Using Garlic the Thai Way
Garlic is used as a cooking ingredient all over the world. However, in the Western World we tend to use garlic sparingly, and when we do use it we tend to prepare it quite differently than Thai people do in Thailand.
In the west we tend to peel the outer skin from the cloves of garlic, we also chop it finely or squeeze it through a garlic press. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this way of preparing garlic, it must be said that this destroys the flavour somewhat. Thai people would never consider treating their garlic so badly!
Smash it Whole:
The primary way in which garlic is used in Thai recipes, is as part of the base paste used to flavour the food. The garlic, along with other herbs and spices such as chillies, onion and black pepper will be thrown into a mortar and then ground down to a paste using a pestle. Note, the garlic is thrown in whole, including the skin, with no other preparation.
Skin it and Eat it Whole:
Another way in which garlic is used in Thai recipes, especially spicy salads (Yam), is to simply peel the cloves and add them to the dish whole. Thai people have no problems with eating whole cloves of garlic in one mouthful, even when it is raw.
As a Covering:
Several Thai dishes, such as Plachon Loue Sawai (a type of deep fried fish with a spicy, sour covering) uses chucks of garlic as part of the coating over the food. Usually it will be coarsely chopped (including the skin) and mixed with chopped onion, chopped chillies, and finely chopped lemongrass. This creates a spicy yet sour mixture, which is sprinkled over the dish before cooking.
As we can see, Thai cooking uses garlic in more innovative ways than we use it in the west, where we simply add a small quantity of chopped garlic to a dish to give it a little flavour. In Thailand, many dishes feature the full flavour of the garlic, which seems to offset the spicy taste of chillies perfectly.