Thai Cooking…Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Salty and Bitter…

 

I think Thai food incorporates some of the best flavours in the world…Not laden with thick mayonnaise and cream which mask the taste of the other ingredients but lovely fresh food flavoured with herbs and spices which showcase the true essence of Thai food how the herbs and spices combine and as we all know who has cooked and eaten Thai food that the secret of a great dish is getting that right balance.

Thai cuisine is a marriage of old eastern and western influences combined in something which is uniquely Thai… a dish can be fiery and chilli hot or by comparison quite bland but there is always that balance that harmony which comes together to say this is Thai food at its best…

It is why I always say TASTE and TASTE again start with a little and add an ingredient(s) little by little… everyone has a preference to certain flavours …As you know I love chilli and fish sauce so maybe I use a little more than some who may prefer more lime for example …It is all about the TASTE…and Balance.

Sweet…

There are different types of sugar produced in Thailand from white and brown sugar, palm and coconut sugars.

Palm sugar comes from sugar palm tree or Palmyra while coconut sugar comes from the coconut palm.

Both sugars are produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds. Palm sugar usually has a darker colour, a more fragrant smoky aroma and a more complex flavour than coconut sugar.

Palm and coconut sugars are usually used in curry dishes but considerably more in Thai desserts.

I use palm sugar mostly as it has a milder sweetness and goes well with foods which contain coconut milk…Coconut sugar has a more intense caramel-like flavour which I use when baking banana bread.

Dark, black soy although strong in taste and salty there is an element of a sweet molasses flavour… Used sparingly it enhances the taste of stir-fries.

Thai Basil has a sweet but strong aniseed flavour which I love and as I really love fresh herbs if a recipe says 2 sprigs I would use 4…I love Thai herbs…

Sour…

The sour flavour is predominant in Thai salads, soups, dips, and some drinks, usually, it comes from the tamarind which I love … lime juice,  fragrant Kaffir lime leaves, Lemongrass and white vinegar.

fresh cut limes-1239267_1280

Tamarind that brown fruit imparts such a lovely sour/sweet flavour I just love the tamarind eaten raw or soaked and the juice used in a recipe ..just love it!

Spicy…

Flavour usually comes from fresh and dried Thai chillies, black and white peppers, garlic, and ginger. This taste of Thai food, spicy, is seldom missed in Thai cooking. Level relatively differs from personal preference.

Thai chillies or birdseye as they are often called are used in many Thai dishes like Thai curries, in salads…green or red or just eaten raw…Yes, raw I don’t go that far unless it is in my salad but many Thais just eat the whole raw chilli quite often the men here in my house have a competition on who can eat the hottest raw chilli….I do not participate I love chilli in my food but why would I just want to chomp on a chilli ????

Chilli plant- hot- spicy- Thai chillies

White peppercorns are used here for heat quite extensively more so than black peppercorns which are mostly used in western dishes.

Garlic is also used frequently and added to the oil first before stir-frying quite often the garlic and the chillies are added first.

Fresh coriander has a very strong smell and taste and the leaves and the roots are used in many dishes or as a garnish.

Bitter…

The bitter flavour in Thai food does not often exist in most Thai dishes. However, the bitter flavour comes from a few kinds of vegetables and fruit which are believed to have a medicinal benefit.

The bitter gourd is commonly used in soups and stocks or in a dish called Khiewchanta…

Thai food-raw prawns-spicy-dip

Thai raw prawns with spicy dip

 

Which is made with uncooked prawns with a blow your head off chilli dip. It consists of very finely chopped white cabbage, finely sliced and halved…arranged round the edge of plate……..Fresh prawns, cleaned, deveined and soaked in Soda Water…..Fresh mint leaves and finely sliced garlic.

Salty…

Salty flavour usually comes from sea salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Fish sauce is considerably used in Thai cooking while different kind of soy sauces are mostly used for soups and stir-fry dishes and it may be used instead to one’s personal preference or for Thai vegetarian cooking.

Sea salt is more commonly used in Thai cooking as a preservative for fish and eggs or it is used to help grind other spices sometimes when making Thai pastes.

I am really lucky as I get my salt fresh as we live close to some salt flats …

Salt-farming-northern Thailand

Lighter soy sauces are also used to balance the salty flavours as is shrimp paste which has an incredibly pungent smell and is often dry roasted to develop the taste…Used in curries and fish dishes it actually tastes better than it smells …It took me a while to get used to this one …

Unlike western foods which are often served in courses a Thai meal is served all at once as the balance of spice, salt, sour and sweetness are not only considered in individual dishes but the meal as a whole it has to have balance.

For example, if you have a really hot curry then this would be balanced by a soup and a mild stir-fry. Thai cooking is instinctive the taste is learned by instinct as chillies can be hot or a little milder, your limes may be really juicy or not so which is why I say TASTE and TASTE again as a recipe for Thai food is a guide and cannot take into account individual ingredients which may vary…

I hope this has been helpful and you now have a better idea of the complexities of Thai cooking…

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15 thoughts on “Thai Cooking…Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Salty and Bitter…

  1. Pingback: Thai Cooking…Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Salty and Bitter… — Retired? No one told me! – chefmario

  2. tidalscribe

    A lovely selection of flavours and it’s good to think about where foods and flavours come from – plants, except for salt of course. We assume sugar only comes from cane or beet, but of course all plants must have their own natural sugars – the Thai sugars sound delicious.

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  3. Pingback: Retired No One Told Me!… It’s all about the Flavour… | Retired? No one told me!

    1. Carol Post author

      Thank you, Marian …I love limes and they are readily available here. Lemons not so much and very expensive. I hope you have a lovely weekend 🙂

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  4. oaeblog.com

    Interesting. As a vegetarian, I like to make curries and usually buy the pre-made (the kind where you just mix with coconut milk) sauces from the local Thai market. They always suggest adding palm sugar. Do you find this produces a better flavor for the curries than generic white sugar, or is it hard to tell a difference in something like a red curry?

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    1. Carol Post author

      As palm sugar is unrefined it has more vitamins than white sugar …taste wise if using it in a curry you wouldn’t notice hardly any difference if any. I use palm sugar because I avoid white sugar and palm sugar is readily available here 🙂 I hope that helps Thank you for the follow 🙂

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