Thai cooking is all about balancing salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter flavours to create vibrantly delicious foods. With five to ten ingredients, it’s easy to cook a range of dishes prepared in any Thai restaurant. Cooks at Royal Lancaster London share five essential ingredients in Thai cooking.
Fish Sauce- A Great Ingredient for Seasoning
Fish sauce brings a savoury taste to Thai foods. It is also called nam pla in Thai and is mainly used like soy sauce or salt as a flavour enhancer. It also acts as a base for dipping sauces and seasoning in cooked dishes. Fish sauce is a potent ingredient made from a liquid drained from fermented fish. Chefs use high-quality fish sauces like Phu Quoc as it has a more balanced flavour. For home cooking, low-grade fish salt like Tiparos is an excellent addition. It has a strong, pungent smell, which reduces while cooking. Add lime juice to taper down the scent.
Coconut Milk- for a thick, tasty sauce
It is used in Thai curries, stews and stir-fries. Coconut milk is made by rinsing out oils from the coconut flesh using warm water. The cream is heated at an extremely high temperature to ensure it separates from the oil. Curry paste is then added and fried in the oil to release the spice and herb flavours. Coconut milk is then added to create a sauce.
Chiles- for hot spicy soups
The ingredient creates the hot spicy flavour present in many Thai foods. It is available in different forms, and these include fresh cayenne chiles, usually used in curries, fiery hot Thai bird chiles used in stir-fries and chile paste, which is a mixture of chiles, salt, oil and garlic. Chile paste is used as a base for many Thai salad dressings, Thai soups, stir-fries and dipping sauces.
Coriander- the most versatile ingredient in Thai cooking
The ingredient is used for seasoning stir fries and curries. It delivers an earthy citrus, but professionals use different parts of the plant to create unique tastes. The roots and the stems, for example, are added in the early stages of the cooking process to create depth in flavour while the leaves are added before serving to avoid draining its taste.
Lemongrass- for a refreshing, lingering lift
Thai foods are known for their sweet-bitter tastes usually created by ingredients like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Lemongrass used to add a subtle lime flavour and pairs well with ginger, garlic, beef, chilli, pork and chicken. Kaffir lime leaves, on the other hand, deliver an intense fragrance that has a citrus, floral-like taste.