Thailand is a beautiful country to travel to and a paradise for adventure or tranquility seekers. Whatever it is that you need for your vacation, you will surely find it in Thailand. This country has beaches, mountains, waterfalls, nightlife, and a rich culture that tickles your curiosity. However, there is one more thing that attracts all tourists to come to Thailand, and that is the colorful and gastronomic world of Thai Cuisine.
Thai cuisine is widely known everywhere in the world and popular dishes such as Tom Yum Kung, Pad Thai, and Papaya Salad have been ingrained into our meals. Thai restaurants are also found almost everywhere in the world making sure that the taste of Thailand is brought to you wherever you may be.
Some people think that cooking Thai food is hard or too complicated. In the beginning, it will be but as you progress into familiarizing yourself with the ins and out of Thai food, you will realize that it is not that hard at all.
If you have always thought of starting your Thai food journey, then you better prepare your kitchen pantry with some must-have ingredients that are commonly used in Thai dishes. Let us list down the top 10 ingredients that you should have in your pantry to kickstart your Thai food journey.
1. Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk is an ingredient that is used in a lot of Thai dishes such as curries, and soups. As looking for fresh coconut milk might not be readily available to some of you, you can also use canned or boxed coconut milk. You may also lessen the fat content from coconut milk by diluting the milk with water.
2. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is an ingredient that must not be missing in your pantry. It is always used in Thai dishes, and it is the seasoning that defines Thai cuisine as compared to soy sauce which is mainly used in Japanese and Chinese cuisine.
Another must-have ingredient that you should have. As we all know, Thai food is always known to be spicy so having chilis can make any Thai dish you create to be more authentic. They have dried chili which is used in soups and stir-fries, and fresh chilis which are used in curry pastes, salads, and sauces.
Lime brings the flavor of freshness and sourness to Thai food. This ingredient is commonly used in grilled meats, salad, stir-fried noodles, and fried rice. Limes are usually added to the food once it has been cooked. It adds a kick of flavor to any Thai dish and is even used in drinks due to its refreshing taste.
5. Curry Paste
You can make your curry pastes from scratch or buy the premade ones. Making them from scratch can be time-consuming and even the locals in Thailand, buy the premade one to save them some time. The most commonly used ones are red curry paste and green curry paste, which can be used in both stir-fries and soups.
6. Garlic and Shallots
Each ingredient is known to bring out aromatic flavor to any Thai dish. They are pounded in the curry paste as a flavoring or are sometimes used raw and cut into thin slices for that added bite into the Thai salads. They are also sauteed together with some hot oil to bringing out their distinctive flavors.
Galangal has similarities with ginger when it comes to their appearance, but their tastes are completely different from each other. It is advised to not use them interchangeably due to the difference in flavors. Galangal has a subtle nutty flavor and is less spicy as compared to ginger.
8. Palm Sugar
When a Thai dish recipe calls for some sugar, what they usually mean by that is to use Palm Sugar. Palm sugar caramelizes like that of brown sugar which gives off these earthy and nutty undertones. Palm sugar is usually sold in hardened blocks, and you can either chop, shave or put the block in sauces for it to melt.
Tamarind is another staple ingredient in Thai cuisine which adds sourness to the dish. The sourness from Tamarind is not as strong as compared to lime. Tamarind’s flavors are balanced and more rounded. They are added in soups, and sauces for that added sour flavor. Tamarinds are also eaten fresh and coated with sugar as a snack for the locals in Thailand.
Lemongrass is another very important herb used in Thai cuisine. They are usually added and pounded along with other herbs and spices such as garlic, shallot, coriander, and chili to create a flavorful paste. When using this herb for any dish, the lemongrass stalks are lightly crushed to release the citrusy and lemony flavors and then are added to the dish. It is advised to use fresh ones for the best aroma and flavor however, if this is not possible, you may also use the dried lemongrass as an option.
The flavorful world of Thai cuisine is made possible all thanks to these 10 staple ingredients that you will surely find in every Thai household. If you want to have the most authentic result with your Thai dishes, then we suggest that you use the freshest ingredients as every Thai cook would do.
Once you have practiced your way of using these ingredients in your dishes, then that is when you can start experimenting or swapping out with other similar ingredients that may be more suitable to your dietary preferences.
Thai dishes are always evolving with some restaurants even offering a vegetarian version of popular Thai dishes, so you are always free to experiment, explore other options and come up with a healthier or tastier alternative. But one thing that will always make any Thai dish authentic is the flavor of spice, it is what makes Thai cuisine different from others.