The Fresh Herbs and Spices in Thai Food

The Fresh Herbs and Spices in Thai Food
The Fresh Herbs and Spices in Thai Food

You may know many Thai dishes but you may not know about Thai herbs that lend their distinctive flavours and aromas and really characterise Thai cuisine.

1. Bai makrut / Kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves are widely used in spicy Thai soups and curries, either cooked whole, together with the dish, and/or finely shredded and added before serving.

2. Bai toei / Pandan or screwpine leaves
This sweet smelling leaf is used for flavouring different sweet snacks/ desserts. It is also used in the well known dish Kai ho bai toei, deep fried chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, as well as to stuff the belly of barbecued fish.

3. Gui chai / Allium tuberosum Chinese chives
Closer in flavour to garlic than onions. Used to season cooking and is used in stir fries such as pad Thai and comes in green and yellow varieties.

4. Horapha / Thai sweet basil
A variety of the sweet basil with a taste of anise. It is used in different curries such as red and green curry and often also served separately.

5. Kha / Galangal
The perfume-like scent and flavour of the galangal root is characteristic for many Thai curries and spicy soups.

6. Kracha / Holy basi
Holy basil has a distinctive scent of clove and reddish tipped leaves. It is used, for instance, in the well-known Kraphao mu (minced pork fried with basil).

7. Maenglak / Lemon basil
The leaves are used in certain curries. It is also indispensable with Khanom chin nam ya. The seeds resemble frog’s eggs when soaked in water and are used in sweet desserts.

8. Phak chi / Coriander/cilantro leaves
The leaves are seen often as a garnish with many Thai dishes. It is indispensable for Tom yam soup.

9. Phak chi farang / Culantro
A herb often seen in spicy soups and Northern curries. It literally means “European coriander”, perhaps because it was brought from the Caribbean to Thailand by Europeans.

10. Phrik khi nu / Bird’s eye chilli
This small chilli is one of the spiciest and used extensively in Thai cooking. The Thai name literally translates to “mousedropping chilli”