A Concise Guide To Essential Thai Ingredients
Image Credit: Thai Food Online

Thai food is famously known for its liberal use of flavours derived from fresh ingredients as well as an array of pre-made condiments that add depths of flavour to food. Whether it is a soup, curry, salad or even grilled vegetables or meat, Thai food is packed with spice, citrus and tons of umami flavour. While it isn’t always possible to peel, chop and grind ingredients to make pastes or condiments from scratch, one can always stock up on a few basic ingredients to bring that Thai flair to your food. Here’s a list of a few must-haves in your pantry, if Thai food is something you find yourself steering towards often, for meals like lunch or dinner.

Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)

Image Credits: Temple Of Thai

This is a staple ingredient in Thai cooking and is made from fermented fish. The umami flavours, combined with the mildly fishy flavour, makes this one of the go-to Thai condiments to have in stock to use a bit of in everything from salad dressings, soups, stews and curries.

Curry Paste

Image Credits: Simply Suwanee

Thai curry pastes are made from a combination of herbs, spices, and chilies. The most common ones are red, green, and yellow curry pastes and popularly used as a flavour base for Thai curries made with lots of fresh vegetables, chicken, seafood and even pork. Curry paste is one of those Thai staples you could keep coming back to, from time to time, and have varied uses for in your kitchen.

Palm Sugar (Nam Tan Peep)

Image Credits: Tasting Table

Made from the sap of palm trees, palm sugar is used as a sweetener in Thai cuisine. It has a rich caramel-like flavour and is one of the foundational ingredients for the Thai raw mango salad. Palm sugar is often found in a sticky, paste-like consistency and brings a rounded sweetness that isn’t too cloying, to Thai food and simply works as an aftertaste in most recipes packed with chillies.

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Oyster Sauce (Nam Man Hoi)

Image Credits: Healthifyme

A thick, savoury sauce made from oysters, it adds a rich umami flavour to stir-fries and marinades. With a lighter umami flavour compared to fish sauce or soy sauce, oyster sauce has a thick, molasses-like consistency and adds body and thickness to stir-fry sauces, curries and gravies. You can also add a few drops as the flavour base for your fried rice, to get that exrra umami richness.

Shrimp Paste (Kapi)

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

This fermented paste made from shrimp is used asa flavour enhancer in many Thai dishes, especially curries and chili pastes like sambal. Shrimp paste is pungent and has a strong flavour of fish, which works beautifully in Pad Thai noodles or a typical Thai pumpkin and seafood curry. Shrimp paste can also be used as one of the key ingredients for homemade curry pastes.

Jasmine Rice (Kao Hom Mali)

Image Credits: Once Upon A Chef

The preferred rice variety in Thailand, jasmine rice has a fragrant aroma and slightly sticky texture. Jasmine rice is often eaten as an accompaniment to stews and curries in Thai cuisine as well as made into a sticky, glutinous version that is eaten as a key element in a popular Thai dessert of Sticky Rice-Mango, swathed in a warm coconut milk sauce.