15 Must-Have Ingredients for Cooking Thai Food at Home
Thai cuisine is a little bit of everything! The sour balances the sweet, the salt balances the spice. Cooking Thai food isn’t complex, but is meticulous. Every bit of flavour must blend in the right proportions when you’re cooking Thai food. And the ingredients for cooking Thai food at home are easy to find too, at your local supermarkets! How about we help you stock up your kitchen to ensure a delicious Thai curry, salad or stir fry! Follow this guide of 15 must-have ingredients for cooking Thai food at home.
- Pastes – Red / Green
Every good Thai dish starts with a great Thai paste. And making these Thai pastes aren’t that complicated either. As you read ahead, you’d find the ingredients to make the paste at home. Chillies being the key ingredient for both variants red or green. If you’re unsure of the right ingredient balance, you can pick up Red, Green, and Massaman Thai curry pastes at your local grocery stores. Rest assured the ready-to-cook Thai pastes over the shelf are much lower on the heat quotient.
No Thai Meal is complete without Rice or Noodles. Thai’s love their rice! And since most Thai main course meals are gravy based, it is always served as an accompaniment. Even in desserts! But various Thai dishes use different variants of Rice.
- Thai Jasmine Rice is the most common rice and is wonderfully fragrant when uncooked too. It cooks easily and fast – serve this rice with Thai Curries.
- Glutinous or Sticky Rice as the name suggests is starchier and short-grained. Typically served with spicy chilli dips, grilled meats and vegetables, it works really well to cut the spice and absorb all the brothy flavours of Northern and North eastern Thai cooking.
- Brown Rice or Brown Sticky Rice isn’t a must-have in your kitchen, but is quite healthy since the rice bran remains on the rice, making it more fibrous. 3. Flours
Flours are another one of the 15 must-have ingredients in Thai cooking. Most Thai desserts and Curries use coconut milk and the dish is usually of a thin liquid consistency. Natural flours are used to thicken these Thai dishes, giving them a creamy consistency.
- Thai Rice Flour is made from short-grain sticky rice. It’s used mostly in Thai desserts or for the base of Thai pastries. And it’sits great for those who need to stay gluten free.
- Tapioca Flour is fine and made from the cassava root. And is usually used in combination with other flours to thicken soups, curries and desserts.
- Corn Flour is fairly common and used in most homes to thicken soup.
- Arrowroot Flour is great for dabbing before frying fish and is typically part of several Thai desserts like Pandan coconut pudding or Khanom Tuay cakes.
With the starches stocked up, it’sits time to check the pantry for must-have ingredients to add the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours to Thai food at home.
4. Coconut Milk
Thai Cooking would be incomplete without Coconut milk, especially the Southern Thai cooking style. It is naturally creamy, thick and adds the necessary sweetness of coconut to your curries. IT helps balance the heat of the chilli pastes and enhances dishes like stews. You can extract coconut milk from freshly grated and ground coconut at home. Or just make a dash to your local store- they’d definitely have a can of coconut milk or the powdered version of it.
5. Palm Sugar
Practically added to most Thai salads, curries and pastes, Palm sugar elevates the right balance of sour and spice. Made from coconut or palm trees, it is not as sweet as regular sugar and adds a natural caramel like sweetness to Thai cooking. You can substitute it with brown or white sugar too, but keep tasting as you add it in.
6. Tamarind Pulp
The quintessential acidity provider in most Thai dishes – Tamarind. This delicious and sour fruit gives you subtle hints of tang in soups and curries. Lemons are usually more overpowering, though a good substitute. It’s always great to keep your pantry stocked with some tamarind pulp. If you have the whole fruit, no worries. Simply place a few in hot water and let it cool. Use that water and squeeze the fruit for more pulp.
7. Thai Spices
Thai Spices are not uncommon either and easily found at most grocery stores. Cinnamon, pepper, cumin, coriander, cloves are all essential to Thai cooking at home. However, they’re not all used together at the same time and typically not used whole either.
8. Thai Chilli’s
Thai Chilli (Prik khi nu) is the base of Thai cuisine. It is probably one of the key must-have ingredients for cooking Thai food at home. Thai chilli though used commonly, isn’t just one pepper. There are several different peppers that grow through different regions of Thailand. Therefore, each region’s food has a distinct spice to its food. You have bird eye peppers, Thai Jinda Chilli Pepper, Thai Prik Num which is green, spur chilli and more. The best would be to head over to your local grocery store and buy a pack of bright red, dry peppers which you could comfortably use to make Thai pastes. Adjust the spice and keep adding the peppers in as per taste.
9. Seasoning Sauces
Thai Cooking has a plethora of sauces. But we’re sharing the 3 most essential ingredients for the salty flavour to your Thai dishes. Stock your kitchen up with these key Thai seasoning sauces.
- Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai cooking. Yes, it has a distinct smell, but when added to dressings and curries, you can truly enjoy the depth of flavours. No, you can’t make this at home, best you pick a bottle from the market.
- Soy sauce is used in a lot of cuisines. And cooking Thai food at home is incomplete without it. Dark soy sauces are thicker with more flavour and light soy sauces can be easily used to whip up a quick dip or drizzled over rice.
- Oyster sauce – Yes, it comes from cooking actual oysters. And if you’re cooking authentic Thai food at home, you need this sauce for your stir fry to bring out the saltiness of your food. Check the store-bought oyster sauce bottles for vegetarian options too – mushrooms tend to add a similar flavour too.
10. Dry Shrimp and Shrimp Paste
Vital to Thai cooking, Shrimp adds the umami flavour of Thai cooking. If you’re vegetarian, you can do away with it. But Thai food will never taste the same. Kapi – fermented shrimp paste is the base for most dipping sauces like nam phrik phao. Whereas dry shrimp is so versatile. Pound it coarsely and drizzle over your salads, grind it with spices and chillies for an inventive Thai curry. Shrimps simply bring the salt of the sea home to your Thai food!
Thai cooking needs Lemongrass in the kitchen. The bulbous roots, the leaves, all of it! Leave a few chopped up lemongrass leaves in your Thai curry and its fragrance will fill up your home with a soothing aroma. Use the bulbous roots and stalks in stir-fry and pastes. Several homes simply prefer growing lemon grass in the kitchen gardens too. Not just Thai cooking, it is great to make some soothing tea too!
12. Galangal / Ginger and Garlic
These three are some key ingredients native to Thai cooking and present in most kitchens. Galangal is essential for Tum yum and most of the pastes. though not as much. So, you can use ginger as a substitute. Besides being full of flavour, these roots are excellent for your digestive system too. Thai cooking in that sense not only balances flavours, but also helps balance nutrition too.
13. Thai Herbs
Herbs add the finishing touches to cooking exceptional Thai food! Holy Basil add the hotness to the dish while and ThaiSweet Basil add a sweet freshness to your curries. and salads. Makrut Lime leaves fill your kitchen with a citrusy aroma and add a hint of tang to your Thai Dishes. It’s so quint-essential to Thai cooking that it is added to practically all soups, salads, curries and stir-fried dishes. Turmeric is especially required for Massaman Thai curry.
Thai cuisine balances out the nutrient requirements and almost always makes for wholesome nutritious meals. So, adding a protein is absolutely essential to all your dishes. All Thai curries, salads and soups blend with all proteins including beef, chicken, fish, pork, and tofu. Take your pick, and these with fresh vegetables as sides.
Thai cooking is therapeutic. The spices and herbs are aromatic, sauces and pastes full of flavours and every ingredient works to truly enhance Thai Dishes. So, here’s our list of 15 must-have ingredients for cooking Thai food at home. Share with us which Thai Dish you plan to whip up in your kitchen and don’t forget to tag us on social media!
Thai cuisine uses noodles in soups and , salads and desserts, so its safe to say you definitely need to stock your kitchen with noodles. In fact, different Thai cooking styles require different types of noodles too.
- Cellophane Noodles or Glass noodle are stringy, dried and transparent. Made from mung beans, you will need them for that firm texture in spring rolls and salads
- Egg Noodles are versatile and used widely in Thai Noodled , whether dried version or with soup version cooking. The flat version is found in soups and the round variant is almost present in every stir fry.
- Rice Noodle Nests are the base for the famous Khanom Jeen Nam Ya. or with green curry It would be best to stock up on a few, since they pair well with curries and get washed down faster.