STAR (poy kak bua): The tan-colored pods with eight points, like stars, come from trees in
the Magnolia family. Used in Thailand primarily in dishes of Chinese origin, star anise is
unrelated to anise, but imparts a similar licorice flavor to dishes. Commonly found in
Five-Spice Powder, it is more often added whole to curries and soups.
BAMBOO SHOOTS (nor mai): The young shoots of the bamboo plant. Available in many different
sizes and forms. The most common is canned, however you can usually find them fresh
soaking in some water at an Asian supermarket. They are pale yellow in color and usually
crispy and crunchy to the taste with a mild flavor. They are used for color, texture, and
flavor in many Thai dishes. We recommend soaking them in cold water with some salt for at
least 20 minutes to lessen any canned or stale taste. They will keep in the refrigerator
for up to two weeks in water. The water should be changed daily.
BANANA LEAVES (bai tong): In Thai cooking, banana leaves are used to wrap food for
steaming, baking or grilling; and made into cups to hold custards and salads. In Mexican
cuisine they are sometimes used instead of cornhusks to wrap tamales. They are
occasionally available fresh, but can be most commonly found frozen in Asian or Mexican
markets. Defrost before using and wash well in hot water. Leftover leaves may be rewrapped
BASIL, HOLY (bai gra pao): The leaves of this basil are not shiny but have a matte finish
and distinct serrated edges. You will find this basil with and without thin flower buds.
There are two types of Holy Basil red and white. The red variety has green leaves
with reddish-purple color stalks and a strong pungent hot flavor. The white version has
green leaves with green stalks and less intense hot flavor. The fragrance is similar to
that of cloves with a sharp hot taste which can numb the tongue. Both types are commonly
used in spicy stir-fry meat dishes. The leaves are often deep fried and used as a crispy
BASIL, THAI LEMON (bai mangluk) / Hairy Basil: This basil has small, hairy, long narrow
pale-green leaves with reddish cluster of seed pods at the tip. It has a distinct tangy,
lemon/citrus flavor. It releases a lemon fragrance and a peppery taste when chewed. It is
mainly used sprinkled over salads; as a flavoring for soups and noodle dishes; and a
garnish for Thai dishes and some curries. The dried seeds are used for drinks and
desserts. When storing this basil; it should be kept covered and not in water. This herb
does not store very long and fades quickly; enjoy it right away.
BASIL, THAI SWEET (bai hora prao) / Thai Basil / Sweet Basil: A herb with bright green
leaves, distinct purple stalks and dark purple honeycomb-shaped bud flowers. It has a
natural, slightly strong, sweet licorice flavor and aniseed fragrance. It sweetens and
perfumes any dish. Most commonly used in red and green curries, soups and stir-fries. The
leaves are added just before serving so that the delicate perfumed flavor is retained and
not lost when heated. This basil is also commonly found chopped or ground in curry pastes.
BEAN CURD (see, Tofu). Bean Curd, Fermented/Pickled Soy (too hu yee): A pickled tofu that
has a soft, almost custard-like smooth texture with a strong salty taste and a pungent
wine aroma. There are many different varieties. The most common types are white and
yellow. Usually sold in cakes or in small cubes in jars. The white variety is usually
pickled with sesame oil, rice wine and chili. The red variety is made using red rice wine,
chili, and annato seeds. Its distinct, pungent flavor is commonly used in place of salt or
fish sauce to flavor a stir-fry, soup or steamed entree. Used commonly as a flavoring for
rice porridge (congee).
BEAN SPROUTS (tua ngawk): Are typically mung bean sprouts but soybean sprouts are
sometimes available. Sprouts have bright silver white bodies with yellow or green heads
and small thin hair-like tails. Often used in stir-fry dishes, soups and salads. When
buying bean sprouts, choose dry, firm, white spouts. Best when used the same day of
purchase but will keep in a refrigerator (in an open bag so that moisture can escape) for
a few days. Unsprouted mung beans are small round green beans that are easy to grow. The
seeds are usually available in Chinese grocery stores or in health food stores. Soak a
quarter of a cup of mung beans in water overnight. Spread a thin layer of the soaked beans
on a wet newspaper or cheesecloth on a cookie sheet. Place them in a warm dark area
(inside an off oven is ideal). They will sprout and be ready to eat in about five days
when the roots are about two inches long.
BEAN THREAD NOODLES (woon sen) / Clear Noodles, Glass Noodles, Sai Fun, Mung Bean
Vermicelli, Jelly Noodles, Cellophane Noodles: A thin, angel hair-width noodle made from
mung bean starch, derived from fresh bean sprouts. These noodles are commonly found in
soup-noodle dishes and cold salads. In the dry stage, they are white in appearance and
look like a bunch of tangled string but should not be confused with rice vermicelli.
Although they look similar when dried and in the package, bean thread noodles become
transparent and jelly-like when cooked. Their delicate flavor is perfect for soups. These
noodles absorb a lot of soup, therefore it is recommended to use a lot of broth and small
amounts of noodles, as you will see your soup disappear in front of your eyes. They are
often fried and used as a garnish for Asian salads. For frying, there is no need to soak
the noodles. You fry them in a dry stage. Be prepared to fish them out of the hot oil
immediately as they will puff up like popcorn as soon as they hit the oil. When frying
they are ready in a manner of seconds. To prepare noodles for stir-frying or soups, soak
them in warm water for a few minutes until they are soft, but firm and not mushy. Drain
with cold water before cooking. Wheat-free, gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free,
egg-free, this is a delicious noodle with versatile uses and many different names.
BERGOMOT (see, Kaffir Lime).
BIRD'S EYE CHILI (see, Chilies).
BOK CHOY (phug glad goung toong): A white stemmed, loose leafed vegetable in the cabbage
family. The stems are usually seven to nine inches tall with a mild, tangy, pepper taste.
The trunks are crunchy and the leaves are soft. There is also baby bok choy: young bok
choy picked early. Another variety, the Shanghai, has jade green, spoon shaped trunks and
curved leaves. Both the baby and the Shanghai variety are sweeter and less fibrous than
the regular and are delicious lightly stir-fried to release their natural sweetness. Trim
the stem ends and slice the trunks diagonally. The baby bok choy can usually be cooked
whole, or cut in quarters or halves. When buying bok choy, look for firm trunks with a
bright green color. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.
BROCCOLI Chinese (ka na): A dark green vegetable with strong, thin, long round trunks,
soft, deep green delicate leaves, and sometimes tiny white flowers. It does not look like
or taste like the common broccoli. It has a slightly sweet and bitter taste. Delicious
stir-fried, steamed, or boiled but never eaten raw. Unlike regular broccoli, the stems are
usually tender and do not need to be peeled. However, more mature or larger stalks should
be peeled before cooking. It is always smart to separate the leaves and trunks. The trunks
require more cooking time, then add the leaves near the end, so that they cook evenly.
When buying Chinese broccoli, choose brightly colored ones with slender thin trunks.
CALROSE RICE (kao jao): A short grain rice.
CARDAMOM (luk kra wan): A native of India and Sri Lanka, it also grows in Thailand near
the Cambodia border. The green, white or black seedpods must be cracked open to extract
the cool, strong scented small black seeds, which are then ground. The pods and seeds are
popular in different types of sweet or savory Thai dishes, especially curries. They are
often mixed with ginger and boiled, as a health drink. In addition to its culinary role,
cardamom has a sexy history as a perfume and an aphrodisiac. Medically, it has been used
as a laxative and to relieve indigestion. Europeans have called it Siamese cardamom since
the 17th Century. It was one of the first spices exported to England, China and Japan. By
weight, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices, exceeded only by vanilla and
saffron. As it quickly loses much of its flavor when ground, it's best to buy whole pods
and crack them open and grind the seeds yourself. This plant needs a humid climate to
CASSAVA PLANT (see, Tapioca Pearls).
CELLOPHANE NOODLES (see, Bean Thread Noodles).
CHILIES (phrik): A general rule is: the smaller the chili, the hotter it is and the larger
chili is milder. Chilies are rich in vitamin C and are thought to aid in digestion. The
hottest parts of the chili are the seeds. Mature chilies are always a darker color than
young ones. It is the oil substance called capsaicin, which is concentrated in the seeds
and inside the membranes, that make chilies hot. If you accidentally eat chilies and your
mouth burns, do not drink water - rice, beer or milk drinks will help relieve the burn.
Scientists believe that chilies are native to Central America and that they were brought
to Thailand and the Far East by the Portuguese in the 16th Century. This means that Thai
food has been "hot" for only the last 400 years. Many Thais are reluctant to
believe this, arguing that chilies may have come from across the Pacific or that they
originated in Central Asia and were taken by Mongol people to the New World. They also
argue that chilies have been used for centuries as a medicine as well as a condiment, to
lower blood pressure and cholesterol. According to food scientist Harold McGee, more
people now consume chili peppers in larger quantities than any other spice in the world.
This is certainly true in Thailand. Even in America, the growing demand (you might even
call it a burning desire) for fiery food has made a wide variety of the members of the
Capsicum family available fresh. The most common hot chili in Thailand is a small slender
chili called prik kii noo or "bird's eye chili," rated the second hottest chili,
coming in just under the habanero. The "bird's eye chili" is also known as the
"mouse-dropping chili," which has to be the all-time least-appetizing food name.
The equivalent chili we suggest is the serrano. It is possible to reduce the heat of a
chili by scraping the seeds. Some cookbooks recommend wearing rubber gloves when working
with chilies. Be sure to wash thoroughly your cutting board, knives and hands afterwards.
Bell peppers are not traditionally Thai, but we use them in our recipes to please the
non-Thai palate. In recent years, a chili imported from Mexico called prik khee noo kaset,
which has longer pods than prik kii noo, is commonly used in Thai cooking.
CHILES DRIED (phrik haeng): An essential component in the preparation of some Thai curries
and sauces. The heat depends on what kind it is, and in most cases you should be able to
substitute a dried American or Mexican chili. The seeds of these chilies are very hot,
much hotter than the pods. Dried chilies are also hotter than fresh ones. Dried chilies
are widely available in Mexican markets and health food stores.
CHINESE GINGER (see, Ginger).
CHINESE LONG BEANS (see, Long Beans).
CHINESE PARSELY (see, Cilantro).
CILANTRO (pak chi) / Coriander, Chinese Parsley, Mexican Parsley : This savory herb with
flat green leaves and a refreshingly herbaceous taste is one of the staples of Thai
cuisine. Known around the world as an herb and for flavoring, it has been used for
thousands of years in Asia. It is delightfully aromatic with a distinct spiced grass/herb
taste. This parsley should not be confused with Italian parsley, which has curly leaves.
This is much more flavorful and fragrant. Essentially, three parts of cilantro are used in
Thai cooking: leaves, roots and seeds. Each has a unique flavor and character. The fresh
leaves are plucked off the stem and used as a garnish or mixed into the food. Thai cooks
crush the roots and stems into pastes and chili sauces. The Thais seem to be the only
people to use the roots in their cuisine. The seeds (mellet pak chee) bear no taste
resemblance in flavor to the plant. The seeds are usually found in curries and soups.
Cilantro is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean about 3,000 years ago. It is a
relative of the carrot. It also features small white or pink flowers. Cilantro is
available all year round. If you would like to grow cilantro from seeds, the best time is
around March or April. Plant the seeds loosely, cover lightly with soil, expose to light,
keep humid and warm until they sprout. When buying cilantro, choose a bunch with fresh
leaves and stems. To store, place it into a bowl of water and cover the top loosely with
plastic wrap. It will keep in the refrigerator up to two weeks. Cilantro is optional in
many recipes. If you cannot find it in your market, or if you do not like the taste, you
might substitute flat leaf parsley or even basil.
CINNAMON (op choey): True cinnamon is the sweetly aromatic dried tan- colored inner bark
of an evergreen native to Sri Lanka. Much of what is sold as cinnamon in the Western
countries is more strongly scented and darker-colored. In Thailand, the Batavia variety is
the most common. It often adds a pleasant flavor and aroma to beef and chicken dishes.
Medically, it has been used as an anti-acid and is thought to be able to reduce any
overproduction of a nursing mother's milk.
CLAYPOT NOODLES (see, Rice Noodles).
CLEAR NOODLES (see, Bean Thread Noodles).
CLOVES (kan phlu): Made from the dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to Molucca
(one of the appropriately called Spice Islands), cloves impart a sharply heady flavor that
is often used to balance the rich flavor of meats. A member of the myrtle family, they can
be used whole or in powder form. They are delicious with tomatoes, salty vegetables and
ham. In Thailand, cloves are chewed like a candy and as a relief for toothaches.
Medically, Thais believe that cloves kill bacteria and control spasms, and that they aid
in digestion. This spice is expensive because crops often fail. A Thai favorite, Masuman
curry paste features the distinctive bite of cloves.
COCONUT MILK (nam kathee): Known as the milk of Asia, it is one of the essential
foundations of Thai cooking. Coconut milk has a variety of uses: in cooking, sauces,
drinks, curries and desserts. It is made in a method similar to that of olive oil. Mature
brown coconuts are cracked open. The meat is scraped from the shells and the thin brown
skin is removed from the meat. The meat is soaked in water then blended. The meat/water is
squeezed and strained to extract as much liquid as possible. The liquid that rises to the
top (separating from the water) is coconut milk. The first pressing of the meat is pure
coconut milk (hua ga-ti or nam katee "head of the coconut milk"). The milk
extracted from the first pressing has the highest fat content (between 17%-18%). Thai
Kitchen Premium Coconut Milk is made from the first pressing and may be used in recipes
calling for either coconut milk or coconut cream. This process is repeated again using
previously squeezed coconut meat to yield a lighter coconut milk (hahng-ti) "tail of
the coconut milk." The second pressing of the meat produces a fat content of 6%. Thai
Kitchen Coconut Milk Lite has about half the fat and calories of our regular milk. Some
recipes call for coconut cream. For coconut cream, use Thai Kitchen Pure Coconut Milk or,
for a richer flavor, spoon off the top layer of an unshaken/unstirred can of coconut milk.
Coconut milk can be refrigerated for a few days. It should be thoroughly stirred before
use. Most sources recommend the following: refrigerate opened coconut milk for up to
a few days or freeze. In our research conducted in Thailand we found that coconut
milk should NEVER be frozen, as the product may permanently lose its ability to emulsify
(this roughly translates as suspending fat molecules evenly within the liquid, creating a
smooth product). You may have noticed that when you open a can of coconut milk it has
usually separated into two layers, the cream on the top with a thinner liquid
on the bottom. Normally these two layers are stirred together before they are used in a
recipe, unless the recipe specifically calls for coconut cream (as opposed to
cream of coconut which is a sweetened product most commonly used in bar
drinks). Freezing coconut milk may permanently separate these two components, resulting in
a lumpy product that will not smooth out no matter how much it is warmed or how vigorously
it is stirred or shaken after thawing. While perfectly safe for human consumption, once
thawed, frozen coconut milk will most likely give whatever recipe you put it into an
unappealing, curdled appearance. Furthermore, separated frozen coconut milk is
particularly susceptible to freezer burn.
Overall, we feel the best storage advice for opened coconut milk is:
-Transfer to a clean, covered container
-Refrigerate for 1-2 days, preferably in the coldest part of your refrigerator
-Avoiding freezing, if at all possible
- Best of all is to use it ASAP
COCONUTS (mapro): are ubiquitous in Thailand.
COCONUT MILK, Lite (see, Coconut Milk).
COCONUT SUGAR (nam tan peep) / Palm Sugar : Coconut Sugar and Palm Sugar (there are subtle
differences between them, but they are sold interchangeably) are the most common sugars
found in Thai cooking. These basic sugar sweeteners have a caramel, toffee-like flavor and
aroma. They are produced from the sap of the coconut or sugar palms much like maple sugar
is harvested in this country. Sold in compressed cakes that keep well in a tightly sealed
jar, they are widely available in Asian markets. To make palm sugar, sap is collected from
various palm trees (most common is the Palmyra Palm), boiled down to a thick syrup, which
is poured into bamboo pipe molds. Once dried, it forms into deep brown crumbly round
cylinders. These are then crumbled or granulated to a more usable form. Palm sugar adds a
smooth, very full-bodied, rich sweet flavor. Thais use palm sugar to balance strong hot
flavors such as curries. It complements the spicy, salty and sour tastes of Thai cuisine.
Brown sugar can be substituted, although it will not be as rich or intense.
COCONUTS YOUNG (ma prao oon): Are a light green color and contain a clear coconut juice
that is clean and refreshing to drink. It is very different than the juice from mature
brown coconuts. The flesh of young coconuts is transparent and soft and is often used in
desserts, the juice may be sold as a refreshing drink. In Thailand you will see people
walking around with young green coconuts in hand, drinking the juice from a straw.
CORRIANDER (see, Cilantro).
CUMIN (yaa-raa): Native to the Middle East, (Egypt), it is used extensively in Thai
cuisine (as well as the cuisines of Central and South America, Scandinavia, and North
Africa). This small rigid, light brown seed is similar to caraway and fennel, and needs to
be heated or cooked to release its full flavor. Mainly used for making Thai curries.
CURRY PASTE (nam prik): Thais traditionally have made curry pastes fresh daily at home
from scratch for their meal preparation. Sitting with a large stone mortar and pestle, the
preparer makes small batches, grinding by hand the fresh chilies, garlic, kaffir lime
leaves, onion and aromatic spices into a fresh paste. Today, however, modern work
schedules have many Thais buying curry pastes from the vendors on the streets or in the
market halls. At Thai Kitchen, we use the traditional methods for making our curry pastes
so you know you're buying an authentic paste.
CURRY PASTE, GREEN (gaeng keow wan): Traditionally the hottest of the curries, Green Curry
Paste is made with a combination of fresh hot green chili, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime
and galangal (Thai ginger). Flavor: Spicy and herbal. Suggested Uses: Thai curries are
made by simmering curry paste in coconut milk, then adding meat, poultry, fish and/or
vegetables. In addition to curry dishes made with coconut milk, Green Curry Paste is great
in stir frys and soups. Spice Level: Very spicy.
CURRY PASTE, MASUMAN (gaeng musuman): A roasted red Thai curry paste made with cardamom,
lemon grass, cinnamon, cloves, chilies and other spices with a distinct spicy flavor. Red
Curry Paste with a little cardamom and sugar can be substituted.
CURRY PASTE, PANANG (gaeng panang): A Thai curry paste made with red chilies, onion,
garlic, galangal, lemon grass and kaffir lime. A wonderfully complex and interesting
CURRY PASTE, RED CURRY (gang pa nang): High on the heat scale and very similar to Green
Curry Paste, Red Curry Paste is made with fresh red chili, garlic, lemongrass, galangal
(Thai ginger), ginger root and onion. Flavor: Spicy chili and ground pepper. Suggested
Uses: Thai curries are made by simmering curry paste in coconut milk, then adding meat,
poultry, fish and/or vegetables. In addition to curry dishes made with coconut milk, Red
Curry Paste is great for satay sauces and dips. Pairs well with tamarind. Spice Level:
CURRY PASTE, YELLOW (gaeng leung): A milder paste made from yellow wax peppers. In
addition to the other Thai herbs used, turmeric is added to enhance the deep yellow color.
This curry paste most resembles Indian curry. Many of the influences from their neighbors
are apparent in this Thai staple.
EGGPLANT, THAI (ma khua): Thai eggplants come in many different varieties and shapes. The
small round ones Yellow Eggplant (Ma krua Leung) / Apple Eggplant (Ma Krua Pok), are the
most commonly used variety and are about the size of ping-pong balls and are pale green,
yellow or white in color. These are often eaten raw with a chili sauce. In curries, they
have little taste but a very interesting texture; they act as a thickening agent (much
like okra) as well as impart a delicate flavor. The pea-like, berry size Pea Eggplants (Ma
krua Pung) have a slightly bitter taste and are added uncooked to chili sauces, pickled
for curry paste, or used as a garnish for green curries. The Long Eggplant (Ma Krua Yeow),
sometimes called Japanese eggplant, are usually purple but may be pale green or white;
these are usually cooked or put into a stir-fry. The hairy type Fuzzy Eggplant (Ma Uk),
must have the hairs scraped off before being crushed as an ingredient in chili sauces or
curry pastes. Thai eggplants are relatively seedless and do not need to be salted, soaked
or peeled. Cut them into lengthwise or fan cut slices to grill, and for stir frying or
braising. Choose firm, unbruised, smooth and unblemished eggplant. Best used the day of
purchase, but can be refrigerated for several days.
EGG ROLL WRAPPER (pan hoa poi pieh): Thin sheets of dough that are made from wheat flour,
eggs, and water. They come in two shapes; round or square. Both shapes are popular. When
fried, egg roll wrappers will have a bumpy, crispy and bubbly surface. The wrapper will
turn semi-hard. Thicker than spring roll wrappers. (Also see, Spring Roll Wrappers and
Rice Paper Wrappers.)
FISH SAUCE (nam pla): The main flavoring ingredient in Thai cuisine, it is commonly
referred to as the soy sauce of Southeast Asia. Fish sauce is a thin, amber-tinted, clear
liquid with a salty taste extracted from fermented salted fish (most commonly anchovies).
Different combinations of fish (including mackerel, squid, and shrimp) and their quality
will affect the taste. The anchovies are salted and placed in concrete casks to age from
six weeks to six months. The richly flavored first liquid siphoned from the fermented
anchovies is the most prized and is usually reserved for dipping sauces or for special
occasions. The anchovies from the first fermentation are usually then used again. Water
and salt are added a second time, and the pressed anchovies are fermented again. This
lesser quality liquid is used for everyday eating and cooking. Thai Kitchen Premium Fish
Sauce is premium quality. That means it is the liquid from the first fermentation of
carefully selected premium quality salted anchovies, aged up to 18 months for an
extra-rich, smooth, well-balanced, extra-virgin flavor. Thai Kitchen Premium Fish Sauce
has no added water. Use it in place of salt or soy sauce to season almost any savory dish
or stir-fry. Fish sauce has a distinct pungent aroma. The fragrant aroma will mellow with
cooking or when added to food. Although now known as a seasoning of Southeast Asia, the
origins of fish sauce trace back to the first millennium B.C. in China. Its popularity
declined in China about two thousand years ago due to the popularity of fermented bean and
vegetable sauces, precursors to the common soy sauce. Fish sauce is also found in Japanese
and Korean dishes. Even the Romans had a taste for it, using a thick, fermented fish sauce
called liquamen or garum. Sauces from different Southeast Asian countries yield different
flavor characteristics. Vietnamese fish sauce tends to be sweet in flavor. Sugar is
usually added to the fermentation process. Philippine fish sauce is heavier to flavor the
country's bold, salty and sour flavors. For first time users, the taste and smell will
require some time to accept and to get used to. However, once you discover the distinct
and complex delicious flavor, you will never want to use salt or soy sauce again. Without
this flavor, Thai dishes won't taste Thai. With the growing popularity of the cuisines of
these countries, fish sauce is widely available in Asian markets, supermarkets and health
food stores. Fish sauce should be refrigerated after opening. Because salt is used in the
fermentation process, salt crystals appearing like glass or plastic fragments may
naturally form in the bottle. These crystals will dissolve with cooking.
GALANGAL (khaa) / SIAMESE GINGER / GREATER GALANGAL / THAI GINGER : A root similar to
ginger, that has a thin opaque cream-colored white skin and dark growth rings on its skin
with fibrous, woody pink shoots that grow from the core. The roots are larger and whiter.
It grows abundantly throughout Southeast Asia. This rhizome has a distinctively lemony
pungency and hot pepper taste. It is also used extensively in Thai cooking grounded with
chilies and other herbs and spices to make the base of curry pastes, slices are usually
added to fish or soup stocks. The flowers are edible. Thais batter and deep fry the
flowers and serve them with a hot chili sauce. It is more commonly available in this
country in a dried form. It looks very similar to young ginger. Unlike ginger that is
often eaten, the fibrous galangal slices should be removed from the food before serving.
It is just for flavoring. The young underdeveloped shoots are sometimes cooked to eat as a
vegetable. Galangal has a distinct medicinal, ginger taste. Thais use it in soups to chase
the germs of a common cold out of your system. Spice traders brought it to Medieval Europe
where it was highly prized, giving its name to the Western cooking term Galantine. It has
a history as an aphrodisiac or a digestive stimulant. Mixed with lime juice, Thais use it
as a cure for stomach aches. Drinks are made from it to sooth tonsils and the throat. It
is easy to grow galangal in the garden with the added benefit of beautiful bright red
flowers. If not available, substitute with a combination of dry galangal and galangal
GARLIC (kra thiam): Almost as ubiquitous as fish sauce in Thai cuisine. White garlic is
the most commonly found variety, but recently organic farmers have been reintroducing
heirloom varieties. Thais are fond of fried garlic. Garlic is thinly sliced and fried into
chips. To make fried garlic, peel and slice garlic, fry in hot oil until golden brown.
This garlic is used as a garnish or a topping for any dish. Sprinkle it on top of soups or
stir-fries. The oil in which the garlic is fried is saved and used in cooking to give food
GINGER (gaeng) / Chinese Ginger : A mildly spiced root, which yields a spicy, aromatic
taste. Its unique flavor is another constant in Thai cooking. Ginger is a knobby, brown
thick root with a fibrous yellow interior. Young ginger will have a smooth, shiny,
golden-yellow appearance with a delicate flavor and is not as stringy as mature ginger.
Ginger is known to relieve coughing, nausea and dizziness. It is also thought to aid in
digestion. It has a very distinct medicinal flavor. It is used in soups to chase the germs
of a common cold out of your system. Widely available in supermarkets, look for firm shiny
roots that are not dry or wrinkled. Young ginger is not as widely available but grab it if
you come across it. Slice thinly with a mandolin or vegetable peeler, marinate in two cups
of rice wine vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar, and you've got pickled ginger. Young
ginger is also made into a candied form that is usually sold packed in syrup.
GINGER, PRESERVED (gaeng dong): Young ginger is cured in salt and water, then soaked in a
sugar and vinegar solution for a tangy-sweet, pungent ginger taste that is smoother and
sweeter than fresh ginger. Opened jars of pickled ginger should be refrigerated. Thais use
preserved ginger in all types of dishes and sauces.
GLASS NOODLES(see, Bean Thread Noodles).
GLUTINOUS RICE(see, Sticky Rice).
HOLY BASIL(see Basil, Thai).
JAPANESE, EGGPLANT (see Eggplant, Thai).
JASAMINE FLOWERS (mali): Unopened flowers buds, picked in the evening before they open,
are used to scent drinking water, teas and desserts.
JASAMINE RICE (khao chao): Treasured throughout Asia for its inviting aroma and delicate
grain, Jasmine Rice is the foundation of Thailand's extraordinary cuisine. This
non-glutinous, long-grained rice with its subtle hint of natural jasmine floral flavor is
the main staple of the Thai diet. It is a delightful complement to Asian and Western
dishes. At Thai Kitchen, we hand select the highest quality Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice
available for our products. It's the perfect choice anytime your recipe calls for
long-grain white rice. Whether you're serving a rich Thai curry or something hot off the
grill, a steaming bowl of jasmine rice with its naturally delicious flavor turns any dish
into a satisfying meal, quickly and easily. Almost all the jasmine rice grown in the world
is from Thailand. The tremendous demand from world markets has made this one of Thailand's
most prized staples and main export items. This unique premium variety can only be grown
in the lush tropical climate of Thailands Northeastern region. Harvested just once a
year from Thailand's fertile central plains, you'll agree jasmine rice could be the most
delicious rice you will ever eat. Thai Hom Mali Rice is the indigenous jasmine rice of
Thailand. Thai Hom Mali Rice is internationally recognized for its pure white long-grain,
natural jasmine fragrance, soft texture and distinct taste.
JELLY NOODLES: (see, Bean Thread Noodles).
KAFFIR LIME (ma grut) / Thai Lime / Wild Lime: In Thailand almost every part of this plant
is used in cooking. It is quite different from the lime that we are used to seeing here in
the USA. The fruit has dark, wrinkled, bumpy skin, which is used in the preparation of
Thai curries. The leaves are highly prized for the unique citrus-floral note that they
impart to soups and curries. The flavor is unique with its citrus-floral, lemon, geranium
taste and scent. The peel and leaves can be found in Asian markets in dried form; if
unavailable, the best alternative is lime zest. Most of the limes that appear in American
markets are the Persian limes. When the recipes on this website call for lime juice, the
juice of either lime is fine. Kaffir lime is difficult to find in the continental United
States. It has been successfully grown on the Hawaiian Islands and has been experimentally
grown in California for over 65 years. With the popularity of Thai food and the increased
knowledge and demand for this unique citrus fruit, more growers have started growing and
carrying them in the United States. It is possible to grow your own tree indoors or
outdoors in moderate climates. Some Asian markets and Thai stores now grow and sell the
seedlings. Kaffir lime is a very slow growing plant; it does not bear fruit until it is
eight to ten years old. The juice is usually squeezed over dishes to give it a tangy
flavor, the peel and leaves are ground and used in curries or in soups to give them a lime
zest. Historically, the Thais used the juice in ointments and shampoos, and the peel in
tonic medications. It was thought that the distinct essence drove away evil spirits. You
will see fewer and fewer references to kiffir lime leaves, as the term is
derogatory in Arabic and some southern African languages. Many recipes now will refer to
wild lime leaves or ma grut.
LEMONGRASS (ta krai): A lemony and fragrant herb commonly found in Thai soups and curry
pastes. The flavor of lemongrass is one of the essential tastes of Thai cuisine.
Lemongrass grows in tall thick stalks with tough outer leaves that sheath a tender inner
core. This woody yellow green stalk resembles tall (12"-24") fibrous grass
blades. Only the moist, juicy bulb-like, white-yellow portion or the bottom
2"-3" few inches of each stalk are used for cooking. To cook with lemongrass,
cut off the bottom moist portion of each stalk and discard the fibrous trunks and leaves.
This bottom portion should be bruised with the back of a knife and then cut or sliced into
smaller pieces so that its woodsy/lemon-perfume flavor is easily released during cooking.
Use lemongrass like a bay leaf or a cinnamon stick to flavor dishes. Finely minced, it can
be included in curry pastes and sauces. Since lemongrass is fibrous, and difficult to
swallow, remove large pieces from your dish before serving. Fresh lemongrass may be
difficult to find and is optional in many of the recipes except for those in which it is
the primary ingredient. Since there is no perfect substitute for this unique flavor, leave
it out of your dish and allow your other ingredients to convey your Thai flavor. Some
substitutes are: lemon zest with small amounts of fresh ginger (approximately 1/2 Tbsp.
combination total for 1 lemon grass stalk), a few leaves of lemon balm or lemon leaves
(approximately 2 leaves for 1 lemon grass stalk). In Thailand, lemongrass soup is used in
place of chicken soup as a home cold remedy. Thais will also chew on the ends of the
lemongrass stalks to induce a sweat to cure a cold and to relax. Lemongrass is
commercially grown in India, Australia, Africa, South America and the United States
(Florida and recently California). It is possible to grow lemongrass in other parts of the
United States. Check with your local nursery or plant shop.
LONG BEANS (thua fak yao) / Chinese Long Beans : Botanically closer to the black-eyed pea
than green beans, the long bean grows to a length of two to three feet. Chopped into
pieces, it can be stir-fried, deep-fried or included in a stew or curry. In Thailand it is
often minced and used as an ingredient in dressings and curries.
MACE (dawk chand): The orange outer covering of nutmeg which is the fruit of the evergreen
tree native to Indonesia. Used in Thailand for making
MUSUMAN CURRY (see, Nutmeg).
MEXICAN PARSLEY (see, Cilantro).
MINT (bai sa ra nae): Though closely related to the ubiquitous basil, mint is not nearly
as widely used. Its introduction is said to be a result of the spread of Vietnamese
cuisine. Thais use mint as a garnish, a vegetable and a flavoring agent to add that last
little grace note of bracing coolness. Spearmint is the most commonly used variety in
Thailand. The mint is similar to the mint grown in England.
MUSHROOMS, BLACK (see, Mushrooms, Shiitake).
MUSHROOMS, SHIITAKE (het hom) / Chinese Black Mushrooms : Japanese shiitake and Chinese
black mushrooms are similar varieties, used dried. The Japanese mushrooms have a slightly
salty, musky, meaty flavor. Both varieties need to be soaked in hot or cold water for at
least half and hour to hydrate and soften before using. The longer they soak, the softer
they become. After soaking, trim off the knobby, woody stem ends before using. These
mushrooms are delicious when stir-fried with vegetables. They are thought to stimulate the
immune system, promote blood circulation, and lower cholesterol. Chinese black mushrooms
are a cousin of the Japanese shiitake mushroom. They look similar in appearance, however,
they have light tan creases on their cap. The Chinese black mushroom has a wild mushroom
flavor slightly different that of the shiitake. These mushrooms are slightly less
expensive than shiitake.
MUSHROOMS, STRAW (hed fang): Small delicate brown mushrooms with a sweet and meaty taste.
They come in two forms. One form resembles small brown eggs. The cap of the mushroom
encases the whole body and the stem. The peeled variety has a dark brown, domed-shaped cap
and a short, thick stem. These mushrooms grow in rice straw (which gives them their name),
and are available all year. Straw mushrooms are also commonly sold in cans. To use them,
drain the can liquid and rinse the mushrooms with cold water. You might want to soak the
mushrooms in cold water and salt for about 20 minutes to remove the canned taste.
NUTMEG (luk chand): It is the seed of an elegant low growing tree that is native to the
Moluccas Islands (Spice Islands) and all over Indonesia. The beige colored oval nut is
protected by an orange-red, fibrous, strong, hard, web-like outer husk that is removed and
processed to make mace. The nuts are slowly dried above a smoking fire for six weeks. This
adds to their fragrant and sweet qualities. Popular in Europe since the 16th century. In
Asia, nutmeg is a important ingredient for making curries, sauces and spice mixtures. It
is often used in desserts, sweetmeats and to make Musuman curry paste (see, Mace).
ONION (hua hom): The onion family includes garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions and chives
as well as a diverse selection of red, white, yellow and sweet onions.
OYSTER FLAVORED SAUCE, CHINESE (nam mun hoi): A thick brown sauce that is commonly used as
a base sauce in Chinese food. Made from fermented oyster extracts and spices, it has a
distinct and pleasant smoky-sweet flavor. Used in Chinese cuisine since 1888. Does not
taste like oysters at all. The meaty, gravy taste gives food a distinct Chinese flavor.
PALM SUGAR(see, Coconut Sugar).
PHO NOODLES (see, Rice Noodles).
PRAWNS, TIGER (kung kula dam): They have distinctive black and white stripes and are the
largest among Asian prawns. These giant prawns can grow over twelve inches long. Large
shrimp can be substituted. (see, Shrimp).
PRIK KII NOO(see, Chili).
RADISH, SWEET PRESERVED (Hua Pak Kad Wan) / Preserved Turnip - Sweet preserved radish is
made from salted and pickled (daikon) turnips. It gives authentic Pad Thai noodles its
distinct sweet and salty, tangy, savory apricot-fruit flavor. It is also commonly used to
add flavor and a crunchy texture to soups, braised meat and vegetable dishes. In Chinese
dishes, it is frequently added to congee or used as a stuffing in dumplings. Sold in
vacuum packs in Asian markets, they are available in many different sizes; shredded
strips, whole pieces and flattened elongated pieces. The pieces are a brownish color, and
sometimes speckled with salt. There are two varieties; one is highly salty, the other less
salty and slightly sweetened and commonly used in many Thai dishes. Look for the words
"sweet" or "sweetened" somewhere on the package to make sure you are
getting the right one.
RICE NOODLES, DRIED (kui teow): Made from rice flour and water, steamed until cooked, and
then dried. Flat and slightly translucent, Thai Kitchen produces two varieties. All are
dry and must be soaked or boiled before using. Thai Kitchen Thin Rice Noodles [also known
as Rice Vermicelli (sen mee), Claypot Noodles, Soup Noodles] are thin vermicelli noodles
that are delicious served cold with a spicy topping, stir-fried, or a pleasing addition to
soups. Thai Kitchen Stir-Fry Rice Noodles (also known as Rice Stick, Pho Rice Noodles) are
linguini-width, perfect for Pad Thai and other stir-fried dishes. Rice noodles can be used
in place of rice for curries and stews. Rice noodles, when dried and packaged, resemble
tangled rolls of string. All varieties are delicious for stir-frying or soups. They can be
fried and used as a garnish for salads. For frying, there is no need to soak the noodles.
They are fried in a dry stage. They are ready in a matter of seconds. They will keep for
years, stored in a cool, dry place. These noodles are wheat-free, fat-free,
cholesterol-free, egg-free and are a healthy option for people with allergies or special
RICE NOODLES, FRESH (sen yai): Made from rice flour and water, and steamed until cooked.
These are the same noodles that are commonly sold dried, but are packaged fresh before the
drying process. The taste and texture will be slightly different. Since they are fresh, to
prevent them from sticking together, the noodles are coated with oil. Fresh rice noodles
are soft and, white, resemble sheets of white jello and are often sold in folded sheets.
You can cut these sheets into the size noodle you prefer. These noodles are often sold on
the counter of Asian markets or in the fresh department wrapped in cellophane. They are
delicious for stir-frying or soups. They will dry quickly or become hard in the
refrigerator. Place them in warm water to soften them before cooking. Best when used the
same day of purchase but will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Wheat-free,
gluten-free, cholesterol-free, egg-free.
RICE PAPER WRAPPERS (pan hoa poi pieh): Are paper-thin, semi- transparent, hard rice
sheets made of rice flour and water that are used for fresh or fried
"eggroll-style" rolls. Commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine for the popular, not
fried, spring or shrimp rolls. They come round or in triangular shape. To use these
wrappers: just before rolling, individually soak them in a shallow dish with water or
place them between two generously damp towels for 30 to 60 seconds to soften, lay them on
a flat surface, stuff them with your favorite goodies and roll. Wrappers are made with the
same ingredients as dried rice noodles. Since they are steamed-cooked before being dried
and packaged, they can be eaten after they are soaked and softened. Most commonly eaten
unfried; however, these wrappers can be fried for a light, crispy, smoother roll (not
bumpy like egg rolls). Similar to spring roll wrappers but not made with wheat or egg. If
you like rolls and don't want the fat from frying, these wrappers are delicious
alternatives as you can enjoy 'rolls' without the frying. Since these rolls are commonly
referred to as spring rolls in restaurants, ask your server before ordering whether they
are fried or not fried. (see also Eggroll Wrappers and Spring Roll Wrappers.)
RICE STICK (see, Rice Noodles).
RICE VERMICELLI (see, Rice Noodles).
RICE VINEGAR (see, Vinegar, Rice).
ROASTED RED CHILI PASTE (nam prik pow): Both an all-purpose condiment and versatile
seasoning, Roasted Red Chili Paste is a concentrated blend of slowly roasted red chilies
and authentic Thai spices. Roasting the chilies provides a mild, well-balanced spicy
flavor and the dried shrimp provides a hint of seafood taste. Made with an authentic blend
of roasted red chilies, garlic, onion, anchovy extract, dried shrimp, tamarind and
peanuts. Flavor: Spicy-sweet and smoky seafood. Suggested Uses: Adds complexity to any
number of dishes. Use as a stir-fry seasoning, a soup base, or as a condiment for rice,
vegetables, a spread for crackers, noodles or chicken. Add a teaspoon to your marinades
for an extra kick. Can be substituted in recipes calling for Asian spicy bean sauce, spicy
soybean paste, mild chili paste or spicy bean curd paste. Spice Level: Moderate spicy.
SAI FUN (see, Bean Thread Noodles).
SEN MEE (see, Rice Noodles).
SESAME OIL (num man nga): Made from the pressing of toasted sesame seeds. The color of the
oil depends on the color of the toasted seeds. Sesame oil is usually dark amber or a
golden copper color. Should not be confused with the clear cold-pressed sesame oil sold in
many health food stores. Sesame oil should be used solely as a flavoring agent and not for
cooking. Many people often want to stir-fry with this oil when preparing Asian dishes.
This is a mistake and will ruin your dinner. This oil is a very thin oil and will char and
burn with high heat; leaving your dish with a burnt taste. Use heavier oils such as
peanut, corn or soybean for stir-frying. Sesame oil adds a wonderful taste and aroma to
your food and should be only drizzled on top of your finished dish just before serving. It
is also delicious as a salad dressing oil.
SESAME PASTE (gnaa): Toasted white sesame seeds are ground to form a peanut butter-like
paste. The flavor is rich and nutty with a definite concentrated sesame flavor. Colors
range from brown to golden brown. This paste is used to add a nutty flavor to soups and
seasonings. In Middle Eastern food, a similar paste called tahini is made from untoasted
white sesame seeds.
SHALLOTS (hom lek): Resembling a small red onion, the flavor gives Thai food a distinct
Thai quality. These slender, pear shaped bulbs with long necks and skins can range in
color from grey to copper and are more intense in taste than regular onions. They have a
mild, sweet, delicate, richer flavor. They are grown in small clusters and are seasonal.
They do not keep as well as regular onions and are mostly used for flavoring rather than
as a vegetable. Browning shallots will make their taste bitter. A good substitute is the
white portion of green onions or, of course, regular onions.
SHRIMP (khung): Thailand's Gulf Coast is home to the giant shrimp that are dignified with
the name prawns. Large shrimp and prawns are identical; however, varieties from different
parts of the world may have different qualities. Tiger prawns are one particular variety
often used by name on many menus (see, Tiger Prawns).
SHRIMP DRIED (khung haeng): Tiny shrimp are soaked in water and salt, then dried. These
bright orange-colored shrimp have a strong shrimp-salt taste and are slightly chewy. The
distinct shrimp flavor is often used in soup or stir-fry dishes; it is a flavoring agent
in both Thai and Mexican cooking. Typically ground or pounded with other ingredients in a
curry paste or sauce, dried shrimp add an intense seafood flavor to food. Usually sold in
small packets. Look for brightly colored shrimp; seal and refrigerate leftovers. Available
in Asian and Mexican markets. Use in their dry state or soak to soften them for cooking. A
small amount will add a lot of flavor.
SHRIMP PASTE (kapi): Salted fermented shrimp are ground together to form a pungent, strong
flavored fish paste that is a pinkish grey color. Some may find the smell of shrimp paste
an offensive odor. Before you open a the bottle or package, be prepared for the strong
aroma that will soon dominate your kitchen. However, once cooked the smell transforms into
a fragrant and aromatic delicious fish and salt taste that is impossible to duplicate. The
fresh paste is rose pink and the dried varies in shades of grey/pink/beige. Both are made
from ground salted shrimp. The dried, more pungent tasting is dried in the sun so that the
moisture is evaporated and the paste is more concentrated. The dried does not need to be
refrigerated; however, the fresh should be refrigerated. Rich in vitamin B, it is the main
source of protein for most Asian diets.
SIAMESE GINGER(see, Galangal).
SOUP RICE NOODLES (see, Rice Noodles).
SOY SAUCE (si iu): An ancient seasoning first developed in China more than 3,000 years
ago. It is a dark brown liquid with a salty taste. Made by fermenting soybeans and mixed
with a roasted grain (usually wheat, barley or rice), it is then left in vats for a few
months to ferment. The Japanese adopted the process about four centuries after the
Chinese. Chinese and Japanese soy sauces have different flavor characteristics and
profiles. There are many versions of soy sauce in China with taste profiles that reflect
the taste of that particular region. Japanese soy sauce is characteristically sweeter than
the Chinese type. However, all soy sauces differ in flavor and color, and vary from light
to dark, from thick to watery. Like wine, experiment with different types to find one that
suits your taste. Soy sauce is a good substitute for fish sauce when making dish
SPICES (kreung phrong): The classic spices associated with Asian and South Asian cooking
actually play a less prominent role in Thai cuisine. Thai curries are usually pastes made
from fresh herbs and vegetables as opposed to the Madras curry of India that is a blend of
various spices ground into a powder. The recipes in this book call for a number of spices.
SPRING ROLL WRAPPERS (pan hoa poi pieh): Are thin sheets of wheat, eggs and water. Shapes
will vary from round, square or rectangular. Made from the same ingredients as eggroll
wrappers, but are much thinner. When fried, they will have a smooth surface, crispy-hard
texture. (Also see, Spring Roll Wrappers and Rice Paper Wrappers.)
STICKY RICE (khao niew) / Glutinous Rice, Sweet Rice : Not as common to the Western table
but widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. In Northern Thailand, sticky rice is steamed
and eaten out of hand by scooping up a small portion and slipping it into the curry or
other dish, using rice to grasp a piece of meat or vegetable. Sticky rice is also commonly
cooked with coconut milk and sugar and served with fruit such as mangoes for dessert or
used to make sweet puddings. The short-grained, semi-oval, pearl-shaped, white variety is
most common. There is also a black variety that is used only to make desserts. When
cooked, sticky rice is soft, moist, sweet, sticky and semi translucent. It is often
wrapped up in lotus leaves and stuffed with meat. The Japanese pound cooked glutinous rice
to make mochi cakes. This rice is usually steamed not boiled. For best results, soak the
grains in water for several hours or overnight; drain all water before cooking.
STIR FRY RICE NOODLES (see, Rice Noodles)
SWEET BEAN SAUCE (see euw): A rich and full-bodied sauce made from the fermentation of
soybeans and sugar. Thais often mix in additional sugar and rice vinegar and add chilies
to make a condiment for noodles and appetizers. There are many different consistencies,
from a liquid to a paste. Thai sweet bean sauce should not be confused with bean sauces
from other Asian countries as they differ in taste.
SWEET RICE (see, Sticky Rice).
TAMARIND (som ma kham piak): Tamarind provides the complex fruity and sour taste that is
evident throughout Thai cuisine. The flavor is close to sour prunes or a very fruity mild
vinegar. It is commonly used in Thai curries, soups and stews. Pods that resemble large
peanuts with a hard, smooth and furry brown shell grow on the tamarind tree. The pods are
originally green and turn a rich, dark brown color when ripe. Thais eat unripe pods with
sugar, salt and chili flakes. They also roast the seeds and use them to flavor young
coconut or palm. The pods contain a dark brown, veiny pulp, the consistency of a raisin
pulp, surrounding the seeds. The taste of tamarind is most familiar to Western palates as
one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire Sauce. Tamarind paste is available from
Asian and Indian markets but may be still difficult to find. Tamarind is usually sold in a
paste form or as a brick or in jars of concentrated pulp. To use in food, the fleshy pulp
must be removed from the fibers and seeds - which is no easy task. When a recipe calls for
tamarind, it usually refers to tamarind juice. The juice is used as a souring agent (see:
Tamarind Juice). Thais eat tamarind directly from the pod for use as a diuretic. There is
no need to worry, tamarind is in a very diluted form when used in food. The taste is
impossible to duplicate. Translated from Arabic, tamarind means Indian date.
TAMARIND JUICE/PASTE: (nam som ma kham): Concentrated tamarind pulp is sold in small
blocks in Asian markets. To use the pulp to make tamarind juice, soak or boil the
concentrated pulp in water and use the resulting liquid for cooking.A good standard
proportion is 1 part tamarind pulp concentrate to 8 parts of water. (Example: 1/4 cup
concentrated tamarind pulp with 2 cups of water). If you like a stronger flavor, reduce
the amount of water. First, boil the concentrated pulp for 5 minutes or soak it in cold
water for 1 hour. Work the mixture with your fingertips or spatula until soft, then strain
in a strainer or a coffee filter to remove the pulp and extract the liquid. You may want
to squeeze the pulp to extract more liquid. It is usually this liquid that you use for
recipes.Measure out the amount of liquid in the recipe and refrigerate or freeze the
remaining tamarind juice for future use. (For a lighter tamarind juice, you can soak the
pulp in more water). Or, substitute fresh lime juice for the sour taste. Use 1 1/2 tsp. of
fresh lime juice for 1 tsp. tamarind paste in a recipe.
TAPIOCA PEARLS (sa khu met lek): Come from the root of the cassava plant. These are very
small opaque balls used to thicken sauces as well as puddings and desserts. They become
transparent when cooked. (Also see, Tapioca Starch / Flour).
TAPIOCA STARCH / FLOUR (Dang Noi or Man Sum Palung): Comes from grinding the root of the
cassava plant which is native to South America. An off-white colored starch that is also
known as tapioca flour or flower, it comes in many textures from fine flour to a small
round granular form known as tapioca pearls. It is often combined with rice flour or wheat
starch to add strength to dough or to thicken sauces. Chefs prefer using tapioca starch to
thicken sauces because it is more stable for reheating. Cultivation of the plant in Asia
began in the 1800's. The raw root contains toxic portions of hydrocyanic or prussic acid,
but once cooked and processed is safe for consumption.
TARO ROOT (puak): This rough, dark skinned and hairy textured root comes in many sizes,
from large melon to small baseball. The meat core will vary in color from white and gray
to light purple when cooked. The meat is starchy in texture with a mellow sweet
crunchiness. The root is very similar to potatoes in texture and appearance. Taro grows
wild in Thailand along river banks and lakes. It is most prevalent in Northern Thailand.
The young leaves are also eaten. Taro root is commonly used to give seasonings and sauces
texture and a mild sweet flavor.
THAI HOLY BASIL(see, Basil, Thai).
THAI LIME (see, Kaffir Lime).
TIGER PRAWNS (see, Prawns, Tiger).
TOFU (toa hua): As more Americans become familiar with it, tofu or bean curd is no longer
just a cultural cliche for blandness. Prepared as part of an intensely flavored dish (and
Thai food is definitely intensely flavored), its ability to absorb the flavors of what is
being cooked make this high-protein and low cholesterol food tasty and healthy. There are
many different forms of tofu - puffs, sheets, sticks, blocks. The most common are the
white shaped blocks. Tofu blocks come in many different textures - soft, firm, hard, and
spongy. Different water densities will determine the texture. Tofu is made from ground
soybeans and water, the juice extracted from the meat. The liquid is then cooked and let
to stand to form the tofu block. Tofu can be eaten hot or cold. It is often served with
sauces that are easily absorbed. Clear white colored tofu is the best. Tofu will keep in
the refrigerator for a few days. Discard any tofu that develops a strong odor or changes
TURMERIC (kha-min): A small bright orange root that provides the yellow coloring for
curries and other dishes. Turmeric is commonly available in powder form. There is also a
white version about the same size as common ginger. It has a slightly peppery and pleasant
tang. The flowers are used as a vegetable and are stir-fried or steamed.
VEGETABLES, PRESERVED/PICKLED (puk dong): There are many different varieties of preserved
vegetables. Preserved or pickled vegetables usually have a pungent sweet-salty, vinegar
taste. Many are pickled with chili for a spicy taste. There are many different ways of
preserving vegetables - as you will see in the taste. The most common methods of
preserving/pickling use vinegar, salt, water and chilies. These vegetables are used to add
a crunch, saltiness, sweetness or a distinct flavor to soups, stir-fries, just about
anything you are cooking. They are also served as a side dish with the main course.
VINEGAR RICE (num som sai choo): Usually golden in color, this vinegar has a sweet, light,
fuller flavor than regular distilled white vinegar. The taste is quite different from that
of regular vinegar, which has a strong acid taste. Compared to vinegars that are usually
made by fermenting cider, wine or malt, rice vinegar is made by the fermentation of rice
and is less tart and sour. The color is usually clear or slightly golden to light amber.
Some rice vinegars contain sugar.
WATER CHESTNUTS (haew): Small round bulbs with papery brown-black skin and a tubular
pointy top. Water chestnuts seem more related to a flower bulb than their hard-shelled
namesake. Inside is a sweet, slightly starchy flesh. The crunchy flesh of fresh water
chestnuts has a sweetness that you just don't get in the canned version. However, both
fresh and canned water chestnuts retain their crunchy texture long after they are cooked.
Jicama is a good substitute. For some reason, many food writers seem compelled to describe
peeling fresh water chestnuts as a fiendishly bothersome task. Not so. Rinse fresh water
chestnuts well with water to remove any mud. Slice off the top and bottom and go around
the middle with a paring knife. Peel the brown skin off to reveal the white flesh. Cut,
chop to your desired taste. Place in a bowl of water to prevent discoloration. Peeled
water chestnuts can be frozen up to a month. Rinse canned water chestnuts under water and
blanch them in boiling water to eliminate any can taste or off flavor. Canned water
chestnuts should be transferred into a tightly sealed container, filled with water and
refrigerated. They will keep up to a week if the water is changed daily. If you're buying
them fresh, feel each one and make sure it is firm. Unpeeled they'll keep about two weeks
in the refrigerator.
WIDE STYLE RICE NOODLES (see, Rice Noodles)
WILD LIME: (See Kaffir Lime) You will see fewer and fewer references to kiffir
lime leaves, as the term is derogatory in Arabic and some southern African languages. Many
recipes now will refer to wild lime leaves or ma grut.
Basil, Lemon (daun kemangi): A fragrant, lemon-scented herb added at the last
minute to keep its flavor, or used as a grarnish. Although the flavor will be different,
you can use another type of basil.
A round, cream-colored nut with an oily consistency used to add texture and a faint flavor
to many dishes. Substitute macadamia nuts or raw cashews.
About 8-12 intenselu fragrant black seeds are enclosed in strawcolored, fibrous pod. Try to buy the whole pod instead of cardamom seeds
or powder for maximum flavor, and bruise lightly with the back cleaver to break the pod
before adding to seasonings.
The celery used in Indonesia is somewhat different form the celery used in the Western
world. It has a very slender stems and
particularly pungent leaves. It is often
referred to as "Chinese celery" abroad and is used as a herb rather than a
Chilies (cabai, also called
cabe or lombok): There are several types of chili pepper used in Indonesia. One thing that is important about chili pepper, the
amount of heat increases as the size of the chili pepper diminishes. Green chilies are the unripe fruit, and have a
flovor different from red chilies. Fresh,
finger-length red chilies are the most commonly used.
Dried chilies also used in some dishes and they should be torn into pieces
and soaked in hot water to soften before grinding or blending. Hottest of all chilies are the tiny fiery
bird's-eye chilies (cabe rawit). To reduce the
heat of the dish while retaining the flavor, remove some or all the chili's seeds.
Cinnamon (kayu manis):
A thick, dark brown bark of a type of cassia. Do not substitute with ground cinnamon if
Cloves (cengkeh): A
small, brown, nail-shaped spice. Whole cloves are frequently used to flavour cooking
liquids for simmering fish, poultry or meat.
The grated flesh of the coconut is frequently added to food. It can also be squeezed in
water to make coconut milk. To make fresh coconut milk, put 2 cups of freshly grated ripe
coconut into a bowl and add 2 cups of lukewarm water. Squeexe and knead the coconut
thoroughly for 1 minute, then strain thorugh cheesecloth into a bowl to obtain thick
coconut milk. Repeat the process with another 1 cup of water to obtain thin coconut milk.
Combine both for the coconut milk. Coconut milk can be frozen; thaw and stir thoroughly
before use. The best substitute for fresh coconut mik is instant coconut powder. Combine
this with warm water as directed on the packet. For richer, creamier flavor required for
desser and cakes, use canned (unsweetened) coconut cream.
Coriander Seeds (ketumbar):
Small straw-colored seeds with a faintly orange flavor. Whole seeds are usually lightly
crushed before use.
Cumin (jintan): use sparingly as it
has a strong smell.
Cup Leaves (daun mangkok): The shape of the leaf is like a cup. It's also known as tapak leman (Nothopanax
scutellarium) and it usually used to cook stew dishes.
A good substitute is curly kale.
Garlic (bawang putih): The cloves of
garlic in the Western countries are considerably larger. Adjust the amount to suit your
Ginger (jahe): This
pale creamy yellow root is a very important ingredient for Indonesian cooking. Always
scrape the skin off fresh ginger before using, and never substitute powdered ginger as the
taste is quite different. Ginger can be stored in a cool place for several weeks.
Kencur: It is
sometimes known as lesser galangal. This ginger-like root has a unique, champor flavor and
should be used sparingly. Wash it and scrape off the skin before using. Dried sliced
kencur or kencur powder can be used as a substitute. Soak dried slices in boiling water
for approximatley 30 minutes; use ½-1 tsp. of powder for 1-inch fresh root.
Sometimes is called galangal, this is a member of the ginger family and it has a very
tough but elusively scented root that must be peeled before use. Substitute slices of
dried laos (soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes) or powdered laos (1 tsp = 1 inch).
Lemongrass (serai): This
is an intensely fragrant herb that is used for soupd, seafood and meat dishers and spice
pastes to produce lemony flavor. Cut off the roots and peel off the hard outer leaves, use
only the tender bottom portion (6-8 inches).
Lime: There are
several types of lime used in Indonesia. The
most fragrant one is called kaffir lime (jeruk purut).
Kaffir lime has virtually no juice, but the double leaf is often used whole
or very finely shredded, while the grated skin is occasionally used in cooking. The
picture on the right shows Kaffir lime. The
round yellow-skinned limes which size is slightly larger than a golf ball (jeruk nipis)
and small, dark green limes (jeruk limau) are used for their juice. If limes are not available in your area, you can
subsitute it with lemon.
Always grate whole nutmeg just before using as the powdered spice quickly loses its
Palm Sugar (gula jawa):
Juice extracted from the coconut flower or aren palm is boiled and packed into molds to
make sugar with a faint caramel taste. If palm sugar is not available, substitute with
soft brown sugar. To make palm sugar syrup, combine 2 cups of chopped palm sigar with 1
cup of water and 2 pandan leaves. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, strain and store
Pandan Leaf (daun pandan):
The fragrant leaf of a type of pandanus sometimes known as fragrant screwpine, this is
tied in a knot and used to flavor dessert and cakes.
Peanuts (kacang tanah): Used raw and
ground to make suace, or deep fried and used as a garnish or condiment.
Both black and white eppercorns are crushed just before usel ground white pwpper is also
used on occasion.
Salam Leaf (daun salam):
A subtly flavored lead of the cassia family, this bears no resemblance whatsoever to the
taste of a bay leaf, which is sometimes suggested as a substitute. If you cannot obtain
dried salam leaf, omit altogether.
Shallots (bawang merah):
Widely used in Indonesian cooking, pounded to make spice pastes, sliced and added to food
before cooking, and sliced and deep fried to make a garnish.
Shrimp Paste (terasi):
This ingredient has a strong fragrance; it is always cooked before eating, generally
toasted over a fire before being combined with other ingredients. The color of this
ingredient range from purplish pink to brownish black.
Slaked Lime (kapur sirih): A paste obtained by grinding sea shells in a little
liquid. This is the lime which is chewed with
betelnuts, gambir and tobacco.
Soy Sauce: There are
two types of soy suace that are used in Indonesian cooking, thick soy sauce (kecap manis),
and the thinner, more salty thin soy sauce (kecap asin). If you cannot obtain sweet soy
sauce, use the dark black Chinese soy sauce and add brown sugar to sweeten it.
The dark brown pod of the tmarind tree contains a sour fleshy pulp, which adds a fruity
sourness to many dishes. Packets of pulp usually contains the seeds and fibers. To make
tamarind juice, measure the pulp and soak it in hot water for 5 minutes before squeezing
it to extract the juice, discarding the seeds, fiber and any skin.
Turmeric (kunyit): An essential root in Indonesian cooking, usually
sold in dried or powdered form in the US and Europe. It
imparts its yellow color and pungent taste to many dishes.
If you can buy fresh turmeric, pick roots that are dark in color.
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