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Thai cuisine in one of the best in the world. Made with fresh ingredients, Thai food is aromatic, tasty, healty and full of interesting textures. Its aromas and tastes are largely a result of the unique herbs and spices used. Surprisingly, it is not the number of herbs and spices used but the intelligent combination or blending of tastes that makes Thai food so distinctive and wonderful.

Thai food, like Chinese food, is often stir fried or steamed in a wok. With stir-frying, the ingredients are flash-fried and sometimes cook even as it is brought to the table to be served. This way, the goodness and vitamins of the ingredients are not destroyed and the dishes make for a healtheir or more nutritious meal. Steamed ingredients must also be very fresh, especially meats or seafood, and this is another hallmark of Thail food.

Common names:
For Ocimum americanum
English: American basil, hoary basil, lemon basil, lime basil, Thai basil,
Thai lemon basil
Thai: maenglak (central Thailand), kom ko khao (northern Thailand), tu (general)

For Ocimum basilicum
English: basil, common basil, garden basil, Roman basil, sweet basil, Thai basil
Thai: horapha

For Ocimum tenuiflorum
English: holy basil, monk's basil, red basil, rough basil, sacred basil,
sacred Thai basil, Siamese basil, Thai basil
Thai: kaphrao, kaphrao daeng khon, kaphrao khon (central Thailand),
kom ko dong (Chiang Mai), im-khim-lam (northern Thailand)

Green Curry, Panang Curry, Red Curry, Chili & Mint Leaves.
For Ocimum americanum (hoary basil, maenglak)
This is used primarily as a vegetable and also as a flavouring for sauces, soup and salads. Medicinally, it is used as a mouthwash for relieving toothache.

For Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil, horapha)
This is a very popular savoury herb (certainly in Thai dishes). Sweet basil is cultivated throughout the world. Fresh leaves are normally used in cooking and the leaves should be added just before cooking is complete to retain their flavour. Medicinally, the sweet basil is a stimulant and carminative used to treat fever and malaria. The essential oil is used as a repellent againts bugs and flies.

For Ocimum tenuiflorum (holy basil, kaphrao)
This spice herb is sometimes used as a condiment in fruit and vegetable salads and other meat dishes. It is used more widely as a medicinal herb as it is thought to have antibacterial properties. The Indonesians use it to treat colds in children, heal wounds and promote lactation in woman. It is also used to treat gonorrhoea (in the Philippines) and rheumatism (in Malaysia).
Common names:
For Capsicum annuum var. annuum
English: chilli, capcicum, cayenne pepper, perpper
Thai: phrik, phrik chii faa

For Capsicum frutescens
English: bird pepper, bird's eye chilli, chilli, capcicum perpper
Thai: phrik, phrik khii nuu

Pad Kee Mao, Chilli & Mint Leaves, Tom Kha Gai, Green Curry, Tom Yum Seafood, Papaya Salad, Squid Salads.
For both species, the ripe or unripe fruit is used fresh, pickled or dried (only when ripe) and processed. Raw fruit slices in soy or fish sauce are eaten with various cooked dishes.

Thehot-spiciness, or pungency, derives from the capsaicinoids (alkaloids) in the cross-walls and placental tissues of the fruit. If one cores out the centre of fruit which consists of the placenta (the tissues to which the seeds are attached), the cross-wall (partitions) and the seeds, then discards them, the remainder outer fruit wall will hardly be spicy-hot. The larger the chilli, the easier it is to core out the placenta and cross-walls without contaminating the remainder of the chili with the capsaicinoids.
Common names:

English: Chinese keys, Chinese key, finger root, resurrection lily.
Thai: krachai, khao chae (general),
ka-en (northern Thailand),
wan-phraathit (Bangkok)

Green Curry, Thai Curry Pastes, Fish Cake
The highly aromatic rhizome and tuberous roots are used as a spicy flavouring for food and pickles, eaten raw with rice (in Malaysia) or its young shoots eaten raw with rice (in Java, Indonesia). Its leaves are used together with those of teak (Tectona grandis) to wrap fungus-fermented soya beans (tempeh) in East Java.

The The essential oil from the rhizomes and roots that are largely responsible for the strong aroma in this plant consists of the following components: 1,8 cineole (18 to 41%), camphor (13%), d-borneol (9.2%), d-pinene (4.1%), zingiberene (2.7%) and other minor components.
Common names:

English: corainder (fruits/seeds, leaves, roots), cilantro (leaves),
Chinese parsley (leaves)
Thai: phakchi (northern Thailand),
phakom (northern Thailand),
phakom-noi (northeastern Thailand)

Larb, Tom Kha Gai, Tom Yum Goong, Tom Yum Gai, Tom Yum Seafood.
Dried coriander fruits are used as a spice. The fresh whole plants and leaves are used as a culinary herb or vegetable. The fresh taproot is even more aromatic than the stems or leaves and is used in China, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries in flavouring. The dried green plants and the dried fruits are traded in commerce.

The essential oil cintent of fruits varies from trace amounts to 2% of the air-dried weight and consists of mainly linalool (60%), numerous monoterpenoids and minor components such as camphor, geraniol, geranyl acetate, pinene and terpinene. The aroma of coriander comes from about 41 volatile components detected in the essential oil of leaf, with aldehydes making up more than 80% of these.

Coriander has been used in flok medicine since ancient times. The application of the green plants as a cure for measles is an East Asian practice. The fruits have been noted to have antibilous, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, refrigerant, stomachic and tonic effects. The essential oil extracted from the fruits is used to flavour foods, in meficine and perfumes, while remaining (extracted) fruits is used to feed cattle.
Common names:

English: cumin, Roman caraway
Thai: thain kao, yira (general)

Green Curry, Mas-Sa-Man, Thai Curry Pastes.
Throughout the world, the fruits are used, in small quantities, for flavouring breads, cheeses, chutneys, meat dishes, pickles, rice, salad dressing, sauerkraut, sausages, soups and stews. Egyptian. Indian and Turkish curry and chili poerder mixtures have the ground fruits as an ingredient. The essential oil extracted from the fruit is found in various food produtcs, liqueurs and perfumes.

The essential oil constitutes 2.5 to 5% of the dry weight of the cumin fruits. The oil includes alcohols (2 to 5%) mostly aldehydes and ketones (50 to 70%), hydrocarbons (30 to 50%) and ethers (less than 1%). The distinctive and pungent odour and taste probably derive from dihydrocuminaldehyde and monoterpenes.

Traditional medicine uses the fruits in mixtures as an astringent, a stimulant, and a stomachic and also for treating colic and diarrhoea. In Peninsular Malaysian folk medicine, the fruit is often pounded together with the leaves of other epecies to make a poultice for various diseases. The essentail oil from cumin is used as a light anaesthetic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, fungicide, and insecticide and as veterinary medication. Ethiopians apply a paste of the pounded leaves to treat skin diseases.

Common names:

English: galangal, greater galangal
Thai: kha

Tom Kha, Panang Curry, Fish Cake, Curry Pastes.
The rhizome of galangal is the main part of the plant that is used as a spice. Its scent is difficult to describe but approximately resembles a mixture of pepper and common ginger, although much more pleasant and invigorating. Besides this, the flowers and young shoots may also be used as a spice or vegetable. The fruit maybe substituted for the fruits of true cardamom since they are similar in taste.

The rhizome has also been used for various traditional medical treatments, such as cancers of the mouth and stomach, colic, dysentery, indigestion, enlarged spleen, respiratory, diseases, skin diseases, systemic infections, cholera, as an expectorant, as a tonic after childbirth, as a stimulant or aphrodisiac and even in veterinary medicine.

The flavouring scent comes from the essential oil extracted from the rhizome. This oil has been used to flavour ice-cream, liqueurs, pastry and other foods. One can extract the oil quite easily by grinding the rhizome and mixing the pulp with hot water. this aqueous mixture can act as an insect repellent or insecticide for garden plants.

Essentail oil content is about 0.1% fresh weight, and 0.2 ro 1.5% dry weight of the rhizome. The essential oil is reported to be mainly cineole. Other compounds isolated from the rhizome have been shown to be antibacterial, antifungal, antiprorozoal and antitumour in activity.
Common names:

English: garlic
Thai: krathiam (general),
hom-tiam (northern Thailand)

Dishes:Chili Mint Leaves, Pad Thai, Chicken Garlic Pepper,
Pork Rips Garlic Pepper, Papaya Salad, Squid Salad,
Green Curry, Red Curry.
Fresh or dried garlic is used to flavour meat, fish and salads. Of the Allium crops, garlic is the second most commonly used after the onion. The bulb and cloves are used, as are the green leaves and immature bulbs.

Garlic is also used medicinally to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as inhibit thrombus formation. Because of its good healthy-giving reputation, there are numerous pills, capsules, drinks and powders contain garlic extracts.

The great pungency of the cloves derives from this sequence of events: When the tissue are crushed, an enzyme called allinase is released. this cause the amino acid alliin, also found in the tissues, to become allicin, which is the main cause of the strong smell. To counter "garlic breath" after consumption of fresh garlic, eat some fresh parsley (Petroselinum crispum). When eaten in quantily, the smell of garlic may even be detected in the perspiration of dinner.
Common names:

English: ginger, Canton ginger, common ginger, culinary ginger,
green ginger, stem ginger
Thai: khing, khing-daeng (general),
khing phueak (Chiang Mai)

Panang Curry, Pad Prik Khing, Green Curry, Red Curry, Curry Pastes.
Ginger is a widely used and the three main produtcs are fresh (green) ginger, dried whole or powdered ginger and preserved ginger. Fresh ginger can be made into ginger ale and is used as a flavouring in Southeast Asia, cooked and taken as a vegetable or eaten raw. Ground, dried ginger is used worldwide in cooking and in flavouring confectionery of processed foods. Preserved ginger is used in jams and cakes.

Essential oil and ginger oleoresin are the two main components that give ginger its characteristic aroma and flavour. The oleoresin gives ginger its pungency, with the pungent principles being gingerols and shogoals, which are actually the plant's non-volatile phenols.

There has been a long history of the medicinal use of ginger in China and India. It is used against a wide range of ailments including boils, chest congestion, colds, coughs, diarrhoea, dysentery and other gastro-intestinal problems, fever, itchiness, migraine, nausea and a whole host of other problems. It can be made into a lotion and rubbed onto the body after childbirth or applied to swellings, used against rheumatism or in baths to combat fever.
Common names:

English: lemon grass, citronella grass, West Indian lemon grass
Thai: khrai (Peninsular Thailand),
cha khrai (Northern Thailand)

Green Curry, Curry Pastes, Tom Kha, Tom Yum Goong, Tom Yum Seafood.
The young erect stem, together with the leaf bases, is used in Thai cooking. Since the essential oil which produces the desired aroma is found mainly in the leaf bases, the leaves have most of their leaf blades trimmed off to make them more compact when used. this species is cultivated in home gardens in Southest Asia for cooking spicy sauces and curries or in making sherbet. The young stems are sometimes eaten with rice.

Currently, the leaves ans stems of lemon grass are used as a source of essential oil and as a condiment. The oil, consisting mainly of citral, is used in the manufacture of other compounds used for perfumes. Citral is a mixture of geranial (40 to 62%) and neral (25 to 38%), plus smaller amount of myrcene, limonene and geraniol. the oil is also used in food products, including beverages.

This plant is excellent for controlling soil erosion because its roots can bind soil effectively on bunds. It can also be used for mulch.

Lemon grass has medicinal properties and is used as a carminative or anticholeric and also in traditional medicine for the treatment of intestinal problems, eczema, colds, headaches, stomachaches, abdominal pain and rheumatic pain. Ticks in cattle and external parasites that live on chickens can be controlled by applying lemon grass oil. The oil also has antibacterial ans antifungal properties.
Common names:

English: mint
Thai: bai saranae

Larb, Nam Tok, Squid Salad.
The fresh fragrant leaves are used mainly as a condiment. The characteristic cool taste of the leaves is due to menthol which is a monoterpenoid alcohol. The most important use of mint is its oil and this is produced on a global scale. In the period 1990 to 1995, the production of mint from the japannese cultivar generated US$43 million per year. The oil is used medicinally in ointments itch-relief creams, cough syrups, lozenges and tablets and as a flavouring agent in toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing gum, beverages, confectionery, cigarettes, etc. In the perfume industry, it is used in soaps and shampoos.

All over the world, the mint leaf and is oil have wide medicinal applications. It is an antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, emmenagogue, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, sodorific and frigerant.

In Thailand especially, the mint leaf is a widely featured culinary herb.
Common names:

English: onion, common onion, bulb onion
Thai: hom-yai (central Thailand),
hom-huayai (Peninsular Thailand)

Larb, Tom Yum Goong, Spicy Salads.
The bulb of this plant is used as food, seasoning and spice because of its pungency. The bulbs are used raw, pickled or cooked.

The onion has been used as a diuretic in traditional medicine and recent research has indicated its role in suppressing blood sugar levels and platelet aggregation.

Its flavour and pungency are owed to the presence of S-alk(en) cysteine sulphoxides.
Common names:

English: pepper, black pepper, white pepper
Thai: phrik-thai (central Thailand),
phrik-noi (northern Thailand)

Chicken Garlic Pepper.
Pepper gets its distinctive pungency from piperine, and the aroma is derived from its essential oil, which is made up mainly of monoterpene and sesquiterpene hydrocarbons. Pepper as a spice was already used as far back as the 12th century, with Rome and Europe as the main importers. Surprisingly, there is a lack of traditional use of pepper in Southeast Asia. The increase in the use of pepper in the region is attributed to industrial development and expanding tourism.
Common names:

English: sawtooth coriander, spiny coriander, Mexican coriander
Thai: phakchi-farang (central Thailand),
hom-pomkula, mae-lae-doe (northern Thailand)

The aromatic leaves, which smell like those of coriander; are used fresh to flavour curries, rice and fish dishes, soups and stews. The tender, young, fresh (or cooked) leaves are eaten as vegetable. The essential oils, obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and roots, consist mostly of aldehydes and some monoterpene hydrocarbons. The aldehydes consist mostly of alkanals and alkenals and are thought to be responsible for the strong aroma of the plant.

A decoction of the root has been used medicinally as an antipyretic, a diuretic, a stimulant or a sudorific, whereas the decoction or juice of the leaves has been used as an antipyretic, a cure for colds, a laxative and a stimulant. The decoction of the whole plant is used to treat high blood pressure, and as an abortifacient, aphrodisiac and emmenagogue.
Common names:

English: shallot, potato onion, multiplier onion
Thai: hom, hom-daeng, hom-lek

The raw bulb of the plant is used as food, seasoning and spice because of its pungency. When used as a spice for meats and seafood, shallot may be sliced and mixed with soy sauce or ground and blended with other ingredients. It is also pickled or fried. The young inflorescence (flowering shoot) can be eaten as a vegetable. Used throughout the world's cuisines, cultivated Allium plants are probably the most indispensable ingredient.

The pungency in shallots is dependant on the amount of S-alk(en)nyl cysteine sulphoxides per unit in fresh weight.

Beacause of its antibacterial properties, shallots are also used traditional medicine for reducing fevers or healing wounds. Farmers in some areas grow garlic and shallots in plots which were previously used to grow other crop to "cleanse" the plots of pathogens as part of crop rotation practice. The plant can also be used to lower blood sugar levels and inhibit platelet aggregation when eaten raw or cooked or consimed as an extract or powder.
Common names:

English: spring onion, scallion, Welsh onion, bunching onion
Thai: ton-hom (central thailand),
hom-chin (Peninsular Thailand)

Fish Cake, Fried Rice, Tom Yom
The pesudostem region, which is white in colour, rather fleshy and just above the bulb region, consists of concentric sheaths of the leaf based and are eaten as a vegetable, usually fried with chicken or fish. When the hollow leaves are sliced into short pieces, they become short, hollow cylinders. These are used in salad or to flavour soups and other dishes. This species is less pungent than Allium cepa crops mentioned earlier (shallot and onion).

The mind pungency derives from volatile allyl-sulphides.

Planting this species in garden can prevent or reduce termite infestation, and the diluted juice pressed from the plants is used to eradicate aphids in China. Chinese tradition medicine uses this plant to improve the functioning of internal argans and metabolism, to improve eyesight, to aid digestion and to improve recovery from colds, headaches, festering sores and wounds.
Hugh T.W.Tan. / Herbs and Spicies of Thailand


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