A spice highly prized by the Greeks and Romans, it is also known as laurel. This dried leaf is rich in minerals and vitamins, specifically Vitamins A & C, and grows all throughout Asia. The bay leaf is never eaten, only used for its diffusion of flavors.
Black pepper is the original “chili” that would add spice to food in Thailand before the Portuguese brought chilies to the country. The black peppercorn grows on a trailing, woody vine that grows wild in the jungle, or today, in the Thai garden. It bears tiny white blossoms that become berries known as peppercorn. Peppercorn is picked at maturity, and then dried. Green and white peppercorn can be picked at different stages of growth in the berry, and each has its own unique flavor.
Thai people love sweet flavors, and you will see a lot of sweet treats in Thailand everywhere from the far North to deep Southern part of the country. Brown sugar plays an important role in giving dishes a sweet tinge and deep flavor that compliments other ingredients, even in hardy dishes. Brown sugar gets its color from the presence of molasses, also known as treacle.”
There are actually three types of cardamon: green cardamon, technically the true cardamon which has a thin, papery, green pod filled with small, blackish seeds; black cardamon (or brown cardamon) has a thick, large, rough blackish-brown pod; and finally, the white cardamon (or Thai cardamon), which is found in a small, pea-sized pod, and is covered in whitish-brown coloring. Cardamom is typically used to make Thai curry pastes.
The dried and pulverized version has a variety of chili peppers, sometimes with added spices. Chili powder is not only beneficial for specific spice flavorings, but is also high in antioxidants, as well as Vitamins C & A. Chili powder is vital to Thai kitchen, and is regularly used.
Cinnamon is a spice that grows on the branches of wild cinnamon trees, similar to that of a soft-barked evergreen. The cinnamon used in Thai cuisine is known as “cassia cinnamon” or Chinese cinnamon, and has a more mild flavor compared to the Ceylon cinnamon.
Coriander Seeds or Cilantro Seeds
As you may have guessed, these small, creamy brown seeds come from the herb coriander. Coriander seeds are important for giving dishes a warm, aromatic flavor that is completely different to the fresh coriander leaf. Thai cuisine regularly uses coriander seeds and they are also used in all curry pastes.
Cumin seeds, or cuminum, grow into a small flowering herbaceous plant. Cumin has a distinctive yellowish green-brown color with a sharp, pungent taste, and spicy yet sweet and bitter aromatic flavor. This important spice is commonly used when making traditional Thai curry pastes.
Indian Curry Powder
In Thailand, you can find great examples of food influences from other countries, such as the use of rice noodles in wok dishes which actually come from China. Indian curry powder is another example of the adopted food culture, in this case, adding color and flavor to Thai dishes like Panang curry and Khao Soi.
Oregano is a herb, a flowering plant in the mint family or lamiaceae. People have used fresh or dried leaves for thousands of years to add flavor to the dish. Fresh oregano has the most flavor and aroma. It has a camphor note and tastes pungent.
Palm sugar comes from various types of palm trees. The sticky, sweeter type derives from the sap of the palm flowers and it used in an unrefined form. This specific type of sugar holds a deep, and more mildly sweet flavour that makes it ideal for use in many savory dishes in Thai cuisine, such as Papaya salad.
In Thai cuisine, salt is projected in dishes in quite a special way. It is important that sea salt is used for optimal flavoring. You will see that sea salt is mainly used in sweet dishes and desserts. As contradicting as that may sound, the contrasting flavors of sugar and salt in one dish make for perfect harmony in Thailand.”
Star anise is highly recognizable by its eight-pointed star shape. It contains seeds with aniseed flavor, similar to licorice. The star anise pod is dried before it is used as spice, which turns the color to a shade of brown. Star anise has a very strong, distinct flavor and should be used in small doses when cooking Thai cuisine.”
Vegetable bouillon is a combination of many dried and pulverized vegetables, and is added to dishes in Thai cooking to amplify flavors. You will see the powdered version of this bouillon used in many different Akha dishes.