How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

Collage of thai food - How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients Thai food is internationally famous. Thai cuisine is essentially a union of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.

A prepared dinner table with a Thai meal placed on it, consists of a spicy or non-spicy soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables, and there could also be a spiced salad.

Thai food has evolved much like Indian food, meaning the cooks or chefs take great care so there is a harmony of flavors and textures with each individual dish. One dish must compliment the other dishes positioned at the dinner table.

What is needed in your kitchen to make a great Thai dish? You need to know the “Key Ingredients.”

Key Ingredients Needed To Prepare Thai Food

When you dicide to make a Thai dish, the following is what you should find in your refrigerator or pantry.

Banana Leaves

Fresh banana leaves are used to wrap steamed fish, giving them a herbaceous flavor. Thai people also use banana leaves as cooking vessels, folding them into a shape that will hold and cook the food, and as “to-go” containers.

Idea: How To Make Banana Leaf Bowls by: Escape To Paradise 

Lemongrass

You can buy lemongrass fresh in thick grassy bundles or minced or chopped in jars or possibly the freezer section of your favorite Asian market.

RecipeLemongrass Basil Thai Chicken

thai lime leaves

Thai Lime Leaves

Lime Leaves

The leaves are a glossy dark green color, and are used to flavor curries, soups, fish cakes and even teas for its fragrant herbal notes.

Thai Basil 

This variety of basil professes a subtle sweet anise flavor.

The leaves are dark green with purple stems.

If you are not able to find Thai basil at your favorite market, Holy basil will do.

Recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Fish Sauce 

In Thailand, fish sauce is called nam pla, which is prepared from salted fish. Fish sauce can be used as a condiment, which can be savory and a reddish-brown in color. Fish sauce is ubiquitous in Thai cooking.

Recipe: Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken – (recipe uses fish sauce)

Green Papaya Fruit

Image credit: Photo Elsoar

Green Papaya

The green papaya is foot ball shaped. It is a fruit that makes the spicy, crunchy salad, “som tum” sought after to calm a hungry stomach.

An unripe green mango can be used in place of the green papaya when unable to find it at the market.

Tamarind Puree

Bowl of Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om Omelette

Image credit: Pranees Thai Kitchen – Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om (using tamarind puree)

This puree is made from the fruit pods of the tamarind tree, and it is referred to as “sour tamarind soup base” or “nuoc me chua.”

When purchasing the tamarind puree, you can find it in sticky 14 ounce blocks. The thai use the puree, by diluting 1 ounce pureed pulp with 1/3 cup warm water, and then strained.

You can also buy it ready made and jarred with no need of diluting it. There is also a concentrated tamarind that is thick and molasses like. It also needs to be diluted.

The concentrated tamarind is said to have a sour taste that can be overpowering in Pad Thai.

Link here to learn how to make your own homemade tamarind puree by: Pranees Thai Kitchen

Recipe: Thai Food Soup: Gang Som Cha Om Kai  – by Joy’s Thai Food

Thai Chili Peppers

These peppers are small in shape, green and red in color, and fiery in taste. Though as spicy as the chili maybe, it is said the chili gives a subtle fruity flavor when used in Thai cooking. If Thai chilis are too much for your palate, you can use Serrano peppers instead.

Dried Shrimp

Small little dried shrimp add salty flavor to noodle dishes and salads. Dried shrimp can keep indefinitely in a cool dark place within an airtight container.

Having these key ingredients used in authentic Thai cooking in your pantry or refrigerator, will always be at your reach in a moments notice. If unable to find them at your favorite grocers, try looking for them in an Asian market.

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Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables

Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables

Chicken Teriyaki  is a very popular Japanese food in the US.  Teriyaki in Japanese means “grilled with shine.”  Sugar in teriyaki sauce gives a shine to the food, making it not only delicious, but also looks more appetizing.

It is very simple to make teriyaki sauce, as it is a mixture of only three ingredients, soy sauce, sugar, and sake. You can also use mirin for a sweeter teriyaki.  One of the advantages of making the sauce yourself is you can adjust the flavor the way you prefer.  Also making your own, avoids the unnecessary chemicals in store bought teriyaki sauce.

 common-japanese-cooking-ingredientsAccording to Japanese Cooking 101, this is a list of common ingredients used in Japanese cuisine:

Aburaage
Aonori
Dashi
Dried Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi)
Dried Shiitake Mushroom
Mirin
Miso Paste
Nagaimo (Dioscorea opposita, Chinese yam)
Panko (Bread Crumbs)
Pickled Red Ginger (Benishouga)
Rice
Rice Vinegar
Roasted Seaweed (Sushi Nori)
Sake
Soy Sauce
Tonkatsu Sauce

It is not common in traditional Japanese cuisine to use garlic, though it is in Korean cooking.

Our featured recipe is a Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables, though not an authentic recipe, but an American rendition.

homemade Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

4 tablespoons tamari sauce  (works the same as soy sauce)

4 tablespoons mirin (can use sake for a less sweeter teriyaki sauce)

2 tablespoons coconut sugar (not used in Japanese cooking, can use white sugar if you wish)

2 teaspoons arrowroot (can also use cornstarch or potato starch)

2 tablespoons water

Mix together in a small sauce pan over medium heat, the first three ingredients. In a small cup mix together the water and arrowroot. Bring the pot to a slow boil and add the arrowroot-water mixture to the boiling pot. Stir in and continue to stir until the liquid thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Tamari is specifically a Japanese form of soy sauce, traditionally made as a by-product of miso paste. Tamari is a gluten-free product, were as soy sauce is not.

Now let’s prepare the meat and vegetables to mix with our homemade teriyaki sauce.

vegetables cut Julienne style4  tablespoons coconut oil (or sesame oil), divided

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

3 green onions, chopped

2 carrots, cut julienne style

2 celery ribs, cut julienne style

8 asparagus spires, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces

4 chicken breasts, skinless and bones, cut into 1 inch chunks

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds

A traditional Japanese chicken teriyaki uses chicken thighs, and asparagus is not a vegetable normally used in Japanese cooking.

sauteing ginger and green onionsSaute the prepared ginger and green onions in the heated coconut oil (2 tablespoons) over medium heat in a large frying pan, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Next add the carrots, celery, and asparagus, and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

cooking chicken thigh chunks in teriyaki sauceHeat a large frying pan over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and add chopped meat and cook until meat is oblique. Next add the teriyaki sauce and mix in.

mixing in sesame seedsNext mix in the sesame seeds, and add the vegetables and mix in as well.

Teriyaki Chicken with VegetablesPlate and serve over white rice.

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Italian Pasta with Pesto Sauce

Italian Pasta with Pesto Sauce

Basil is an herb, and all of its plant parts, leaves, seeds, and flowers, are used in herbal medicine, particularly “Holy Basil“. Basil is also used in desserts, including ice cream and sorbet, and custard. Depending on the variety of basil, it is used in Italian, Mediterranean, and Thai food. The essential oil is used in the preparation of perfumes.

Verities basil include the Sweet Basil, Lemon Basil, and the two just mention, the Thai Basil, and Holy Basil.

Basil is a member of the Lamiaceae family, and included with the plant species is the mint, oregano, catnip, rosemary, and sage.

Holy Basil is related to the common Sweet Basil and is used in Ayurvedic traditional practices. The leaves are used to support healthy upper respiratory tract function, and research has shown that Holy Basil includes the benefits in helping to support a healthy immune system.

In our featured recipe – Italian Pasta with Pesto Sauce – we will be using the common Sweet Basil. This meal can be prepared in 30 minutes, and here is what you will need, starting with the pesto recipe.

 

Traditional Pesto SaucePesto Sauce

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves
½ cup grated Romano/Parmesan or Asiago cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, except oil, and pulse. Start to add oil slowly, pulsing until ingredients form a smooth paste.

If you do not use right away, or there are left overs, store in a jar container with a layer of olive oil on top to prevent discoloration.

Prepare the spaghetti pasta according to packaged instructions. Just as pasta is done, place a large frying pan on medium heat. Then drain and rinse pasta. Set aside.

Pour about 1/8 cup (1 ounce) of olive oil to the heated pan, let warm and then add the pasta to pan.

Mix to coat the pasta and add pesto sauce, starting with a one half of a cup (1/2 cup) and mix to coat the pasta adding more pesto if needed and as desired.

Italian Pasta with Pesto Sauce (close-up)Plate the Italian Pasta with Pesto Sauce and serve.

 

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Amazing Ways Food is used in Thai Recipes

Amazing Ways Food is used in Thai Recipes

 

Thailand or officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.

Thailand is the world’s 51st-largest country in terms of total area, approximately 198,000 square miles, and is the 20th-most-populous country, with around 64 million people. Bangkok is the capital and largest city, and also is center of Thailand’s politics, commercialism, industrialism and culture.

It is also interesting enough to mention Thailand has been called the Golf Capital of Asia. It is a popular destination for golf. The country attracts large numbers of golfers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Western countries who go to play golf in Thailand every year.

Thai cuisine also uses ingredients that are commonly known to us in the Western world or more industrialized countries. Knowing how Thai recipes prepare these food items might give us more of an appreciation for such food.

Bamboo Shoots are used in many Thai recipes. To use bamboo shoots in cooking requires them to be peeled to get to the white inner stalks and then boil them for 30 canned bamboo shootsminutes in water. If using canned bamboo shoots they only need to be boiled for 10 minutes. There is no need for boiling them if they are part or if they are part of a soup or curry dish.

There are three (3) types of basil used in Thai recipes. They are Sweet, Holy, and Lemon Basil. If you use basil in your cooking, it is most likely sweet basil as that is the most commonly sold in the local markets.

Basil typesHoly basil has a spicier flavor and has slightly purple leaves. Lemon basil for its name gives away what it tastes like. It has a lemony flavor and also has a distinct lemony scent.

If you can’t find Lemon basil at your local market, you can use sweet basil by adding finely chopped chili peppers or a bit of lemon rind.

Bergamot is a small tree with long, oval green leaves with white flowers. The small tree originates in Asia but can found in Italy, Morocco and the Ivory Coast. The tree bears small round fruit that is yellow when ripe. The preparation of some Thai dishes use the rind or zest of the fruit.

It is hard to find this small fruit, so granted lime zest can be used in its place, though it can be a poor substitute.

Lots of Thai recipes use Chili paste, which is used for adding spice and flavor to the dish. A particularly popular version by Thai cooks is burnt mild chili paste. You can buy the chili paste in bottles or tubes at almost any market in the Asian food section.

Chinese mushrooms are also an addition to Thai cooking as well as coconut milk. Coconut milk can be bought in cans almost anywhere. If the recipe calls for coconut cream scoop, that would be the harder white substance that has formed at the top of the can. If it is coconut milk that the recipe calls for, than just stir the can thoroughly before using.

Curry Paste: While some people prefer to prepare their own curry pastes, many bottled curries are available at the supermarket. Most recipes use red, green or yellow curry.

Fish sauce: Made from collecting the liquid off of fermenting salted fish, this pale, watery brown sauce is sometimes used to replace all the salt in recipes. It is very flavorful and compliments all Thai food. It is called for in many recipes but you can also use your imagination with it, as it is very versatile.

Galangal is also used in many curries and soups. It is similar to ginger. Galangal is hard to find fresh, but can be purchased dried. It will need to be soaked in water for 1 hour before using.

Thai garlic is a must when preparing a dish. Thai garlic should be available in Asian markets, but if not then the common garlic we see can also be used.

When using the Thai garlic the smaller, tighter cloves are the best to use because they are more flavorful and will not be over powered by the other herbs and spices used in the dish.

Ginger used quite often in modern cooking is easy to find, and ginger is extremely healthy and flavorful.

Lemon grass is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Thai cooking. It looks much like a small leek. The hard outer portion is removed, and the lower bulbous part is used.

The lemon grass is sliced into pieces and added to the food while cooking, and then removed before serving the dish, or it can be blended in a food processor before adding to the cooking process and then consumed with the dish giving it more flavor.

Palm sugar is used in some Thai recipes, but if it is not unavailable you can substitute with dark brown sugar or real maple syrup.

Rice is a main staple for the Thai people and they prefer long-grain white Jasmine rice which is flavorful and aromatic rice that cools and compliments spicy Thai dishes.

Rice paper is used to make fresh Thai spring rolls, which are prepared with vegetables and meat if desired.

Sesame oil is the preferred oil to use in Thai cuisine. It’s a very flavorful oil and works well with Thai cooking.

Preparation and cooking techniques:

The vegetables used in Thai cooking should be cut as finely as possible. The idea behind the thin cut vegetable is that the smaller they are chopped, the less time they will need to be cooked, which retains most of the nutrients as possible.

Most of us have cooked a stir fry before. This method requires a wok and oil. The vegetables are when the oil and wok are hot and then stirred constantly. The vegetables should only be stir fried for a couple of seconds so they remain crisp and brightly colored.

stone mortar usewd in Thai cookingMortar and Pestles are used in making sauces, and curry pastes. Anyone who loves Thai food and is animate about cooking it needs a mortar and pestle in their kitchen. It should be preferably made out of clay or wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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