Thailand is widely known for its delectable cuisines. Curry, in particular, is a dish that’s enjoyed all over the world, but what makes Thai curry taste so different from its Indian and European counterparts?

The short answer is the special blend of ingredients that make up the base for any authentic Thai curry. These herbs and aromatics used are fresh and ground into a thick paste packed with all the sweet, sour, and spicy notes that are the hallmarks of Thai cuisine.

In this article, you’ll get acquainted with these magical ingredients and know what makes Thai curry unlike any other.

1. Galangal

This vegetable is similar in appearance to ginger, but its flavor profile is very different. Galangal has a sharp, citrusy taste and a strong, woodsy aroma that makes it stand out. It’s also more peppery when compared to ginger, which is why the two aren’t interchangeable ingredients.

In Thai curries, galangal is first peeled and sliced into more manageable sizes. It then gets thrown into a mortar and pestle along with other ingredients before it gets grounded into a paste. This paste is what serves as the base of the curry.

2. Lemongrass

Another ingredient that is used in making the curry base is lemongrass. This is a highly-fragrant, stalky herb that imparts a strong lemony taste and scent to any dish. It looks a bit like spring onion, except much woodier.

To prepare lemongrass for curry, the top and bottom parts are first trimmed, and then the tougher outside layers are discarded. The inner core of the stalk contains the most flavor, and this is cut up and also grounded into a paste along with the other ingredients.

3. Fresh chilis

The type of chili used in Thai curry will depend on what type of curry is being made. For green curries, for example, fresh green chilis are used, while hotter red chilis are used for red curries. These are used mostly to add a fiery kick to foods, but they can also provide a touch of sweet or sour, depending on the variety.

4. Shrimp paste

Made from tiny, fermented shrimp and plenty of salt, shrimp paste is an ingredient that’s essential to a real curry. It adds a distinct taste that would be impossible to replicate without and provides most of the salt to the dish. Shrimp paste is also used in making the curry base as its texture helps to achieve a smooth consistency with all the other ingredients.

5. Kaffir lime

Kaffir limes are different from the regular variety in their wrinkly appearance but also in a much tartier flavor. In cooking, the kaffir lime juice, zest, and even its leaves are all used to add vibrancy to food. When making Thai curry, the juice and zest can be used at the start to flavor the base and also when finishing the final dish. The leaves are often added in the middle and thrown into the pot so that they can soften while simmering.

6. Coconut milk

While this ingredient is not part of the curry’s base, coconut milk is another essential Thai ingredient that’s needed in cooking curry. This is commonly added at the final stages of preparation, usually as a way to add sweetness and richness to the dish. It’s also used to temper all the strong flavor present.

There’s much work that goes into making authentic Thai curry, and it’s all about the base. For this reason, make sure to get the ingredients right as they’re essential to capture the true taste of Thai cuisine.

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