Marion's Thailand

Marion’s Top Ten Thai Ingredients

If you love Thai cuisine, learn from the best.

It’s profusion of exotic flavours and spices makes it among one of the most popular and coveted international cuisines.

Here, Marion Grasby from Marion’s Thailand gives us her top 10 ingredients that she believes are essential to any traditional Thai dish.


Coriander is known for its aromatic properties. It is also called cilantro or Chinese parsley. All parts of the coriander are edible. Coriander leaves are commonly used to garnish Asian food but the roots are just as prized. Coriander roots are an important ingredient in Thai curry pastes and soups. Coriander seeds can be used whole or ground and is commonly added into spice mixtures, curry pastes and marinades.

Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds can be used whole or ground. In Thailand, cumin seeds are usually used in red and green Thai curry paste.


Ginger is used in moo pad king (pork stir-fry with ginger) as well as in Thai soups, curries and salads. Look for firm, unwrinkled pieces of ginger (this indicates that it’s younger and fresher). Try adding a few slices to steep in hot water with a couple of tablespoons of honey - an excellent tea for when you’ve got a cold.


It’s easy to confuse galangal and ginger. Galangal is a pale, white or yellow colour with tinges of pink. It has a mild peppery, pinewood flavour. Galangal is known for its flavour and herbal scent in Thai soups and is used in green curry paste, red curry paste and tom kha gai soup (chicken galangal soup).

Kaffir limes and leaves

Kaffir limes look like a wrinkly version of regular limes. This fruit offers many therapeutic benefits and can be used as an ingredient in food, beauty and household products. Kaffir lime peel produces a pungent aroma and is used in Thai curry pastes to add a distinctive flavour. Kaffir lime leaves can be used whole or cut into thin slices for use in Thai curry and spicy herbal soups.

Betel Leaves

Large, green leaves with a pungent, ‘medicinal’ flavour. The leaves are sometimes added to curries but they’re more commonly used in a Thai snack called miang kham, where the betel leaf is used to wrap up a mixture of fresh lime, toasted coconut, dried shrimp, ginger, chilli and sweet sauce.


Lemongrass is easily recognised with its long stem, unique flavour and lovely lemon aroma. Many famous Thai preparations use lemongrass such as tom yum soup, green curry paste and tom kha gai soup.

Sweet basil

Sweet basil or Thai Basil has small flowers and fragrant leaves with purple stems. It is an important herb in South East Asian cuisine and is often added to stir-fries, curries, salads and soups.

Holy basil

Holy basil can be differentiated from sweet basil with its lavender-colour flowers, dark green leaves with rough edge. It is commonly used in Thai cuisine for it’s distinctive peppery flavour. One of the most famous Thai dishes that uses holy basil leaves is called pad grapao (Thai Basil and chilli stir-fry).


The humble chilli is a fundamental ingredient Thai cooking. The array of chillies to be found in Thailand is simply stunning. The small green ‘scud’ chillies really pack a punch, while large, long orange chillies are more peppery than fiery. And on just about every Thai table you’ll find a mixture of sliced birds’ eye chillies and fish sauce called prik nam plaa.

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