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Updated by Robert Patricks on Jul 26, 2016
Headline for Herbs and Spices in Thai Cuisine – The Exotic Blend
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Herbs and Spices in Thai Cuisine – The Exotic Blend

About 20 herbs and spices make up the main base in Thai cuisine. These are key ingredients in bringing out the exotic flavours unique to each type of food that is cooked to ancient traditions.


Spicy Chillies

Over 10 varieties of chillies are used in Thai cookery. Chillies are used for their exotically spicy flavours and 'kick' each type brings to a particular dish. Mind you chilli was not native to the Thai, but has made a resounding success within each carefully prepared dish. The main ingredient for Thai chilli paste is of course chilli and chillies are available in various colours, sizes and spiciness levels. Each dish requires a particular type of chilli and no substitute is acceptable, this is how important an ingredient chilli is in Thai cuisine.



Cardamoms are tiny bulb shaped pods within which are small black seeds. These seeds exude an almost minty refreshing aroma to food. Cardamoms are native to India and even in Thailand this spice is used to garnish and flavour many Indian dishes, as well as to add depth and aroma to many Thai curries and pastes.



Shallots are small red onions which are present in just about every Thai dish. They exude a strong flavour and aroma and may be used in salads with cucumber or tempered and fried to a golden brown in curries and pastes. A popular combination is finely sliced shallots that are mixed with thinly sliced cucumber, sugar and chilli; this serves as a condiment sauce for murtabak or sate.


Siamese Ginger

Siamese ginger roots are much larger than the common ginger we know. This root is used for its flavoursome body when making traditional Thai curry pastes. It also serves as a flavour enhancer in soups and may be added as diced or sliced pieces. Now if all this spicy herb talk has got you hankering for some Thai cuisine consider browsing one of the restaurants in Mai Kao Phuket, these are well known for serving some of the most exotic and traditional Thai cuisine. Thai style tapas as served at the Tree House restaurant of Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas; are ideal for sampling a variety of Thai dishes in small portions.


Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil is quite common to the basil used in many Italian dishes. In Thai cuisine it is used as a vegetable and also to add flavour to a variety of dishes.


Holy Basil

This is a type of basil that is used in the spicier and hot fried Thai dishes. The flavour of this herb is quite similar to the sweet basil but is only released when cooked. Holy basil is widely used in Pat Kaprao which is stir fired beef, chicken or pork with kaprao.


Lemon Grass

Looking almost like a thick stem of grass this herb has a strong lemony scent. Popularly used in the spicy Tom Yum soup it is the lower stem of the plant that is used to add loads of flavour and tang to dishes. Lemon grass is also used in many Thai curry pastes.