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10 Must-Have Ingredients for Last-Minute Thai Food at Home

Have a craving for some last minute Thai food? Don’t be caught unprepared. Try keeping your pantry stocked with these must-have ingredients and you’ll be able to whip up a delicious Thai meal in no time flat. Even if you don’t cook Thai food often, most of these ingredients will last a while before they’ll expire, so it only makes sense to keep them on hand in case of a Thai craving emergency.

1. Coconut Milk

No Thai kitchen is complete without coconut milk. It’s a staple in Thai cooking and is used in entrees, desserts, and even beverages. Thai chefs like to mix the smooth sweetness of coconut milk with spicy foods like chili paste to give foods a tropical twist with a subtle coconut flavor.  It’s also a great sweetening agent to add to Thai iced tea. Coconut milk is a go to ingredient when it comes to quick, flavorful Thai food.

2. Lemongrass

The distinct flavor of lemongrass is a favorite among us Thai food fans and can be used to make a number of tasty meals. Though cooking with fresh lemongrass is a preferred method, there are dried and freeze dried varieties available which will have a longer shelf life than the one week expiration of fresh lemongrass.

3. Chillies

Dried, fresh, chopped, powdered, there really isn’t a way you won’t find chilies used in Thai recipes and in copious amounts, too. Definitely another staple in Thai cooking, chilies are found in just about every Thai dish in some form or another. Even if you’re not a fan of spicy food, mild chilies can add a unique flavor to a dish, plus you can use as much or as little as your taste buds can handle.

10 Must-Have Ingredients for Last-Minute Thai Food at Home Photograph: Michal Sänger

4. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a common ingredient in many Thai recipes ranging from stir fry to dipping sauces. Made from fermented fish, salt, and water, the popular seasoning can be high in sodium so it’s a good idea to use it in moderation. It can also be overpowering when too much is used so just remember, a little bit of fish sauce goes a long way!

5. Garlic

Not many types of cuisine would leave garlic off the list as an essential ingredient and Thai food is no exception. Chop up some fresh garlic and saute for a quick flavor boost. Keeping garlic powder in your spice cabinet is a good way to make sure you never run out.

6. Ginger

You can find ginger adding it’s distinctive flavor in quite a few Thai recipes, including desserts. Fresh ginger root will last quite some time in dry storage, but it can also be used in dried powder or granule form. When using fresh ginger, you’ll want to peel it before chopping or grating it up.

10 Must-Have Ingredients for Last-Minute Thai Food at Home Photograph: Sriram Bala

7. Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are inexpensive, easy to store, and quick to prepare. These gluten free noodles are the base of many different Thai recipes like pad thai and pad see ew.

8. Curry Paste

Curry Paste comes in a variety of types such as green, red, yellow, and Panang. Made from a combination of chilies and aromatic spices, they are an irreplaceable ingredient in many traditional Thai recipes. When used in curry dishes, the paste adds depth and incredible flavor. It’s also commonly mixed with coconut milk as base ingredients to make broths.

9. Limes

Limes play a large part in Thai cooking as they give dishes notes of fresh citrus in  addition to making other flavors in the dish pop. Lime juice and lime leaves are often added as ingredients while preparing a dish, and lime wedges are often served on the side or as a garnish with the meal.

10. Herbs

Preferably the fresh variety, herbs such as cilantro, basil, and mint are great ways to add an aromatic element to your favorite Thai dish and amp up the flavor. Like lemongrass, fresh herbs are the way to go, but dried herbs will do in a pinch or when the weather is too cold for a herb garden.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, stock up on the essential Thai ingredients. If you have some last minute dinner guests, you’ll be prepared to whip up a gourmet Thai meal to impress!

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