6 Techniques of Authentic Thai Cooking
As with all cuisines, ingredients and cooking techniques are the core aspects which give Thai dishes that signature balance of complex flavours. Check out Asian Inspiration's guide to essential herbs and spices, and the must-have flavour-making ingredients in Thai culinary.
Thai cooking methods are actually quite simple, it’s how you use them to blend and accentuate your ingredients for the yummiest textures, aromas and tastes. Healthy cooking is also a tenet of Thai cuisine, to retain the natural tastes and goodness of your ingredients.
Want to savour your own Thai favourites at home? Here are the 6 simple techniques to master:
Stir Fry (Pad)
The fastest, easiest way to cook up a tasty Thai meal. First, make sure your ingredients are in small pieces. Meats are typically sliced or cut into bite-size chunks, while veggies are diced, leafy greens are broken up, and stems cut short. Next, heat up your frying pan or wok before adding a thin cooking oil base. Let the oil simmer, then drop in your ingredients. Typically, garlic, ginger and other condiment spices go first, followed by carbs and meats, then veggies last. Stir and toss the ingredients with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are well-cooked. Stir fry usually takes about 10-15 minutes to cook all your ingredients, so as soon as they look vibrant and tender, your dish is good to serve.
Stir-fry is great for seafood, meats, carbs and veggies. Savour the classic Pad Thai, Pad Kee Mao drunken noodles, basil fried rice, a mixed seafood curry delight, wholesome and crunchy water spinach, or this household Thai minced pork favourite.
Stewing is cooking with a soup, sauce, or broth in a consistent medium to low heat, to bring out your ingredients’ nutrition, as well as their natural juices and tastes. This technique tenderizes your meats and seafood, blending the rich Thai pastes, herbs, spices and condiments for sumptuous, flavourful results. Typically takes a least 30 minutes or longer, but the absolute satisfaction is always worth the wait.
Savour the iconic Red, Green and Yellow Thai curries, Tom Yum, as well as the slow-cooked classics Massaman curry, and Thai beef noodle soup. Also, try a warm and satisfying Thai hot pot.
Cooking with hot vapour from boiling water retains the nutrients and enriches the flavours of your dish. Steaming is also often considered the healthiest way to cook, using little to no oil. Ingredients are typically marinated and arranged in a pot or plate and placed above the boiling water. The simplest way is to use a heat-proof bowl to elevate your dish in a wok or a large pot. You don’t need a lot of water, about 2-3 cups should do. Don’t heat your dish and water at the same time. Instead, cook the water till it boils, carefully put your dish above it, and close the lid. Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10-20 minutes according to the recipe.
Thai steamed dishes are more than meats and seafood, but also desserts. Enjoy sumptuous prawn with glass noodles, a zesty steamed fish delight, the traditional Thai fish cake custard, sweet pumpkin cupcakes, or this fun and yummy pumpkin special.
Deep Fry (Tod)
Although this method is cooking with boiling oil, a proper deep-fried Thai dish actually absorbs very little oil in the process. Similar to stir-fry, high heat is the key – optimally at around 180°C. You’ll need a good amount of cooking oil to let your ingredients completely submerge in it when frying, so use a deep pan or wok. Cook the oil till it bubbles and sizzles, then use chopsticks or a strainer to drop the food in. Typically, in Thai cooking, ingredients are seasoned and coated, deep-fried to golden crispiness and immediately removed from the boiling oil; then doused with a sauce, gravy or flavoured with condiments.
Have a wondrous sweet-sour deep-fried fish, three-flavour salmon, the classic soft-shell crab Som Tum, crispy Larb chicken wings, lemongrass fried chicken, or fried tofu with special Thai chilli sauce dip.
Certainly, the oldest cooking method in the world needs no introduction – cook meat on a grill over the fire till fragrant, and be careful not to black the outsides or undercook the insides. The key difference in Thai grills are the herbs and spices that blend with your meat and seafood’s natural taste to create amazing flavour-combinations.
Savour zesty Thai green curry beef skewers, an exquisite steak indulgence, spicy barbecued pork, alluring prawn skewers, and traditional red curry grilled chicken.
Salad or Toss (Yum)
Toss up your veggies, fruits, and cooked meats and seafood for a quick hearty treat! Thai salads are defined by the combination of sour, salty and spicy flavours; with sweetness added for balance. Fish sauce, chilli, lime juice and palm sugar are the signature Thai seasoning mixes. Minced meats, rice and tropical fruits are also mainstays in Thai salads.
Get wholesome and yummy with the traditional Larb chicken lettuce wraps, Riceberry and salmon delight, sweetcorn special, spicy succulent seafood salad, sweet and refreshing watermelon wonder, tender vermicelli chicken salad, and the classic papaya Som Tum.
Want more authentic Thai flavours? Look out for the “Thai SELECT” logo on your next foodie hunt.
“Thai SELECT” is an award of approval granted to Thai restaurants overseas by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), Ministry of Commerce, Thailand to increase the recognition of quality Thai restaurants around the world. It also encourages Thai restaurateurs to raise their quality while maintaining the authenticity of the Thai food they offer.
So anywhere you travel, look for the “Thai SELECT” logo. It assures you that delicious Thai cuisine is being served in a pleasant atmosphere, and with the famous Thai smile. It’s not just a meal; it’s a journey into Thai culture. “Look for AUTHENTIC THAI CUISINE, look for Thai SELECT”.