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Thai Ingredients

Discover Thai Cooking Ingredients

Have you read an ingredient in a Thai recipe and wondered what it looks like? Or what to use as a substitute?

Thai Cooking Ingredients

On our recent holiday to Thailand I attended some cooking classes. The classes were fabulous and I will write about them next week and share some recipes.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about the classes was learning about the ingredients used and trying many that I had not previously eaten.   This is not intended to be a complete list of thai cooking ingredients, it is a list of those that are new to me, or the form I used them is new.
Prior to the class the teacher took me to a little street stall market to collect the ingredients we would be using.
I have listed my suggested (Western) substitutes below where an ingredient may not be readily available outside Thailand.

Black Peppercorns – Whole


I have never used fresh whole peppercorns, thus the inclusion in this list. They are green in colour, grow in a cluster and are sliced in half or pieces from the cluster to be included in curries.

Eggplant – Marble

 Marble Eggplant

Ma-Kheau Puang are green in colour and small in size, about the size of a pea. They grow in a cluster and pop in your mouth when you bite into them.  They are mostly used in curries and have a slightly bitter taste. In the picture above they are shown in top left corner.

Eggplant – Thai Round

Thai Round Eggplant

Ma-Kheau Pro are round in shape and the size of a golf ball, these eggplants come in various colours, white, purple, light green, yellow. They are used in stirfries and curries and may be substituted with regular eggplant.

Finger Ginger

Finger Ginger

Kra-chai is part of the ginger family and thus has a similar flavour, although milder than ginger root. It gets it’s name from the “fingers” visible from the root. It is used in soups and to make curries. Ginger can be used if you can not source this ingredient.



Kha tastes similar to ginger but has a much milder flavour. It is used in curry pastes and soups. As with Finger Ginger, Galangal can be replaced with regular ginger. Replacing the ingredient with ginger will result in a stronger flavour. If substituting for ginger use less than the recipe calls for galangal.

Long Beans

Long Beans

Thua Fak Yao are easily identified as a bean, they are much longer than regular beans and are used in stir fries or salads. They may be replaced with regular green beans.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Long stemmed vegetable with slender leaves. It is often stir fried and used as a side dish. The whole plant, minus the roots are used. It could be replaced by other greens such as bok or pak choy.



Ma-Kham is a fruit with a sour flavour. The pulp is mixed with water to make a paste. It is used to balance flavour. It was used in the Pad Thai dish I learned and also fish cakes. I have used tamarind at home in a puree/paste form. I had not seen or used the fresh fruit, thus it’s inclusion here. Lime juice may be used as an alternative to add a sour quality to a dish.

Tumeric root

This is another ingredient that I have used in an alternate form (powdered) but not fresh.  Tumeric root has a similar look to a piece of ginger except that when the outer layer is removed it is yellow in colour. Fresh tumeric root is commonly used o make curry paste.

Have you discovered any Thai cooking ingredients that are new to you?  Tell me what they are in the comments below.
Stay tuned – recipes and some information on the classes I attended are coming up next. 
Note: the substitutes are my suggestions only. Changing the ingredients will alter the flavour of the dish and it will no longer be an authentic Thai dish, but I am sure it will still taste amazing! Find a local asian grocer in your area and visit them to see if they can provide you with the ingredients you require.
Ingredient information was learned in the cooking classes I completed at Happy Home Thai Cooking School.
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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Miss Piggy January 28, 2013, 11:36 am

    A great post – love the fresh ingredients used in Thailand and that you can just pop out to the markets to grab stuff before you get busy in the kitchen. I think the substitutes are important as sometimes it’s hard to find those ingredients here. I love the little eggplants…

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