Thai cuisine is not only popular but also amazingly delicious! The main reason for its great taste relies on the bold flavors which come from the variety of different Thai ingredients used in each dish. From fresh herbs and spices to seafood, vegetables, and fruit, Thai ingredients offer a wide variety of flavors. If you’re interested in making authentic Thai dishes, consider stocking your kitchen with these 8 essential ingredients that will definitely make your meals much more satisfying!
Thai Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine. It is used to add creaminess and richness to dishes like curries, soups, and sauces. Thai coconut milk is made by simmering equal parts water and shredded coconut in a pot until the coconut is fully cooked. The mixture is then strained and the resulting liquid is coconut milk.
While it’s almost the same thing, this Thai ingredient is different from the coconut milk you find in cans at the grocery store. Thai coconut milk is unsweetened and has a richer, creamier texture. It can be difficult to find Thai coconut milk outside of Thailand, but you can try to find it at a local Asian market or online.
Thai Fish Sauce
This popular Thai ingredient is used to add salty umami flavor to dishes like curries, soups, and sauces. Thai fish sauce is made by fermenting fish in salt water for several months. The resulting liquid is then strained and the solids are discarded.
Thai fish sauce has a strong, pungent flavor that can be overwhelming if used in too large of a quantity. When used in moderation, Thai fish sauce adds a delicious salty umami flavor to Thai dishes.
Thai Ingredients: Curry Paste
Thai curry pastes are made by blending fresh herbs, spices, and chilies together. The resulting paste is then used to flavor Thai curries. This Thai ingredient comes in a variety of colors, depending on the ingredients used. Red Thai curry paste, for example, is made with red chilies and spices, while green Thai curry paste is made with green chilies and spices.
Consider curry pastes to be like flavor concentrated sauces, which you can add to stir-fries, dipping sauces, or even mixtures for dishes such as sausages or fish cakes. There are many brands that make the curry paste, so it might take some trial and error before finding one with the flavor and level of spiciness that you prefer. For the best quality product, you can create your own or look for a brand made in Thailand. Also, avoid any curry pastes with added ingredients and seasonings beyond salt.
This Thai ingredient is known for its slightly sweeter flavor than Italian basil and a more robust aroma. The stems can be purple, and the flowers are often also purple.
Thai basil is most commonly added to cooked dishes such as stir fries and curries. While regular basil can be used in many cases as a substitute, it does not have the same flavor profile.
Thai chilies are small, fiery hot peppers that are used to add spice and heat to Thai dishes. This Thai ingredient can be fresh, dried, or ground into a powder. They range in color from green to red, and the level of spiciness can also vary. Not only do chilies add heat to food, but they also play a role in adding flavor to many Thai dishes.
Galangal is a root vegetable that resembles ginger. It has a slightly peppery flavor and a crunchy texture. Galangal is used in Thai curries, soups, and stir-fries. It can also be used to make Thai curry pastes. It may resemble ginger, but the taste is entirely different.
After you’ve bought and cooked with fresh galangal, slice the remainder into rounds and freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, store them in a freezer bag. You can even use frozen galangal without thawing it!
Similar to others, this Thai ingredient is usually added to curries, soups, and stir-fries. The stalk of the plant is used while the leaves are tough and not as flavorful. Thus, when using lemongrass, be sure to trim off the root end and any tough, dry outer leaves. Only the bottom few inches of the stalk should be used.
These Thai ingredients are used to add tartness and brightness to Thai dishes. Limes are a key ingredient in many salads, especially ones with dressing. We also add lime juice to various soups, such as the renowned tom yum soup. A wedge of lime added to fried rice or pad Thai gives the dish a refreshing and bright flavor.
Note, however, that the flavor of fresh lime juice is diminished when cooked, so it’s best to add it to dishes that are not cooked or towards the end of the cooking process!
Let’s Get Cooking!
There you have it—a guide to Thai cooking with 8 essential ingredients! Thai food is known for its balance of five key flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. With these Thai ingredients, you’ll be able to create dishes that are Thai-style masterpieces!
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