In Thai cooking, sour, sweet, spicy, sweet, and bitter flavors come together to create meals that are both tasty and aromatic. In fact, Thai diets are known for their interplay of three or more taste senses. Herbs and spices are at the core of what makes Thai cuisine so special. You may think you need to travel to Thailand or visit a fancy restaurant to enjoy the flavors of Thai diets, but you can bring Thai cooking to your kitchen anytime. Incorporate one or more of these five Thai herbs and spices to bring a taste of Thailand to your kitchen.
Lemongrass: Lemongrass has a citrusy lemon-like flavor that tastes like a mix of lemon and mint. It is fragrant but has a light flavor that does not overpower other flavors. When cooking with lemongrass, it is important that you cut the lower bulb and remove the tough outer leaves. Thai cooking utilizes just the yellow section or main stalk. Lemongrass is typically used in soups and curries.
Galangal: Similar to ginger, galangal is closely related to turmeric. It also has a pungent flavor that adds a kick to soups and dressings. In Thai diets, galangal is sliced and peeled to infuse soups. Because galangal is so closely related, it can be used interchangeably with ginger. When you are prepping to cook your Thai meal for the family but cannot get your hands on galangal, feel free to replace it with ginger.
Turmeric: Turmeric has a bitter, peppery flavor also similar to ginger. Turmeric is also a staple of Indian cuisine. Similar to Indian cuisine, turmeric is used when cooking curries and when cooking seafood dishes. Turmeric is also used for its yellow color, so it gives dishes unique flavor and color.
Thai Basil: Thai basil is native to Southeast Asia. It is more stable in high cooking temperatures than sweet basil. The flavor of Thai basil is similar to licorice with a slight kick of spice. Thai basil can be used in salads, curries, soups, and stir-fries. If you cannot find Thai basil, you can replace it with holy basil.
Thai Peppers: Thai peppers are about 23 times hotter than jalapenos. Thai peppers are served with raw garlic and sour chili sauce. This combination is typically served with cucumbers to help combat the spiciness of the pepper. If needed, chili peppers can be used in place of Thai peppers.