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Thai Cooking Ingredients - Vegetables & Herbs

Lemongrass Lemon Grass (dta kry)
Lemon grass is sold fresh, dried, and pickled. It is often used in herbal teas. When buying fresh lemon grass, choose specimens with a firm bulb. Lemon grass has more flavour fresh than dried. Use it sparingly, particularly if you are unfamiliar with its taste. Lemon grass goes well with ginger, chili, coconut, garlic, shallots, and green pepper.

Peel the fresh stems and remove all but the lower 7 cm, which is the most tender part. The outer layer and upper portion of the stems are too stringy to be eaten but can be used to flavour stocks, sauces, soups, stews, fish, poultry, and herbal tea. Discard them after use.

garlic, garlic bulbs Garlic (gkra tium)
Garlic is used in virtually all Thai dishes. The garlic which is found in Thailand has a stronger flavor than the western version, but all garlic can be used in Thai cooking. The garlic found in Thailand has much smaller cloves, so instead of calling for cloves in recipes, I call by teaspoon or tablespoon.

To prepare garlic, first smash the clove with the side of the knife to break the clove somewhat. This will both release the juice and loosen the paper/skin. Then peel the skin off, and chop on a cutting board.

For fried garlic (gkratiem jiow) and garlic oil (nahm man gkratiem), chop the garlic evenly, not too finely nor too coarsely, or slice into thin ovals, and fry in hot oil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to a uniform golden brown.

Red shallots Red Shallots (Hawm daeng)
Shallots are used in Thai cooking almost as much as garlic. The shallots which are found in Thailand are smaller than the European varieties, and are a touch more flavorful.

To prepare shallots, first cut off the bottom (roots) and then peel off the paper skin. Slice finely.

Shallots are also fried into brown crispy pieces to sprinkle on salads and garnish finished dishes. Fry thin slices in plenty of oil in a wok or small pan until they turn golden brown. Because western shallots contain more moisture than Thai red shallots, they should be fried over low heat for a prolonged period of time (20 mins or longer) to allow the slices to dry up before they brown.

scallions, spring onions Scallions - Spring Onions (Dton hawm)
These unassuming green onions go under a perplexing variety of names, including scallions and green shallots. For the sake of clarity, I call the uniformly skinny ones spring onions (scallions), while the similar-looking immature onions with a more pronounced bulb I call salad onions.
galangal root Galangal Root (hea-uh kah)
Galangal is the kah in Tom Kah and is also used in Tom Yum and curry pastes. You cannot substitute ginger for galangal, or any other root. You can usually find it frozen in Asian groceries stores. Galangal is recognizable by the long pink stalks and pink tips on the root.

There are two types of galangal and these are called khaa and krachaai in Thailand. Fresh galangal tastes the best, you can however use dried or powdered galangal if fresh galangal is not available. As a common Thai food ingredient, galangal and ginger are processed in a similar way. However, the taste and flavour of ginger and galangal are distinctly different. Galangal is much harder than ginger and is therefore sliced into pieces before it is crushed. Delicious Thai curry pastes use galangal as one of the main ingredients.

ginger root Ginger Root (King) | Young Ginger (King onh)
turmerc root, tumeric, fresh turmeric Turmeric Root (kha min)
Turmeric root is used for brilliant yellow color and subtle flavor in Thai curry. It is available frozen or as a dried ground powder. Substitute one teaspoon dried turmeric powder for a half-inch fresh piece.
kafir lime leaf, makrut Kaffir Lime Leaf (Ma krut)
Is a double, dark green coloured leaf. Kaffir Lime Leaves are used extensively in Thai cooking. Medicinally Kaffir Limes are good for the digestion and they have quite a clean, fresh taste. There's a tanginess without the bitterness.
coriander, pak chee Cilantro - Coriander (Pak chee)
Coriander is known for its medicinal properties. It is said to be aid digestion and is used to ease rheumatism, joint pains, colds, and diarrhea. Some people chew the seeds to neutralize the smell of garlic. Choose fresh coriander that is firm, crisp, and green. Avoid specimens with yellow, brown, or wilted leaves, as they are not fresh.

Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment.

Wash fresh coriander at the last moment, as it is highly fragile and quickly loses its flavour. Swish it gently in cool water.

coriander root, raag pak chee Coriander Root (Raag pak chee)
In Thai cuisine, the root is ground in a mortar and pestle with garlic and chili and is the basis for many curries, soups and pastes.
coriander seeds, met pak chee Coriander Seeds (Met pak chee)
The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the portions used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. Coriander seeds are available whole or in ground powder form.

When purchasing corianders buy whole seeds, crushed seeds loose a lot of their essential vitamins and minerals. When storing place seed in a wet paper towel and put in a plastic storage bag and place in refrigerator.

holy basil, bai krapow Holy Basil (Bai krapow)
Holy basil is sometimes referred to as “hot basil” or “pepper basil” because unlike sweet or Thai basil, which have a flavor more reminiscent of licorice, holy basil is spicy and more like cloves. Because its flavor intensifies as it cooks, it is preferred cooked over raw. In Thai cuisine, holy basil is often matched with garlic, hot chilies, and nam pla (fish sauce) to flavor stir-fries. It is not interchangeable with Western, or sweet, basil in most recipes that call for the latter.
thai sweet basil, bai horapha Thai Sweet Basil (Bai horapha)
Thai basil, also known as Oriental basil or Asian basil, is a cultivar of sweet basil commonly used in the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Compared to the common Mediterranean sweet basil, Thai basil has a more pronounced licorice or anise flavor. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as anise or licorice basil, but it should not be confused with the American cultivars of these basils. The flavor is peppery and warm, and although there is a difference between Thai basil and common sweet basil, they can be substituted for each other in most recipes. Thai basil tends to hold its flavor better when cooked than its Mediterranean cousin does.
pandanus leaves, bai dtoey Pandanus Leaves (Bai Dtoey)
Pandanus leaves are used for wrapping up food prior to steaming or frying, as well as giving many Thai desserts their flavor. When you see green colored desserts, likely the flavor is pandanus. It’s also common to boil the leaves and use the tea as an additive to plain water. In the West, you can usually find these leaves frozen, or sometimes you can buy ‘pandan essence’ liquid in small bottles.

Storage: Pandanus will last a few weeks if kept sealed in the refrigerator. Freezing it will make it lose a substantial amount of flavor.

banana leaves, bai dtong Banana Leaves (Bai Dtong)
The leaves of the Banana tree are used in Thai cuisine to wrap foods before steaming. The leaf gives the food a slight flavor. They are never eaten, just used as a flavoring. They are also commonly used as tablecloths at markets! If you live somewhere where there are no Banana trees to steal leaves from, you can usually buy them frozen in bags at Asian groceries. A common misconception is that they have a banana smell, they do not - they smell like leaves! The reason we use them is not for the smell, but because they are waxy, so food is easy to remove from the leaves.

Storage: Banana leaves can be kept in the refrigerator for a few weeks. For long term storage, you can freeze them sealed.

fresh bamboo shoots, naw my Bamboo Shoots (Naw my)
There are two types of bamboo commonly used in Thai cooking, bamboo shoots in water and pickled bamboo slices in vinegar. Either way the only part of the bamboo that is used are the soft shoots. Bamboo can be bought in cans at any Thai or Chinese grocer, either sliced or whole.
wing beans, tua puu Wing Beans (Tua puu)
These Thai greens beans have a different appearance but a similar taste to long green beans. If you can't find the Thai beans use long green beans. They are eaten raw with spicy sauce, or sometimes steamed or par-boiled.

The wing bean plant produces pea-like beans with four-winged edges. Its lawn green pods are best picked when immature, so that the pod and beans within can be eaten. Their flavor is sweet like many pea varieties, with a clean grassy finish.
cha om vegetable Cha Om
This green vegetable grows in central Thailand and is practically a weed. It has a very strong sulfur smell, thankfully when it's cooked the sulfur smell disappears. It's commonly eaten cooked in omelets, and also boiled or steamed as a dipping vegetable with spicy chili dip. Keep in the fridge and it can last about 2 weeks, eat only the soft tops of the stalks, not the woody lower parts.
fresh baby corn, koa prood on Baby Corn (Koa prood on)
A common ingredient worldwide, this is how baby corn is presented in Thailand - with some of the outer husk left attached. We eat them raw with chili paste, or steam them, use them in soups, stir fries and many other recipes. Apart from the presentation there is no difference between a Thai baby sweet corn and western baby sweet corn.
chinese kale, chinese broccoli, gai lan, kanah Chinese Kale, Chinese Broccoli, Gai Lan (Kanah)
We eat these as a salad vegetable, like a bitter lettuce. It is from the same family as broccoli and if you can't get hold of them, use either broccoli leaves or a bitter lettuce.

Considered one of the world's most nutritious vegetables, Chinese broccoli (also known as Chinese kale, gai laarn, guy lan or kai laarn) has the highest calcium content of any vegetables (1/2 cup cooked Chinese broccoli has the same calcium content as 1/2 cup milk!),

sataw beans, stink beans, saadtaw thai vegetable Sataw Beans or Stink Beans (Saadtaw)
Sadtaw is a prized vegetable in the southern region of Thailand. It actually is not a vegetable, but the young beanlike seeds of a large tree, carried in long, flat and wavy, over-sized, bright green seedpods. Each seedpod yields only a small handful of seeds.
thai peanuts, tua li song Peanuts (Tua li song)
Peanuts are used in a few dishes. The most popular of which are Som Tum and Massaman Curry. It’s easiest to purchase pre-roasted peanuts, but make sure they are “dry-roasted” and unsalted.

See also:  Thai Fruits

More ingredients coming soon!


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