Inside a Thai Kitchen: Recipes and Ingredients
From galangal to lemongrass, Thai cooking is rooted in a range of herbs and spices. Come with us and explore a Thai kitchen as we give you some of the basics to stock in your pantry, plus some delicious recipes to test them with.
Made from fish too small to eat and salt fermented for a while, fish sauce is one of the most key ingredients in Thai food. Found on every Thai table, it is the Thai equivalent of soy sauce. Pour this translucent reddish-brown sauce liberally over any Thai dish for some instant kick. Try making Green Mango Chili Fish Sauce, which adds some sour with lime juice and green mango for a fab universal dipping sauce. Spiced up with sweetened chili sauce, Thai Fish Sauce and Lime Chicken makes a great and easy main course.
Similar to ginger root but milder, this delicately flavored root is best fresh, although available dried and ground. Its unique taste boosts Thai soups, curries and many other dishes. Substitute ginger if you can’t find galangal at an Asian food store. Try it in Thai Vegetarian Coconut Soup with Galangal and Squash or Mushroom Curry with Galangal for an appetizing meal.
Appearing like grass, this citrus-flavored tropical grass gives lemony taste to Thai curry paste and many other Thai dishes. Sometimes chopped and pounded, sometimes cut and bruised, lemongrass is best kept fresh in a jar of water than in the fridge. Lemon does not work as a substitute. Try it in Broiled Chicken Tenders with Pineapple Relish, an easy tropical version of satay accented with peanut butter, cilantro and jalapeno. Another dish sure to be a favorite is Simple Thai-style Lemongrass Shrimp Soup.
RED CURRY PASTE
Almost every Thai recipe begins with a paste, such as red, yellow or green curry paste. Ready-made pastes are easily available, but nothing beats making it yourself for some real flavor. The most basic curry, red curry paste is made from dried chili peppers, salt, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, garlic, shallots, cilantro roots, peppercorns, cumin and coriander. Traditionally it was pound into a smooth paste, but nowadays a food processor works fine. Make your own or try it in a recipe such as Scrumptious Thai Coconut Red Curry.
Coconut milk is made by adding water to the grated meat of a mature brown coconut and then squeezing out the juice. This sweet milk is available in many supermarkets frozen, or more often canned. Unused portions keep fresh in the refrigerator for a few days. Don’t let it sit at room temperature for long as it spoils easily. A basic recipe to get you started is simple coconut rice, the perfect creamy side dish. For something more substantial, experiment with a vegan veggie quinoa blend with Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa.