Thai Ingredients

There are many many different ingredients that are used in Thai cooking. Chilli, garlic, lime, fish sauce, eggplants, green peppercorns and tamarind are some of the most common. We will attempt to run through the main ingredients used in the dishes we have on this site. If you come across any ingredient that we dont have listed, please don't hesitate to get in contact with us.

Sauces and Pastes

Fish Sauce
The key ingredient to Thai cooking is undisputedly fish sauce (nam pla). It is made from femented fish and is used as a substitute for salt in most cooked dishes but can also be used on its own to flavour soups and stir fries. It has a strong and pungent fish smell that enhances many dishes and is common to most Asian cuisines.

Curry Paste
Krueang kaeng, or curry paste, is available in many stores and markets. Commercially produced in many forms including green chilli paste, red chilli paste, massaman chilli paste, it is a mixture of chilli, spices and herbs plus other ingredients such as oil or shrimp paste. It is easily made fresh at home with the same ingredients.

  • Red Curry Paste, or krueang kaeng phet is made with dried red chillis, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, kaffir lime leaf and peppercorns. It can also have shrimp paste included. It is used in both curries and to flavour various stir fries.
  • Green Curry Paste, krueang kaeng khiao wan, is similar to red curry paste but small green chilli's are used instead of red chillis. It is sweeter than red curry and not as spicy.
  • Yellow Curry Paste, or krueng kaeng kari, is a mild curry paste that is made similar to red and green curry but with the additional ingredient of tumeric which gives it the distinct colour.
  • Massamun Curry Paste which is known as krueng kaeng massamun, is an Indian style curry paste made with dried ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamon and cloves plus chillis.
  • Penang Curry Paste, or krieng kaeng panang, is based on red curry paste but with the added ingredient of peanuts. This results in a mild and creamy curry.

Oyster Sauce
Nam man hoi is an ingredient that is mainly used in meat and vegetable stir fries. It is Chinese in origin and readily available in supermarkets. Vegetarians can substitute oyster sauce with mushroom “oyster” sauce.

Fresh Herbs

The fresh leaves, stems and roots are all used in the coriander plant, as well as the ground seeds. It is an aromatic leafy herb that is essential to Thai cooking. It is heavily used not only in Thailand, but also China, India, Mexico, amongst other regions. In Thailand, “pak chee thai”.

Kaffir Lime
Kaffir lime is a unique type of lime that is characterised by a rough, gnarled fruit with thick
skin and a 'double leaf'. It has a very strong smell in the leaf and fruit that is slightly sour and not as sweet as a regular lime.

Kaffir Lime Leaf
The leaf of the kaffir lime tree (called bai ma gruud in Thai) is used extensively in Thai cooking to enhance the sour flavour of the soups and curries. Regular lime leaves should not be substituted as they will make the dish bitter and unappetising. It is also used in Laotian, Indonesian and Malaysian cooking.

Called tai krai in Thai, Lemongrass is a woody grass plant that has a strong lemon scent in the soft base of the plant. The soft inner stem is the only part of the plant that is used, but it is very common in Thai, Chinese and even South American cooking. It can be steeped in hot water and drunk as a refreshing tea and is said to have many medicinal properties.

Holy Basil
This herb is a distinct, strong flavoured, earthy basil plant called krapow in Thai that is used in cooking and brings a delicate earthy flavour to the dish Pad Gaprow. The plant has small, furry leaves and is not to be confused with Thai basil which has smooth bright green leaves.

Thai Basil
Unique from regular italian basil, thai basil is characterised by a strong, sharp and peppery flavour. It is known as horopa in Thai language, but is also common in Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine. It has small, smooth green leaves and a purple stem.

Known as kha in Thai and also known as lesser ginger, Thai ginger or siam ginger. This root is an important ingredient used in most curries and soups. It has a strong and distinct fragrance, similar to ginger but not as spicy. Galangal can be found in fresh, dried or frozen form, but fresh is the best.

Birds Eye Chilli
Prik khi nu are small fry chilli's that are the most commonly used in Thai cooking. They can be red or green and colour and should be used with caution. If you do not enjoy the burn that a chilli has, remove the seeds or do not break or chop the chilli when using.

Medium Red Chilli
Known as prik chi fa, these mild chilli's are added to stir fries as a vegetable rather than a spice. Usually red, yellow or green in colour

Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns, or prik thai on, are a regularly used spice that are used in stir fries and curries. They are available pickled in brine or fresh in supermarkets or markets.

Tumeric is a bright yellow-orange herb that is known as khamin in Thai. It is identified by both its colour and the distinct earthy smell it has. It is used in many curry pastes and can be found in fresh or dry form.