Eating Thai food excited my palate in a way few other cuisines can. Something about that contradictory, yet harmonious, blend of disparate flavors makes my my mouth alight. Thai cuisine, in general, orbits around a cast of ingredients: garlic, galangal, cilantro, and lemon grass provide depth and brightness; chilies sharpen; palm sugar sweetens while lime sours; and fish sauce adds an unexpected but oh so welcome umami.
“Take the late M.R. Kukrit Pramoj’s in One Thousand and One Nights. In this version, our Scheherazade was a young consort of an imaginary Thai king who lived in ancient times. Just as Scheherazade in the original story intentionally delayed her demise by telling one story to the king each night, the Thai Scheherazade also did the same—except instead of telling stories, she shared Thai recipes. The smart girl began with the condiment and relish category. I guess you can see now how the story ends: After years of sharing one relish recipe with the king nightly, the consort had now become a very old woman. And when she finally died of old age, wrote Pramoj, she hadn’t even gotten to the coconut-based relishes yet.”
But don't let this tall tale discourage. Our site is chock full of recipes to get you started and tips to ease you along. Leela Punyaratabandhu, the author of Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen, knows her way around the Thai kitchen and she's shared her expertise on our site. Consult her primer on prepping Thai-style sticky rice. Learn what to buy, how to make it (no fancy basket required!), and the best ways to eat it. Then, peek through what Leela says are the essential Thai cooking tools and what alternatives you can use in their place.
With a little knowledge under your belt, try your hand at these Thai-inspired dishes. Some skew more true to form than others. (Take, for example, a recipe for tom kha gai, which community member thaifoodie describes as "distinctly Thai," and compare it to Gena Hamshaw's vegan pad thai, an interpretation on a classic.) Sometimes people cull recipes directly from a country's cuisine, other times they use the flavors and ingredients to inform something novel. This list includes a little bit of both—each as tasty as the next and worthy of a shot. Why not give some a whirl?
Do you enjoy cooking Thai food? Share your favorite recipes in the comments.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now