Thailand is a luscious country. Thanks to its warm climate, it can grow a whole range of different vegetables. Some are native to the country and wider East Asia.
Some have been imported from across the world over the years, via trade and migration.
This list will cover just a few of the most popular vegetables that are grown in the country. With such a large variety of plants of all kinds consumed in Thai cuisine, this is going to be a busy guide, so let us get to it.
A close relative of ginger, galangal is a herb native to India and China. It is known for its ability to stimulate appetite and digestion and is used to treat digestive complaints such as diarrhea.
It is also used to promote lactation and menstrual cycles. Galangal is one of the most valuable herbs in Thai cuisine. Its distinctive flavor is reminiscent of ginger root.
Thai people typically cook with galangal root in curry dishes, soups, salads, stir-fries, curries, and desserts. Galangal is often added to meat dishes, particularly chicken, beef, and pork. It is traditionally used in fish dishes with coconut milk.
In Thai cooking, galangal is usually ground into a fine powder and mixed with oil to form a paste called lahpet. This paste is sometimes used as part of a dipping sauce served with fried foods such as prawns, shrimp, squid, and small fish.
Galangal is also commonly combined with onions and garlic to create a spicy condiment called kapi kraaw. Some Thai cooks add roasted peanuts to galangal sauces to give them extra crunchiness.
Galangal has been shown to provide relief for indigestion due to a combination of stimulating the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and increasing peristalsis.
As an anti-inflammatory agent, galangal may be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, researchers believe that it may relieve migraines, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.
Galangal is believed to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Bai Makrut (Kaffir Lime)
The Kaffir Lime is one of the most popular fruits in Thailand. It grows in many areas in Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya, Trang, Satun, Ratchaburi, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, etc.
Most people add them directly into food, however, you can also dry them first and then add them to dishes.
There are two types of kaffir lime trees in Thailand. One type is known as ‘Kaffir Lime’, another type is known as ‘Citrus Aurantifolia’.
The main difference between these two types is their size. The Citrus has an average height of 10 meters, while the Kaffir Lime is much smaller, at 3 – 4 meters tall.
Hua-Chai-Tao (Daikon Radish)
Daikon radish is one of the most popular vegetables in Thai cuisine. The daikon radish is called “Hau-Chai-Tao” in the Thai language. It is a round root vegetable, similar to the carrot, and tastes somewhat sweet.
There are many kinds of daikon radish in Thailand. The most common kind is white daikon radish. This type of daikon radishes is usually smaller than the red ones. Other types include purple, yellow, and black.
Daikon radishes are widely used in Thai dishes such as khao soi soup, pha kapong, pahit plaa, etc. They are commonly served as appetizers or side dishes. They are often stir-fried with chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, or vegetables.
Another common use is to add flavor to soups. For example, they are added to noodle soups, rice porridge, or curry soups. They are also used in salads.
In Thailand, daikon radish can be found in all kinds of markets. However, the prices are higher in wet markets compared to those in supermarkets.
Pumpkins are a popular vegetable across so many countries, from Australia to Mexico to Ireland to the United States. So perhaps it isn’t too surprising that they have also become very popular in Thailand as well
One of the ways that Thai people usually cook a pumpkin is with coconut milk. They also use pumpkin to prepare desserts, such as pumpkin cake, pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin pudding.
In Thai cuisine, pumpkin is used as both a vegetable and dessert. Pumpkin soup is typically served with rice. Pumpkin pudding is made from pumpkin paste mixed with condensed milk.
Some dishes include pumpkin leaves, pumpkin flowers, and pumpkin seed oil.
Thai pumpkins and squash occupy a similar niche in Thailand’s cuisines, being used for very similar purposes, in stir-fries, in vegetable rice balls, and in a variety of curries too.
Pumpkin is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A, C, D, E, calcium, and magnesium are some of the nutrients that pumpkin provides. Pumpkin seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
Tua Luang (Soy Bean)
Although not exactly a primary export or import, soybeans do make up a staple of Thai agriculture
Vietnam is one of the largest producers of soybeans in the world. In Vietnam, soybeans are used mainly to produce tofu (bean curd).
The main production areas are found in northern provinces such as Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Thua Thien Hue, Ninh Binh, and Thai Binh.
In recent years, there has been increased interest in using soybeans as a source of protein. For example, in 2009, the government announced plans to introduce soybeans into school meals, and farmers are encouraged to grow soybeans specifically for food purposes.
Thai people also eat soybeans in summer because they are good sources of protein. In Thailand, soybeans are commonly used to make tofu.
Tofu is made from soybeans that have been coagulated and pressed into blocks. It is then cut up into cubes or sliced. Tofu is a staple food in Thailand and is eaten with many meals.
Man-Tayt (Sweet Potato)
Sweet potatoes and sweet potato leaves are native to South America, where they were first cultivated by indigenous people over 4,000 years ago. They spread rapidly across the region, growing wild in many parts of Central and South America., as well as across South East Asia, especially in Thailand.
They are considered filling and tasty by many people. The most common varieties across the country are white, green, and purple.
Production of sweet potatoes has increased dramatically worldwide since the early 1990s. This increase has been primarily due to advances in cultivation techniques and technology.
Cultivated varieties of sweet potatoes are available in various colors and sizes. Yellow and orange types are most common in commercial production. Most sweet potatoes are grown during the fall and winter months.
In the Thai language, “sweet potato” means “man-tayt”. Man-tayt is a kind of delicious snack food made from steamed sweet potato. People usually eat it with chili sauce and spicy dip.
There are lots of types of sweet potato snacks sold in local markets in Thailand. The most popular ones are “khao niaw”, “kanom khua pao”, “Kanom Kua Muay”, “Muay Kanom Kua”, “Phat Phak Yai” and “Ya Kaew Nuea”.
Cucumbers are a popular vegetable among Thai people. Cucumbers are in season throughout the year, thanks to the warm climate much of the country has. However, the most common time for eating cucumbers is during the monsoon season.
Cucumbers are usually eaten raw as part of salads or are pickled. They are also used as stir-fry vegetables and in sandwiches. The taste of cucumbers changes with different varieties.
There are many types of cucumbers produced in Thailand. Some examples include the following:
Long cucumber – This variety is similar to English cucumbers. They are about 10 inches long and weigh between 1/2 and 2 kg.
Jumbo or giant cucumber – These are longer than English cucumbers. They can reach up to 30 cm. Jumbo cucumbers are widely available in markets.
Shallots are commonly used in Thai, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. They are generally found in the refrigerator section of supermarkets, and they are used very similarly to how the United States and Europe use herbs such as Garlic.
They may be added directly to soups and stir-fries. Shallots can also be sliced and sauteed or grilled.
Cutting shallots into wedges is easier than cutting them into slices because it reduces the amount of water inside each slice. This will make it easier for the flavors to be absorbed into a dish when the shallots are added to curry or other food pastes.
Malagaw (Green Papaya)
Green papaya is one of the most popular vegetables in Thailand. It is usually eaten fresh and sometimes used to prepare desserts. Green papaya contains vitamin A, protein, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, and calcium.
Fresh green papayas can be found in any large market. They are usually located near the produce section. Fresh green papaya fruit is sold from early June to late August.
Raw green papaya is rich in vitamins A and C. Other nutrients include proteins, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
Pak Got Shanghai (Baby Bok Choy)
If there is a vegetable that is more synonymous with Thailand than Pak/Bok Choy and its variants, then we certainly haven’t heard of it yet!
Baby Pak Choy is one of the most popular vegetables in Thailand. Related to the Chinese cabbage, it has become the centerpiece of many Thai recipes across the country, and indeed across the world!
It grows well in tropical climates and is considered a vegetable with medicinal properties. The leaves of Pak Choy are eaten raw or cooked. They are used in Thai curries, stir-fries, salads, soups, and desserts.
Baby Pak Choy is low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin E. It contains beta carotene, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganese.
It’s inexpensive, is nutritious and delicious, and easy to prepare.
Thai people use the leaves of Pak Choy to cure various mild and minor diseases such as cough, cold, headache, fever, and stomachache.
So, there you have it! As you can see, Thailand makes use of a huge range of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds.
There are so many varieties of these ingredients in Thai dishes that it would take years to list all of them. So let us leave you with this shortlist of some of the most widely used, and you can use these as inspiration in all your future recipes!
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