Finding a Thai restaurant abroad is not hard, given the popularity of Thai food. But for serious diners, the question arises as to what authentic Thai cuisine tastes like.
E-Delicious measures sourness, sweetness, saltiness, spiciness and other essential parameters. Chemical properties of the aroma are also assessed.
As Thailand promotes itself as the Kitchen of the World, the state wants to ensure the quality of Thai food and develop its reputation globally.
In response, the National Innovation Agency (NIA) has created an intelligent machine that can measure the taste and aroma of food and tell whether it meets the standard of original recipes.
The project is a joint effort of the NIA, university researchers, chefs and gastronomes nationwide. Intelligent food testing, expected to be introduced in December, will cover all aspects of food - taste, aroma and colour.
"The project was initiated to maintain the identity and standards of Thai food compared with the original recipes, under the concept that Thai food will have the same taste no matter what kitchen it comes from," said Woravat Au-apinyakul, a former science and technology minister who started the project.
The ultimate goal is to boost exports of Thai ingredients and support the government's policy of making Thailand the world's food production hub, he said.
The NIA has been assigned to manage the ingredients, from processing to branding, packaging and marketing.
According to Mr Woravat, the Kitchen of the World programme has raised awareness about Thai cuisine standards.
As NIA director Supachai Lorlowhakarn explains, reaching a standard taste for Thai recipes "involves a knowledge of science, technology and innovative applications that analyse physical and chemical properties".
An expert is normally trained to absorb a food's properties - taste, smell, colour and texture.
The intelligent machine for Thai food standards, called E-Delicious, measures sourness, sweetness, saltiness, spiciness and other essential parameters. Chemical properties of the aroma are also assessed.
If Thai food in any restaurant passes the standards of the machine, it will be granted the Thai Delicious label.
E-Delicious features an "e-tongue" and "e-nose" that use electrochemistry to calculate the results in the computer system, which has artificial intelligence (AI) to emulate human ability to taste.
"The AI is a complicated system built to copy whatever a human has in the brain, from reasoning, adjusting and memorising to managing information," said Mr Supachai. "This project creates artificial human brains."
An array of sensors forms the e-nose, made from electrical polymer. Electrical resistance fluctuates depending on the chemical molecule of the smell the sensor detects, providing data for the computer.
The e-tongue contains various sensors with different sensitivity that take in the taste through an artificial liquid membrane, releasing electricity into the food.
The sensors inspect changes in the electrons and send the data to the computer for comparison.
Tom yum, curry and pad thai will be the first batch of dishes to be tested by the machine. Tom ka kai (spicy chicken coconut milk soup) and Penang curry (stir-fried meat in sweet, thick curry) will be added in a later phase.
"We want to be part of the project that takes Thai food to the right standard," said Mr Supachai. "We want to help promote the certification of Thai food even though it's not our main job."
The budget for the machine has not been revealed, and commercial production will depend on government policy, he added.
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Writer: Yuthana Praiwan and Sarissa Indhakanok