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.

 


Thai Mussels in Coconut Broth

 

Harmony is the guiding principle behind this dish. Influenced by Thai cuisine,  this mussels recipe is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something that is uniquely delicious. In  less than 30 minutes, you can have a seafood feast that is just as good, if not better, than any sophisticated  five- star restaurant.

Enjoy!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup green beans, ends trimmed, sliced thin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup red bell peppers,thinly sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled grated
1 stalk of lemongrass, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crush red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon curry powder
One 13.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 Tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 cup chicken stock
3 pounds Pei mussels, scrubbed, beard removed
Zest and Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil, potatoes, green beans, peppers, garlic, ginger,lemongrass, red pepper flakes and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender but still have a bite, about 10 more minutes. Add the mussels, lime zest and juice, and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook over high heat until all the mussels open.

Remove from heat and discard any mussels that did not open Remove and discard the lemon grass. Season with salt and pepper. Add the basil and scallions and stir to combine.Serve from Dutch oven into individual bowls, and garnish with cilantro.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

 

 


Thai-Style Pumpkin Soup

growing

This past Summer, I was stuck on cauliflower and all the wonderful edible things that could be made from it.

Well, the  vegetable obsession saga continues. This Autumn, I am obsessed with PUMPKINS.……

Through the fall and  winter months there are a good number of vegetables and fruit that guarantee a seasonal supply of nutrition. Pumpkin is a particularly good example, capable of being stored for several months. Low in cholesterol and sodium, it is also a good source of vitamins A, B6, C and E, thiamin, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

Just like with any type of food, people tend to fall into two camps when it comes to pumpkin flavored foods; they either love it or hate it. If you are in the ‘love it’ camp then read on. Because I think that you are going to love this Thai inspired recipe that is perfect for the transitional days of Autumn to Winter.

Enjoy!

Serves 6
Ingredients:
For the Soup:
4 pounds fresh pumpkin flesh, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1  yellow onion, chopped
Two 15-ounce cans organic coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the Red Curry Paste:
2 Thai red chillies
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed and chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 2 limes

1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the red curry paste, simply place all of the ingredients into a blender and process until it turns to a paste.  Remove to a non-metallic bowl, cover  with plastic wrap and set aside.

Place the chopped pumpkin flesh on a baking sheet, sprinkle on the salt and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Put in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes or so, until the flesh is soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of   olive oil in a  Dutch oven or a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until it is soft and translucent. Add the pumpkin flesh and the red curry paste. Quickly stir to combine and then add the coconut milk and the vegetable stock.Bring the contents of the pan to a gentle simmer, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and allow it to cool for a another 10 minutes.

Put the soup into a blender, doing so in several  batches and process until smooth. Return the blended soup back to the  Dutch oven or stock pot and reheat gently, simmering, and NOT boiling.

Serve the hot soup in bowls, garnished with the chopped cilantro.

Photo Credit: Eat Drink Paleo, 2013