Basic Kitchen Essentials
What are the basic kitchen essentials to cook Thai food well?
The following is a list of the basic cooking essentials used in Thai cooking starting with the must haves:
A Quality Wok
You can’t get a thing done without a Wok. It doesn’t matter what kind, ie. Round or Flat bottom, steel alloy or non stick. A frying pan won’t cut it, they just aren’t big enough unless you always cook for one. The best advice is don’t go for the cheapest; go for the best you can afford! And bigger is better for stir frying, we always go for at least 14 inches across the top.
Pestle and Mortar
A useful tool, but a lot of the work can be done these days in a blender and particularly by using the smaller hand held varieties, the only danger of using blenders is you can go to far and turn what should be a nice textures mix into a puree.
Don’t struggle with poor quality knives, get a decent chefs knife and a cleaver (for chopping through bones) and a pairing knife, that’s all you’ll need
Corrugated PeelerCorrugated Peeler
Essential for creating pretty vegetables without going to the extremes of learning Thai vegetable carving (which takes years of practice) They come in many shapes and sizes
This is the traditional implement for cooking in a wok, it is used for stirring, turning and serving out, in the videos we use a wooden spatula mainly to keep the noise down whilst recording, off camera, a shovel is all Khwanjai uses; Her weapon of choice! Available in Asian stores
You are going to need at least two seives, one for fishing stuff out of the wok, preferably long handled and flat (often called a wire skimmer) and a larger one for leaving stuff to drain
Most of the vegetable steamers on the market today are barely large enough for Thai cooking, however with a largish one you should be able to manage. Far better would be the Thai steamers available from Asian markets they are huge with high domed tops and really quite inexpensive, generally made from cheap alloys. Bamboo steamers although authentic are difficult to keep clean
These are readily available from major outlets, cheap and reliable, a simple, “set it and forget it” method that works like magic and will give years of service. We also show you how you can achieve the same results using a vegetable steamer, ideal for smaller quantities see Perfect Jasmine Rice
For placing, removing and turning food in the wok, long handled tongs are better for safety
Cooking oil, a lot of rot is talked about cooking oils in Thai food, here in Thailand 99% of chefs use vegetable or sunflower oil as does Khwanjai, unless otherwise stated that’s what we use, that’s what you’ll need and lots of it. By all means use another oil if you prefer but, in my opinion, Thai flavours are so strong you wouldn’t notice any difference
Used in practically every Thai recipe so it’s an absolute must have, there are different makes and they vary from country to country as some places have regulations on fish imports, if that is the case in your country, it will be a weaker version of what we get here in Thailand. Fish Sauce.
Thai Seasoning Sauce
This tastes a bit like a weaker version of Worcestershire sauce, you’re probably going to have to go to an Asian store to get it although some main line supermarkets stock it now but it’s usually much cheaper to get it from an Asian store. Seasoning Sauce
Same as above, in terms of where to get it, as a substitute you can use Bovril surpriingly! Not quite as good but a passable substitute. In all three cases, don’t waste your time with the small bottles, get the big ones, you’ll use it more than you might think Oyster Sauce
We use chicken stock powder in many recipes, the traditional ingredient is MSG, but chicken stock powder is a great healthy alternative, try to get powder if you can it’s easier to stir in than the cubes, but cubes are perfectly fine if no powder is available, we give alternative measurements for both types
Grab a pack of dried chillies, they keep practically forever, they are used for so many things in Thai cooking, should be radily available from any major supermarket
Fresh Thai Chillies
Okay, you may not be able to get Thai chillies but birds eye chillies are so close it won’t matter, they’re fiery hot! Grab some red and green, most supermarkets carry these
Black Pepper Corns
Fresh Green Pepper Corns were Thailands’ most spicy ingredient until chillies were introduced by Europeans centuries ago. They grow on vines wrapped around palms and are best when picked fresh and green, they turn black as they dry and become the black pepper corns we know and love so well
There are numerous Thai curry pastes available on the market, the best place to buy is from an Asian store, look for the variety in the plastic tubs, they contain the paste in a plastic bag inside the tub, pictured right. (Mae Ploy Brand) It is not difficult to make your own, they just take time and effort
Thai (or sweet) Basil and Holy Basil are used frequently, seek out your local Asian stores to find a good supplier, be aware that they can sometimes be mislabelled so visit our Thai food Wiki to see how to tell the difference.
Galangal and Ginger, also listed in the wiki, there are old and young ones and they are used differently see this ThaiFood-TV video blog for more info
Lemongrass is used mostly in soups and is fairly easy to come by in most supermarkets, if not, the good old Asian store will come to the rescue
Coriander Root (or cilantro) roots, are used quite a lot, and in most western countries they are discarded before they ever reach the store, fear not as finely chopping the lower part of the stems in most cases is near as makes no difference
Kaffir Lime leaves, usually available frozen from Asian stores. If you can’t get hold of any you can use very finely chopped (not grated) lime peel, not quite the same but very close.