Holy Basil is an annual plant grown mainly for medicinal and religious reasons but also with culinary uses. Holy Basil, Ocimum Sanctum, is also known as Tulsi, Tulasi and Kraphao. Hindus consider Tulsi to be a most sacred plant which is how it got the name Holy Basil. Holy Basil is therefore sometimes referred to [Read More…]
Herbs & Spices
Thai food is always associated with chillies and the hottest Thai Chili of all is the Prik Kee Noo Chili. Prik Kee Noo chillies are small in size, ranging from 0.5 to 5cm long but pack a mighty punch. Prik Kee Noo literally means ‘Mouse Droppings Chili’. (Kindly note that we avoided using the Sh** word here to keep this site suitable for family consumption).
Pandanus or Pandan leaves are frequently used in SE Asia to add flavour and fragrance. Pandan is Pandanus amaryllifolius, a member of the Screwpine family. The leaves of Pandanus should always be used fresh but very slightly withered as then their full aroma will be released. Whilst still growing on the plant, Pandan leaves have no scent at all. Once the leaves become dry they lose their fragrance. In Asian food stores they are sometimes available frozen.
The Curry Powder, Pong Kari (Pong Gari), is an essential ingredient in a few Thai Curries. Pong Kari is available commercially and there are many different brands of this curry powder to choose from but it’s much better to make your own. Pong Kari is an Indian style curry powder that is spicy rather than hot.
Mango Powder is made from raw, unripe green mangoes. Mango Powder, known in India as Amchur, is a spice used as a souring agent similar to lemons or limes. India is the largest producer of Mango Powder and also the largest consumer. Mango Powder is used in curries, chutneys and pickles, soups and dhals to add a touch of tartness without adding any liquid.
Chinese 5 Spice is a powder made from 5 spices. Actually more than 5 spices are sometimes used and there are several different recipes for Chinese 5 Spice. Chinese 5 Spice is highly aromatic and was created to give food all of the 5 flavours, Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Sour and Pungent. Our recipe for Chinese 5 Spice uses Szechuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Cloves, Cinnamon and Fennel seeds but you will also come across recipes using Cassia Bark in place of the Cinnamon, and Ginger or Nutmeg.
Fingerroot, sometimes known as Chinese Ginger or Ginger Key, is an Asian spice with both culinary and medicinal uses. Chinese Ginger gets its English name of Fingerroot from its shape which looks like fingers. The Fingerroot rhizomes have a distinct almost medicinal aroma with a flavour much milder than Ginger and is mainly used as a flavouring in soups and curries, especially in Thailand where Fingerroot is called Krachai, but also in some Indonesian, Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes
Edible Bamboo Shoots are the new growth from a few of the many varieties of Bamboo. Bamboo Shoots are an important food source in Asia but the Bamboo Shoots have to be prepared carefully before use. Young Bamboo Shoots have a very bitter taste and are often woody and difficult to digest, some of the varieties also contain Cyanogens. To prepare Bamboo Shoots for eating, the outer layers should be peeled off and the remaining root is then sliced and boiled in water for 15 – 25 minutes in an uncovered pan.
Galangal, also known as Galanga (Alpinia Galanga), is a rhizome widely used in Asia as a flavouring. Galangal or Galanga is used in Asian soups and curries and is similar in appearance to Root Ginger but the taste is completely different. Galangal has an earthy, Peppery somewhat soapy taste when eaten raw and is available as a fresh root or sliced. Galangal powder can be found in Asian supermarkets or you can grind dried pieces of Galangal to make the powder.
Ginger or Root Ginger was first cultivated in Asia and is native to China and India. Root Ginger, the rhizome of Zingiber Officinale, is an aromatic spice with many and varied culinary uses. Many Asian cuisines use the fresh root ginger either grated or sliced in savoury dishes. When dried and ground, ginger is used extensively in baking and is the flavouring in Ginger Beer. Ginger can be Candied in a sugar syrup or Preserved in salt and sugar (Stem ginger) for use in desserts and sweet confections and can also be pickled in vinegar and served alongside such dishes as Satays and Sushi.
The Kaffir Lime (Citrus Hystrix) is important to many Asian cuisines providing both Kaffir Lime Fruit and Kaffir Lime Leaves. Kaffir Lime leaves are highly aromatic and used as a flavouring. Kaffir Lime Leaves can be used whole, either fresh or dried, and are not normally eaten except in a few Asian dishes where the leaves should be finely chopped. Used extensively in Thailand and Indonesia in curries and soups including Thai Tom Yums, fresh Kaffir Lime leaves can also be used in salads.
Apium Graveolens is the culinary herb known as both Celery and Chinese Celery. However, whilst Celery and Chinese Celery share the same scientific name, Apium Graveolens, there are some important differences. Chinese Celery has hollow and much thinner stalks than the celery used in the West and also has a stronger flavour. Chinese Celery grew wild in Asia and was first cultivated by the Chinese many centuries ago and is today one of the most commonly grown culinary herbs in China.