Thailand is one of the most popular countries in Asia, but it’s not just because of its beautiful beaches or vibrant culture — many consider Thailand to be the land of spicy curries.
The country has been known as an epicenter for culinary innovation since the start of the 20th century.
Today, you’ll find plenty of great recipes from Thailand on sites like Chowhound and Epicurious, which show off the country’s unique blend of influences.
From street foods to home-cooked meals, there’s something for everyone here!
What Are The Best Ingredients For A Thai Dish?
When we think about Thai cuisine, we often imagine dishes full of rich flavors like lemongrass, curry paste, and fish sauce.
But what makes a good Thai meal isn’t necessarily all those things together — they can sometimes detract from each other if used too much or at the wrong time.
That’s why when making a Thai dish, you should always use fresh ingredients whenever possible.
To make your own version of this classic Thai dessert, try substituting the mango for watermelon, or even using pineapple instead of coconut milk.
You could also experiment with different types of rice, such as jasmine rice, basmati rice, or brown rice.
While there aren’t any hard rules when it comes to how you can mix these ingredients together, there are still certain guidelines you need to follow.
Here are some tips to help get started:
- If you want to stick with white rice, use medium grain rice. This type of rice will give your dish a little more body and chewiness than long grain rice would.
- Use less salt than usual when cooking with seafood or meat. For example, if you have a large shrimp, cook it whole before removing the shell and chopping up the flesh into small pieces. Then add the chopped shrimp back to the pot and reduce the amount of liquid by half (or so). Add salt sparingly after cooking.
- If you want to create a creamy texture, you’ll need to remove the skin from the chicken. To do this, simply rub the breast between two paper towels until almost dry. The skin will peel right off without hurting the bird.
- You don’t always need to cut green onions into short lengths to add flavor. Instead, thinly slice them crosswise and then stir through your dish.
- Soy sauce is another ingredient you might not expect to see in an authentic Thai dish. However, soy sauce adds depth to food and helps bring out the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables. If you plan to serve this dish with chicken, pork, beef, or squid, you may wish to omit the soy sauce altogether. Otherwise, keep it around for additional savory notes.
- For a richer taste and texture, add crushed peanuts to your dish rather than ground ones. They are easier to incorporate into your food while adding crunch and extra protein. And remember, if you’re allergic to nuts, you should avoid eating peanut products.
What Are Some Common Thai Spices?
In addition to curry powder and fish sauce (both of which are readily available at your local grocery store), you may also come across the following spices when cooking Thai food:
- Cinnamon sticks
- Cardamom pods
- Ginger root
- Star anise
- Garlic cloves
A few other ingredients that are commonly used in Thai cuisine include lemongrass, palm sugar, galangal, lime leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and pandan leaves.
This herb is often found fresh in Asian markets, but if you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass, dried versions will do the trick.
Lemongrass adds a citrusy flavor to dishes thanks to its high citral content.
You can use it in soups, stews, stir fries, salads, and even desserts like cheesecake.
You might know this sweetener by its brand name “jaggery”, but it goes by numerous names around the world, including “gula melaka” in Malaysia and “durian syrup” in Indonesia.
Palm sugar comes from trees that grow throughout Southeast Asia, so you’re likely to see it used in a variety of different cuisines.
If you want to try making your own, check out our guide to how to make palm sugar.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
These leaves look similar to regular limes, but they have a slightly sweeter taste than their counterparts.
They add a tartness to dishes while adding a bit of zing to drinks.
Kaffir lime leaves are typically sold dry, but you can buy them in powdered form too.
Be careful not to confuse these leaves with regular lime leaves, though — they won’t work quite the same way!
This tropical fruit looks almost exactly like banana flowers.
The leaf itself isn’t edible, but it does impart a floral aroma to dishes.
Pandan is native to South East Asia, and you’ll find it in various forms such as paste, extract, and oil.
You can get pandan leaves in powdered form, but you should avoid using extracts and oils due to their strong flavors.
How Can I Make A Thai Dish More Authentic?
There are countless dishes you can try out at your local Asian restaurant, especially if you live near Chinatown or Little India.
However, when you want to recreate these flavors at home, sometimes the best way to do so is by using a premade mix.
You can also use some basic Thai cooking techniques to create your own version of this famous dessert.
You may have seen che thai before, but did you know what exactly it was?
Let’s take a look at this classic Thai dessert recipe:
- 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice (sometimes called “sticky rice”)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup canned light coconut milk
- 5–6 large ripe mangos
First, prepare the rice.
Place the rice into a medium saucepan along with the 3 cups of water.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the temperature to low and cover.
Cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the stovetop and allow the rice to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Next, combine the coconut and 1/4 cup of water together in a small bowl.
Stir well, then set aside.
In another pot, bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Add the coconut milk and stir regularly for 5 minutes.
Once the liquid begins to bubble, remove the pan from the burner and add the coconut shreds.
The coconut will melt slowly, stirring constantly.
Continue stirring until the coconut is fully incorporated into the liquid.
Allow the mixture to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.
Now comes the fun part.
Peel the mangos, cut them into bite-size pieces, and place them in a blender.
Using cold running water, wash each piece thoroughly to get rid of dirt and debris.
Blend the mangos into a smooth paste.
If needed, add additional water in order to achieve the desired consistency.
Finally, pour the mango puree into the prepared fridge-temperature coconut milk container.
Stir well, then serve immediately.
Che Thai might seem intimidating at first glance, but once you give it a shot, you won’t regret trying it out!
What Are Some Common Thai Ingredients?
When you think about Thai food, what comes to mind first? The answer might surprise you — the country isn’t famous for being a hotbed of exotic spices and herbs.
Instead, your best bet when trying out a new Thai recipe is to stick to staples like lemongrass, basil, garlic, ginger, lime leaves, chilies, and cilantro.
If you want to get really adventurous, however, try using pandan leaf (also known as pandanus), galangal root, star fruit seed pods, jackfruit flower buds, and turmeric.
But don’t worry if these aren’t quite what you had in mind — even though they may seem foreign at first, they all have their place in Thai cuisine.
Here is a list of a few other commonly used ingredients in Thai dishes:
- Coconut oil: A staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai cuisine, this cooking fat adds richness and flavor to your dishes.
- Fish sauce: Also called nam prik pao, fish sauce is a condiment that gives sauces and marinades a distinctive savory taste.
- Lemongrass: Lemongrass is a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia, but it also grows well in Mediterranean climates. Its strong citrus aroma makes it a good addition to many Thai dishes.
- Mango: Mango is often added to sweet desserts, especially those flavored with coconut milk. You can buy fresh mangos or canned ones that are packed in water, so either will work fine.
- Palm sugar: Another staple in South East Asian cuisines, palm sugar is extracted by boiling down the sap of the coconut palm tree.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a fermented soybean product that contains salt, MSG, and various spices such as cloves, fennel seeds, and star anise. Many people use soy sauce as a flavoring agent instead of adding salt directly.
- Star fruit: Star fruit is a round, orange fruit found in the same family as pineapples and guavas.
What Are Some Common Thai Flavors?
You can easily recognize Thai food by its distinct flavor profile.
While it may seem intimidating at first glance, this cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes that can all be enjoyed together.
The following table outlines some of the more commonly used ingredients in Thai cooking:
- Fish sauce (nam prik) – A staple condiment in Southeast Asian cuisines, fish sauce provides a rich savory taste to nearly every dish. In addition to being a key ingredient in several sauces, nam prik also adds umami to your meal.
- Curry paste – Curry pastes add color and spice to your favorite Thai dishes. They come in a range of different varieties, including red curry paste, green curry paste, yellow curry paste, and sweet chili paste. These types of pastes provide heat, while others have milder tones.
- Green chilies – Green chilies are often added to Thai soups and salads. Their slight bitterness makes them ideal for adding texture and flavor to your meal.
- Lemongrass – Lemongrass is an essential part of Thai dishes, especially those based around seafood. Its strong lemony scent is reminiscent of lemon zest.
- Kaffir lime leaves – Kaffir lime leaves are often found in Thai desserts, such as khanom ji paa (sticky rice in coconut milk). You can use fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves in place of regular mint leaves.
- Mint leaves – Mint leaves are another important component of Thai dishes. Freshly chopped mint is served alongside many dishes throughout the day, giving your mouth a burst of refreshing coolness.
- Shrimp paste – Shrimp paste is a type of fermented shrimp paste that gives certain dishes their distinctive flavor. It’s typically spread onto flatbread before eating.
- White pepper – White peppercorn is another signature element of Thai cuisine. When ground into powder, white pepper adds both sweetness and warmth to your meals.
- Black pepper – Black pepper is widely used in Thai dishes, providing a peppery kick without overpowering other aromas. It can also help balance out too much sugar or salt in your diet.
- Garlic – Garlic is used in almost all Thai dishes, whether they contain meat, vegetables, or any combination thereof. This potent vegetable lends a slightly bitter tang to your meal.
- Ginger – Ginger is usually sliced thin and added to stir-fry dishes and soups. It brings a warm, earthy taste to your meal.
- Galangal root – Galangal root is another ingredient that is integral to Thai cuisine. Known as “the king of herbs,” galangal is used in soups, stews, and other savory dishes.
- Chili peppers – Chili peppers lend a hot, fiery tone to a number of Thai dishes, particularly ones containing beef, chicken, or pork. If you want to add even more fire to your meal, try roasting them yourself!
- Bird eye chillies – Bird eye chillies are long, slender fruits that grow in tropical climates. They tend to pack a bigger punch than standard bell peppers when it comes to spiciness, so make sure to adjust the amount depending on how hot you prefer your food.
- Red onion – Red onions are often paired with tomatoes to create a classic Italian pasta dish called spaghetti carbonara. Other times, these veggies can stand alone as side dishes.
- Dried mushrooms – Dried mushrooms are sometimes included in soups, stews, or casseroles. They give your meal a hearty mushroom flavor and offer additional nutrients.
- Tamarind pulp – Tamarind pulp is a thick sour fruit juice that can be used in various ways. It adds brightness to your meals.
- Plantains – Plantains are bananas that have been fried until crispy. They are eaten whole or mashed up into a smooth puree.
- Pork sausage – Pork sausages are very similar to American bologna. They are generally grilled over coals and then wrapped in banana leaves prior to serving.
- Chicken feet – Chicken feet are considered delicacies in Thailand and are often braised or deep-fried. They aren’t quite as fatty as steak, making them more suitable for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat meat.
- Banana flower buds – Banana flower buds are small flowers that resemble tiny dandelions. They are extremely crunchy and add a subtle floral note to Thai dishes.
What Are Some Common Thai Dishes?
One of the biggest reasons people love eating Thai food is because of how distinctively different it tastes compared to other cuisines.
Its roots lie in the cuisine of neighboring Southeast Asian nations such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Burma (now called Myanmar).
These countries share similar cultural traditions and have influenced each other over time through trade routes and immigration.
When these regions were under French colonial rule during World War II, they adopted French cooking techniques and ingredients.
From this point onward, their cuisines began incorporating French influence into their own.
Some of the most well-known Thai dishes include:
- Pad Thai – A noodle dish made with egg noodles and vegetables stir fried together with peanut sauce, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and chili peppers. The name Pad means “to beat,” so pad thai literally translates to “broken noodle.”
- Tom Yum Goong – Tom yum goong is a tangy soup made with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, chilies, and lemon grass. It’s typically served with steamed rice, though you can also enjoy it chilled if you prefer.
- Khao Soi Gai – Khao soi gai is a chicken curry dish that features tender pieces of meat cooked with red and green chilies, ginger, shallots, and garlic. It’s often enjoyed alongside white rice. You may want to use your hands while stirring the curry, as the fat will cause sauce to cling to them.
- Hokkien Mee – Hokkian mee is a Cantonese style noodle dish that comes in three varieties: dry, sweet, and sour. Sweet hokkien mee is usually garnished with shredded pork, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and cilantro.
- Mamuang Pla Duk – Mamuang pladuk is a savory, spicy papaya salad that’s traditionally eaten with nam phrik, a fermented fish sauce that adds flavor and depth to the dish. Papayas, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint are all used in making this tasty dish.
- Kaeng Tua Neua – Kaeng tua neua is a beef curry stewed in coconut cream seasoned with tamarind, palm sugar, and fresh turmeric root. If you don’t have access to fresh turmeric, you can substitute 1 teaspoon ground turmeric instead.
- Rice Paper Rolls – Rice paper rolls are filled with various toppings, including pickled radish, crispy tofu, grilled meat, deep-fried prawns, and more.
What Is The Best Way To Cook A Thai Dish?
There isn’t a single “best” way to cook a Thai dish.
Instead, each region has their own set of rules for how they prefer to prepare food — whether that means using fresh ingredients or using dried spices.
In this guide, we will look at five different ways to make a Chee Tha (pronounced chay tha).
What Are Some Tips For Making A Thai Dish?
If you want to learn how to make a Thai curry at home, then try cooking up this sweet treat called che thai recipe.
The name means “coconut water cooked with sticky rice,” and it’s essentially a cross between two classic dishes: khao soi (sticky rice) and som tam (a savory papaya salad).
Although it looks similar to both of these dishes, che thai recipe is actually very different.
This recipe uses only three ingredients: sticky rice, palm sugar syrup, and fresh coconut milk.
When combined together, each ingredient creates a rich, creamy flavor that goes well with the tropical fruit flavors of the other two components.
To round out the taste even more, you can add extra spices such as chili peppers, lemongrass, cilantro, lime leaves, and/or galangal root.
If you don’t have any of those items, feel free to use whatever herbs and spices you do have on hand instead.
You may think that adding all of those additional ingredients will result in a complicated dish, but it turns out that they add complexity without taking away from the main focus — the sweet, juicy mangoes and fragrant coconut milk used here.
In fact, che thai recipe is quite easy to prepare, especially if you buy your ingredients beforehand.
How Can I Make A Thai Dish Healthier?
While every cuisine has its healthy versions of certain dishes (such as salads), Thai cuisine is especially loved by those who want their food to be low in fat and high in nutrients.
The following ingredients have all been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, improve digestion, boost immunity, and more:
- Coconut oil
- Chili peppers
If you’re looking to spice up your diet while still staying true to your favorite Thai dishes, these tips will get you started on the right foot.
Try adding ginger to your food
One way to add flavor without taking away from the nutritional benefits of a dish is to include fresh ginger into your meal.
Not only does ginger bring out the sweetness in other spices, but it also improves digestion, reduces inflammation, helps prevent cancer, and boosts immune function.
You can use ginger in soups, stir fries, sauces, desserts, and even smoothies.
Try this easy recipe for Ginger Lime Chicken Stir Fry.
When choosing leafy greens such as kale, spinach, bok choy, and collards, they tend to pack a lot of nutrition into each serving.
They’re also packed full of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, fiber, antioxidants, and protein.
If you don’t like eating them raw, try steaming, sautéing, or blending them into a salad dressing instead.
Add lemongrass to your dishes
This fragrant herb adds a refreshing zest to both sweet and savory dishes.
Lemongrass contains vitamin E, folic acid, and beta carotene.
Lemongrass is often used in Southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai and Vietnamese, so if you aren’t familiar with it already, give it a shot!
Use fish sauce
Fish sauce is made by fermenting anchovies in salt water.
It doesn’t need much explaining after that, but what sets it apart from regular soy sauce is that it has added umami flavors.
These umami flavors enhance the taste of meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, and seasonings.
Fish sauce is also naturally rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which may reduce risk factors associated with heart disease.
To learn how to cook with fish sauce, check out our guide on how to use fish sauce properly.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Cooking Thai Food?
There isn’t much you need to do differently when making dishes from this region.
However, if you want to take your skills up a notch, check out these common mistakes people make while cooking Thai food.
- Overly salty dishes (like fish sauce) will turn bland after being cooked long enough.
- Don’t add too much chili paste into soups or sauces — they may taste good at first, but the heat will eventually kill the flavor.
- Use fresh ingredients whenever possible. If you must use canned tomatoes, choose low sodium varieties and rinse them before using to remove excess salt.
- If you have leftover oil from frying chicken, try adding it back into a curry instead of discarding it. The extra fat helps keep things moist during reheating.
- 20 oz jackfruit
- 20 oz lychee
- 20 oz longan
- 19 oz ai-yu jelly
- 20 oz toddy palm seeds
- 1 coconut
- 13.5 oz coconut milk
- Save the liquid from the young coconut meat and your favorite canned fruit after opening all of your canned fruits. The lychee juice is tasty.
- Slice longans in half, lychee and jackfruit into 1 inch-thick chunks, toddy palm seeds and young coconut meat into thicker slices. Cut the ai-yu jelly into 1-inch cubes.
- Pour coconut milk and the juice from the young coconut meat can into a big bowl. If you like a sweeter flavor, test the mixture and add juice from your favorite canned fruit. Personally, we like lychee and modify sweetness by adding 1/4 cup at a time.
- Place the prepared fruits in the large basin, then stir. Add ice just before serving or refrigerate for two hours.