How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

Collage of thai food - How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

First Posted on February 24, 2016 – Updated October 30, 2021

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

Banana leaf-wrapped food, either it be meat, fish or a savory mixture can be grilled, steamed or roasted.

In the cooking process, the leaves add a unique herbaceous flavor to the dish.

Food cooked in a banana leaf

Photo credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Thai cuisine also used banana leaves as a cooking vessel, folding them into a shape that will hold and cook the food. They are also used as “to-go containers.

 Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a culinary herb that is produced from the stalk of the lemongrass plant and it has a lemony scent.

It is a primary culinary herb in several Thai dishes.

The flavor of the herb tastes almost like a mix of lemon and lemon mint.

Lemongrass tied laying on grey weather wood

The flavor is light and does not overpower other flavors in a dish.

It also adds a slightly sharp and tangy taste without the bitterness of lemon.

It is commonly used in soups, teas and curries.

If you can’t find lemongrass at your local market or Asian market, you can substitute lemon juice in its place.

But keep in mind that the citrus juice won’t be able to fully take the place of the flavor of lemongrass.

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 and Holy Basil 

Thai basil and holy basil are related to each other and both are both used in Thai cuisine.

Thai basil has a subtle sweet anise flavor. Whereas, holy basil has a more spicy flavor.

The flavor of holy basil is more like a combination of black pepper and clove than like the sweeter notes of Thai basil. It tends to get even spicier as it is cooked.

Both can be found at your local Asian markets.

Recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Fish Sauce 

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years.

fish sauce container at a fish sauce factory

A fish sauce container at a fish sauce factory in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

The flavor is savory and the color is red-brown. Fish sauce is used as a staple seasoning in Thai cooking. Such as this Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken recipe.

Green Papaya

A green papaya and an orange papaya are actually the same fruit picked at different stages of development.

Immature green papaya has crisp white flesh with very little flavor.

It is prized mostly for its crunch and used primarily as a base for salads, most notably in Thai salads. Green papaya is used in salads much like cucumber or jícama is.

Tamarind Puree

When purchasing the tamarind puree, you can find it in sticky 14 ounce blocks.

In Thai cuisine the puree is used 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.

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

Thai Chili Peppers

These peppers are small in shape, come in green, red, and orange 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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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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Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Thai Chicken Stir fry with Holy Basil

Illness and conditions Holy Basil helps with

Before we present the Thai stir-fry recipe to you, let us present the scientifically proven health benefits of Holy basil.

Health Benefits Of Holy Basil

Holy basil also known as Tulsi has medicinal properties.

The leaves are used in Thailand to sharpen the brains memory.

Very Well Health says that holy Basil is an anti-aging adaptogen that protects the brain.

The tender leaves of holy basil are boiled with black tea during Thailand’s rainy season, to help prevent malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent.

A tea is also made from the leaves along with raw honey and fresh ginger as an effective remedy for bronchitis, asthma, and the influenza.

National Library of Medicine reports that holy basil can lower cholesterol levels as shown in white albino lab rats.

Now that you know a few of the health benefits, let’s cook with holy basil using the following stir-fry recipe.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

avocado oil for Asian cooking - Thai Chicken with Holy Basil Healthy Cooking to 500 Degrees

Cook 1 cup of your favorite rice according to package instructions (use chicken broth in place of water, provides more flavor for the dish).

2 tbsp. avocado oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

8 ounces chicken breast, boneless and shredded into medium pieces

1 tbsp. red chili flakes

Red chili is a great source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin-A to sponge cell damaging free radicals. The chili also helps reduce Red Chili Flakesinflammation and reduces blood clotting. It also increases blood flow, which can help with cold hands and feet.

2 handfuls of holy basil

2 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tbsp. raw sugar

2 tbsp. chicken stock

Heat a wok (or similar pan) over medium heat. Add oil and garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds or until you smell the aroma of the garlic.

Turn up the heat to medium-high. Next add the chicken, chilli flakes, half of the basil, and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Next add the fish sauce, raw sugar, and stock. Mix in well. Stir-fry until chicken is oblique.

Turn the heat to low, and add the rest of the basil. Stir-fry the contents of the wok or pan 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Plate with some rice and enjoy.

More Recipes With Basil

Rotisserie Chicken Baguette Sandwich With Basil

Tomato Basil Chicken

Basil Pesto Linguine

 

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