6 Healing Thai Spices to Include in Your Meals

The Thai people are no strangers to the abundance of delicious flavor of spices, which you’ll find infused into their every meal.  Carefully wielded herbs and spices traditionally grown since ancient times are what make Thai food so delicious and mouth-watering. I’m sure most of us have tasted Pad Thai at least once in our lives and perhaps we’ve tried our hand at this delicious All Raw Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai recipe. Now I’d like to help you explore a little further into the amazing world of healing Thai spices.

Prepare For Paradise

In a tropical paradise, where fruit grows omnipresent on trees as far as the eye can see, fresh is best. But if you are far from the tropics and long for that far away flavor, a pinch and dash of a few key spices can transport you to the land of smiles. I’ve listed a few of those key spices here.

Kaffir Lime Leaf – Also known as Makrut by the Thai people, this plant is known to cleanse the mind and the body according to popular culture. As an essential oil, it makes an amazing household cleaner, and can be used to get problematic stains out of clothes. The leaf is actually a double leaf, with one seemingly growing out the other. They are not so easy to digest as they are very fibrous, so either mash into a pulp with a mortar and pestle or add to a warm broth and remove before munching down.  This little leaf is what gives Thai cooking its distinctive flavor and no dish would be complete without it.

Lemongrass – Matching the potency of Kaffir Lime Leaf head to head, this lemony grass has a distinct flavor of its own and is common in many Thai dishes. It makes its appearance in the very popular Tom Yum Thai Soup and has long since been used by the Thai people for relief of fever, Backache and helps to cope with cough and cold. Next time you’re feeling under the weather, chop up some fresh lemongrass, brew a tea and read a lovely book curled up in bed.

Turmeric – Slightly peppery and bright yellow in colour, this tiny root is a fighter of all bad things. Not only famous in Thailand, it has been recognized in India and China and in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. The active compound in turmeric is Curcumin and it is anti-bacterial, anti-vital and anti-inflammatory. While living in a reforestation camp in Haiti, we would cover our wounds, cuts, bruises and burns with turmeric to ward off nasty infections and promote healing. Turmeric stimulates apoptosis, a process that triggers the self-destruction and elimination of damaged cells which in most cases are cancerous. With numerous health benefits, turmeric should well be on its way to being the spice you reach for at every meal.

Galangal or Siamese Ginger – Just as the mighty ginger root and turmeric too, it’s cousin galangal is part of the rhizome family and is full of anti-oxidants. More commonly found in an Asian market, this delicious tuber lends a helping hand towards improving digestion and relieves diarrhea by calming the stomach and intestines, just as ginger does. It’s anti-inflammatory and is known to calm symptoms of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It even helps curb nausea due to motion sickness – sailors behold!

Thai basil – Basil is a rich and earthy herb that is known worldwide for its presence in pesto. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, “The tradition of reverence of basil has continued in other cultures. In India, basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, while in Italy, it was a symbol of love.” In Thailand, fresh basil is added upon serving. If cooked, much of its intense flavor is destroyed. The delicate leaves are used in so many ways by many of the southeast Asian countries. I’ve heard people using Thai basil for ice cream flavourings, or even with chocolate truffles. Experimenting is fun. Why not try your hand at a newly inspired Thai Basil delicacy?

Shallot – Being in the Alliaceous family – sibling to the onion, garlic and leek – these potent root bulbs contain Allicin, an active component which inhibits blood clotting, which in turn decreases the overall potentiality of coronary diseases. High in vitamin C, potassium, iron and folic acid, shallots also contain Prostaglandin A-1, a potent anti-inflammatory enzyme that alleviates the biological consequences of stressful conditions responsible for cancer cells. They might make you cry, just as the tear jerking onion, but shallots are sweeter and milder in their punch yet still fight more than just the common cold. Be sure to store your shallots in a cool dark place away from moisture as their shelf life is less than the onion.

I created a recipe using all of the spices mentioned above, click here to try my new Kaffir Lime Carrot Soup.

Read the original publication HERE

Makrut Lime Carrot Soup Recipe

Thai spices sure inspire me in the kitchen. While creating my Global Cuisine Series, I invented this amazingly delicious soup that actually uses all of the inspirational Thai herbs and spices mentioned in my previous post: “6 Healing Thai Spices You Can Include in Your Cooking”. I shared some of my favorite healing spices from Thailand, their traditional uses and health benefits. Hope you enjoy it!

Kaffir Lime Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemongrass, chopped finely.
  • 1/4 cup kaffir lime leaves, chopped finely.
  • 3 cups of water (water to steep the above ingredients)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup of mango (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup young coconut meat
  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Nectar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ inch sized piece of Siamese ginger or Galangal
  • ½tbs of minced shallot
  • 1 tbsp. coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp of turmeric
  • a pinch of salt to taste
  • fresh Thai basil to garnish

Instructions: 

1. Prepare the lemongrass and Kaffir Lime leaf, place in two cups of boiling water and steep for at least 10 minutes. This flavourful water will be the base of the soup.  (Always be sure to use organic ingredients if available).

2. Remove lemongrass and lime leaves from the water and add this water along with the rest of the ingredients in the blender and blend until steamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

3. Pour into bowls,  and garnish with a generous Thai basil chiffonade and serve immediately while warm.

Read the original publication HERE

A Beginner’s Guide to Fermentation

We’ve already heard how Fermented Foods Can Heal Your Gut and Make Your Skin Glow thanks to health and wellness expert, Simone Samuels. But where does this ancient preservation technique come from and why has is gotten away from us? Could it be our busy, fast paced, instant-gratification lifestyle? Have we lost the patience for cultivation?

As I delve into the complex history of fermentation within human culture, my eyes are opened to a long lost art. Those on the forefront of whole foods nutrition and healthy digestion are not privy to this ancient preservation technique but they hope to share its secrets of longevity and well being for the benefit of all.  Fermentation has been around as long as humans have cultivated crops. Once we gave up living in small nomadic groups and settled into larger communities, the need for a constant, reliable food source was apparent. With seasonal growing patterns, farmers began to farm on a grander scale and preserve harvests in various forms. At the forefront of this preservation was fermentation. Fermentation gives us our basic staples – bread and cheese. It also gives us our sinfully delicious desserts – chocolate, coffee and wine.

The process of fermentation begins when decay consumes one form and new life takes over, new life in the form of millions of microscopic interactions and processes. Complex organic molecules begin to breakdown and form smaller, more digestible organisms. The microscopic wizardry happens as bacteria and fungi, yeasts and molds do their thing, an absolutely essential process in the complex cycle of life. With the addition of salt and the air barrier created by the brine, harmful bacteria are kept at bay. This also creates the right conditions for beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli to thrive. When we eat food that has been fermented, these microorganisms help us digest efficiently and stimulate our immune system to function as it should.

There are misconceptions that while fermenting, one must use precise and complicated technology. According to the research of Sandor Ellix-Katz in his book Wild Fermentation, “cave paintings in locations as geographically diverse as India, Spain and South Africa depict images of people gathering honey in the Paleolithic period, as long as 12,000 years ago” (13). Still to this day, honey collectors from Ethiopia use nothing more than common sense, a keen sense of smell and a whole lot of patience when brewing mead, a fermented honey wine. While discovering the western world, Captain Cook knew the benefits of fermentation. With barrels upon barrels of sauerkraut on board, he and his crew evaded scurvy due to high amounts of Vitamin C present in the sauerkraut. In Korea today, kimchi is on the table at every meal and tempeh, originating in Java is one of Indonesia’s staple sources of protein. If it can be done with limited resources then we can certainly brew up a multitude of fermented magic in our own kitchens.

My intention is to inspire you to experiment for yourself. With a little patience and a little effort, you’ll discover what has been common knowledge for millennia, the way to build a healthy army of intestinal flora to boost your immunity and improve your digestion in your very own kitchen.I do indeed have an array of jars with many a veggie inside, fermenting nicely under the protection of its salty brine. My husband and I experiment by making our own cold brewed rooibos kombucha, strawberry vanilla coconut kefir and of course a random sampling of herb and veggie kraut, the most recent being a fine-tuned Bold Brassica Kraut. It was so yummy, that I just had to share it!

Bold Brassica Kraut

Time frame: 1-4 weeks (more salt, more time)

Special Equipment:

  • Ceramic crock pot or one-gallon food-grade plastic bucket
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • A weight of some sort (a jug filled with water, a scrubbed and boiled rock)
  • Cloth or mesh to cover and an elastic band to secure it with (a clean dish towel, a mesh nut milk bag)

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds of mixed vegetables including a medley of at least 50% cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale.
  • 3 tbsp. pink Himalayan Crystal salt
  • 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp. crushed, dried curry leaf
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, minced (about 1 inch)

Instructions:

1. Thinly Slice the Cabbage/Veggies (leave a few large leaves for the top layer)

2. Layer and Salt the Cabbage/Veggies Slices

3. Punch the Cabbage! (or pound it with a pestle). In order to get the culturing process started you’ll need to press (punch) the cabbage down into the crock or food-grade bucket for 5 or so minutes. Combined with the salt, this draws the water out.

4. Weigh Down the Cabbage. When ready to cover, arrange the whole leaves of cabbage over the top and make sure it is totally covered. The kraut should be submerged in its own brine after all the punching. Over the first 24 hours, check the kraut often and press it down to make sure that the water level rises to just above the cabbage. If after 24 hours there isn’t enough water to completely cover the cabbage, mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt with 1 cup of water and use this brine to fill in the water line to just above the level of the cabbage.

5. Check Sauerkraut to see if it is ready. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, the humidity of your climate and the amount of salt used, the sauerkraut will take at least a week to ferment. I always leave it for 4 weeks! After the first day, you don’t have to check it until you are ready to eat it. You may see a slight scum on top, this is normal but I discard this top layer.

6. Store the Sauerkraut. Transfer the kraut to a mason jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for months in the refrigerator. Enjoy as a side dish, in salads, or on its own with a big spoon. Yum!

Suggested Resources and Reading on Fermentation

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermentation and Biochemical Engineering Handbook, 2nd Ed. By Henry C. Vogel , Celeste C. Haber , Celeste C. Todaro

Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen (Paperback)By Alex Lewin

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Mary G. Enig and Sally Fallon

Making Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables at home: Creative recipes for lactic-fermented food to improve your health by Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schoneck

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

Read the original publication HERE