Thailand or officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.
Thailand is the world’s 51st-largest country in terms of total area, approximately 198,000 square miles, and is the 20th-most-populous country, with around 64 million people. Bangkok is the capital and largest city, and also is center of Thailand’s politics, commercialism, industrialism and culture.
It is also interesting enough to mention Thailand has been called the Golf Capital of Asia. It is a popular destination for golf. The country attracts large numbers of golfers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Western countries who go to play golf in Thailand every year.
Thai cuisine also uses ingredients that are commonly known to us in the Western world or more industrialized countries. Knowing how Thai recipes prepare these food items might give us more of an appreciation for such food.
Bamboo Shoots are used in many Thai recipes. To use bamboo shoots in cooking requires them to be peeled to get to the white inner stalks and then boil them for 30 minutes in water. If using canned bamboo shoots they only need to be boiled for 10 minutes. There is no need for boiling them if they are part or if they are part of a soup or curry dish.
There are three (3) types of basil used in Thai recipes. They are Sweet, Holy, and Lemon Basil. If you use basil in your cooking, it is most likely sweet basil as that is the most commonly sold in the local markets.
Holy basil has a spicier flavor and has slightly purple leaves. Lemon basil for its name gives away what it tastes like. It has a lemony flavor and also has a distinct lemony scent.
If you can’t find Lemon basil at your local market, you can use sweet basil by adding finely chopped chili peppers or a bit of lemon rind.
Bergamot is a small tree with long, oval green leaves with white flowers. The small tree originates in Asia but can found in Italy, Morocco and the Ivory Coast. The tree bears small round fruit that is yellow when ripe. The preparation of some Thai dishes use the rind or zest of the fruit.
It is hard to find this small fruit, so granted lime zest can be used in its place, though it can be a poor substitute.
Lots of Thai recipes use Chili paste, which is used for adding spice and flavor to the dish. A particularly popular version by Thai cooks is burnt mild chili paste. You can buy the chili paste in bottles or tubes at almost any market in the Asian food section.
Chinese mushrooms are also an addition to Thai cooking as well as coconut milk. Coconut milk can be bought in cans almost anywhere. If the recipe calls for coconut cream scoop, that would be the harder white substance that has formed at the top of the can. If it is coconut milk that the recipe calls for, than just stir the can thoroughly before using.
Curry Paste: While some people prefer to prepare their own curry pastes, many bottled curries are available at the supermarket. Most recipes use red, green or yellow curry.
Fish sauce: Made from collecting the liquid off of fermenting salted fish, this pale, watery brown sauce is sometimes used to replace all the salt in recipes. It is very flavorful and compliments all Thai food. It is called for in many recipes but you can also use your imagination with it, as it is very versatile.
Galangal is also used in many curries and soups. It is similar to ginger. Galangal is hard to find fresh, but can be purchased dried. It will need to be soaked in water for 1 hour before using.
Thai garlic is a must when preparing a dish. Thai garlic should be available in Asian markets, but if not then the common garlic we see can also be used.
When using the Thai garlic the smaller, tighter cloves are the best to use because they are more flavorful and will not be over powered by the other herbs and spices used in the dish.
Ginger used quite often in modern cooking is easy to find, and ginger is extremely healthy and flavorful.
Lemon grass is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Thai cooking. It looks much like a small leek. The hard outer portion is removed, and the lower bulbous part is used.
The lemon grass is sliced into pieces and added to the food while cooking, and then removed before serving the dish, or it can be blended in a food processor before adding to the cooking process and then consumed with the dish giving it more flavor.
Palm sugar is used in some Thai recipes, but if it is not unavailable you can substitute with dark brown sugar or real maple syrup.
Rice is a main staple for the Thai people and they prefer long-grain white Jasmine rice which is flavorful and aromatic rice that cools and compliments spicy Thai dishes.
Rice paper is used to make fresh Thai spring rolls, which are prepared with vegetables and meat if desired.
Sesame oil is the preferred oil to use in Thai cuisine. It’s a very flavorful oil and works well with Thai cooking.
Preparation and cooking techniques:
The vegetables used in Thai cooking should be cut as finely as possible. The idea behind the thin cut vegetable is that the smaller they are chopped, the less time they will need to be cooked, which retains most of the nutrients as possible.
Most of us have cooked a stir fry before. This method requires a wok and oil. The vegetables are when the oil and wok are hot and then stirred constantly. The vegetables should only be stir fried for a couple of seconds so they remain crisp and brightly colored.
Mortar and Pestles are used in making sauces, and curry pastes. Anyone who loves Thai food and is animate about cooking it needs a mortar and pestle in their kitchen. It should be preferably made out of clay or wood.