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Language can demonstrate how people in each society think. Food name is a language form that reflects the perception of people in each region. This research is aimed at explaining local food names of the Northeast and the Southern regions from the ethno-semantic perspective. In this study, data are terms used to call and describe the cooking methods of local foods. The data are collected from menus in restaurants and food stalls selling local foods and interviews with informants knowledgeable about foods of each region: Khon Kaen Province in the Northeast and Pattani Province in the South.
Results of the study showed that the Northeast has 25 categories of local food names whereas the South has 11 categories. The Northeast gives importance to the cooking method so it is put in front of food ingredients. However, the South gives importance to food ingredients and most of the food names contain food ingredients before the cooking method.
In terms of ingredients, it was found that the Northeast gives special attention to meat, especially of cows, buffaloes, pigs and chickens, whereas in the Southern local foods, importance is given to fishes, shellfishes, shrimps, vegetables and herbs. Foods in each region are related to cultural patterns of livelihood. For example, Isan people raise cows and buffaloes for rice farming so many of their foods are prepared from beef. Since a lot of people in the South are fishermen, they usually eat fishes and marine animals as well as fresh vegetables because the tropical climate enables them to have a variety of vegetables to eat all year round. Isan people, however, learn to preserve vegetables because sometimes it is too hot and dry for them to have fresh vegetables to eat throughout the year.
Popular local foods of the Northeast are Lap (meat salad) and Som-tam (papaya salad) and these foods are related to Isan people’s liking for sticky rice. Meanwhile, Southern people prefer curries and soups, which are eaten with white rice. Local foods of the Northeast and the South share some characteristics, which are spiciness and saltiness.
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