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Herbs & Spices



fresh herbs
Thailand's great diversity of herbs and spices continues to provide a rich assortment of natural ingredients for exotic herbal preparations. Thai food is globally popular due to its flavors. The flavors of Thai food are quite different to those of any other cuisine. A mixture of fresh and dried ingredients makes Thai food flavors unique. Ingredients that are essential in Thai cooking are spices and HERBS, which beside their aromatic quality, are known to have diverse health benefits. 
Herbs and Spices always mention together. They involve in Thai cooking and being medicine.

Spice is a part of plant which has been dried before use for cooking such as Pepper (Prik-thai), Cinnamon (Ob-chey), Cardamon (Kra-wan). Most of Spices is dried plant from tropical zone. Strong odor of spice can enhances the aroma of Thai food.

Herbs (for cooking) mean fresh plant found in tropical countries. Its can be green leave, which mainly used for enhances food flavors and aroma. Most of herbs not used as main ingredient, this point made herbs distinguish from vegetable. Moreover herbs must have medicinal properties from traditional Thai medicine or modern research.

A spicy flavored variety of the basil herb, and is the nearest to European sweet basil. Three varieties of basil are used in Thai cooking - bai kaprow (Holy or purple basil), bai horapa (sweet basil), and bai mangluk (lemon or hairy basil).


Holy Basil (Bai Krapao)
A much stronger flavor than Bai Horapha, it has reddish purple leaves, and is usually cooked. Holy basil has a hot flavor and slightly medicinal. It has a purple stem and purple leaves, usually used in stir-fried menu such as.

sweet basil
Sweet basil (bai horapa)
Bai horapa is the most popular. It has small, dark leaves with reddish-purple stems and flowers. Its flavor is reminiscent of aniseed and somewhat stronger than that of the western sweet basil. It is mainly used in many thai recipes such as Green Curry with Chicken [Kang Kaew Wan Kai], Stir-Fried Clams with Roasted Chili Paste [Hoy Lai Pad Num Prik Prao].

lemon basil
Lemon basil (bai manglak)
Lemon basil has a light green stem and light green leaves. It has a lemony flavor and is used in soups, salads, and curries.

Bay Leaf (Bai Krawan)
Thai bay leaf is not the same as the Western bay, both plants belong to the family Lauraceae and have a similar flavor. Thai bay leaves are used in Massaman curry and soups.

Cardamon (Krawan)
Grown in South Eastern Thailand, Cardamon has been used since ancient times. These aromatic pods can be either green, white or black, and are used in a variety of sweet and savory Thai dishes, especially in curries.

Chilies (Prik)
Thai cooking frequently uses generous amounts of Chilies in most dishes. Many different varieties of chili are used, the most common being 3 to 4 inches long. They can be red, green or yellow when fresh, or red when dried. The hottest part of the chili is its seeds. To keep the flavor of the chili without the heat, the chilies are split open and the seeds removed. Dried chilies should be soaked in hot water for ten minutes before grinding.

Cilantro (Pak Chee)
The entire plant is used in Thai cooking. Each part, whether roots, stems, leaves, or seeds, has its own unique flavor and specific use. The fresh, delicate leaves are used in sauces, curries, and for garnishes, the roots and stems are crushed and used for marinades, and the seeds are ground to add flavor to various curry pastes.

Cloves (Kan Plou)
Cloves are the dried flower buds of a member of the myrtle family and can be used whole or in powder form. In Thai cuisine. They are added to curries but they also mix well with tomatoes and salty vegetables.

Coriander (Pakchee)
Thai cooking makes use of the roots as well as the seeds and leaves of coriander. The round, beige seeds are added to curries and vegetables. The roots are crushed with garlic and are often added to soups, with the leaves being used extensively as a garnish.

Coriander seed (Med Pak Chee)
Coriander is the seed of Coriandrum sativum, a plant in the parsley family. The seed is globular and almost round, brown to yellow red, and 1/5 inch in diameter with alternating straight and wavy ridges. Coriander seed, with its clean, lemony flavour, is the major component of almost every 'curry powder' or spice mixture used in Thailand, as well as other curries. The flavour of freshly ground coriander is a world apart from that of ground coriander which has lost its fragrance.

Cinnamon (ob choei)
Form the bark of a tree, the type of cinnamon used in Thailand is of only one kind, that from the Cassia tree. It is used in meat dishes and particulary in massaman curry a garnish.

Cumin (Yira)
Thai cuisine uses cumin on grilled meats and in sauces, with only the seeds being used either ground or dried.

Galangal (Kha)
There are two types of galangal - lesser and greater - and both are related to ginger. Greater galangal is the type most frequently used in Thailand, it's inside is milky white and has a more subtle aroma than that of lesser galangal. It is most frequently used in soups and curries.

Garlic (Grathiam)
Used abundantly in Thai cuisine, the Thai garlic head has much smaller cloves than Western varieties.

A root of Chinese and Indian origin. It is always used fresh rather than dried and should be peeled and chopped or crushed before cooking. It is available in supermarkets. Look for shiny fat roots that aren't wrinkled or shrivelld. Though not used as frequently as galangal in Thai cooking, ginger makes a good alternative to galangal.

kaffir lime
Kaffir Lime Leaves (Bai Makrut)
The Kaffir lime is a member of the citrus family. Thai cooking uses both the lime zest and the leaves. The fruit has a dark warty green rind and very little juice, with a skin rich in aromatic oils.

Krachai (No Common English Name)
This erect annual plant with aromatic rhizomes and yellow-brown roots, is used as a flavoring. The rhizomes contain approximately 0.8% volatile oil. Kaffir’s therapeutic uses of rhizome are to treat oral cavity diseases such as aphthous ulcer and dry mouth, diuretic, and to treat stomach pain and leukorrhea, antidysenteric.

Lemon Grass (Takrai)
Lemon grass has long lemony-smelling blades, but only the white, bulbous lower part is used. It gives a unique flavor to curries and soups and is one of the most common herbs in Thai food.

Lesser Galangal (Krachai)
The flavor of this spice is a cross between ginger and black pepper and the fresh spice is most often used in jungle curries and fish dishes.

Mint (Bai Saranae)
Thai salads, fish dishes and soups are all flavored with leaves of the spearmint variety.

Marsh Mint (Sa Ra Nae)
The fresh leaves of this herbaceous plant are used as a flavouring and eaten raw in Thai cuisine. Volatile oil contents give the plant several therapeutic uses, including carminative, mild antiseptic, local anaesthetic, diaphoretic and digestant properties.

Mace ( Dok Chan)
The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is special in that it produces two seperate spices, nutmeg and Mace. Mace is the ground outer covering (aril) of the nutmeg seed. A piece of unground Mace is called a blade. The orange outer covering of Nutmeg. Mace is used in making Masaman curry paste. The plant is native to Indonesia.

Nutmeg (Look Chan)
The nut is enclosed in a very hard brown shell. It is used in the making of mas-sa-mun curry paste.

Pepper (Prik Thai)
Pepper is the dried berry of Piper nigrum. This vine which can grow up to ten feet tall is indigenous to India and Asia. Pepper is actually berries that are picked about nine months after flowering. Black, white and green peppercorn types. Black Pepper has a sharp, pungent aroma and flavor. White Pepper is hotter, less subtle and mildly fermented. Green Peppercorn is milder in flavor and has a fresh taste. Green Peppercorn are available al year round but are best towards the end of the rainy season. Used as a spice and condiment, pepper contains a 2-4% volatile oil. Therapeutic uses are as carminative, antipyretic, diaphoretic and diuretic agents.

Pepercorns (Prik Thai)
Thai cooks use only two types of peppercorns: white for seasoning and green as a garnish and flavor for jungle curries and stir-fries.

Saw Leaf Herb (Pak Chee Fa Rang)
Also known as the sawtooth herb, this takes its name from the appearance of the leaves, which are long, slender and serrated. The herb has a similar but rather more pungent flavour than the coriander leaf. Saw leaf herb is used as a flavouring for meat dishes.

Star Anise (Poy Kak)
With a strong aniseed flavor, star anise is an eight pointed star shaped seed pod from a relative of the magnolia.

Thai shallots have a lovely pinkish purple color and are used extensively in Thai cuisine instead of onions, usually used in Thai Salad menu such as Thai vermicelli Salad with Prawns [Yum Woon Sen].

Tamarind (Ma Kham)
Tamarind is the bean like fruit from the tamarind tree. Before it ripens, the pod is green and can be eaten raw. Once ripened the pod is brown and brittle on the outside, with a soft juicy pulp inside. The pulp is compressed and then used to add a tart flavor to many Thai dishes, it is usually used in the form of tamarind juice.

Turmeric (Kamin)
It has unique aromatic characteristics and use to provide yellow coloring for Thai food. In Thailand it often forms part of curry pastes and also in the marinades for meat.


A vegetable fruit with a mildly sweet flavor. Many varieties of aubergine are used in Thai cooking, from tiny pea aubergines, which are added just before the end of cooking, to white, yellow or green aubergines. When these types are unavailable, substitute with the purple variety.

bamboo shoots
Bamboo Shoots
The edible young shoots of the bamboo plant. Pale to bright yellow when bought fresh. Fresh shoots need some preparation and take quite a long time to cook. When buying canned shoots , look out for the whole ones as they seem to be better quality than the ready-sliced canned bamboo shoots.

banana leaves
Banana Leaves
Glossy, dark green leaves of the banana tree are used to line steamers or to wrap foods such as chicken or fish prior to grilling or baking. They impart a vague flavor of fine tea.

bean curd
Bean Curd
Most often used in soups and Chinese dishes. It is made from soy beans and is rich in vitamins and minerals . It is usually sold in square blocks packed in water. Bean curd comes in many forms fresh, fried and dried.

bean sprouts
Bean Sprouts
Sprouted from mung beans, they are used in salads and stir-fried dishes. Rich in vitamins, protein and iron, bean sprouts are widely available in supermarkets. Look for crisp, firm sprouts with little scent.

bean sauce
Bean Sauce
Made from salted, fermented soy beans , this sauce is a popular flavoring agent in oriental dishes. It is also called yellow bean sauce.

coconut milk
Coconut Milk
This unsweetened liquid made from grated coconut flesh and water , is an essential ingredient of many Thai dishes. It is available in cans, compressed blocks or in powder form.

curry paste
Curry Paste
This is traditionally made in a mortar by pounding together fresh herbs and spices. There are several kinds. Home-made curry pastes take time and effort to prepare but they taste wonderful and keep well. Ready made pastes, which come in packets or tubs, are a good alternative and enable cooks to make tasty curries quickly.

fish sauce
Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)
The most commonly used flavoring in Thai food. Fish sauce is used in Thai cooking the same way soy sauce is used in Chinese dishes. It is made from salted anchovies and has a strong salty flavor.

palm sugar
Palm Sugar
Strongly - flavored, hard brown sugar made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. Available in Oriental stores. If you have trouble finding it , use soft dark brown sugar instead.

roasted ground rice
Roasted Ground Rice
Raw glutinous rice grains are dry-fried until brown, then ground to a powder. A traditional ingredient in salads.

salted eggs
Salted Eggs
A traditional way of preserving duck eggs in Asia. You can find them in most Oriental stores, often sold covered in a think layer of charcoal grey ash. Rub off the ash with your finger under running water and then hard-boil the eggs.

soy sauce
Soy Sauce
Made from fermented soy beans, soy sauce is available in light or dark versions and can be quite salty. It is the background seasoning to many stir fried and noodle dishes

Thais use a mild, plain white vinegar. Cider or Japanese rice wine vinegar can be used instead.


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