Healthy Thai Ingredients

Though Thai cuisine is brilliantly complex tasting and known for its amazing balance of sour, sweet, bitter and salty it’s actually easy to make at home. Gather up these 6 simple healthy Thai ingredients and you have the basics for getting started cooking Thai.

1. Thai Fish Sauce
Known in Thai as nam pla, this seasoning is a pungent brine made from fermenting fish with salt. Check the label: it should contain only anchovies, salt and water. It has over 1,000 mg sodium per tablespoon, so use it sparingly. Try mixing minced fresh bird or serrano chiles with fish sauce (as we do in this photo). Use this recipe for Fish Sauce with Chiles as a condiment or in place of regular fish sauce in recipes.

2. Curry Paste
Though you can make your own, even in Thailand most cooks buy premade curry pastes. Red and green varieties can be found at well-stocked supermarkets. Both have notes of galangal, lemongrass and coriander root. Green is flavored with fresh green chiles and red with dried red chiles.

3. Vinegar
Along with limes, unseasoned rice vinegar adds sourness to dressings. Its essential in many dipping sauces, including nam jim that is served with grilled chicken. Cider vinegar is a good substitute.

4. Coconut Milk
Used in Thai curries, fresh coconut milk is made by rinsing the oils out of coconut flesh with warm water. Canned coconut milk is an easy option and widely available in the Asian section of well-stocked supermarkets. Cut 280 calories and 16 grams of saturated fat per cup by using a “lite” version or dilute regular coconut milk with water.

6. Chiles
Fresh and dried chile peppers provide heat in Thai food. Fresh cayenne chiles are used in curries. Fiery hot Thai “bird” chiles are used in sauces and stir-fries. Refrigerate fresh chiles up to a week or store in the freezer. Use serrano or jalapeño chiles if you can’t find bird or cayenne. Dried red chiles are commonly used to make curry paste and add heat to soups and stir-fries.

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