Basic Ingredients in Thai Cuisine

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Thai cuisine is loved all over the world for its balanced sweetness, sourness, and spiciness. The smorgasbord of flavors makes every Thai cuisine complex, light, and healthy too! In today’s post, we are listing down essential ingredients in Thai dishes.

Curry Paste

Thais love their curry hot and rich! It is no surprise that curry paste is one of the most indispensable parts of Thai cooking. Curry paste is made from a concentrated blend of spices, chilies, and aromatic herbs. It is mixed with coconut milk to make a base for the curry dish. Curry paste comes in different types and the colors including red, green, yellow, and Panang. The color of the paste will depend on the ingredient added to the curry.


Lemongrass is an aromatic herb used in Asian cuisine. In Thai cuisine, this herb is used in savory dishes to impart a lemony, citrusy scent and flavor. Tom Yum, which is a popular Thai soup, is flavored with lemongrass. The herb brings out the sourness of the soup and adds a zesty aroma!

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is the heart and soul of Thai cuisine. Used as a flavoring, fish sauce is an amber-colored liquid made from fermented fish. Apart from being used as a flavoring for the base dish, fish sauce is also used as a dipping sauce. The sauce imparts a rich, savory, umami taste that common flavorings (salt, pepper, herbs or spice) cannot replicate. Fish sauce is not just popular in Thai cooking; it is also widely used in Southeast Asian countries.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce is a dark brown sauce made from oyster essence. This sauce is commonly used in Asian cooking particularly in Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Filipino cuisine. The oyster sauce adds depth to the dish, imparting a rich flavor that complements other fresh ingredients. This sauce is perfect in stir fry’s, barbecue, and marinades.

Bird’s Eye Chili

Thai cuisine is renowned for its eye-watering heat. And Thais love bird’s eye chili! Bird’s eye chili is an incredibly spicy chili with a sharp flavor. Common in Southeast Asian, this chili is one of the smallest in the species Capsicum annuum but is one of the spiciest!

On the Scoville scale, bird’s eye chili has a spiciness of 100,000–225,000 SHU. Bird’s eye chili is beloved by the Thais for its fruity spiciness. It is used in cooking and in dipping sauces.

Thai Basil

That basil – also known as holy or sweet basil – is a fragrant herb native to Southeast Asia. This herb is prized for its licorice-like flavor. Thai basil has a slightly spicy, peppery flavor. This herb is typically added to curries, seafood, and chicken dishes. It is also used to flavor stir fry’s and soups.

Coconut Milk

What’s an authentic Thai curry without coconut milk? Coconut milk is the extract of grated coconut meat. The liquid is white in color and imparts a rich, creamy taste to various dishes. The liquid has a high oil content made from saturated fat. Apart from curries, coconut milk is also added to soups, savory dishes, and even desserts.


Used as a souring agent, tamarind adds an acidic kick to popular Thai dishes including Tom Yum, Kung Yai Pad Som Makahm Bpiak (spicy tamarind shrimp) or chicken stir-fry! This extremely sour fruit is also used to add flavors to soups, sauces, jams, and marinades.

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