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Thai spices and herbs

Herbs and spices are widely used in Thai cooking. They give Thai food its very distinctive character. There are about 30 main herbs and spices, which form the basis for Thai cooking. Herbs and spices can improve your health!

Kaffir Lime(Ma-Krut)
Leaves uses as garnish in certain curries, soups and salads. Peels are added to several curry pastes. Leaves and peels contain a volatile oil. The main benefit of the juice is an appetiser.

Mint (Sa ra nae)
The fresh leaves are used as a flavouring and eaten raw in some Thai dishes. The beneficial uses include carminative, mild antiseptic, local anesthetic, diaphoretic and digestant properties.

Lemon Grass (Ta-khrai)
Used as seasoning and flavouring in certain soups and curry pastes. The benefits are as a diurectic, emmenagogue, antiflatulence, antiflu and antimicrobial agents.

Galanga (Kha)
Roots are used in some curry pastes and soups. They have therapeutic uses as carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic and antimicrobial agents.


Pepper (Phrik Thai)
Used as a spice and condiment in some Thai curries. The benefits include carminative, antipyretic, diaphoretic and diuretic agents.

Garlic (Kra-tiam)
Used in many Thai dishes as a flavouring and condiment. It can help reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar level. Therapeutic uses are as an antimicrobial, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, antiflatulence and cholesterol lowering agents.

Chillies (Phrik)
Used as garnishing and flavouring in many Thai dishes. All chili contain capsaicin, a biologically active ingredient beneficial to the respiratory system, blood pressure and heart. Other therapeutic uses include being a stomachic, carminative and ant flatulence agent, and digest ant.

Ginger (Khing)
Used in different ways in Thai dish as food, flavouring and spice. It can help reduce your blood pressure. Its therapeutic is claimed to be as a carminative, antinauseant and antiflatulence agent.

Coconut Milk(Ka Thi)
Extracted from shredded coconut meat, coconut milk is used instead of cooking oil to stir-fry and to dilute curry paste. It is the main ingredient of a Thai curry, harmonising with the spicy taste and adding a creaminess. A source of natural energy for our bodies.

White Green (Phak Gad Khao)
Sometimes called celery cabbage, white greens have a distinctive white stalk which when cooked with soy source is a popular side dish. It contains many important elements such as carbohydrates, protein, sodium and vitamins.

Eggplant (Ma Khua)
Eggplants varies in shape from the large purple-skinned typed to small, rounded white fruits. They contain small amounts of most vitamins and minerals, and are very low in calories. The white varieties are sometimes used to treat diabetes. They are used in many Thai curry dishes.

Bay Leaf: Thai name is Bai Ka Wan
Bay leaves are the dried whole leaves of the bay laurel tree, used to add a pungent, spicy flavor to savory dishes. Discard the leaves before serving. Store bay leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within 1 year.Although the Thai bay leaf is not the same as the Western bay, both plants belong to the family Lauraceae and have a similar flavour. Thai bay leaves are used in Mussaman curry and soups.

Cardamom: Thai name is Look Kra Wan
Cardamom is the ground seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family known as Elettaria cardamomum. The seeds are found in ovalshaped fruit pods that are between 1/4 and 1inch long. An aromatic spice of Indian origin, available as whole seeds, whole pods, or ground. It has a trong, fresh flavor and is an important ingredient of Musaman curry, a Thai dish with a Persian influence.

Chinese Anis: Thai name is Poy Kak
The tan-colored pods with eight points, like stars, come from trees in the Magnolia family. Used in Thailand primarily in dishes of Chinese origin, star anise is unrelated to anise, but imparts a similar licorice flavor to dishes. Commonly found in Five-Spice Powder, it is more often added whole to curries and soups.

Cinnamon: Thai name is Ob Choei
Cinnamon is the dried bark of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun family. One of the more common trees from which Cinnamon is derived is the cassia. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most common baking spice. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Form the bark of a tree, the type of cinnamon used in Thailand is of only one kind, that from the Cassia tree. Cinnamon has a sweet, woody fragrance in both ground and stick forms. It is used in meat dishes and particularly in massaman curry a garnish.

Citron: Thai name is Som Sa
Citron (Citrus medica var limetta) is a round dark green fruit. Its thick, very aromatic skin is much used for flavoring. Sour orange juice and orange peel would make the best substitute.

Coriander seed: Thai name is Med Pak Chee
Coriander is the seed of Coriandrum sativum, a plant in the parsley family. The seed is globular and almost round, brown to yellow red, and 1/5 inch in diameter with alternating straight and wavy ridges. Coriander seed, with its clean, lemony flavour, is the major component of almost every 'curry powder' or spice mixture used in Thailand, as well as other curries. The flavour of freshly ground coriander is a world apart from that of ground coriander which has lost its fragrance.

Coriander/ Cilantro/ Mexican Parsley : Thai name is Phak Chee
Cilantro is the leaf of the young coriander plant, Coriandrum sativum, an herb in the parsley family, similar to anise. Coriander is the most common herb used in Thai cooking. The whole plant is used--the root, stem and leaves. The leaves are often chosen for decoration. The seeds are roasted and then ground in a spice mill and used in curry pastes. The leaves are used for their fresh, peppery flavor, and as a garnish. For storage, wash and dry the fresh herbs before placing them in plastic bags in the refrigerator-they will keep for 5-6 days. Dried coriander is not a suitable substitute.

Cumin: Thai name is Yi Ra
Cumin (pronounced "comein") is the pale green seed of Cuminum cyminum, a small herb in the parsley family. Cumin seeds look like caraway and fennel, but taste quite different and have to be heated to release their aroma. The cumin seed is roasted and then ground in a spice mill before using in curry pastes. Each seed contains a 2-4% volatile oil with a pungent odor, and which is used as a flavoring and condiment. Cumin's therapeutic properties manifest as a stomachic, bitter tonic, carminative, stimulant and astringent.

Hoary Basil: Thai name is Bai Maeng Lak
Hoary Basil is an annual herbaceous plant with slightly hairy and pale green leaves. It can be eaten either raw or cooked, and used as a flavoring. It is sometimes called lemon-scented basil but definitely has a peppery taste when chewed. Maeng-lak contains approximately 0.7% volatile oil. Therapeutic benefits include the alleviation of cough symptoms, and as diaphoretic and carminative agents.

Holy Basil: Thai name is Bai Ka Phra
This variety tastes rather like cloves, and is just as pungent, which explains its alternative name; hot basil. The leaves release their full flavour only when cooked. Use holy basil as fresh as possible, in fish dishes, and beef and chicken curries. In Thailand it is also sometimes sauteed with frogs' legs.


Sweet Basil: Thai name is Ho Ra Pha
Horapha is an annual herbaceous plant. Fresh leaves are narrower and often tinged with reddish purple. In Thailand fresh Horapha leaves are either eaten raw or used as a flavoring, and used in most of Thai curries. It releases its aroma and flavor only when cooked and is used with fish, beef, chicken and pork. Volatile oil content varies according to different varieties. Therapeutic properties are as carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, digestant and stomachic agents.

Lime: Thai name is Ma Nao
The whole fruit is used. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and is used to enhance the flavor of chili-hot condiments, as well as create some very special salads and desserts, and adorn most dishes as a condiment. Lime is used principally as a garnish for fish and meat dishes. The fruit contains Hesperidin and Naringin , scientifically proven antiinflammatory flavonoids. Lime juice is used as an appetizer, and has antitussive, antiflu stomachic and antiscorbutic propertie

Nutmeg: Thai name is Look Chan
The nut is enclosed in a very hard brown shell. It is used in the making of massaman curry paste.

Onions: Thai name is Hom Yai or Hua Ho
Onions are not so popular as shallots in Thai cooking and those that are on sale tend to be fairly small. Yellow in colour, they are quite pungent, with a sweet, peppery flavour. Many Thai dishes are garnished with crisp-fried onion flakes. You can buy these ready-fried onions in tubs from Thai grocery stores.

Turmeric: Thai name is Kha Min
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. These small, bright orange roots are used for the coloring in yellow curries. White turmeric, a different type, is used as a raw vegetable. It taste only slightly peppery and has a pleasant tang. Always choose young fresh, firm, unwrinkled rhizomes and store them in a plastic bag so they don't dry out. It is also available in powdered form. The rhizomes contain a 3-4% volatile oil with unique aromatic characteristics. Turmeric's therapeutic properties manifest as a carminative, antiflatulence and stomachic.

Tamarind: Thai name is Mam Kham Peak
Tamarind is the fruit of a tall shad tree native to Asia and northern Africa and widely grown in India. The large pods contain small seeds and a sour-sweet pulp, that when dried, becomes extremey sour. Tamarind pulp concentrate is popular as a flavoring agent in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, much like lemon juice is in Western culture. It seasons full-flavored foods such as chutneys, curry dishes, and pickled fish. It is an important ingredient in Thai cooking, and is available as a bottled puree, crystals or a pulpy solid that has to be soaked, kneaded and seeded.

Shallot: Thai name is Hom Daen
Shallots, or small red onions, are annual herbaceous plants. Underground bulbs comprise garlic-like cloves. These small, zesty, Thai red onions are sweet and aromatic. An essential ingredient in many Thai dishes because of their taste and appearance, they can be substituted with European shallots, small red onions or small brown onions. Shallot bulbs contain a volatile oil, and are used as flavoring or seasoning agents. Therapeutic properties include the alleviation of discomfort stomach, and as an antihelmintic, antidiarrhoeal, expectorant, antitussive, diuretic and antiflu agents.

Sesame Seed: Thai name is Nga
Sesame Seed is the seed of an annual herb, Sesamum indicum, which grows well in hot climates. Sesame Seed is the most commonly produced seed. The yellowish, red, or black seeds are used in bread products, stir-fries, Jewish and Chinese confectionaries, and Middle Eastern dishes. In Thai cooking, sesame seeds are used for oil and for flavouring. These tiny seeds are rich in protein.

Saw Leaf Herb: Thai name is Pak Chee Fa Rang
Also known as the sawtooth herb, this takes its name from the appearance of the leaves, which are long, slender and serrated. The herb has a similar but rather more pungent flavour than the coriander leaf. Saw leaf herb is used as a flavouring for meat dishes.

Pandan Leaf: Thai name is Bai Toey Hom
Long narrow green leaves of a herbaceous plant used for flavoring and color. There is no substitute of the flavoring and color. There is no substitute for the flavor but green coloring may be used as a substitute for the color. Medicinal Uses:Maintains the heart and liver in good condition, relieves fever and soothes sore throat.

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