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Thai Cooking Ingredients - Sauces & Seasonings

palm sugar, coconut sugar, naam dtan pbuk Palm Sugar or Coconut Sugar (Naam dtaan bpuk)
This type of sugar has a rich caramel flavor quite different from cane sugar and is used to make authentic Thai kanom (sweets). It is also added to Thai stir-fries and dipping sauces and should be used in recipes calling for palm or coconut sugar. Palm sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm flower and is the most used type of sugar in traditional Thai cooking.

Palm Sugar is sugar made from boiling the sap from the fruit of the palm tree. There are two types of ‘Palm Sugar’ — sugar which comes from Coconut, and sugar which comes from Sugar Palm. Either can be used.

palm oil, oil palm tree, nahm meun peut Palm Oil (Nahm meun peut)
This inexpensive cooking oil is used daily for frying and flavoring in soups in Thailand. Many farmers grow palm trees (see left) for oil production in Thailand and Malaysia. Substitute a light oil like canola, sunflower or peanut oil if unavailable.
white peppercorns, prik thai Peppercorns (Prik thai)
White, black, and green peppercorns all come from the same tropical vine. Young green peppercorns are used in curries, stir fry, and 'nam prik'. White Pepper is used the most commonly in Thai cooking.
fresh peppercorns, prik thai onn Fresh Peppercorns (Prik Thai Onn)
Whole fresh peppercorns still on the stem are thrown into some dishes, notably ‘Phad Kee Mao’ and ‘Gaeng Paa’.

Storage: Store fresh peppercorns sealed in the refrigerator. They should last a few weeks or so.

sea salt, gluah Sea Salt (Gluah)
Used for all cooking (not just Thai-ask a French chef!), sea salt is far superior in taste to mined salt. It aides in the grinding of dry ingredients in the mortar and pestle when making Thai curries.
chili powder, prik bpon Chili Powder (Prik bpon)
Chili Powder is made from dried and ground small chilies. It’s used to flavor and add spice mainly to soups and noodles.
curry powder, pong garee Curry Powder (Pong Ga-ree)
Curry Powder is a ground up blend of spices. It’s orange from tumeric. It’s more popular in Southern Thai cooking.
  White Sugar (Naam dtaan saay khaaw)
White sugar is used in a lot of dishes. Use regular white cane sugar
  Cinnamon Sticks (Ope cheuy)
Cinnamon Sticks are used whole in some Chinese-Thai dishes, such as Five Spice Tofu. It is also sometimes put into Massaman Curry. However, Cinnamon is never used in sweets like it is in the West!
  Cassia Leaves (Bai Gra wan)
Cassia Leaves are very similar in appearance to Bay Leaves. These are dried leaves from the cassia tree, a type of cinnamon. They are primarily used in Massaman Curry. Commonly in Asian markets they are labeled “Indian Bay Leaves”.
  Cardamom (Look Gra wan)
Cardamom seeds are used in Chinese, South East Asian and Indian cooking. They’re also used in some Western Desserts and Indian spiced tea (masala chai). A few roasted pods make a great addition to Massaman Curry. There are generally two types of cardamom, a green and very fragrant variety from India, and this brown fatter variety from China. Thais usually use the brown one.
  Fish Sauce (Naam pla)
Fish sauce is made from anchovies (or any small fish), water, and salt and left to ferment for up to a year. Fish sauce is one of the oldest ingredients in the world.
  Light Soy Sauce (See yew kao)
Light or White soy sauce is not as dark or thick as Dark Soy Sauce.  Do not use Chinese or Japanese soy sauce for Thai recipes as the flavour is different.
  Dark Soy Sauce (See yew dam)
Black soy sauce is thick and black, and has a different flavor than white soy sauce. It’s mainly used in Chinese-Thai cooking, marinades, etc.
  Sweet Soy Sauce (See yew dam wahn)
Sweet soy sauce is a bit darker and thicker than black soy sauce. It’s sweet, with a hint of molasses.
  Oyster Sauce (Naam man hoy)
Oyster Sauce is used in a few Chinese-Thai dishes. It is made from oysters.
  Tamarind Paste (Naam makam)
Tamarind is a very sour fruit which comes from a tall tree. The fruit is then squeezed with hot water, and the seeds removed to create this paste.
  Coconut Milk (Guh tea) and Coconut Cream
Coconut Milk & Cream are essentially the same thing. The cream is thick and will rise to the top, similar to un-homogenized milk. It also has more fat than the milk. Homemade coconut milk/cream has the best flavor. A good substitute is canned coconut milk from Thailand. Good brands are: Chao Koh (Island People) and Mae Ploy. If you buy canned it’s best not to shake the can like they suggest. Instead, open it and use the ‘head’ (cream) to fry the curry paste in. The coconut fat really brings out the flavor! There are bags of frozen coconut milk available in some Asian groceries. While the flavor is better than canned, it separates and gets chunky when you heat it.
  White Vinegar (Naam som saay choo)
Thais use the regular clear white vinegar
  Vegetable Oil (Naam mun poot)
Vegetable oil is used in almost all Thai food which is cooked on the stove. Any oil will work,  Rice Oil and Peanut Oil or Soy oil. Most Thais use Palm Oil.
  Chicken Dipping Sauce or Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (Naam jim gai)
Sweet and tangy. This sauce is used to dip fried chicken. It can also be used for a dipping sauce for fried spring rolls, or any fried ’street food’. Store opened bottles in the fridge.
  Salted Bean Paste (Dtao jee oh)
This sauce is made from soy beans which are fermented with salt. In my opinion, dishes like ‘Raad Naa’, and ‘Pak Boong Fai Daeng‘ would not be tasty without salted bean paste.
  Curry Paste (Kruang gaeng)
Curry Paste comes in so many varieties. The most common is ‘Red Curry Paste’, which is pictured to the left. You can make your own, or you can buy pre-made at most Asian groceries
  Shrimp Paste (Guh bee)
Shrimp paste is a fairly common ingredient in Thai cooking. It’s made from dried small shrimp, left to ferment and solidify, and then cut into cubes or sold in jars. Shrimp paste is in almost all curry pastes, some naam prik, stir fries, and there’s even a rice dish which is cooked in it.
  Stock, Bullion Cubes, Stock powder (Kha nore)
Bullion/Soup stock cubes are essentially a fast trick to replace chicken or pork broth in a soup or curry. Knorr brand makes some which are available in Thailand as well as Asian food stores in the West which have flavor more suitable to Thai food. There are even ‘tom yum’ flavors! The ’shitake mushroom’ flavor works well for a vegetarian substitute for chicken or pork broth. These cubes are very flavorful, so only 1/4 or 1/2 cube is enough for a soup. They’re also very salty, so be careful.

See also:  Thai Vegetables & Herbs

More ingredients coming soon!


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