Thai Pantry Staples

Ingredients you’ll find in every authentic Thai kitchen.

Thai Pantry Staples

At its core, Thai cooking is about fresh herbs and balanced bold flavors. To achieve the powerful flavors of Thai, salty and fermented ingredients like fish sauce and shrimp paste add deep umami. Fresh herbs like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal are used to intensify a dish’s aroma. Finally, ingredients like chilies and sour citrus elevate the flavors of dishes through a new angle.

Here are a few of our favorite Thai pantry staples:

  • Kaffir Lime Leaves: an essential aromatic used in many Thai curries and stews. This ingredient comes from the Kaffir lime trees of Southeast Asia and is citrusy with floral undertones. Kaffir lime leaves tend to be large & tough, making them a great aromatic for Thai cooking, even though it’s not typically eaten whole. Many Thai recipes will call for a few Kaffir lime leaves during the cooking process. To prepare, tear the whole leaves from its stem and gently massage to release its natural oils and citrus aroma.
  • Thai Bird’s Eye Chili: these unsuspectingly small, but incredibly spicy chilis are used all across Thai cuisine. About 8x spicier than the average jalapeño, Thai bird’s eye chilis add intense flavor and heat to Thai salads, stir-fries, and dipping sauces. This ingredient is signature to many Southeast Asian dishes, but these spicy chilis are a core ingredient in Thai dishes like Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) and Pad Kra Pao (Minced Pork with Thai Basil). To use, carefully slice a few small portions and add to your Thai dish — remember, a little goes a long way here!
  • Fermented Shrimp Paste: this reddish-brown condiment is at the center of many Thai curry pastes, noodle soups, and dipping sauces. It’s made by mixing ground-up shrimp with salt, and letting the ingredients dry and ferment in the sun. This paste transforms into a salty, funky, and deeply flavorful umami. The savory richness of fermented shrimp paste can’t be replicated, which is why it’s used sparingly in many Thai dishes. When it comes to this ingredient, start off with just a little before adjusting to your taste.

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