Basils (horapha ใบโหระพา, kaphrao ใบกะเพรา, maenglak  แมงลัก)

                                Horapha                                     Kapraow                                         Maenglak

Horapha ใบโหระพา is also Basil Anise. it is one of the 250 varieties of Sweet Basil cultivars and is related to the commonly used sweet basil used in Italian cooking. It has a decided aniseed fragrance particularly when added to a cooking pot.

Kapraow  ใบกะเพรา is Holy or Sacred basil. It is commonly used in the stir fry dish Phad Kapraow. Kapraow is the basil used for religious purposes in India. it has a hot flavour.

Maenglak แมงลัก is sometimes called lemon-scented basil but definitely has a peppery taste when chewed; it is very similar to Halian dwarf basil and is used as a vegetable and for flavoring.

Cinnamon (ob choei) อบเชย

Cassia and Cinnamon. (Cassia is on the left hand side)

From the bark of a tree, the type of cinnamon used in Thailand is of only one kind, that from the Cassia tree and is not the "true" cinnamon. It is used in meat dishes and particularly in massaman curry. True cinnamon may be substituted.

Bird Chilli (phrik khi nu) พริกขี้หนู

Phrik Ki Nu

The smallest of the chilies, of which the kind called phrik khi nu suan is the hottest.

Chilli (Phrik chi fa) พริกชี้ฟา

Phrik Chi Fa (Chillie Pointing to the Sky)

Phrik Chi Fa are finger size, growing 9-12 centimeters in length, and ether yellow, red or green. Not as hot as the bird chillie, but there can be variability and most people have come across these chillies hotter than even habaneros. There is no discernable spice difference between the colours but for the true chillie head there is a difference in the fruit background taste..

Citron (som sa) ส้มสา


Citron (Citrus medica var limetta) is similar in appearance to the familiar lemon. Its thick, very aromatic skin is much used for flavoring, it has very little juice if any. The skin is almost impossible to delaminate from the flesh as it adheres strongly to the underlying fruit pulp. It's colour may range from dark green to a very limey-lemon colour.

Cloves (kanphlu) กานพู


Cloves (Eugenia aromatic) are the dried flowerbeds of an evergreen tree native to the Molucca Islands. They are almost as expensive as saffron because crops often fail. Cloves are used in massaman curry and traditionally chew as a relief for toothache. Very few would use this today as dentists are widespread and their services are professional.

Coriander (phak chee) ใบผักชี 


The leaves are often chosen for decoration, with stem and roots for seasoning. Heavily used in Asian kitchens, the Thai kitchen is the only one to use the roots as well. The root has a concentrated flavour of the leaf and stems and is such a great resource for the cook when making significant batches of coriander containing dishes.

Coriander Roots

Cumin (Yira) ยี่หรา (Cuminum cyminum L.)

Cumin (Yira)

Seeds look like caraway and fennel, but taste quite different and have to be heated to release their aroma. Only cumin is used in Thai cooking, mainly in the making of curry pastes.

Galangal (kha) ขา

Galangal (Kha)

Resembling an upturned claw, this member of the ginger family is a pale pink rhizome with a subtle citrus flavour. It is usually added in large pieces to impart flavour to fish or chicken stock, or used in making curry pastes. There are many recipes in western hands that suggest a substitution with ginger. There really is no similarity in flavour at all and I wouldn't attempt to substitute with anything but rather delay the making of the dish until I have the galangal.

Garlic (krathiam) กระเทียม

Background items are Thai garlic.
(One of the many thousands of the world's cultivars).

Thailand is literally overflowing with garlic plants. Whole cloves, smashed garlic and garlic oil are used in almost every Thai dish. To make garlic oil, chop a handful of garlic, and fry it in plenty of hot oil until golden. The fried garlic can be stored in a jar for garnishing soup and many dishes including rice porridge and sui mai

Ginger (khing) ขิง

Ginger Tuber

Resembling a flat hand, ginger has over 400 members included in its family. Always choose young fresh ginger if available. Easily grated, it is eaten raw or cooked and is used widely in many Asian cuisines. Young ginger. pounded with a little salt, pepper and garlic is good too as a marinate for chicken or beef. Ginger is acknowledged as an anti-nauseant, it's believed that it hastens gastric emptying and maybe some effect on the nausea centre of the brain..

Krachai (Chinese Keys) กระชาย


The tubers of this member of the ginger family look like a bunch of yellow brown fingers. Krachai is always added to fish curries, and peeled and served as a raw vegetable with the popular summer rice dish, khao chae.

Kaffir Lime Leaf (bai makrut)


Kaffir leaves (Bai makrut)

From the kaffir lime, which has virtually no juice these fleshy green and glossy leaves resemble a figure eight. Imparting a unique flavour, they can be finely shredded and added to salads, or torn and added to soups and curries. Can be substituted with other lemon-flavored herbs, but the best option is to freeze the leaves when you can find them, as they retain all their flavour and texture on thawing

Lime (manao) มะนาว

Lime (Manao)

The whole fruit is used. It is  is used to enhance the flavour of chili-hot condiments, as well as create some very special salads and desserts, and adorn most dishes as a condiment. Nam Manao or the juice of the lime is often served with iced water or soda plus syrup and a pinch of salt. An extremely popular drink with meals in the traveller's areas of Bangkok.

Lemongrass (takhrai) ตะไคร ้

Lemongrass stalks

This hard grass grows rapidly in almost any soil. The base of 10-12 centimeters length of the plant is used, with the green leafy part discarded. Young tender lemongrass stalks can be finely chopped and eaten, but older stalks should be cut into 3-5 centimeters lengths and bruised before being added only as a flavoring agent. It is indispensable for tom yam. The cironella can repel mosquitoes but it's useful application period is generally only minutes because of the volatile nature of the essential oils. It does work well in outdoor candles both as a scent permeator and believed to repel insects.

Mint (bai saranae) สะระแหน่

Common Mint

This mint (Mentha arvensis) is similar to the mint used for English mint sauce and is used in Thai food as a flavourant and occasionally a garnish

Nutmeg (luk chan) ลูกจัน


The nut is enclosed in a very hard brown shell. It is used in the making of mass man curry paste.

Pandan Leaf (bai toei)

Pandanus palms.

Long narrow green leaves of a herbaceous plant used for flavoring and colour. There is no substitute of the flavoring and colour. There is no substitute for the flavour but green coloring may be used as a substitute for the colour. I find it interesting that there are occassional suggestions of substituting pandan with vanilla; there is no similarity in flavour at all

Pepper (prik thai) พริกไทย

Peppercorns on the vine.

Black, white and green peppercorn types. Black is milder and more aromatic than white. Green peppercorns have a special taste all their own and are available al year round but are best towards the end of the rainy season. Used as flavoring. There are cultivars of pepper but the white  pepper-corns are essentially the dehusked seed. The green peppercorn can be dried but generally it is used either pickled or fresh. The green style is simply the unripened peppercorn. It's not a common condiment or ingredient in the west.

Sesame (nga) งา

Dried sesame seeds.

Identical to sesame seeds the world over. In Thai cooking, sesame seeds are used for oil and for flavoring. These tiny seeds are rich in protein.

Shallot (hom daeng) หอมแดง


These small, zesty, Thai red onions are sweet and aromatic. An essential ingredient in many Thai dishes because of their taste and appearance, they can be substituted with European shallots, small red onions or small brown onions.

Spring Onions, Scallions, Green Onions (Ton Hom) ตนหอม

Green Onions

 Scallions or Green Onions.These green onions (Alliums fistulosom) are used for garnishing soups and salads and as vegetables.

Turmeric (khamin) ขมิ้น

Tumeric tubers.

These small, bright orange roots are used for the coloring in yellow curries. Many cooks use dried tumeric as the flavour aspect is minimal and the colour is the goal. Peeling and crushing tumeric is well known to stain everything it comes in contact with so there's a bit of management also comes into the picture.