Yummy memories of the Land of Smiles

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Real Life Phuket

Shall a list of Gastronomic Wonders of World be compiled; Thailand could claim at least half of the positions in the ranking. It can be safely stated that even a single visit to the Land of Smiles is enough to fall head over heels in love with Thai food. And those spending in the Kingdom several month a year admit that life without tom yum and som tum is quite literally bland.

Photo: Jose Nicdao

When one’s Thai vacation comes to an end many consider taking some Thai tastes and smells back home, but only a few really do. Some drop the idea because of poor cooking skill (as perceived by themselves). Other mention that specific Thai ingredients are hard to reach in their home countries or simply blame lack of space in their travelling bags.

RL magazine learned by personal experience that “smuggling” the taste of Thai out of the country is easier than people think.

What is on the list?

Fresh seafood, fish, fruits and vegetables are among the main treasures of Thai cuisine, but neither of these ingredients can be easily delivered abroad. Thai spices and seasoning however can come very well through the ills of a long journey. Moreover if frozen (or refrigerated) immediately upon arrival, they can stay fresh for weeks and even months letting one enjoy an authentic Thai meal on their own kitchen in Paris, London or New York.

The usual set of spices shall include a “bouquet” of tom yum herbs (lemongrass, galangal, kafir lime leaves etc.), a handful of dried and fresh chilies, coconut milk powder, one’s favorite curry pastes (gaeng kiew, gaeng massaman etc), nam prik pao chili paste, fish and oyster sauces, tamarind paste and probably palm sugar. The listed ingredients will not take much space or add extra weight to one’s bag while let the traveler enjoy a hot and savory tom yum without going back to Thailand.

Packed into a nice hand made traditional basket, a set of Thai spices turns into a unique souvenir or a nice present that will be definitely appreciate by anyone who has visited Thailand before (just bear mind that in order to cook a Thai dish one shall have at list a one time experience of eating it).

Photo: Alpha

How to cook?

Having the basic set of Thai spices in the fridge one can easily add some oriental kick to his or her dinner. Surprising but true: the most popular Thai dishes do not include any hard-to-reach exotic ingredients (or these can be replaced with their Western counterparts). These are the spices that make Thai cuisine so peculiar.

Cooking tom yam kung or tom het (mushroom soup) doesn’t take neither much effort nor any exotic ingredients. Arguably you can turn any European style broth into a bursting Thai soup by simply adding kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal.

Same refers to Thai salads such as yam nuea (beef steak salad) or Isaan-style laar (minced pork salad). Just open YouTube, find a video with cooking directions and try to follow the steps.

A small tip for those having zero cooking experience: chicken soup with Thai herbs is the perfect introduction to Thai cuisine especially when served during a Thai style barbeque with your choice of meat marinated in Thai spices.

Where to buy?

It goes without saying, that real Thai food connoisseurs buy spices and herbs at a market, but for a novice bargaining in Thai language can be really tricky. That’s exactly the time for shopping destination like Villa Market and Tops to showcase their foreigner-friendly service. Home made curry pastes predictably beat their counterparts from the supermarkets in terms of flavor, but the latter are less vulnerable to storage conditions and thus can stand a long journey to one’s home country while still quite tasty. Try Lobo brand to enjoy the most tourist-friendly approach (nice design, clear instructions on the back of the packaging and all necessary ingredients inside – just add some meat and veggies).

Last but my no means least are all-in-one sets from leading Thai cooking schools offering Royal Thai cuisine in a turn-key format. In Phuket Blue Elephant Restaurand and Cooking School definitely tops the list of suppliers with their pastes and set being a perfect souvenir or gift on any occasion. The sets look just as amazing as the dishes taste.

Pjoto: IK T

Absolutely zero experience in Thai cooking and no idea on where to start? Giving some Thai kick to ordinary Westerns food can be a good way out.

Tom Het Soup
Nothing is easier than a simple, yet bursting with flavor Thai mushroom soup. Make a bowl of chicken broth with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, add some mushrooms and serve with lime juice and spicy Thai chili to taste. Hot, savory and absolutely authentic.

Yam Nuea Salad

Thai salads are all about proper dressings which are actually not that difficult to make. Just mix a table spoon of fish sauce with lime juice (one lime is enough), add crushed chilies, garlic, coriander and palm sugar to taste… Spicy and sour Thai dressing is ready! Pour it into a bowl with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet onions and sliced beef steak to get yam nuea salad. Decorate with mint leaves and serve immediately.

Gai Yang Grilled Chicken

Planning a barbeque? Surprise your friends with a Thai style chicken and earn some respect as a master chef! Thai marinade for meat includes lemongrass, garlic, black pepper, coriander seeds and salt (all rushed in a mortar and missed with soy sauce and lime juice). Leave your chicken in this marinade overnight to give it oriental flavor and charcoal grill next day. Thais use bamboo sticks to turn the chicken from side to side on the grill, but you can use your own tools.