Healthy aromatic herbs in Thai cuisine

Was inspired by a recent weekend I spent in Bed & Breakfast Royal Thainess Thai Cuisine in Tagaytay opened by my friend Chef Harlequin Boloron to post this article about herbs.  She uses a lot of it in her restaurant (at present only open for advance reservations but doesn’t disappoint!).  Facebook is Bed & Breakfast Royal Thainess Thai Cuisine.

In the two dinner sets we ordered, each dish was brimming with mouthwatering aromas, Chef shares she mostly imports fresh and herbs to keep to authentic flavours.  My favourite was the duck in red curry and chicken satay.  And the tom yum soup brought back memories of dining in Bangkok-that’s how authentic the flavours are!

Galangal the perfume-like scent and flavour of the galangal root is characteristic for many Thai curries and spicy soups.
Kaffir lime leaves are widely used in spicy Thai soups and curries, either cooked whole, together with the dish, and/or finely shredded and added before serving.
Coriander/cilantro leaves are seen often as a garnish with many Thai dishes. It is indispensable for Tom yam soup.
Phrik lap an elaborate mix of dried spices used in lap Lanna, a category of minced meat salads from Northern Thailand. Some of the ingredients used in this spice mix are: coriander seed, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, prickly ash and long pepper.
Fresh or dried, herbs are available in the supermarket or in your personal garden.  Pots of these plants may be purchased or given as gifts, and these are indeed very useful to the kitchen in providing unique flavors in every dish.  They add a little texture to the overall flavor, giving it a bit of zing.  Herbs such as basil may be used in handfuls to make a fragrant pasta sauce or may be pureed into the soup.  Mint may be used to season fish, chicken, lamb, and even make its way to dessert giving chocolate-inspired dishes a refreshing twist to things.

Although herbs appear usually in pasta, they can also be used in salad dressings, gravies, soups, sauces, and stews.  In marinades and grills, herbs like rosemary and dill give a refreshing taste to poultry and fish.  Rosemary may also be used in chicken stuffing or turkey marinade, and in non-culinary uses, in bath and body products. Basil, aside from being used in pesto sauce, may take advantage of their strong flavors in salads and stir-fries, such as green chicken curry. Some of these herbs, like mint and basil, may be pureed into smoothies and shakes. For shakes, though, it is best to use the herbs fresh rather than dried to bring out the best flavors. Dried herbs are best left for main courses, salads, and salad dressings.

Herbs like parsley, basil, rosemary springs, and mint sprigs not only have uses in flavoring but also in garnishing, providing a very flavorful décor (which sometimes, can be eaten by the way).  Puddings and mousses may be garnished with a mint sprig, and the rosemary sprig that was used in baking or grilling that slab of fish may be used as an added décor.  In plating the meal, a few basil leaves or parsley may add a little design and contrast to the color of the dish, giving it a plus in the aesthetic department.

Whether for décor or flavor, there sure are a lot of ways in those little pots of herbs in the garden can be utilized in the kitchen. These small leaves and stems otherwise give a lot of flavor.  If the place where you live doesn’t enable you to have access to a fresh pot of herbs, dried ones are suitable in certain recipes. For recipes that really require to use them fresh, there are also fresh herbs available in the grocery or organic market.


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