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Bangkok works up an appetite for contemporary Thai food

Upscale restaurant launches show the national cuisine in a more rarefied light

Crabmeat spring rolls at Baan Suriyasai, which serves textbook renditions of Thai classics (Photo by Vincent Vichit-Vadakan)

BANGKOK -- The traditional Thai kitchen takes a seemingly nonchalant approach to composing a meal. Shared items are usually served together in samrab (home) style, arriving on the table more or less at the same time, or as the cook sees fit.

But appearances are deceiving. Stir-fries complement boiled soups and curries, fried and grilled foods are offset with zesty salads and dips. Sour, sweet, salty, spicy and bitter are not single notes in Thai cooking, but form a harmony -- as illustrated by pad thai, the fried noodles that are considered the kingdom's national dish.

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