In the Western world, many people enjoy Pan-Asian cuisines that blend elements of Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Korean food cultures.However, Thai food is distinctive for its preparation, spices, and chief ingredients. When done well, Thai food is a delightful blend of flavors and textures that’s served in a communal, family-friendly way.
Sadly, many “Thai” dishes in theWest leave something to be desired. They might get the spice blend wrong or simply cook everything in coconut milk. Thai cuisine is all about the balance of different flavor profiles, along with a bounty of fresh ingredients. Here are key characteristics of authentic Thai cuisine — and how you can approach it at home.
Thai cuisine is more than just dumping some curry powder into coconut milk. You need to get familiar with the wonderful, wide range of herbs used in Thai cooking. These include parsley, dill, cilantro, and various types of basil. Each of these herbs offers a distinct flavor to the dish that can be balanced with other potent ingredients.
You can enhance the flavor profile of any dish through Thai cuisine’s unique selection of fruits. Limes add a delightful sourness to the mix, and you can also add tamarind, a sweet–sour fruit commonly used in Thai cuisine. For a bit of heat, try Thai chili peppers for a dash of sweet spiciness.
“Thai cuisine may sound challenging, but it’s relatively simple to do at home. You need only visit your local Asian market to pick up a few staples.”
A big part of that distinctive Thai flavor is the use offish-based seasonings. These include fish sauce, which despite its name mayalso be made from krill, and pla-ra, a fermented blend of fish with rice bran.Adding these ingredients to your dish provides salty yet caramel-y goodness.
Many Western “Thai” restaurants confuse curries with Thai dishes, but true Thai cuisine is a bit more nuanced. Some of the basics, such as garlic and pepper (technically peppercorns), are included, but Thai gets its unique flavor from spice blends that mix the zesty, the earthy, and the sweet.Try a combination of cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and turmeric, then balance it out with lemongrass, basil, and other herbs.
Thai cuisine may sound challenging, but it’s relatively simple to do at home. You need only visit your local Asian market to pick up a few staples. Then, grab some noodles, fresh vegetables, and your protein of choice, and get started experimenting! You’ll enjoy a rewarding culinary experience — and your home will smell great as well.