To master Thai and Khmer (Cambodian) cuisine, it is essential to know the most commonly used ingredients to adjust the seasoning of recipes. By adding these ingredients sparingly and tasting the dish after each addition, you will learn to recognize the balance of flavors you are looking for. This technique will allow you to create delicious and perfectly seasoned dishes, and to discover the nuances of these unique and flavorful cuisines.
Sugar: Sugar is an important ingredient in Thai and Khmer cuisine. It is used to balance the salty and spicy flavors of dishes, especially in sauces and marinades. Substitutes such as palm sugar*, brown sugar, and maple syrup can add a subtle and complex sweetness to the dish.
Salt: Salt is a basic ingredient in Thai and Khmer cuisine and is used to enhance the flavors of dishes.
Fish sauce*: Fish sauce is a fermented sauce made from fish and is a key ingredient in Thai and Khmer cuisine. It is used to add umami flavor to dishes and can also be used as a substitute for salt in certain recipes. Substitute: salt.
Lime juice: Lime juice is used to add a tangy and refreshing flavor to Thai and Khmer dishes. It is often used in dressings and marinades, but also to adjust the seasoning of a tom yum soup, fried rice, or curry.
Chilies: Chilies are used to add heat and flavor to Thai and Khmer dishes. They are often used fresh or dried, whole or chopped, depending on the recipe. However, this ingredient is optional most of the time for the success of a recipe.
Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are easily found in Asian grocery stores such as Kim Phat, Kim Hour, and others.