Want to improve your health? You might want to incorporate some Thai flavorings into your cooking. Ancient teachings have long associated certain plants and animals with healing properties. Many are featured in traditional ethnic cuisines, such as the foods of Thailand. Modern studies largely confirm the health benefits of certain herbs, spices, seafood and animal products, a number of which star in sauces and pastes available at U.S. grocery stores.
Following are examples of some common Thai condiments that can easily add exotic, delicious and healthful flavors to everyday American meals:
Fish Sauce, perhaps the single most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking, imparts to food a distinct aroma and meaty taste often referred to as “umami.” Rich in magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6, fish sauce is a savory addition to seafood dishes, such as linguini with clams, and to turkey or beef burgers. Fish sauce may become your new salt substitute
Roasted Chili Jam is made primarily from roasted red chilies, which help stimulate blood circulation, and ground dried shrimp. The jam adds a sweet, mellow taste to soups, is delicious in noodle dishes, Thai-style salad dressings and dipping sauces, and lends zest to such healthy vegetables as cucumbers, cabbage and green beans. Incorporate it into your hot dog fixings.
Tamarind Paste imparts a delicious, fruity tartness to soups, salads, stir-fries and sauces, and is one of the primary souring agents in Thai food. The paste comes from tamarind pulp, which is high in vitamin C, vitamin B and calcium. Among its many medicinal uses, tamarind has been found to improve digestion, relieve gas and soothe sore throats. Use tamarind paste instead of lime, lemon or vinegar to give zing to fish.
Coconut Milk is the base of most Thai curries and adds a luscious flavor to desserts, including rice pudding and homemade ice cream. Studies have shown the saturated fat in coconut milk metabolizes easily, providing a quick energy boost. In addition, lauric acid, the principle fatty acid in coconut milk, promotes normal brain development and contributes to healthy bones. And if you’re lactose intolerant, coconut milk is an excellent dairy substitute.