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Most Essential Thai Spices and Herbs

Southeast Asian cuisine is one of America’s top desired dining options, and Thai cuisine is at the top of the list. Thai food has gained a place on America’s dining table due to its versatility, simplicity yet complex flavors, and by using a wide variety of flavors. Thai’s unique mixture of Thai spices is how we get unique Thai dishes.

Thai cuisine was born as the result of both eastern and western influences, having China as the main eastern influence and France and Portugal as the western influence in Thai cuisine. This makes Thai cuisine a rich and original way of cooking and getting to know Thai flavors and culture. 

Also, in Thai cuisine, it is common to find more than one dominant flavor when having several salty, sweety, sour, and spicy elements in one single dish. Ingredients like ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, and palm sugar, are some of the main ingredients when preparing Thai food. If you want to try the best Thai food in town, Char’d Kitchen offers Thai inspired dishes for all people in Texas.

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What are traditional Thai spices?

Thai cuisine is known for its versatility, complexity of flavors, and large use of vegetables and spices. These last two ingredients are the ones that give Thai dishes that signature taste we all love. When looking for the most popular dishes on the planet, Thai cuisine is surely on the top of the list, and one of the things that make Thai food so crave-worthy is its spices.

Thai food is the result of both Eastern and Western cuisine combination, having Chinese cuisine as the eastern influence, and Dutch, French, and Portuguesa as the western gastronomical influence in Thailand.

This combination of ingredients and cultures has added to Thai cuisine a perfect balance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy flavors that all work in harmony to make each dish equally unique and delicious.

Historically, spices have been part of Southeast Asian cuisine in general, along with herbs and plants. But seafood has grown to become a popular ingredient in Thai meals, with meat usually avoided due to the country’s religious preferences. 

Just like in other cultural influences, regional gastronomy can vary from one zone to another. But for Thai cuisine, no matter the region, Thai spices are the most important staple of Thai cuisine. 

Because of the importance of herbs and spices, diners will perceive Thai cuisine as very aromatic and colorful, which also enhances and highlights the overall presentation and flavor of the dish. 

Depending on the dish, you may find fresh or dry herbs and spices on dishes to balance dishes that otherwise are either too strong or dull. That’s why their use of aromatic herbs and spices gives Thai dishes a special and unique taste, unlike any other in Southeast cuisine.

Some of the most used spices are chili, mint, basil, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. In the case of pastes, they are widely used to add color and a more intense and concentrated flavor to dishes, pla (fish paste), and Kapi (shrimp paste) are some of the preferred pastes to cook with. 

When talking about Thai recipes and Thai flavors, there are variations and personal preferences, but essentially Thai dishes consist of soup, rice, and curry meals, which are all generally served together in one sitting.

Rice is a must-have ingredient in Thai cuisine, being eaten in practically every meal. Other recipes like dumplings, noodles, and some desserts are also made with rice, and that’s why it is considered one of the most versatile foods. 

As we mentioned, vegetables are also a very important part of Thai cuisine, having fresh veggies incorporated into every meal, makes Thai food one of the lightest and healthiest cuisines in the world.

That’s why, if you’re looking to eat healthy and delicious, Thai cuisine may be the way to go, by having veggies like tomato, eggplant, squash, beansprouts, broccoli, and sweet potato as the most used vegetables in various Thai recipes. 

And what about desserts? Well, most of them are rice-based, but in Thailand fresh fruit is also abundant, so you might find several desserts with fresh fruits as part of the dish. Mango, papaya, and pineapple are the most popular prepared sweet recipes, and when mixed with coconut milk, we will get an extremely delicious and fresh dessert.

thai red curry chicken
Shrimp Teriyaki

Introduction to Thai Flavors

For cooking Thai dishes using Thai spices, there are four pillars of taste, most known as the 4S of Thai food, these are: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. To prepare a delicious Thai dish, you must achieve the Thai flavors with the perfect balance between these four key ingredients and flavors present in Thai cuisine. 

Some Thai dishes have at least two out of the four key flavors, being one dominant over the other depending on the dish. And some other dishes will have the four key flavors present, having two more dominant and present, and the other two slightly undertone. 

To achieve the balance of these four key flavors in Thai spices, you must be open to experimentation. At first, it can be hard to over-add or not add enough of one flower or another, but with practice and creativity, you can get pretty good and authentic Thai flavors.  Also, you need to have a sense of what the lead taste element should be in any specific Thai dish, to strike the balance you’re looking for. 

In Thai cuisine, the lead main element is called “Rot Chad Naam”, while the secondary flavors or undertones are referred to as “Rot Chad Rong”. These are the most commonly used Thai spices:

  • Sweet: Fruits, palm sugar, coconuts.
  • Spicy: Long pepper, chili (green, red, dried, or fresh), and black or white peppercorns. 
  • Sour: Young tamarind, green papaya, lime or lemon, sour pineapple, green mango, and bamboo.
  • Salty: Fish sauce, sea salt, shrimp paste, light soya sauce, and shellfish.

Even when sweet, spicy, sour, and salty are the most common taste elements in Thai cuisine, bitterness is the missing puzzle piece in Thai flavors. Generally, bitter is not the most pleasant flavor, but in Thai cuisine, it is common to eat ingredients that add that bitter taste to dishes. 

One of the most common bitter Thai spices is turmeric, it is used in Thai dishes for not only its taste but also for its medicinal properties, such as providing antibiotics, detoxification of the body, helping weight loss, and anti-parasitic properties. 

Another extra tip to achieving the balance of the four Thai flavors is to use good quality fresh ingredients when cooking, this will bring out the very best of the flavors and will take your dish to another level. Use Thai spices, and cook fresh, and you will successfully strike the Thai flavors balance you are looking for.

Thai red curry chicken

Thai Herbs that You Must Know

When it comes to the use of fresh herbs and spices, Thai cuisine is the best example of this. Due to the fresh herbs and Thai spices, Thai food is capable of evoking unique and original flavors, tastes, and textures that can only be found in Thai cuisine. 

Because in Thai cuisine, herbs and spices are must-have ingredients in dishes, we will go over the most common types of herbs and Thai spices used in Thai cuisine, so you’ll be able to prepare your Thai dishes at home.

Ginger (khing)

Ginger is widely used in Asian cuisine, but in Thai food, it is mixed with curry paste or sliced into thin strips to use as toppings. However, it’s used and cooking methods can be carried from one region to another. In the northeast, ginger is eaten fresh in slices and served with a type of herbal sausage called  “sai Krok ee san.” Also, to add an extra special touch, ginger it’s used to marinate, grill, and fried chicken. 

Basil (horapha, ka prao)

Put in almost every dish, basil is maybe the most common herb in Thai cuisine. When getting to know Thai spices, you notice that almost every dish contains some sort of basil in all sorts of food, like soups, curries, and heavier dishes like stir-fries. Even when  Horapha and ka prao are the most common types of basil, many dishes are cooked around the taste and aroma of basil. 

Chili (Prik chi fa)

When thinking about chili, spiciness is what comes to mind, but Prik chi fa is a type of chili that’s not very spicy. And because of this, it is used for garnish, and to add extra flavor to dishes.

Cinnamon (ob choei)

In western, cinnamon is commonly used in desserts and sweet preparations, but cinnamon is part of the Thai spices used to prepare soups. If you see a dark Thai soup, it is probably made with cinnamon as the main ingredient. So, for making a signature Thai soup,  be sure to add a hint of cinnamon to the soup base.

Popular Thai Cuisines You Must Try

Thai cuisine is full of delicious dishes that mix the best of eastern and western in one single meal. Whether you want to grab a bite, have a full meal, or eat some desserts, Thai food has it for you. Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes. 

Thai Red Curry Chicken

Red Curry is part of Thai cuisine, having different dishes when the curry is the star among all the Thai spices. This dish consists of a juicy grilled chicken breast on top of white rice or vermicelli noodles with crisp shredded romaine, spinach leaves, pineapples, sprinkled with roasted peanuts, and drizzled with our creamy Thai red curry sauce. 

This delicious dish is available at Char’d Kitchen, in our three locations in Mansfield, Fort Worth, and Richardson. Make your order NOW!

Vermicelli Noodles

Even though this can be a single dish itself, Vermicelli Noodles are also an important element in Thai cuisine, when preparing different Thai recipes. For example, to prepare signature dishes like Pad Mee, these Vermicelli Noodles are mixed with seasoning sauce, thin soy sauce, and sweet soy sauce. The result is a flavor explosion in your mouth, soft, salty, and sweet. 

If you want to try the most delicious Vermicelli Noodles in town, you have to visit Char’d Kitchen in Texas, you won’t regret it!

Thai Tea

This delicious Thai beverage is one of the most famous options when having Thai food. It is made with quality black tea, Thai spices, and sugar or condensed milk. This tea is one of the most served at Thai fusion restaurants in the US,  also known as cha yen, cha nom yen, or cha yen sai nom.

Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Thai cuisine uses a wide variety of spices and seasonings, and when preparing sauces these two elements are strongly present. The sweet Thai chili sauce is a very popular sauce in Thai cuisine.  It is commonly made with red chili peppers, garlic, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a sweetener you can add fruit, sugar, or honey. 

Coconut Ice Cream

When feeling like eating some dessert, Thai-inspired coconut ice cream is the best choice. Made with coconut milk, coconut water, palm sugar, and pandan leaf, this delicious dessert brings the best of Thai cuisine into a mouth-watering dish.

Conclusion: How Thai Fusion Restaurants Become So Popular

Asian cuisine gained popularity in the last decades, due to immigration and globalization more people in western were able to try different cuisines and be delighted by them. In the case of Thai cuisine, it is one of the most attractive gastronomical proposals from Asian cuisine, the rich mixture of different influences, wide use of aromatic herbs, vegetables, and Thai spices, make Thai cuisine an irresistible dinner option. 

Additionally, Thai cuisine far beyond a mix of influences offers a full dining experience unlike any other they have tried before. Its popularity comes from its distinct and strong flavors. Because vegetables and Thai spices are an essential part of every Thai dish, It is both healthy and tasty. 

There are many reasons to opt for Thai food rather than any other cuisine, the mix of flavors is a plus, having sweet, bitter, spicy, sour, and salty flavors in one dish, and most of the recipes are simple to cook. 

If you are in Texas, Char’d Southeast Asian Kitchen is the #1 place to try delicious Thai-inspired food. With our locations at Mansfield, Richardson, and Fort Worth, you’ll be able to try the best Thai fusion dishes in town. From small bites to main dishes, and even desserts, Char’d Kitchen’s menu is designed to please all our customers’ demands and offer a wide variety of dishes and presentations that will blow your mind. 

As an Asian fusion restaurant, all of our dishes are inspired by traditional Thai dishes but cooked with local ingredients. This way we support local production and add an extra American flavor to all of our dishes. Thai spices and vegetables are an essential element in all of our Thai dishes, this way we make sure to keep the essence of Thai cuisine alive.


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