Regional Thai Cuisine: Part 3 of 4 – Central Thailand

Wow, when life gets busy it really gets busy! My apologies for such a delay in posting. My fiancé and I are just a few weeks out from our wedding and things have gotten so hectic around here. I’ve thought many times about getting my next blog up but then something gets in the way. Fortunately, I had some time today to finish this one up and get it out to the masses!

Ampawa Floating Market near Bangkok. Floating markets are a BIG part of central Thailand culture. I'll be writing a blog entry about them soon!
Ampawa Floating Market near Bangkok. Floating markets are a BIG part of central Thailand culture. I’ll be writing a blog entry about them soon!

One of my last blog posts was Part 2 of my four-part series on regional cuisine that focused on southern Thailand. Next up in our tour of the Thai regions is Central Thailand. Central Thailand is a pretty interesting region for Thai cuisine because there are so many regional influences. This is a fairly large region that is very densely populated and is made up of many different smaller regions. Right in the center of this region is the country’s capital of Bangkok, which has naturally become a magnet for all different types of people and cultures and therefore, all different specialty cuisines. It’s this mish-mash of influences that defines central cuisine.

Before we get to some of those influences though I want to chat a little bit about the geography of the region. As we discussed in our post on Northern and Southern cuisine, the topography and weather of a particular region greatly influences the food that comes out of that area. Central Thailand happens to be a delta-like landscape, fairly flat but packed with rivers and water sources. This maze of waterways has created a landscape of extremely fertile soil that allows nearly any type of crop to be grown successfully. As such, the cuisine in Central Thailand is far more diverse than some of the other regionals.

The central region is what influences and inspires many of the American dishes you’ve enjoyed here in the states. Dishes like tom yum (hot and sour soup) as well as tom kha (a similar soup with a coconut base) originated in this region as well as yam salads and many different stir fries.

Additionally, the central region also houses a large Chinese population and thus is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine which shows itself in the variety of noodle dishes you can find including kuay tiaw, pad see ew, and Phad Thai. It’s important to note (at least it’s important to me!) that most of the versions of Phad Thai that you find in the states are very far from the authentic version you’d find in Thailand. Believe it or not, authentic Phad Thai doesn’t have a peanut sauce! Crazy, I know. Mind blown.

Anyway, here are a few more specific notes about this particular region:

This is me overlooking the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand ... one of the many waterways in Central Thailand.
This is me overlooking the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand … one of the many waterways in Central Thailand.
  • Central Thailand produces the best rice in the country. This includes all different types of rice, but the most popular is hom mali or the ever popular jasmine rice.
  • Many of the smaller regions throughout the central region have specialty cuisines specific to their area. These range from desserts, to noodle dishes, to curries. You can travel extensively through the central region and never have the same dish twice. It’s glorious!
  • Many meals in the central region include an omelet of some kind, also called kai jiaw. Yummy, these omelets are seriously by favorite. Take an egg, whisk it in a bowl, pour it into a wok full of hot oil, let it fry, and serve. Heaven. My favorite type of omelet is not the plain one described but actually one that fried oysters and bean sprouts. It’s called hoi tawt and it’s incredible and I should really get the recipe up on here soon. If you’re not into oysters, you can also add ground pork, vegetables, or anything else you want. Wow, I’m getting really hungry over here.
  • The goal of cuisine in central Thailand is to find that perfect combination of spicy, salty, sweet and sour … and often times a little greasy! This is accomplished by serving nearly every dish with some sort of dipping sauce as well as many dried spices. Any restaurant you visit in central Thailand usually has a condiment container that includes some of these yummy dish-toppers.

The final thing to note.

While many of the dishes you enjoy at your local Thai restaurant are heavily influenced by this region that does not mean they are authentic! Not to harp on these restaurants, but they usually cater to the American crowd. They substitute or add certain ingredients that Americans happen to love, but are not actually used in the authentic dishes in Thailand (example, carrots). If you’re looking for truly authentic central (or other regional) Thai cuisine, my best advice is to jump on Yelp and look for restaurants with positive reviews from actual Thai people. You may find a restaurant with amazing reviews, but if they’re from people who have never experienced authentic Thai cuisine, you’re not necessarily going to find authentic food at that establishment.

Okay, so here is your recipe for this region – the ever popular Phad Thai. This is an authentic recipe that I reworked based on the recipe we learned at our cooking class in Chiang Mai. It’ll be a bit different than what you’re used to from most Thai restaurants but trust me, it’s delicious! This one is Phad Thai Jay, jay meaning vegetarian. You can also add chicken if you’d like. If you do, add the chicken before adding the garlic, shallots and tofu. Cook until almost cooked through, then move on to step 5.

It’s also a difficult recipe to master; it requires a lot of different steps in a short amount of time. Be sure to read through the recipe and understand what you’re doing before you jump in and cook. Good luck.

Phad Thai Jay - Vegetarian Phad Thai

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: hard


Pad Thai: A Traditional Favorite
Pad Thai Gai (made with chicken)

  • 1/3 cup plain vegetable oil
  • 4 oz 2-3 millimeter wide dried rice noodles, prepared
  • 2/3 cup Phad Thai sauce
  • 1 TBSP shrimp paste in oil, optional
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¾ cup firm tofu, optional
  • 2 large eggs, cracked into a bowl
  • 6-7 stalks Chinese chives
  • 2 cups bean sprouts


  • Sugar, dried red pepper flakes, fish sauce, lime, chopped peanuts, Chinese chives


  1. Cut the chive blades into 1-inch pieces; reserve bottom parts for garnish. Mix 1-inch pieces with bean sprouts and set aside.
  2. Set a flat pan or wok over medium-high heat, add half of vegetable oil.
  3. Once oil is hot, add noodles followed by sauce (and shrimp oil is using); stir constantly keeping the noodles moving at all times.
  4. After 30-40 seconds or once noodles are slightly softened, push them to one side of the pan and add the remaining vegetable oil.
  5. Add garlic, shallots, and tofu (if using). Stir on one side of the pan but still move noodles around on other side so they don’t burn.
  6. Once garlic and shallots have browned slightly mix in with the noodles and push mixture back to one side of the pan.
  7. Pour broken eggs onto empty side of the dish; scramble with spatula and then let cook undisturbed on one side of the pan before flipping and breaking them into smaller pieces.
  8. Once eggs are done your noodles should be soft and chewy, sauce has been absorbed into noodles, and little bits of shallots and garlic are crispy.
  9. Take off the heat and mix all together. Add two handfuls of chive-bean sprout mixture and give a gentle stir.
  10. Serve topped with 2-3 TBSP chopped peanuts, a wedge of lime, and chive stalks. Season individually to taste with fish sauce, sugar, and dried red pepper flakes.


  • This dish cooks very fast! Make sure that you watch the heat, add things immediate, and don’t overcook. This is one of the more stressful dishes to make (at least for me!) and definitely takes practice!
  • Cooking the egg is the hardest part! You want to make sure the excess water is out or it will end up a goopy mess. Let the egg fry up. You can break it apart and sort of scramble it in the pan as well. Any method works.

Let’s Cook: Miang Kum

An appetizer often served at get togethers and celebrations, I first experience Miang Kum at a party thrown for me and my fellow Peace Corps volunteers by our Thai language instructors during our last week of class. It was served as the first appetizer, a toast of sorts for our accomplishments and upcoming adventures … and it was delicious!

Miang Kum literally means “eating many things in one bite,” which is a perfect description. A combination of so many flavors Miang Kum epitomizes authentic Thai cuisine by combining a multitude of flavors–sweet, sour, spicy, and salty–and creates a burst of flavor with every bite. This dish can be extremely time-consuming to prepare, but the final product is absolutely worth it!

Traditionally, Miang Kum is served with betel or chaphlu leaves but they can be difficult to find so for this recipe they are substituted with large spinach leaves.

Consider making this appetizer for your next get together or as a healthy and very flavorful meal.

Miang Kum

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy


  • ½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup roasted unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup diced ginger (small cubes)
  • 1/3 cup diced shallots (small cubes)
  • 1 lime, cut into small peanut-sized cubes (unpeeled)
  • 6 Thai chilies, sliced into small rounds
  • ¼ cup small dried shrimp (optional)
  • 1-2 bunches large spinach leaves


  • ½ cup roasted shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup palm or coconut sugar
  • 2 TBSP fish sauce, or to taste
  • ½ cup water


  1. To roast coconut, place unsweetened shredded coconut in a pan over medium heat. Stir frequently until all shreds are evenly browned.
  2. Prepare all individual ingredients as noted in the ingredients and place in serving dishes around the sauce bowl.
  3. To make sauce, grind coconut and peanuts together. Place in a small saucepan with palm sugar, fish sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently to make sure all ingredients are well blended. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until mixture has thickened into a light batter consistency. Transfer to sauce bowl.
  4. Fold spinach leaves and fill with desired ingredients. Top with sauce and eat in single bite.

Yum Woon Sen (Spicy Glass Noodle Salad)

Love, love, love glass noodles … and love this recipe too!

When I saw this recipe made during my cooking class in Chiang Mai, they actually made it with seafood. However, the recipe I’m going to provide as of right now refers to using chicken. See the notes section for info on the different types of seafood you can add (pretty much anything!). Either way, it tastes awesome! Spicy, refreshing, light … soooo good.

Yum Woon Sen - Spicy Glass Noodle Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy!


  • 50g (2 ounces) glass noodles (see notes)
  • 50g (2 ounces) chicken, minced (seafood or tofu work to0 – see notes)
  • 20g (1 ounce) ear mushrooms (see notes)
  • 10g (1/2 ounce) carrots, sliced
  • 30g (1 ounce) tomato, cut in large wedges
  • 30g (1 ounce) onion, sliced
  • 10g (1/2 ounce) coriander and spring onions, chopped small


  • 1-3 green chillies, chopped small
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 – 1.5 TBSP lemon juice
  • .5 – 1 TBSP fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock


  • Glass Noodles: You can find these in any Asian market, and potentially normal grocery stores as well. The Thai word for these noodles is “woon-sen”.
  • Chicken: You can use pretty much any protein for this dish. Chicken works well but so does tofu, shrimp, squid, octapus, and whatever else you can find. When I saw this made it was a combination of shrimp and squid. Just make sure you don’t overcook or they will get rubbery!
  • Mushrooms: As with all recipes, you can use whatever mushrooms you want, but the taste and texture that goes well with this recipe is ear mushrooms (very thin, dark color, large … look like elephant ears, hence the name!)


  1. Soak glass noodles in cold water for 5 minutes, cut into 8cm segments.
  2. Boil ear mushrooms until cooked.
  3. Add glass noodles and carrots about 30 seconds, stir well. Remove, and put into cold water for 1 minute.
  4. Boil minced chicken (seafood or tofu) until cooked.
  5. To make the dressing: mix all ingredients well.
  6. Combine glass noodles, spring onion, coriander, tomato, and dressing. Mix together and serve.

Tom Yum (Hot and Sour Soup)

My favorite soup in Thailand will forever be tom kha; however, that is followed in a very close second with this recipe, tom yum (hot and sour soup). This soup is broth based and has a very tasty base of flavors. With tons of traditional Thai herbs and spices, some basic every day veggies, and the kick of roasted chili paste at the end, this recipe never lets me down!

Tom Yum - Hot and Sour soup

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy


  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, 1 inch segments, bruised
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 3 slices galangal
  • ½ – 1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
  • 6 Thai chili peppers, bruised
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 4 TBSP fish sauce
  • 2 TBSP prik pao, roasted chili in oil
  • Cilantro, garnish


  1. In medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Once boiling, add lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and chilies and boil for 5 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms, onion, lime juice, and fish sauce and boil for another five minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and boil 1-2 minutes until soft, then add prik pao.
  4. Season to taste and remove from heat. Serve with cilantro as garnish.


  • Lemon grass: Do not use powdered lemon grass for soups! It will not give you the correct taste. You can use fresh lemon grass or you can use dried, but try to stay away from the powdered. It won’t taste terrible, it just won’t taste that great either.
  • Chilies: If you are using fresh chilies, you want to bruise them, which means placing the flat end of your knife on top of the chili and pushing down. This will cause the chili to pop and allow some of the juices and seeds to escape, which will add heat to your dish. If you are using dried chilies, you should crush them a little so the insides are open to the broth for the same effect.

Final Thoughts

  • Eat this. It’s good.
  • Do not forget the prik pao at the end. That’s what gives it the red oily stuff on the top and that’s what makes this recipe so awesome, at least for me!

Nam Prik Gaeng Ped (Red Curry Paste)

Have you tried the Panang curry paste recipe yet? If so, this one is similar (same same except the peanuts!). Red curry paste can be used to make red curry, obviously, but it can also be used in other curries as well … like the gaeng saparot gai recipe I have posted. Delish!

Nam Prik Gaeng Ped - Red Curry Paste

  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: intermediate

Note: You can either use a mini-processor to make this paste which makes the recipe so much easier or you can use a mortar and pestle like they do in Thailand. If you choose the latter option, be prepared to spend a good amount of time pounding the paste to get the right consistency. It’s a great final product but it definitely takes time!


  • 7 large guajillo dried chillies
  • 2 TBSP garlic, chopped
  • 2 TBSP shallots, chopped
  • 1 TBSP fresh lemongrass, chopped (see notes)
  • 1 tsp galangal, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander root, chopped (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp Kaffir lime peel (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns, roasted (see notes)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste

Notes: Here are some notes on the above ingredients.

  • Lemongrass: For this recipe you can use either fresh lemongrass, dried, or powdered lemongrass. Powdered is easier to find and works well in pastes.
  • Coriander Root: This is exactly what it sounds like. You are not using the leaves; you are using the root. Some coriander in the market may already have the root removed. Try the organic section. You should be able to find it somewhere!
  • Kaffir Lime Peel: This is like the zest off a lemon or lime, but specifically from the Kaffir lime. These limes are not grown in the US and are nearly impossible to find in stores (I have yet to find them). You can order them from ImportFood or you can find a powdered or dried version.
  • Roasted Peppercorns, Coriander Seeds, Peanuts: For any of the roasted items you can either roast them yourselves or attempt to find the products pre-roasted. I would recommend roasting them yourself (placing in a pan on low/medium heat and browning) so that you can use the rest of your stock of the product in other recipes that may not call for roasted.

Method with Mini-Processor

  1. Place dried chilies in a bowl of hot water and let soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Place chilies and remaining ingredients into mini-processor and blend until paste is formed. Add a tablespoon of water if paste is too dry.

Method with Mortar and Pestle

  1. Place dried chilies in a bowl of hot water and let soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and set aside.
  2. Put peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds into a mortar and pound well.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients except shrimp paste. Pound until mixed well.
  4. Add shrimp paste. Pound until fine and smooth.

Note: Take your time! This is not going to be done in five minutes. It’ll probably take more like 15-20 minutes or potentially longer. Put some muscle into it!


  • Curry pastes can last up to a few months if kept in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator.

Gaeng Panang Gai (Panang Curry with Chicken)

Panang Curry is my all-time favorite curry. Before heading to Thailand for my Peace Corps service, this was pretty much the only dish that I would order from the Thai restaurants back home … well, that and Pad Thai. The flavor was always fantastic no matter what restaurant I tried. It never let me down. So, if you’re up for a warm and savory curry known more for its depth in flavors than for it’s spice (though you can make it spicy if you want!) definitely check this out!

Gaeng Panang Gai - Panang Curry with Chicken

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: intermediate


Panang Gai
Panang Gai

  • 2 cups coconut milk, or more
  • 4-6 TBSP paste, or to taste (commercially purchased pasted works well too – I recommend Thai and True)
  • 1 TBSP shredded kaffir lime leaves
  • ½ tsp palm sugar
  • 2 cups chicken, sliced
  • 2 TBSP fish sauce
  • ¼ cup Thai basil leaves
  • ½ cup coconut cream


  1. Heat pan/wok on medium-high heat, then add ½ cup of coconut milk. It should sizzle right away and start to boil; add paste and mix well.
  2. Fry the paste in the pan. Keep adding a bit of coconut milk every minute or two so as not to let it get too dry. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Cook for 4-5 minutes in this fashion. You should see a lot of oil coming to the top of the curry. This is normal and shows you’re doing it right!
  3. When oil is rising and bubbling, add meat. Heat until chicken is cooked through, then add lime leaves, fish sauce and palm sugar. Keep cooking 3-5 minutes. Add additional coconut milk if dish ever gets too dry.
  4. When finished, remove from heat and add basil. Stir until mixed well and basil has wilted slightly. Serve topped with a spoonful of coconut cream and some sliced kaffir leaves.


  • Kaffir Lime Leaves: You will not want to use a powder or dried leaves for this. If you cannot find fresh, just omit.
  • Palm Sugar: Best option is palm sugar but if you can’t find it you can use a brown sugar (next best) or a white sugar (also good).

Final Thoughts

  • You can add any vegetables you want – baby corn, carrots, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, whatever you think would taste good!

Nam Prik Gaeng Panang

One of the best things about Thai food (in my opinion) is the connection you get with your food. I think it’s like that with most cuisine. When you take the time to prep the ingredients, put them all together, and come out with a fantastic final product, you get this awesome feeling of accomplishment and the food just seems to taste better.

So, when making any Thai curry, you have to ask yourself a question. Should I make the paste by hand, use a mini-processor, or should I buy one that’s already pre-made? The answer to that is completely up to you. I think it’s fun to make the paste on your own! It takes time, but you can tweak it so the final flavor is exactly what you want it to be.

However, it does take a bit of time, and the pastes you can buy at the Asian market are going to be just as good … you just aren’t cooking completely from scratch, and if that’s okay with you, then go for it! But, for those of you who want to try your hand at making curry from start to finish completely on your own, here is the recipe for Panang Curry Paste. Also check out the recipes for Red Curry Paste and Green Curry Paste … also delish!

Nam Prik Gaeng Panang - Panang Curry Paste

  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: intermediate


  • 3 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, bottom 4″ only, thinly sliced
  • 3 TBSP roasted peanuts
  • 2 TBSP galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4-6 dried or fresh Thai chilies (for heat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander (if using seeds, pound into powder prior to putting in processor)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin (if using seeds, pound into powder prior to putting in processor)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (if using peppercorns, pound into powder prior to putting in processor)
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste

Notes: Here are some notes on the above ingredients.

  • Lemongrass: For this recipe you can use either fresh lemongrass or powdered lemongrass. Powdered is easier to find and works well in pastes.
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves: Very few Asian markets that I have found in the area actually these leaves. I purchase mine from Uwajimaya in Bellevue or Seattle. I haven’t had much luck in other places. You can also find powdered kaffir leaves in some places as well.

Method for Mini-Processor

  1. Place dried chilies in a medium bowl; cover with hot water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain; place chilies and all remaining ingredients in a mini-processor. Process until paste forms.

Method for Mortar and Pestle

  1. Place dried chilies in a medium bowl; cover with hot water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Put coriander, cumin, salt and pepper into mortar and pound well.
  3. Add lemongrass and kaffir leaves and pound well.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients except shrimp paste. Pound until mixed well.
  5. Add shrimp paste. Pound until fine and smooth.

Take your time! This is not going to be done in five minutes. It’ll probably take more like 15-20 minutes and maybe even longer.


  • Curry pastes can last up to a few months if kept in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator.

I’ll take the Phad Thai … hold the chopsticks.

I’ve been meaning to write on this particular topic for quite some time. Pretty much every time I walk into a Thai restaurant and see chopsticks on the table I groan and think two things to myself:

  1. I should probably leave.
  2. I really need to address this issue in my next blog entry.

It’s taken me until now to write about it which means many of you have been going along in your day-to-day visits to Thai restaurants (because come on, we all go to Thai restaurants daily, right?) believing that Thais use chopsticks to eat their food. For that I apologize!

The truth is that Thais do not use chopsticks.

Crazy, right? I’m sorry if I just blew your mind.

In truth, Thais have adopted a more Western method of eating food. History goes that King Rama IV brought the fork and spoon to Thailand back in the 19th century. Thailand had yet to be colonized by European powers (like all surrounding countries) and he believed that bringing some Westernization to Thailand might help further evade that seemingly inevitable fate. He brought in advisors to teach the Thai Royal Court western culture including the use of the fork and spoon. Since then the use of the fork and spoon have become common place.

Phad Thai is commonly eaten with a fork and spoon.
Phad Thai is commonly eaten with a fork and spoon.

The use of these utensils is still somewhat unique though. In Thailand the fork is used to push food up onto the spoon which is then the item used to bring the food to your mouth. No knives are used; rather, the edge of the spoon acts as the knife when necessary.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are chopsticks in Thailand. They are mostly used when eating noodle dishes, many of which were brought to Thailand by other Asian countries. For example, the only dish that I actually used chopsticks for was kway tiao, a noodle soup dish commonly purchased from street vendors. That being said, not all noodle dishes are consumed with chopsticks. You will still find many Thai people using the traditional spoon and fork for Phad Thai, Phad See Ew, and other dry noodle dishes.

Kway tiao nam tok is a dish in Thailand often eaten with chopsticks.
Kway tiao nam tok is a dish in Thailand often eaten with chopsticks.

So then why do the majority of Thai restaurants here in the states have chopsticks on the table? I really can’t answer that question for sure but my guess would be Americanization and the belief by Americans that Asian countries use chopsticks. To us, an Asian restaurant is ‘authentic’ if we can eat with chopsticks, which I don’t quite understand either because eating with chopsticks is hard. That’s a whole different entry though.

And there you have it, the reason I groan every time I walk into a Thai restaurant with chopsticks already on the table. Is that restaurant truly authentic or just trying to make me think they are?

Friday Five: Twitter Thai Dishes

I never used to be a big Twitter follower, but ever since I started my blog and decided to create a Twitter account to go along with it, I’m obsessed.

The obsession isn’t necessarily with posting … I actually don’t post all that often. But I read. Oh how I read! I’m following 366 different people – a good mix of everything. I have a few family and friends, some companies and organizations I’m fond of, and a large group of food enthusiasts.  I follow a number of the Food Network chefs, some restaurant owners, and a bunch of foodies, bloggers, and amateur/professional creative food geniuses.

I fell away from Twitter for awhile when I was making my transition back to the United States from Thailand, but now that things are settled and my blog is back up and running, I find myself on the site all the time. And the best part about it? The recipes!

I am constantly clicking links from my “friends” to images and recipes of amazing food dishes – anything from apple turnover cupcakes to bacon wrapped scallops and “the best burger you’ve ever tasted”. More importantly though, there is also a long list of Thai recipes that have come my way through Twitter feeds. I love it.

So, today’s Friday Five is a list of five awesome recipes I have come across via Twitter. I haven’t tried any of them. I can’t vouch for their authenticity, deliciousness, or ease to prepare. All I can say is that the recipe sounds awesome or the picture looks amazing … or in most of these cases, both!

These are in no particular order. Without actually trying them, I didn’t feel good about ranking them 🙂

Click on any of the images to be redirected to the poster’s website for the recipe, more pictures, etc.


1) Vegetables in Red Curry and Coconut Milk – posted by @Mango_Queen

This one is a favorite simply because I’m obsessed with curry! The ingredients in this look awesome – some I cook with often and others I have tended to steer away from in my Thai cooking, but now I want to experiment with (potatoes, etc). I’ll be trying this recipe soon. Click the picture to hit up the recipe.

2) Tom Yum Gai – Sour and Spicy Chicken Soup – posted by @templeofthai

This made my top five for a few reasons. First and foremost, I love the website. They have tons of amazing recipes, great pictures, and lots of useful tips. Second, I love this soup. I usually make it with shrimp, but the chicken version looks fantastic too. And third, the recipe looks fairly easy to follow. Maybe it’s just because I’ve made the soup many times before, but I feel like it’s something the majority of people could try with great success.

3) Thai Fried Garlic Pork On The Bone – posted by @BKKFatty

Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe looks incredible. I’ll say right off the bat that this one might be a little out of my skill range to actually make, but I can almost taste it just looking at the picture! This type of meat – barbecued pork, beef, chicken, anything really – is one of my favorite street foods in Thailand and to find a recipe that I might be able to try at home is awesome.  My mouth is watering just looking at it!

4) Yellow Curry Paste – posted by @templeofthai

And here they go again! Temple of Thai brings another fantastic recipe I want to try. As I said above, I am all about the curries … and, I’m all about the curry pastes. I enjoy store bought paste from time to time when I don’t have time to throw together my own, but I much prefer to prepare my own ingredients and pound down the paste in my mortar and pestle. I’m not sure if it’s an aggression thing or what, but it’s kinda soothing! So, any great “from scratch” curry paste recipe I can find is a winner. And, this is the best yellow curry paste recipe I have found. I already have pretty great options for red, Panang, and green, but I was looking to round it out with something like this. Happy girl.

5) Thai Shrimp Cakes with Sweet Chili Sauce – posted by @shesimmers

Yes please! First of all, @shesimmers is my idol. She has an incredible Thai food blog that I have used numerous times for tips and techniques and I’ve tried a number of her recipes as well. I love when I find something awesome on her site, and am super thrilled to share this one with you. I’m a lover of fish cakes, and this recipe for shrimp cakes looks divine! The image is from the recipe posted on SeriousEats, but you can find a ton of other awesome recipes on her website

Friday Five: Ingredients

Friday Five: Thai Cooking Ingredients

So, here we go with the Friday Five! This week, the focus is on Thai cooking ingredients. The list isn’t necessarily of ingredients unique to Thailand (though a few are) as it also just includes popular ingredients or ones that I think make Thai food awesome! This list is solely my own opinions – you’re not going to find this as a formal list anywhere else! And the information doesn’t come from any encyclopedia or reference. It’s simply what I have learned through my travels in Thailand and my journey learning to cook Thai food.

Sorry I was unable to take pictures of the ingredients for you; time just didn’t permit! I’ve included links for you to check them out, but I promise to change it out as soon as I can get a few pics of my own! Bad blogger, I know.

#1 Galangal

I absolutely love this ingredient (and btw, this links to a great blog to check out too)! Also known as khaa in Thai, this ingredient looks very similar to ginger. I’ll admit, the first time I attempted to cook with it, I accidentally purchased the ginger instead (they put them right next to each other!). It’s didn’t make for the best meal.

Galangal has a peppery flavor and is far bitterer (that’s a weird word) to me than ginger. However, it is delicious to cook with! In Thai cuisine, galangal is used as a seasoning in things like soup, chili paste, and some meat and seafood dishes.

It is available fresh from Asian markets, but also comes in dried and powdered forms. I much prefer the fresh, but the others are useful as well if you don’t have fresh available. Dried galangal needs to be soaked in water before use.

#2 Thai Chilies

Talk about spicy! Thai chilies, also known as Bird’s eye chilies, are used in pretty much every dish in Thailand. Thai people love their food spicy and this is the primary way that they find that heat. Rightfully so! The Thai chili is one of the hottest chilies in the world!

To give you a little perspective: The jalapeno has a Scoville heat rating of 4,000. The Thai chili? Bump that rating up to between 80,000 and 100,000! Yikes!

Not only are these chilies spicy, but they also have a unique flavor and are used in all types of Thai cooking. You’ll find them in anything from curries and meat dishes to soups, Pad Thai, and side dipping sauces.

These chilies are available at almost all Asian markets (at least around here in the Pacific Northwest) and are very inexpensive. Eat up!

#3 Coconut

Thought not specific to Thailand, coconut (in its many forms) is a key ingredient in many Thai recipes. Seeing as though Thailand is a tropical country, coconuts are readily available to Thai people and they use them freely in their cuisine.

The most common part of the coconut that is used is the milk and cream. These parts of the coconut are used most often in curries and soups as well as in desserts. My favorite two Thai dishes happen to have coconut milk – Green Curry and Mangoes with Sticky rice … in case you were wondering the keys to my heart!

Thai people also use the coconut meat in deserts and sometimes in entrée dishes. If you ever get over to Thailand, definitely try out some of their many Thai desserts, especially the ones with this awesome ingredients! To whet your appetite, here’s a little Google search I did. Enjoy!

#4 Lemongrass

This is another one of my favorite ingredients in Thai cooking! A stalky plant, this lemon scented plant is readily available all over Southeast-Asia. Obvious by the name, this plant brings a lemon flavor and incredible aroma to whatever dish it is added to. It’s a lighter flavor so it is most often added to soups and salads, and also curries.

This ingredient is available in some general markets (I’ve purchased it from QFC and other grocery stores) but it’s super expensive. You’ll find much better prices at an Asian market, though not all of them carry fresh stalks. If you can’t find fresh, there is an option to go with powdered though it isn’t nearly as tasty! It is an easy substitute in curry pastes, but when it comes to soups and salad dressings, the extra time or effort to find fresh will be greatly rewarded!

#5 Basil

There are two different types of basil that are used in Thai cooking – bai horapa (Thai Sweet Basil) and bai gkaprow (Holy Basil). Both types of basil are used freely in Thai cuisine, but for two very different flavors.

Thai Sweet Basil is used more commonly in Thai cuisine. It is added into any type of dish – curries, meat, poultry, vegetable, etc. It is also eaten on its own with dipping sauces such as nahm prik.

Holy Basil, used less often, provides a completely different flavor. It is usually added to stir fry dishes and brings a spicy, almost peppery, basil flavor. The most popular dish using this ingredient is pad gkaprow gai (or moo), a stir fried dish with chicken (or pork) with holy basil and vegetables. This is one of my absolutely favorite dishes and one I have made often! Check out the recipe here!

Honorable Mention: Rice!

Okay, okay, I know these are supposed to be the Friday FIVE, but I make the rules and today I’m adding in an honorable mention. Obviously, that mention goes to rice. As is common in Asian cultures, rice is the foundation of any meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – it doesn’t really matter. A meal is not complete without a bowl of rice.

One of the reasons for this is because rice has always been a common crop and thus it became the popular compliment to meals. When I was living in Thailand, my family made the parallel that rice is like bread/carbs to Americans. We always want a roll or bread with our meals. It’s the same way with rice for Thai people!

If you want to read about the day a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer attempted to revolt against the rice, click here. It’s pretty hilarious, but absolutely accurate!

Now, if you want to take all of these elements today and make a really fantastic dish, I recommend the Tom Ka Gai soup – a coconut based chicken soup with chilies, galangal, basil, and lemongrass. We’ll leave the rice out of this one – but if you’re feeling Thai, you can definitely have a bowl of it on the side.

Happy Eating!