The true competition has arrived, just ask the Thai Delicious Committee

Hopscotching the globe as Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra repeatedly encountered a distressing problem: bad Thai food.

Too often, she found, the meals she sampled at Thai restaurants abroad were unworthy of the name, too bland to be called genuine Thai cooking. The problem bothered her enough to raise it at a cabinet meeting.

Her political party has since been thrown out of office, in a May military coup, but her initiative in culinary diplomacy lives on.

At a gala dinner at a ritzy Bangkok hotel on Tuesday the government will unveil its project to standardize the art of Thai food — with a robot.

Diplomats and dignitaries have been invited to witness the debut of a machine that its promoters say can scientifically evaluate Thai cuisine, telling the difference, for instance, between a properly prepared green curry with just the right mix of Thai basil, curry paste and fresh coconut cream, and a lame imitation.

Has there ever been a better committee name than this?:

The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee, which oversaw the development of the machine, describes it as “an intelligent robot that measures smell and taste in food ingredients through sensor technology in order to measure taste like a food critic.”

In a country of 67 million people, there are somewhere near the same number of strongly held opinions about Thai cooking. A heated debate here on the merits of a particular nam prik kapi, a spicy chili dip of fermented shrimp paste, lime juice and palm sugar, could easily go on for an hour without coming close to resolution.

The full story is here, excellent throughout, and for the pointer I thank Otis Reid.

Comments

I am reminded of the Futurama storyline where Bender wants to be a chef, but since he has no taste buds no one can stand the food he cooks.

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1) Average is Over

2) Will we find these robots in strip malls?

3) Will beautiful women like these robots?

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I think it's misconfigured or broken, and was supposed to be putting at least a commenter website URL in, to affect Google link rating?

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I'm deeply skeptical anyone has developed an artificial nose that can evaluate Thai food. GC/MS can tell you some things, like maybe the content of capsaicin, allicin, etc., but it can't tell you if something smells or tastes good. Only a human nose can do that. (Maybe some animals could be trained to do that too, but good luck with that.)

Well, there's a adsorption sensor for capsaicin http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18575641 So chomatrogrpahy and spectometry are way overshoot.

At least an artificial nose can tell if the plate has enough peppers/chilis to be considered "Thai".

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Alas, even in Chicago, with a fairly large number of Thai restaurants, people either don't know or don't care. At least 4 of 5 aren't very good. Most offer chopsticks and edamame. Lots offer sushi.

Chicago also had it's first Olive Garden open today.

Who cares if Thai food is changed from location to location?

Is there some perfect Thai food we should freeze in time and place?

Should new ingredients be off limits?

Should subtle changes in flavoring and regional dishes be banned for some national "taste."

Where's the line between subtle changes and Taco Bell?

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Even in NYC most Thai food is crap. There's a handful of decent choices in Queens, one in Brooklyn, and that's about it in NYC.

I really only like Ayada for Thai in NYC. Though there are some other ok ones. Though Ayada is not especially traditional so it may be a bad pick for some guests.

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Well we can have robot blog commentators at least.

That is not fair to Prior Approval.

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"...Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra... Has there ever been a better committee name than this?: The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee..."

At least it isn't the Yingluck Club.

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I would perfer if we just brought in more Thai Immigrants to do the taste testing

Well, we seem to have plenty of them around here in Oregon.

(You can't go six blocks in Portland, it seems, without another Thai restaurant, staffed by Thai people.

I can't comment on authenticity, having never had the Real Thing For Sure in Thailand, but I suspect that whatever alterations are made are ... made to stay in business.

My impression from Thai people I've spoken with is that the Real Thing is far spicier than American palates will tolerate.)

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Ha. As someone who spent years eating Real Thai food in Bangkok schools I can assure you most would find it far too spicy.

TRANSLATION: 'hot', as in chiles.

The whole point of Thai cuisine is the balance between flavours, spices, even ingredients. How can some machine divine this?

This story reminds me of the $ billions spent by the USA, and GE in particular, on developing an 'artificial sniffer' for Customs, to interdict drugs. Finally, the US reached out to Australia Customs, and their twenty year program in breeding Labradors, to do the same thing: http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/fs_detectdogprog040819.pdf

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What a great indication of national pride! You won't find a Canadian Delicious Committee, or, despite the good food, a Belgian Delicious Committee (well, maybe a Belgian Delicious Beer Committee--- anybody know?)

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