Cooking with the spices of life

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 12:00am

IF YOU TRIED cooking Thai food but could not get the taste right, you probably did not use the right ingredients.

Small alterations in the ingredients can make a big difference.

Here is a basic guide:

Fish sauce

This omnipresent ingredient is indispensable in the Thai kitchen. Good quality fish sauce imparts a pleasant aroma of the sea.

It should not be too salty or smell overwhelmingly of fish.

Thai food is not the same without it.

Coconut sugar

This is a great sweetener, balancing agent and flavour enhancer for curries and robust sauces. Many desserts are accentuated by the rich, caramel taste and distinctive aroma of coconut sugar.


A Siamese ginger used in the same way as ginger in Chinese cooking, galangal has a tangy spicy flavour and is hotter than ginger. The pungent spiciness accentuates the flavours of seafood. It is a valued herb in seafood salads and soups, and also an essential ingredient in most Thai curries.

Lemon grass

This world-famous ingredient has a delicate, lemony essence, which permeates a wide assortment of dishes. In Thai cooking, lemon grass is used most frequently in soups, salads and curries.

Kaffir lime leaves

The rich, striking flavour of this ingredient blends marvellously with lemon grass and lime juice. The unique flavour has identified itself with the cuisine.

Cooking Thai cuisine requires a fair amount of time. One of the best places to get all these ingredients is the wet market in Wan Chai, where there are many ethnic shops selling products from various Southeast Asian countries.

But now there is a more comfortable way without getting your feet wet or breaking into a sweat. Great Pacific Place and Great Festival Walk are offering a variety of Thai foods with their first Thai Food Festival which ends next Thursday.

The festival offers more than 500 Thai products, including canned soups of tom yum and tom kha.

You can also choose pre-packed tom yum soup herb kit that includes cooking instructions and the ingredients.

Two Thai favourites of green and red curry are also offered in the dinner curry kit.

These pre-packaged products offer foolproof experiences of Thai cooking.