Simple Thai recipes with common ingredients
So you’ve bought too much food while panic-stocking your pantry, which will last you more than a month. And you already ate Pad Kra Pao too many times this month and want to eat anything but another stir-fried dish.
Here are some suggestions for simple Thai dishes made with common ingredients from your pantry.
Note: Adjust each ingredient carefully for the flavour you want.
1. Khanom Pang Na Moo (Thai Pork Toast – ขนมปังหน้าหมู)
Image credit: Zabwer
This appetiser does not require many ingredients, and they make great snacks for group dining or parties. Some restaurants also serve a shrimp variation with sweet and sour sauce.
For the pork toast:
- 8-12 slices of white bread
- 300g of ground or minced pork
- 1-3 eggs
- 1 tbsp of Thai (or white) soy sauce
- 1-3 chopped cloves of garlic
- Chopped cilantro (otherwise, use parsley or coriander)
For the cucumber relish (ajad – อาจาด):
- 1-3 chopped cucumbers
- 1-3 chopped shallots (onions)
- Bird’s eye chilli (or red chilli)
- 2-3 tsp. of sugar
- 1 tsp. of salt
Note: Ingredient proportions are meant for sharing size. Adjust accordingly.
For the Khanom Pang Na Moo:
- Slice each bread slice into four quarters.
- Next, mix the chopped vegetables with the ground pork then spread onto bread pieces evenly.
- Make sure there is a balance between bread and pork
- After that, beat the eggs and dip the toast pork-side before pan-frying or baking them in the oven for 10 minutes at 121 Celsius.
- Once golden brown, let them cool for a while before serving with cucumber relish or your choice of sauce.
For the ajad:
- Pour the water in a saucepan at low-heat before adding vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- You can adjust the sugar and salt accordingly.
- Dice the onions, cucumbers and chilli and put them into the vinegar-sugar-salt mixture.
- Add chilli according to how spicy you want the relish.
The relish with diced vegetables tastes better when served cold to complement the steaming hot pork toast.
For a healthier option, Cooking With Nart recommends buying lean meat and grinding it yourself instead of buying already ground meat.
The appetiser goes best with any sweet and sour sauce but also tastes great without sauce.
2. Yum Khai Dao (Thai Egg Salad – ยำไข่ดาว)
Image credit: เมนู.net
The dish got its name (yum) because the preparation is nothing more than mixing (to yum) together ingredients. True to its namesake, the yum is a tossed salad with a Thai-style dressing.
- 3-4 eggs (chicken, duck, or quail)
- Bird’s eye chilli
- Fish sauce
- Lime juice
- Baby tomatoes
- Carrots (thinly-sliced)
- Cucumbers, lettuce, and celery (optional)
- Peanuts (optional)
- Fry the egg until medium-well or however you prefer
- For the yum, pour fish sauce, lime juice, bird’s eye chilli, and sugar into one sauce bowl and stir until fully mixed.
- Finally, add the vegetables and eggs into one bowl and pour the yum in, tossing it together until the flavour sets.
Note: Make sure to wash vegetables thoroughly before cutting and adding.
The final product has a milder spicy taste than its cousin dish, the green papaya salad or som tam. The yum salad focuses more on sourness, so it makes a good beginner’s dish for those who don’t want to order a non-spicy som tam.
3. Larb Pla Kapong (Canned Fish Larb – ลาบปลากระป๋อง)
Image credit: @orathai_lehikoinen
Instead of eating plain canned fish, transform it into larb with this simple recipe instead. Larb is a type of minced meat salad popular in Laos and northern parts of Thailand.
- canned fish (mackerel or sardines)
- lemon balm herb (lemon zest with mint leaves also works)
- spring onions
- Bird’s eye chilli (optional)
- One tbsp. of lime juice
- ½ tsp. of sugar
- 1-2 tsp. of roasted rice
- 1 tsp. of chilli powder (optional)
- Microwave the canned fish then separate some of the sauce to make the larb sauce.
- For the larb sauce, mix the lime juice, sugar and roasted rice together in the canned fish sauce.
- Add shallots and spring onions to the sauce and mix thoroughly
- Finally, pour the result onto the canned fish
Larb’s sour-spicy and occasionally salty taste goes well with both sticky rice and lettuce.
Recipe adapted from: NaiBann
4. Nam Tok Moo (Thai Waterfall Pork Salad – น้ำตกหมู)
Image credit: Pantip
The nam tok dish got its name apparently because of the meat juice that flows when cooked or cut. To some, the name could reflect the spiciness of the dish as well, as tears flow the moment they bite down on the juicy but spicy dish.
- 300g pork shoulder or pork neck
- 1 tbsp. of white sugar
- 1 tbsp. of white soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. of lime juice
- 1 tbsp. of chilli powder
- 1 tbsp. of roasted rice
- Basil leaves (optional)
- Marinate the meat with sugar and white soy sauce in a bowl by hand and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- While waiting, chop the shallots and parsley
- Grill the pork until well-done and then cut into thin strips
- Add fish sauce, lime juice, chilli powder, and roasted rice.
- Toss the meat with the ingredients in a bowl or pot.
- Finally, top the seasoned meat with chopped vegetables.
The sour-spiciness of the nam tok dressing combined with grilled meat makes an excellent pairing with sticky rice.
Recipe adapted from Krua Moo Moo
5. Tom Yum Goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง)
Image credit: Mark Wiens/Eating Thai Food
The popular soup dish doesn’t need much preparation but does require a handful of herbs to achieve its iconic taste. Below is a simplified recipe of Tom Yum Goong that boils down to basics for flavour.
- Bird’s eye chilli (red chilli)
- Makrut (kaffir) lime leaves (lime zest or juice also works)
- Lemongrass (or lemon zest)
- Onions and tomatoes (optional)
- Fish sauce
- Let lemongrass boil in water for 5 minutes before adding spices and sauce to the water.
- Add the makrut lime leaves to the soup, followed by fish sauce, lime juice and chilli peppers.
- Adjust sourness and spiciness accordingly. You can add to the soup later.
- Remember to add each ingredient slowly to let the flavour soak in the soup in between.
- Next, add already peeled shrimp and vegetables then let the soup cook.
- Serve once the soup ingredients look ready.
Recipe adapted from: ThaiTable
6. Deep-Fried Fish With Turmeric (Pla Tod Kamin – ปลาทอดขมิ้น)
Image credit: Pantip
A bit of herb makes a big difference when deep-frying a fish. On top of an already-strong garlic scent, the turmeric powder makes the fish dish even healthier. Be careful when deep-frying at home as the hot oil can be dangerous.
- Two 1kg fish (fish fillet also works)
- Turmeric (saffron, cumin, or curry powder also works)
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Vegetable oil
- Grind the cloves of garlic with the three spices with a mortar and pestle.
- Take the mixed ingredients and marinate the fish in a bowl by hand and let sit for about 10-20 minutes
- Carefully plop the marinated fish onto the pan or wok with heated vegetable oil. Occasionally flip the fish to keep it evenly fried on both sides.
- If there are leftover cloves of garlic, you can also deep-fry those to make garlic chips for the dish.
A few of tips when using frying with a pan:
- Use a thermometer to make sure the oil temperature is correct (this applies to other pans as well)
- Vegetable oil works best for deep-frying because it is less likely to catch fire at very hot temperatures. Take caution when handling.
- You can reuse the cooking oil again and again (possibly as many as 4-8 times).
The turmeric gives the deep-fried fish and garlic cloves a yellowy tint and subtle hint resembling curry. Not surprising since turmeric is a common ingredient in curry.
7. Lemongrass (Fried) Chicken (Gai Tod Takrai – ไก่ทอดตะไคร้)
Image credit: @wansinyoo
You can ginger up your chicken’s flavour by herb-frying it with lemongrass. Lemongrass has an earthy, lemony taste that makes lean meat like chicken aromatic which will have you drooling.
- 4-6 chicken wings (breasts or tenders also work)
- ½ cup of frying batter
- Vegetable oil
- Oyster sauce
- Makrut (kaffir) lime leaves (optional)
- Coat the chicken in batter and heat up the pan with cooking oil on standby
- Marinate the coated chicken with salt, oyster sauce, and some lemongrass and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Don’t use too much salt and oyster sauce or the chicken will become too salty.
- Fry the rest of the lemongrass until golden brown; this is an edible garnish.
- Put the chicken into the pan and fry until golden brown.
Recipe adapted from: OloeiFood
8. Fried Tofu With Peanut Sauce (Tau Hu Tod – เต้าหู้ทอด)
Image credit: @yamelarose
Unlike other more exciting Thai vegetarian dishes, a tofu’s dull-coloured appearance and lack of taste can turn away some people looking for something more savoury. However, they’d be hard-pressed not to give this appetiser a chance.
Caution: As with the deep-fried fish, don’t practice social-distancing with the oil too much. Dropping the food too high from the pan can cause bigger splashes from the hot oil and guarantee burns.
Ingredients for fried tofu:
- 4 tbsp. of frying batter
Steps for deep-frying tofu:
- Coat the tofu in flour and fry them in a pan.
- Once golden brown, take them out of the pan and dry them.
Ingredients for peanut sauce:
- 2 tbsp. of crushed peanuts
- 2 tbsp. of vinegar
- 1 tbsp. of bird’s eye chilli
- ½ tbsp. of salt
- ⅓ tbsp. of brown sugar
- chopped cilantro or coriander (optional)
The tofu’s spongy insides easily spoon the sauce when dipping, and the outside adds a nice crunch along with the crushed peanuts from the sauce. Some restaurants serve the tofu alongside deep-fried taro and radish, so you can also include those for more variety in your platter.
Recipe adapted from: Pantip
9. Miang Kham (เมี่ยงคำ)
Image credit: Technologychaoban
Unassuming like the lettuce wrap, what makes the dish stand out is the combination of diced ingredients and caramel-like sauce wrapped in betel leaves.
For the Miang Kham:
- Betel leaves (Spinach or other leafy greens can substitute)
- Dried shrimp
- Diced shallots, ginger, limes, and bird’s eye chilli
- Toasted coconuts
- Roasted peanuts
Note: Proportions for each topping should be about a palmful.
For the sauce:
- Palm sugar
- Fish sauce
- Shrimp paste
- Dried shrimp
- Toasted coconuts
Steps for the sauce:
- Grind dried shrimp along with some toasted coconuts until flaky before grinding further with shrimp paste.
- Add a bit of water to dilute the mixture then pour into a simmering pot and let it settle.
- Now add and adjust palm sugar and fish sauce until the mix is balanced. The sauce should be slightly thick and sweet.
- Cup a leaf in your palm and add a bit of every topping before lightly saucing over it. Fold it up before eating.
For a vegetarian option, Courageous Kitchen suggests swapping out fish sauce for soy sauce. Each brand has different tastes, so see which one tastes best to you. You can also do away with the dried shrimp, but it gives the sauce a particular fishy taste that adds a good depth of flavour to the dish.
Easy Thai dishes to cook at home
Depending on where you are, some of the ingredients above may not be as common as they are in Thailand. Whatever the case, cooking is not only fun to experiment while stuck at home, but becomes a useful life skill to have. You make something you want to eat and how you like it.
While some countries are facing a meat shortage, now’s the time to improvise when ingredients aren’t available. Especially when you’re making a new dish, making the best of what you have can lead to finding your own recipe and hopefully a new favourite dish.