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.