cuisine, flowers appear as essential ingredients in popular dishes, as snacks sold at street stalls in the form of battered flower fries, to specialty dishes at local restaurants, such as steamed lotus leaf parcels, as well as in full banquets in five-star hotels that promote extensive floral banquets.


The use of flowers in cuisine dates back in time, and across cultures throughout the world.


Thailand sells itself as the Kitchen of the World - and with a vast variety of foods both traditional and new, its claim is encouraging Thailand's creative chefs to further combine the visual beauty of flowers with fragrant new and old tasting dishes, highlighting floral ingredients in the food, not only the garnish.


Flowers eaten in Thailand include the lotus and orchid flowers, butterfly pea, ixora, cowslip creeper blossoms, yellow sesbania, banana flowers, okra flowers, orange bombax, roselle flowers, and wild torch ginger flower to name a few. They are sold in street markets, collected from the sides of fields and roads and in private gardens.


On Koh Kret a small island north of the Thai capital Bangkok, one of the most famous snacks is battered and fried flowers - served with sweet chilli sauce. Many curries and stir fries contain flowers and leaves - some of them are the dry centres of the Bombax flower that are a vital ingredient in spicy northern noodle soup and curry.