Thai food is captivating. It fits in with modern desire for short cooking time, healthy eating, and being able to create an exotic and delicious dish in one’s own kitchen. This article provides tips on how to cook Thai fod at home.
This must be the best assignment ever! If one is a complete newbie to Thai cooking, there is something that must be understood right from the start. Not all recipes are genuine Thai and just because stir-fry sticks get themselves into a wok doesn’t mean that one is cooking up a Thai storm. One cannot cook this wonderful cuisine if you have no grasp on what real Thai tastes, smells and looks like. With experience comes the ability to spot recipes that are not authentically traditional. The only way to get that knowledge is to visit Thai restaurants or get take-aways, enroll in a class for Thai cuisine and read up about the topic.
Fresh is Thai
Traditionally, fresh herbs, veggies and food are bought at markets for just the day’s use. Tomorrow’s chow is bought the following day, freshly harvested and crisp with goodness. In Western society, one must also strive to use fresh ingredients and anyone who has ever tasted the difference between a shop tomato and a home veggie patch tomato will understand why; the latter just tastes better. If things need to be stored, they must be frozen on the same day of picking or purchase for later use.
Resist that substitute
Can’t find that cursed little spice with the unspeakable name? Resist the worst and most common mistake made by newcomers to Thai cooking and that is to replace an elusive ingredient with something similar and more familiar. Galangal is a root used over and over in Thailand and while it has less heat than ginger, ginger should never replace it. The entire dish will change flavour.
Invest in the right cooking equipment
To equip a Thai kitchen, one does not need much but the few pieces of necessary equipment must be of high quality. A non-stick wok will produce rewarding results, sharp knives meant for cutting a variety of meat, vegetables and additives, a glass cutting board (not wooden or plastic) and stainless steel stirring tools are all good investments.
Learn your herbs and spices
This is not only essential but also a colourful journey of taste, smell and exotic knowledge. Herbs and spices is what defines Thai cuisine as Thai. This brand of cuisine is internationally famous for mastering the art of successfully producing a dish with a wide range of contrasting flavours. A single dish may provide savory, sweet, and spicy flavours all at once and that takes some basic knowledge of the herbs and spices that season Thai cuisine. Remember to keep the origin of the flavours natural; instead of refined sugar rather opt for coconut or palm sugar. There are four classic Thai flavours – fiery, sour, savory and sweet. Balance between these flavours equals authenticity and balance comes from knowledge and study.
Grab some fish sauce
Added to dishes meant to be savory, fish sauce is almost considered to be Thailand’s version of salt. It has a strong taste and is thus used sparingly. Fish sauce is nutrient-rich and gives a full bodied salty taste that strengthens the other flavours in the food. When buying a bottle, one must make sure that the ingredients on the bottle states only ‘fish, salt and sugar.’ That will be authentic fish sauce and nothing else. If there are little bits of threads or flakes floating around, don’t buy it. It must also not be stored in the fridge. Once it goes very dark, like Worcester sauce, its shelf life has expired (about 18 months) and a new bottle of fish sauce must be purchased.
When a person begins to learn cooking a foreign cuisine, there are bound to be mistakes or preferred alterations to suit an individual’s own preferences. This is fine. Experimenting is learning to attain perfection and tweaking recipes is natural in any kitchen. Everyone likes different things. One can alter Thai food and still keep it authentic and that is where experience comes in again, so the more a person enjoys true Thai food in restaurants or cooking classes, the more they will be able to prepare a recipe with their own spin on it while still keeping it traditional and true.
When serving Thai, place a plate of mixed raw vegetables and fruit on the table too. Ice can be placed on top to keep the veggies crunchy and fresh. This is a common Thai practice and provides nutrients that normally get lost in the cooking process.
Keep it quick and moist.
When preparing a dish in a wok, the only oil that should ever be added should be a sparse amount in the beginning. After that, broth should be added in suitable amounts throughout the cooking period, which is not long, to prevent the stir-fry from drying out. Milk should not be used as dairy is not traditionally used in Thai cooking. Many beginners go ‘Western’ on Thai food and at first cook it too long and the nutrients and crispness gets lost. The rule of thumb with a wok is to cook food quickly on a high heat and to serve immediately.
Much can be said about home Thai cooking but only one thing really matters and that is to actually go ahead and gain real experience through taste, learning and practicing recipes. One can read about Thai cuisine and how to prepare it, but it is the practical application of what one learns that is the true teacher and learning to cook authentic Thai is unforgettable and incredibly rewarding.