Inside the Thai Pantry

This is a first in a series of posts to help with adding a bit of variety to your pantry staples. Happy Eating!

The Global Pantry Series: Inside the Thai Pantry

The Table Home Chef Blog

For our money, no cuisine out there manages to hit on all the flavors – sweet, salty, sour, umami, (and yes, sometimes spicy!) like Thai food. From universally loved noodle dishes like Pad Thai, to more adventurous ones like deep fried whole fish with chili sauce or fiery minced meat dips, there’s a kaleidoscope of flavors to explore beyond what’s offered at the average takeout spot. Cooking Thai food at home can seem intimidating to many cooks, but you’d be surprised how many dishes are built on the same foundational ingredients and simple techniques. Shopping ahead of time for some key pantry items will ensure you can create those intense flavors you expect from a restaurant at home, and the rest is simple – just add vegetables, rice or rice noodles, and the protein of your choice to your weekly shopping list and you can be cooking authentic-tasting Thai food in no time.

(image via indie culinary)

Curry Paste

Thai curries can be laborious to make from scratch, as they often contain garlic, chilies, galangal, lemongrass, and dried shrimp. Luckily, some great-quality pre-made curry pastes can be purchased in your local Asian market or online, like these ones from Mae Ploy. They come in a rainbow of curries, like red, yellow, green, and panang. If you’re looking for a seafood-free version, these vegan pastes by Maesri are your best bet. A little goes a long way, and they keep well, so we recommend buying them all and finding your favorite!

(image via street smart kitchen)

Sauces

Thai cooks rely on an arsenal of sauces for the umami flavors they add to stir-fries and noodle dishes. We couldn’t choose just one sauce to recommend, so we’re suggesting two: oyster sauce, and fish sauce. These sauces are versatile and widely available, but don’t judge them by their smell straight from the bottle! They’re both used in small amounts, and don’t taste overtly fishy in the finished dish – especially if you buy from brands with high quality standards, like Red Boat and Lee Kum Kee. If you’ve just been cooking with soy sauce up until now and feel like your stir-fries or curries are missing depth of flavor, these are the two sauces that you need in your kitchen. Interested in diving in deeper? Street Smart Kitchen has a great guide to Asian sauces.

(image via inquiring chef)

Tamarind Paste

Lime juice is liberally used in many Thai dishes, but it’s not the only sour component you’ll find in the Thai pantry. Tamarind, the pulp of a tropical tree pod is both fruity and really tangy – and it’s used in savory dishes, desserts, and even drinks! You may have seen the large brown pods for sale in Mexican or Asian grocery stores, but if not, you can buy a shelf stable concentrate with no compromise in flavor. We like this one from our friends at The Spice House. but if you’re feeling intrepid, you can make your own using this guide from Inquiring Chef.

(image via inquiring chef)

Bird’s Eye Chilies

If you’ve ever ordered Thai takeout, you’re familiar with the follow up question “how spicy?” Contrary to popular belief here in the states, some Thai dishes are meant to be enjoyed spicy while others are completely mild, and you’d never order using the star rating for spice at a restaurant in Thailand. Whether you’re spice fanatical or fearful, one of the best parts about cooking Thai at home is that you can control the heat. Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies are easy to find dry or in paste form, and as a pepper that rates 50,000 – 100,000 on the Scoville scale, a little goes a long way. Serve Nam Prik Pao table-side so everyone can add as much (or as little) as they like, or if not, there’s always Sriracha.

(image via the kitchn)

Coconut Milk

There’s nothing like fresh milk straight from the coconut, but we know that’s not realistic for most of us living outside of the tropics! Great coconut milk is essential for making Thai curries, and luckily, it’s now widely available at most stores. However, there’s a lot of varieties and formats out there, and it can get confusing fast. We’ll make it easy: look for full fat, unsweetened coconut milk, in a box (or tetra pak) if you can find it. We love the Aroy-D brand, straight from Thailand.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Lastly, there’s lime leaves. Like we’ve mentioned previously, lime juice is often  added as a final squeeze of freshness in many dishes, but Thai cooks don’t just stop at the fruit! The leaves are incredibly fragrant, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a comforting bowl of Tom Kha Gai soup, you know how distinctive the flavor they add is. As with Kaffir limes, their leaves are not easy to find fresh – look for them frozen, and next time your curry needs a dose of fresh, zesty aroma, snip in a leaf, thinly sliced.

 


Hello, June 2020

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First of all,

WELCOME to all the followers that have newly joined in following my blog. I am truly grateful  to know that no matter where you all are in the world, we all share a  common interest in the glorious comfort that food gives us to each and every one us, no matter how great or how small……

And with that being said,

The year on the calendar has changed and so has the world. It has been 82 days for me since the lockdown began with the emergence of COVID19 in the United States.

Last June, in 2019, the year was in full swing filled with Graduations,  Father’s Day,  Bridal Registries, Trunk Shows, Summer Shopping, and Wedding Season. School was out for the Summer and most kids were headed off to day camp at the YMCA, Vacation Bible School or going to summer camps and buzzing with excitement. Vacations were just beginning. But COVID19 has presented the world with a new normal, where masks, sanitizers and social distancing is the reality of the uncertainty that is to come.

By now, some of the cities around the United States and around the world are entering Stage 2 of re-opening some businesses, with restrictions. And the world is not completely out of the woods.

Now is the time to contemplate as to whether I am going to plan t a garden this year. But in the meantime, I present some of the   fruits and vegetables that are in season in June 2020. Somethings on the list  maybe in limited supply, due to disruptions in the distribution systems and the high demand of online deliveries. But nevertheless, June is the month  to celebrate the small victories and comforts of seasonal eating doing the very we best we can under the circumstances, with  watermelon, which is the quintessential summer fruit – but keep in mind it is actually available all year. This sweet and crisp fruit is refreshing, hydrating, filling and great for recovery after exercise. It’s peak season is May to October. Throughout the Southern United States, the local season is between late-July and September.

According to watermelon.org, the first cookbook published in the United States in 1796, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, contains a recipe for watermelon rind pickles. A delicious way to reduce waste, in the sustainable Quarantine Kitchen this summer.

In addition to watermelon, here is a list of fruits and vegetables to enjoy during the month of June.

In the meantime, stay safe and be well!

 

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables for June

Apricots
Arugula
Asparagus
Beets
Black cherries
Blueberries
Broad beans
Cabbage
Carrots
Celery
Chard
Cherries
Chicory
Cilantro
Corn
Courgettes
Courgette flowers
Cucumbers
Currants
Dandelion greens
Early potatoes
Garlic
Green beans
Gooseberries
Kale
Kiwi
Lettuce
Loquats
Melons
Mulberries
Nectarines
Onions
Peaches
Peas
Plums
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Strawberries
Sweet bell peppers
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow squash

 


How Long Your Fresh Produce Will Really Last?

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Are you wondering how long your fruits and vegetables will last, and how to tell when produce has gone bad? This handy little guide for the quarantine kitchen  is here to help.

We -are all in the midst of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. And I am sure that you all have just done a limited run to your local grocery stores  with  few bags fo fresh produce, but do you know how to extend the life of your fruits and vegetables at home?

To keep your bounty fresh with this handy food storage guide.

Now, keep in mind that this guide is that  outlines the shelf life of common fruits and vegetables so you can smartly plan meals to eat your most fragile foods first.

And yes, we have all encountered that fuzzy science experiment in the back of the fridge. So no  more finding slimy lettuce in the crisper drawer at the end of the week!

In the Chart below, tips  on how to store and help preserve your food longer and in its best condition are listed.  The Chart also shares signs that your food is at peak ripeness so you can enjoy that fleeting crispy cauliflower at its glory.

HOW TO STORE AND PRESERVE FRESH PRODUCE

Produce How Long It Lasts Tips for Fresh Produce
Apples 4-8 weeks in the fridge It’s OK if your apple has a few brown spots. Those can be cut away. But if it looks wrinkled or feels mushy, it’s time to toss.
Avocado 4-7 days at room temperature Peel off the stem. If the skin underneath is green, the avocado is ripe. It’ll also give in to light pressure when squeezed.
Bananas 2-5 days at room temperature Bananas are best when they’re yellow and have just started to develop brown spots. A ripe banana will be easy to peel.
Blueberries 1-2 weeks in the fridge Most blueberries you get at the store will be ready to gobble down. They’ll have a blue-gray color. If they start to feel moist or look moldy, it’s time to toss.
Broccoli 7-14 days in the fridge Your broccoli should have a rich, green color. It’s best to eat when the stems feel firm, not limp.
Carrots 3-4 weeks in the fridge Carrots are past their prime when they feel limp or have developed a white, grainy look. If you bought carrots with their greens on, it’s best to cut the greens off and store separately.
Cucumbers 1 week in the fridge Your cucumber should have a bright and even green color throughout. Discard if it has any sunken areas, is yellow or has wrinkly skin.
Garlic 3-6 months at room temperature Garlic in its prime will feel firm and have an off-white color. If it’s grown any sprouts, peel them away before cooking. Pass up garlic that has turned tan or looks wrinkly.
Iceberg and romaine lettuce 7-10 days in the fridge If your greens look discolored, feel soggy or have a rotten smell, it’s time to discard.
Lemons 3-4 weeks in the fridge Healthy lemons will be bright yellow and slightly firm to the touch. It’s overripe if it has soft spots, dark blotches or is oozing juice.
Onions 2-3 months at room temperature A good onion will look clean and feel firm. Moisture and soft spots can be a sign it’s gone bad.
Oranges 3-4 weeks in the fridge Juicy oranges will look bright and feel slightly firm to the touch. Check to see that there are no soft spots.
Peaches 1-3 days at room temperature Ripe peaches will have a deep golden color. They’ll also wrinkle slightly around the stem and give in a bit when gently squeezed.
Potatoes 3-5 weeks in the pantry A good potato will feel firm and smell like earth. It’s OK if it has small sprouts, but if the sprouts are longer than a few centimeters, your potato may have gone bad.
Strawberries 3-7 days in the fridge Fragrant and bright strawberries are the best to eat. Discard if there is any sign of mold.
String beans 3-5 days in the fridge The beans should be slender and firm without any visible seeds. You’ll know they’ve gone bad if they’ve turned limp or moist.
Tomatoes 1 week at room temperature Ready-to-eat tomatoes will feel firm when slightly squeezed and seem slightly heavy compared with their size.
Watermelon 7 to 10 days at room temperature Tap on the side. If the melon sounds hollow, it’s good to eat. Also, it should feel firm when pressed but not hard as a rock.
Whole mushrooms 7-10 days in the fridge If the mushroom feels sticky or slimy, it’s bad. Whole mushrooms will keep longer than sliced mushrooms.
Zucchini 4-5 days in the fridge Your summer squash should be firm yet slightly flexible and have glossy skin. If the zucchini looks gray, it may be overly ripe.

Download the Printable Chart

No matter what-or when-you decide to cook, it’s best to err on the conservative side when judging whether food is safe. Trust your instincts. If something looks or smells off, your best bet is to toss it.

Want more? Read up on: 12 secret tricks to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

Be Well and Stay Safe Out There!