“I LOVE Thai! You can cook it?” our new friends will always say to Dom (my Thai husband) and I.
“We both love to cook. We can even go to your place and show you how to cook Thai if you want!” we always respond.
“YES! How about this Saturday?”
Thai food is easier than I dreamed it would be to make. But most people look at Thai cooking like I used to—that it must be so hard to make at home with all the different ingredients and cooking styles that we aren’t used to.
But it’s not hard! And cooking Thai at home is way cheaper than over-priced Thai restaurants—plus, you can say you made it yourself.
For those who like rules and tips, before you get started on cooking, here are two Thai cooking tips:
1. Have the essential flavors on hand at all times.
What made me first fall in love with Thai is how it makes your tongue go crazy with delight with sometimes five different flavors all at once: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter. Not all Thai dishes have all five flavors, but they all have some combination. Make sure you have these ingredients on hand whenever cooking Thai:
- Fish sauce–I hate fishy tastes. So when I was introduced to fish sauce the smell made me want to run away. Even though it is created from fermented fish, I-a-fishy-taste-hater can never taste the fishiness if it is used properly in Thai food. Think of fish sauce as Thai’s version of salt, and that might make you feel better if fermented fish freaks you out.
- Sugar or palm sugar–It disturbed me out when I first realized the glass containers of white grains on every Thai table wasn’t full of salt, but sugar. We never put sugar in our food in America, but in Thailand, no dish is complete without it.
- Lime or tamarind—Thailand doesn’t have lemons, but Thais call limes lemons, which was confusing. They are often found sitting on your plate after your food masterpiece has been completed and are squeezed all over your dish to add that sour vibe. Tamarind is a fruit whose pulp adds that lovely sour tingle to dishes like pad thai.
- Chili flakes or Thai chiles—When most think of Thai, they immediately think of spicy. Their responses vary from, “I LOVE spicy!” to “I can’t eat Thai. It’s too spicy.” But YOU decide as a Thai cook how spicy you want it by how much chile you put in. Thai food doesn’t have to be too spicy, and it can still be delicious. My husband’s stomach has been killed from years of Thai spice and now he can’t handle the heat. But he still loves to eat mellowed-out Thai.
- Bitter melon—This is the one ingredient I still have trouble with, bitter melon. Dom makes fun of me because I say I love Thai, but don’t like this funky vegetable. It tastes just like it says and is found in soups that I’m not a fan of, but Dom loves and you might love it too.
2. Mai pen rai!
Mai pen rai is Thai for no big deal, chill out, no worries!
You don’t have to worry when you are making Thai food about messing it up.If you mix the flavors above, and come up with a disaster, or a work of art, either way you have learned something, and you made Thai food!