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Thai Cooking Vocabulary and Ingredients
Thai Recipe Ingredients: Red Curry Paste & Lime Juice
Introducing Thai Food
There is a simple reason why I like Thai food-the marriage of the flavors of sweet and spicy. But, dining at a Thai restaurant is a whole different experience than attempting to cook, 'foreign food'.
It doesn't have to be if you understand a basic vocabulary of Thai culinary terms and ingredients. For many years I talked about the delectable dishes I enjoyed at Thai restaurants to my daughters. Christa finally surprised me one year with a Thai cookbook as a Christmas gift. Still, it has been a slow process for me to gain enough confidence to move forward with the foods I love.
In the course of understanding the basic ingredients to many Thai foods, I came up with a delicious Shrimp Thai Soup that I wrote about previously. More recently I experimented with two of my delights: crepes and mangos, and cooked up a batch of delicious Thai Mango Banana Crepes as a breakfast or dessert treat.
If you like Thai food you can conquer your fears of experimenting with Thai cooking and learn several recipes to serve your family and friends. Learning the basics is not difficult, and practicing what you learn can be fun!
Not everyone is savvy to the ingredients that make up cuisine that is different from their own culture. American grocery stores do not always offer the common Thai recipe ingredients to the buyer, especially if they happen to be in a more conservative region of the country. Therefore, a trip to a larger city, or perhaps an Asian specialty shop, may be necessary. Although many of these food items are available only as a fresh product, other items, such as fish sauce or soy sauce, can be bought off the shelf and will not spoil if they are properly stored.
A Glossary of Thai Ingredients
Cilantro-an herb that enhances the flavoring of many dishes. In Thai cooking it is the root that is preferred. The whole cilantro plant, with root attached, can be found in many Asian markets. If this is not available to you, chopping the stems of cilantro can increase the flavor, while using the lacy tops for decorative purposes.
Coconut-coconuts can be easily found in most supermarkets. Although coconut water is now touted for its health benefits, the white coconut meat found inside the shell can be grated and added to dishes. Where coconut milk is used in a recipe a can of regular or light milk is located in the Asian aisle of the grocery store.
Curry Paste-Curry paste can be found in supermarket stores along with other Asian ingredients for creating Chinese or Thai recipes. It usually comes in a 'red' or 'green' form. Curry paste is actually a combination of various ingredients such as garlic, onion, galangal-part of the ginger family, coriander and lemongrass.
Fish Sauce-This is an extract of fermented fish and sea salt. The shorter the fermentation process, the more 'fishy' the smell and flavor. The longer the fermentation process, the more nutty and savory the flavor.
Ginger root-This is a plant that is used for flavorings in Thai dishes, for health benefits, such as an upset stomach, and for aesthetic purposes, due to its flowery blossoms in the spring. Fresh ginger is preferred over a powdered, shelf version, and can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks. You will find fresh ginger root in the produce department of your market.
Lemon Grass-Lemon Grass is indeed a grass that is grown in Southeast Asia. It's long stalks are cut up and added for flavoring in a wide variety of recipes, as well as teas. It has a lovely, citrusy fragrance and is much stronger in flavor than actual lemons. If you cannot find fresh lemon grass in your local grocery store, look in the spice section and select a bottled version.
Thai Chillies-Thai Chillies are small-only about an inch long, but are extremely effective in adding heat to dishes. The unripe chillies remain green, but turn red when ripened. It is important to note that the seeds and ribs are very hot, while the flesh is less spicy. Wear gloves when handling this vegetable.
Thai Mango Banana Crepes
Ingredients for Thai Recipes
Spices & Sauces
red curry paste
Suggested Recipes using common Thai Ingredients:
Soups and Appetizers:
Corn and Crab Soup with Egg
Shrimp Thai Soup
Sweet and Sour Fish Cakes
Vegetarian Spring Rolls
Noodles and Rice:
Stir Fried Rice
Jasmine Rice with Lemon and Basil
Thai Coconut Rice
Fish and Shellfish
Shrimp and Pineapple Curry
Spicy Thai Seafood Stew
Steamed Yellow Fish Fillets
Salmon with Red Curry in Banana Leaves
Meat and Poultry:
Beef, Bell Peppers and Lemon Grass
Chicken and Mango Stir Fry
Green Chicken Curry
Sides and Salads:
Thai Noodle and Shrimp Salad
Thai Red Bean Curry
Crispy Tofu with Chili Soy Sauce
Coconut Cream Custard
Thai Mango Banana Crepes
Banana Fritters in Coconut Batter with Vanilla Ice Cream