December 11, 2023

How to Make Healthy and Delicious Thai Food at Home

Love Thai, but no clue how to replicate those dynamite dishes you get at your favorite Thai restaurant? After many years of spending far too much money dining out, we finally nabbed the recipe (including a healthy shortcut!) for doing Thai the right way at home. Authentic taste, and you can customize the recipe to your own sweet/spicy preferences!

First things first: a few things to pick up on your next visit to the grocery store:

Frozen shrimp, or other seafood. We prefer wild-caught: poop-free, and with all the nutritional benefits of the sea included in every bite. The bagged frozen shrimp might be a little more expensive, but isn’t your health and convenience worth it? Also, the last time we did Thai I got some fresh, cleaned squid which was a tasty, healthful addition and more economical than just using all shrimp.

Coconut milk. You can grab a coconut and mallet and get at it the old-fashioned way… or, just pick up some Goya or Taste of Thai coconut milk in a can.

Mushrooms. Fresh taste best of course!

Cilantro. No Thai meal is complete without cilantro’s unique, fresh flavor rounding out the recipe.

Scallions. Again, to put the final exclamation at the end of the Thai food sentence, you must have these.

Lime. “You put the lime in the coconut, and…” Actually no, but both lime and coconut milk are essential for Thai cooking.

Chicken broth. Homemade, canned, or boxed – your choice.

Thai Kitchen’s red, yellow or green curry paste. Your personal heat scale will dictate the type of curry to choose as the base for Thai meals made at home. Or, maybe you just want spicy-hot one night, and mild on another! The list of simple, pure ingredients make Thai Kitchen’s the go-to for our family.

Fish sauce, shrimp paste or anchovy paste. Fish sauce is typically used in authentic Thai cooking. However, this stuff is so stinky and comes in such large quantities that you may prefer to leave it at the store. Instead, go for shrimp paste, or anchovy paste in a pinch. We have used the latter in our homemade Thai recipes, and it tastes just fine to us.

Assorted stir-fry veggies, fresh or frozen. If you go out to a Thai restaurant, you’ll typically find green beans, red peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, zucchini. For Thai stir-fries at home, you can vary it up and add your favorites, or eliminate what you don’t care for.

Other ingredients that are typically included in Thai cooking are coconut oil, Thai ginger (galangal), lemongrass, basil, and kaffir lime. If your hometown supermarket does not carry these, the aforementioned curry paste and lime will suffice. Ordinary cooking oil will do in a pinch as well.

Brown sugar is another common addition to Thai cooking, but if for whatever reason you don’t want a lot of sugar in your food, you can pass on it. The coconut milk lends its own special sweetness.

To make an “Unnamed Thai Stir Fry” that resembles Drunken Noodles, do the following:

Defrost your shrimp by letting them sit in cool water in the sink for about a half hour. I like to also add a little lemon juice or a splash of vinegar to remove whatever may have been added at the shrimp factory. Peel the shrimp and remove tails. You can also toss the shrimp peelings into a pan of water and boil for about 15 minutes to make a quick fish broth to add to stir-fry pan.

Wash and slice up the scallions. Rinse and chop the cilantro. Set both aside. Clean and chop any fresh veggies you may be using. Or, take out frozen bags of veggies and thaw in a bowl in the microwave.

Cook some rice or noodles according to the package directions. Cover and set aside.

Sautee up the veggies with oil, and far more curry paste than the recipe would typically call for. (The recipe on the jar of Thai Kitchen red curry paste calls for 2 Tablespoons, so I glob in about 4).

Remove cooked veggies from pan and set aside. Add more curry paste, and sautee up the defrosted, peeled shrimp. Also add the fish sauce or shrimp/anchovy paste.

Return the veggies to the pan with the curried shrimp. Add coconut milk, more or less depending on how liquidy you want the recipe. You can make it soupy, and spoon over Thai rice. Or, make it less soupy, and toss with flat noodles.

Squeeze in lime, then turn down the heat. If you’re making this with rice, now is the time to add some fresh, cut-up scallions, and the cilantro. Toss gently.

If you want to toss with noodles, then make room in your stir-fry pan by removing half the stir-fry. Then add your cooked noodles and a little more oil. Turn the heat up. If you’re good with brown sugar, put in some of that and get everything nice and hot and sizzly. My husband is wild – he likes to take out his blowtorch and use that on his Thai noodles, until the sugar carmelizes and everything gets that smoky flavor. Add the rest of the stir-fry that you had set aside, heat and repeat. Finally, mix in the fresh cilantro and scallions, toss under the heat for a bit longer and then remove from stove.

Squeeze a little more lime, then serve hot.

To make “Tom Yum Soup”:

Have the following ingredients available:

Leftover Thai stir-fry, or chop up a few carrots, peppers and mushrooms
Leftover cooked noodles
Frozen shrimp
Coconut milk
Red curry paste from Thai Kitchen
Anchovy paste
Chicken broth

Thaw shrimp using the method detailed above.

In a large saucepan, sautee veggies in a little oil for a few minutes.

Add shrimp, and toss with a generous helping of the red curry paste. Squeeze in some anchovy paste and mix well.

Add chicken broth. Pour in a small amount of coconut milk. Let simmer for a bit until veggies are cooked (or heated) through and shrimp is no longer translucent.

Squeeze in some lime juice and add the fresh herbs and scallions. To make this extra zingy, I grate in some of the lime zest, too.

Makes a tasty and healthy lunch!

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