Monday, January 24, 2011

Thai Spices and Herbs

Coriander. This member of the carrot family has delicate leaves and deep roots. Wen the plant reach maturity, it produces abundant white flowers. The leaves and seeds are used in many cuisine throughout the world, but Thai cooking makes use of the roots as well.

A member of the ginger family, turmeric is an underground stem or rhizome. It grows in clusters of small stubby fingers with a dull, brown skin hiding its gorgeous fluorescent orange meat. It has a faint, earthy taste, but color is the point here. Since color is what matters in cooking with this herb, ground dried turmeric works fine.

Also called galangal or 'Kha' in Thai. This is the type of ginger Thai cook’s use most. The flavor is both more lemony and more peppery than that of common ginger, and it has a richer aroma. The skin is pale yellow, with pink-tinged knobs; the interior is cream-color. Kha is never eaten alone; it is used as a flavoring component. We float large slices into soups or chop and pound pieces into curry pastes.

Medicinally, galangal is classed as a digestive stimulant and Thais mix the grated root with limejuice to treat stomachache. Thais also believe that galangal can help respiratory ailments.

Kaffir lime leaves. In Thai called 'Bai magroot'. Use them whole in soups such as Tom Yum, Tom Kha; and curries, as an aromatic ingredient not meant to be eaten. Or slice them into very fine, edible sliver. Either way, they add a wonderful flower-like fragrance and taste.

Also called 'Takrai' in Thai. It is one of the most-used herbs in Thai cuisine. Lemon grass adds a lemony flavor and aroma without acidity or sharpness. The usable inner core is about the thickness of a finger. When finely sliced, it can be eaten; larger pieces are used just for flavor and aroma. Lemon grass is also pounded into curry pastes and used, in dried form, for beverages. In tradition Thai medicine, lemon grass has long been used to treat colds and stomachaches. Also, it can be used to treat gallstones by drinking the water in this herb has been boiled.

Also called 'Phrik khee nu' in Thai. This little chili is among the world's hottest varieties. They're about 1 inch long, usually green, and sometimes red. Thai Hot Chilies are thin-sliced or pounded,and use them freely in curries, soups, salad and even in fish sauce as a table condiment.

Hindus believe that basil is sacred and they like to plant it in religious sanctuaries. With a slightly hot flavor, though not so hot as pepper, holy basil leaves are used in many Thai dishes, including stir-fried meat dishes and curries. Basil is also used for medical purposes, to treat indigestion and to stimulate the appetite

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