Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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A review of studies on Northern Thai food and culture shows that most of the works are ethnographic and descriptive. They do not provide a deep understanding of the Northern Thai way of cooking. In order to understand truly the Northern Thai cooking system, an in-depth semantic analysis needs to be done. This study thus aims to analyze the categorization of cooking terms in Northern Thai in order to understand Northern Thai people's cooking system. Data used in this study was collected from informants in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, and Chiang Rai provinces in Northern Thailand. Thirty five cooking terms were found to represent significant Northern Thai cooking categories, and the components of their meanings were analyzed. The results of the analysis show that all the cooking terms are differentiated from one another by seven dimensions of contrast; namely, HEAT, WATER, OIL, TIME (for cooking), CHILI PASTE, SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT, and SPECIAL INGREDIENT. Under each of these dimensions, there are significant semantic features which distinguish one cooking term from the others. These features reveal significant aspects of the Northern Thai cooking system; for example, that food can be "cooked" without heat, and that boiling is the most common method of cooking. The findings also imply ways of eating among Northern Thai people; for instance, they tend to eat lean food cooked with various kinds of complex spices and they eat raw meat, as reflected in some particular kinds of cooking. In addition, Northern Thai food is diverse and meticulous, as evidenced in many separate terms based on the special ingredients and specific equipment used in cooking.

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