5 Essential Ingredients of Thai Cooking

September 07, 2020
IN Thai Cuisine

Thai food is wonderful. Those of us who know, know, and order it or create it on a regular basis, but others are still just beginning to grasp its glory.

One of the reasons it is so great is that no matter what flavors you enjoy, there is something for everyone. That’s because Thai cuisine is, in fact, a little bit of everything. Thai dishes are balanced between opposites; Thai food ingredients creating this unique and recognizable flavor profile are both salty and spicy and are both sour and sweet.

Although those not in-the-know tend to gravitate to Pad Thai and are plenty pleased there, people who are more experienced in the world of Thai cuisine know that there are so many other fantastic dishes to try, among them Guay Tiew Naam (noodle soup), Panang (Thai curry), Pla Lard Prik (trout with vegetables and sauce), and Phad Talay (stir-fried seafood and vegetables), to name a few. 

There are a number of ingredients that appear in Thai dishes time and time again and that are staples in any Thai chef’s kitchen. Read on to learn about five of them and stock up and get cooking.

1. Allium Vegetables

Allium vegetables like shallots, onions, scallions, and garlic frequently appear in Thai dishes and are often the star of the show. Although these vegetables are closely related, they offer quite a bit of range and can be used in so many ways. They can be served crunchy or soft or raw or cooked. They also provide a variety of strong flavors. Because of their versatility, they contribute much to the Thai dishes in which they appear.

2. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a required component in many Thai dishes, and there is no appropriate substitute for it. It appears in Thai curry and many Thai soups. Fresh coconuts are cumbersome and difficult to work with, so most Thai chefs in modern times have turned to canned or cartoned coconut milk. However, the coconut milk produced to be a dairy substitute does not hold the richness of the higher fat versions made by extracting the grated white inner flesh of mature coconut with hot water to suspend the fat content present in the pulp.

3. Chiles

You simply cannot make most Thai dishes correctly without the incorporation of chiles. There are so many options in this realm, and Thai chefs love to use and experiment with the beautiful, flavorful, and colorful variety available to them. As with allium vegetables above, chiles can add so many different flavors and textures and can be used in almost any type of dish with great success.

4. Fish Sauce

No Thai kitchen exists without fish sauce on hand. Nam Pla (“fish water”) is created from the runoff from barrels of anchovies, and it is a great way to add strong or subtle flavor to seafood dishes, salads, curries, and marinades. In many ways, it is like soy sauce in Japanese and Chinese cuisine, and Thai food would not be Thai food without it.

5. Fresh Herbs

As every cook knows, it’s possible to substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the fresh version. In Thai cooking, the use of dried herbs is frowned upon because of the texture, flavor, and girth that fresh herbs add to Thai dishes. There are many herbs used in Thai dishes, but the most common and popular and important to have on hand are cilantro and Thai basil, and you can’t make respectable Thai food without them. These are Thai food ingredients that are impossible to live without.

Thai Food Ingredients Define Thai Food

Thai food is a lot of things, but in its simplest form, it is the common Thai food ingredients that define it. These five ingredients appear in Thai dishes, time and time again, and if you want to be the best Thai home cook you can be, you must stock these in your kitchen. Happy cooking!If you are looking for the best Thai food in the Seattle area, look no further. Stop by one of our locations today. We can’t wait to feed you; check out our menu here.

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