Today I had one of my favorite meals, which can be ordered in almost every Thai restaurant allover the country. Phat gra phraw means fried basil and there are various varieties of this dish, such as phat gra phraw muu (fried basil with hashed pork) or phat gra phraw gai (fried basil with hashed chicken meat) or phat gra phraw nua (fried basil with hashed beef). Do you want the meal with rice, then add raad kaaw to the name of your menu. Do you want additionally a fried egg, add sai khai daw. I had fried basil with chicken on rice with a fried egg, so the meals name was phat gra phraw gai raad kaaw sai khai daw. The meal is always served with a salty fish sauce containing small and very spicy chili and is called nam pla phrik. Thai basil has antibacterial properties and is rich in vitamin A. Beside that it it contains a lot of fibers which stimulate the digestion.
Today my girlfriend cooked me a meal I never enjoyed before, which is called gaeng wunsen plaa grapong. The curry was spiced with fish sauce, a seasoning powder, Thai ingwer and kaffir lime leaves. Then the famous wunsen noodles were added. Wunsen are found allover Asia and are made of the starch of mung beans, yam, cassava or potatoes. To the curry we ate some chicken drumsticks with chilli sauce (sauce prik) and raw fruits (phak) which are eaten with most Thai meals. Our phak included just snake beans today.
Today my girlfriend presented me another delicious meal called gaeng som gai. Gaeng is often translated as “curry”, but gaeng in fact simply describes a soup-like dish. Gaeng can be very watery or more like a thick soup or even a paste. Gaeng som for instance are very watery and can include a variety of sour (som) ingredients such as green mango, sour tamarind, taling pling or the moringa beans. In our case, my girlfriend used simply a powder called phong gaeng som. Additionally she added lemongrass, tomatoes, Thai ginger or galangal, some kind of cabbage (phad gaad kaaw) and kafir lime leaves (magruud). Inside that soup she boiled some chicken legs.
Today my girlfriend cooked three dishes for us. As she comes from Northeastern Thailand the dishes were of course Issan style. As we don’t have the tools to cook the typical Northeastern sticky rice, we eat the meals with the usual white rice. The first dish consisted simply of some vegetables and a dipping sauce (plate at the top). The sauce is called nam phrik gapi and is made of the following ingredients: chilli (phrik), shrimp paste (gapi), lemon (manaw), sugar (nam taan) and some flavors called churot. A variety of vegetables can be used for this dish. In our case we had yardlong beans, also called snake beans or Chinese long beans (tua fag yaaw) and some Thai cucumber called taeng gwaa. The raw vegetables are simply dipped into the sauce and eaten.
The second dish (left side) is called phad kha naa gai thood and is made of fried kai-lan (phad kha naa) and fried chicken (gai thood) . Kai-lan or kha naa is a leaf vegetable and belongs to the same species as broccoli but its taste is more bitter. It is used in various Asian dishes and is often stir-fried with garlic and ginger. In our case, the following ingredients were added to kai-lan: Chilli (phrik), garlic (gratiam), sugar (nam taan), some flavors called churot, fish sauce (nam plaa) and oyster sauce (sauce hooy naang rom).
Third dish is called tom graduug muu. It is a soup made of various ingredients in which a piece of pork meat (muu) and bone (graduug) are boiled. The soup is made of kaffir lime leaves (magruud), lemongrass (takhrai), Thai galangal or blue ginger (khaa) and chilli (phrik). The rhizome of the Thai galangal has plenty of health benefits and can be used for the treatment of skin infections and eczema, stomach aches, colds and fevers and to treat rheumatism. Lemongrass can also be used to treat fevers, colds and to lower bad cholesterol levels.
In this section of my webpage (Thai dishes) am going to introduce you a variety of Thai foods which I encounter daily at street stalls, restaurants and also at home, as my girlfriend frequently cooks. The section will cover local southern dishes as well as typical Central Thai and Northeastern Thai dishes. I try to describe most ingredients of which the dishes are made of, although that isn’t possible always, especially if there is nobody I can ask. Fortunately the most important ingredients of a dish are almost always included in the name of the dish itself.
In Thai “to eat” is called gin kaaw. Gin means “to eat” or “to drink” and kaaw means rice. Other dishes than rice are usually simply called gab kaaw, meaning “with rice”. As can be seen in these words, rice is the fundamental ingredient of Thai food. Different varieties of rice will be explained in the upcoming posts.
One last point to be mentioned. Thai food is actually more than just “food” and many ingredients are added not simply to improve the taste of the meals, but to enhance the health benefits of the dishes. I’m not a specialist in this field, but whenever I know a few medical aspects of a meal, I will of course include those information in my post. Nevertheless, the main focus of this section is simply to give you an overview about the variety of Thai foods.
And now have fun to learn more about the world of Thai food.