Thai Spices and Seasonings
When cooking Thai food, it's important for your food to appeal to the senses of sight, smell, and touch, as well as the sense of taste. Attention to detail is emphasized, to make sure the food looks as good as it smells, and as good as it tastes, and as good as it feels in one's mouth. There's an overarching objective to balance salty, spicy, sour, and sweet in each dish. The diverse array of spices used in Thai food are combined to create a tasty, aromatic meal every time.
The base of most Thai dishes is a paste that is usually made up of a mélange of spices and seasonings. Pastes are commonly made with chiles, ground by hand with a mortar and pestle.
Thai Spices and Herbs
Thai cuisine is regionally driven, and one style of cooking or preferred ingredient from one region may or may not carry over into other regions. This is a list of the many spices that are put to use in a multitude of dishes from around that country.
- Dried Spearmint Leaves give sweet, punchy mint flavors to Thai dishes.
- Lemongrass is used for its citrusy flavor.
- Turmeric is used for its earthier flavor and as a color enhancer. Foods with turmeric are a beautiful golden color.
- Ginger adds a spicy, lemony flavor and a terrific, fruit-and-pepper aroma.
- Coriander Seed Powder gives a subtle citrus spice to Thai dishes.
- Black Peppercorns are resinous and piney with an inner heat and floral topnotes. Black Peppercorns add both depth and lift.
- Thai Bird Chiles add a nutty, fruity flavor as well as heat. Their bright red color adds bold visual appeal.
- Galangal is earthy and pungent with hints of cinnamon and even a touch of soap. It's often swapped out for the easier-to-find Ginger.
- Makrut Lime Leaf delivers an intensely lime flavor, thanks to a concentration of yummy volatile oils.
- Basil is beautifully gentle, with notes of mint and anise.
- Spicy Thai Seasoning is excellent with meat, seafood, and vegetables. It's great to use as a marinade. It's rich and herbaceous, and has a healthy dose of heat from spicy peppers.
- Thai Sweet Chili Seasoning turns the best of nam chim (Thai dipping sauces) into an all-around seasoning that’s perfect for everyday use. It's made with chicken in mind, but is great to saute with onions and peppers as a base for soup.
- Green Thai Curry Powder offers bold, verdant Thai flavors like lemongrass and coriander, combined into a harmonious seasoning blend that balances spicy, sweet, salty, and sour. Use for coconut milk-based curries, roasted chicken, or on grilling favorites like eggplant, tofu, or shrimp.
Now that you've learned a little bit about Thai cooking, we'd like to encourage you to go forth and experiment in your kitchen. You don't have to be a Thai chef to play with these flavors; maybe you'll put a little bit of Ginger Powder in your next batch of cranberry stuffing, or rim your margarita with some ground Makrut Lime. Or you could embrace this cuisine whole-heartedly and throw a Thai-themed dinner party. If you want to expand your food horizons and are interested in Thai cuisine, we hope you'll try these recommended spices and seasonings as you start your culinary journey.