The original name of Thailand was Sukhothai, which means “Dawn of Happiness.” Without a doubt, sharing a Thai meal will bring this attitude of pleasure to your table. Preparing Thai food is quick and easy. Most recipes are cooked on a stovetop for a short period of time making Thai food ideal for weeknight dinners. Plus soups and curries can be made ahead of time, frozen and reheated for serving.
Cooking a Thai meal will introduce your family to a new culture through a variety of flavors.
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Common flavors in Thai cuisine include:
- Coconut Milk
- Fish Sauce (Thailand’s version of soy sauce)
- Galangal (if you can’t find this ingredient substitute: ginger)
- Lemongrass (if you can’t find this ingredient substitute: lemon zest)
- Limes and Lime juice
Curry paste is a common ingredient in Thai soup, stir-fries and stews. It’s a spice mixture made with fresh chilies, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, onion and other aromatic spices. Prepared curry pastes are available in the Asian food section of most grocery stores. These jars deliver great Thai flavor with less hassle than making curry paste at home. The most common varieties include:
- Green Curry Paste- Made using green chilies. This is the hottest curry paste on the heat scale.
- Red Curry Paste- Made using red chilies. This is milder than green curry paste, but still fairly hot.
- Yellow Curry Paste – Made using yellow wax peppers and turmeric. More mild than red curry paste.
- Massaman Curry Paste – A roasted curry paste that is made using cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom. It has a sweet and spicy flavor.
- Panang Curry Paste – Made using lemongrass, coriander and cumin. It is the mildest curry paste.
Curry pastes are spicy. For milder, family-friendly flavor, cut down on the measurement of curry paste called for in a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of red curry paste use 1 teaspoon instead.
Coconut milk is a staple in Thai cooking. It’s made by soaking the coconut meat in water, then blending, squeezing and straining it. The result is a milky, smooth liquid with a wonderful coconut flavor. Canned coconut milk is found in the Asian section of grocery stores. High in calcium and low in cholesterol, coconut milk makes a good substitute for heavy cream for those with dairy allergies.
Although a coconut is not a true nut, in 2006 the FDA categorized coconut as a tree nut for the purposes of product labeling. Allergies to coconut are very rare and do not to relate other tree nut allergies.
The Tiniest Gourmet: Introducing Thai Food with Purees and Mashed Combinations
A simple way to begin introducing Thai flavor to your baby is by adding coconut milk in homemade baby food. As with any new food, follow the “one at time” rule – and introduce just one new food over a 2-3 day period. This will help you identify a culprit food in the event of an allergic reaction.
Thai Coconut Red Curry Sauce Cubes
1 can (13 oz.) coconut milk
1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ cup chicken stock
Over medium heat, whisk all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a light simmer and remove from heat. Pour sauce into a 2-cup measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes. Pour the red curry sauce into your So Easy Baby Food Trays, cover and freeze until ready to use.
Remove a sauce cube from the freezer, defrost and add it to pureed or mashed rice (or rice noodles), meats, vegetables and fruits. When first introducing the sauce, try a small amount and work your way up to more. Here are some delicious combinations for awesome Thai curries:
- Sweet potatoes, chicken, pineapple and rice
- Beef, zucchini, and rice
- Flaked white fish (i.e. Cod), spinach and rice noodles
Tropical Thai-Style Fruit Pudding
½ cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. lime juice
Peel, core and chop mango into chunks. Peel and slice banana into chunks. Over medium heat, pour coconut milk into a medium-sized saucepan. With a wooden spoon, stir in brown sugar and lime juice. Add mango and banana. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and puree to a smooth texture. Pour the fruit pudding into your So Easy Baby Food Trays, cover and freeze until ready to use.
Defrosted pudding cubes taste great alone, but try these options for variety:
- Add fruit pudding to oatmeal for a great tasting start to the day.
- Add a few cubes of fruit pudding to pancake batter to make Thai-inspired pancakes
- Add mashed brown rice to create a fruity rice pudding
- Toss 2-3 frozen cubes, 2 ice cubes and splash of fruit juice or milk in a blender for a frothy fruit smoothie
Toddler Treat: Coconut Chicken Soup
Soups take the chill off winter and tastes oh-so good when you have the sniffles. This recipe for chicken soup has full Thai flavor and is sure to be a hit with the whole family, even the pickiest toddler. If you have a baby in your household, scoop out a little soup and purée it in the blender. It will be a nice consistency for the baby.
Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
5 cups chicken stock
1 can (13oz) coconut milk
6 thin slices of fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
¾ lb boneless chicken breast
9-10 oz. baby spinach, sliced into thin shreds
4 ounces shitake or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
Slice chicken breast into very thin strips and set aside. In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the red curry paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, coconut milk, ginger, lime juice, fish sauce and chicken breast. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add spinach and mushrooms and simmer another 5 minutes. Add cilantro just before serving. Remove and discard the ginger slices before serving.
Family Thai Dinner
Food courses in Thai meals are eaten “in harmony”, or all at the same time. This method is perfect for families – it provides variety and everyone can sit at the table to enjoy the meal together. Traditionally Thai dishes are artistically garnished, so add a fresh flower or fruit garnish for an authentic presentation!
Family Thai Dinner Menu
Sweet Pork (recipe below)
Coconut Rice (recipe below)
Sweet Pork (Moo-Wan)
This is a simple recipe from Northern Thailand that turns pork tenderloin into sweet perfection.
1 pound pork tenderloin
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
¼ cup water
Peel shallots and cut into thin slices. Set aside. Remove fat from the outside of the pork tenderloin. Cut pork into ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside.
Add the oil to a 10-inch skillet, wok or deep sided pan and place over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the shallots and fry for 1-2 minutes until they begin to turn brown. Add the sugar and stir until melted (be careful not to splash yourself). Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and water and bring to a boil. Add the pork and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes or until pork is tender and cooked through. Once the pork is cooked, remove it with a slotted-spoon to a rimmed-serving dish. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce for 1 minute to thicken it. Pour the sauce over the pork and serve.
¾ cup chicken stock
¾ cup coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz. shitake or button mushrooms
Remove the white part of the scallions and thinly slice the green parts. Set aside. Place chicken stock, coconut milk, and rice in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Stir well. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 10 minutes. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and shitake mushrooms. Sauté 3 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
When you are ready to serve dinner, fluff the rice with a fork, toss in mushrooms and scallions.
About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.