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Thai food spices up the world

From CNN Correspondent Karen Koh

The spicy prawn soup Tom Yam Kung is the Thailand's most popular dish.
The spicy prawn soup Tom Yam Kung is the Thailand's most popular dish.

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(CNN) -- The Thai government is raising the profile of its authentic cuisine around the world in a bid to put Tom Yam Kung soup and Pad Thai noodles face to face with the Big Mac and the Moccachino.

It is a culture that takes its food seriously. At a cost of $700,000 Bangkok will send send 600 chefs and 300 restaurateurs overseas as par of the three-year project.

Attapol Thangthong, an assistant chef at Bangkok's Oriental Hotel, is learning the art of crispy noodles on a government subsidized course to help him hone his skills.

He plans to showcase these skills by working in a Thai restaurant in Australia.

The project's manager Napavarn Noparatnaraporn says many dishes available in Thai restaurants overseas are not at all authentic.

"Thai cooking is science and art. You can modify the taste, but about the recipe, it should be the Thai authentic one," he said.

Apart from practical training, the students go through 72 hours of theory, learning everything from how to find raw materials overseas to bookkeeping.

"What we are trying to achieve here is to systematize the concept about restauranting, to put it in a more understandable, comprehensible perspective with more benchmarks, more guidelines with a certain mental map that they could now benchmark against," course lecturer Walter Lee told CNN.

According to Lee, while food is important, it's not the only thing that makes a restaurant great.

"The quality of the food or the product commands at most 50 percent of the total success factor of the restaurant. So the other 50 percent of more relies on the management of the total restaurant concept."

A total restaurant concept is also on the mind of CP Group, Thailand's largest conglomerate.

It recently opened a Thai fast food restaurant in Bangkok, and plans to open them all over the world. But these restaurants have no chefs, only kitchen hands.

"What we need to do is use technology, advanced equipment blending with the traditional way of cooking Thai food so we can produce Thai food consistently without a chef," said Joseph Lau from CP Global Kitchen.

"Only with this system we can open up many restaurants in the international market. If it requires chefs, it would be impossible to open up 500,000 restaurants in the international market."

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