Vegetables are used for accompanying dishes in Thai cooking. They usually are served raw, boiled, steamed, grilled or deep-fried. There are about 30 main vegetables, which are used in Thai cooking.
Lotus root is an underwater root that grows to be as long as four feet. The root is dark reddish brown and needs to be peeled prior to using. The flesh is a creamy white and tastes similar to coconut. Lotus root is available canned, dried or candied and can be used as a vegetable or in dessert dishes.
Pak Choi : Thai name is Phak Kwang Tung Taiwan
This is the most popular variety of cabbage eaten in Thailand. Despite its other name - Chinese white cabbage pak choi is not uniformly white. The ribbed stems are a beautiful greenish white, which stands out starkly against the lush dark green leaves. In Thailand, cabbage is often eaten raw with a chilli dipping sauce and is also cooked in stir-fries and soups. Pak choi is usually either thinly sliced or cut into squares and is best cooked briefly.
Papaya : Thai name is Ma La Kor
Papaya is a tropical fruit with a smooth, yellow skin and soft, sweet orange flesh that is milder tasting than a mango. Other shapes and colors of papaya are also grown. Halve a papaya lengthwise and scoop out shiny black seeds before peeling.In Thai cooking, young green papaya is used to make salad or Som Tam, a popular salad dish among foreigners in Thailand. You may be in difficulty in finding fresh green papaya outside Thailand. The fresh carrots or cabbages or green apples can be used as a substitute.
Pea Aubergines : Thai name is Makreu Puang
These pea-size berries, which grow in small clusters, have a bitter flavour that is a good foil to the rich ness of the spicy curries in which they are most often found. They are also used as a flavouring for nam phrik.
Shiitake Dried Mushroom : Thai name is Het Hom Hang
It is also known as Shiitake mushroom. It has no flavor but is used for its texture. It is available in dried form, and looks like dried, black, wrinkled paper. When soaked in water for about 10-20 minutes, it swells and resembles wavy seaweed or jelly. Stored in its dried form, it will keep indefinitely.
Shiitake Mushroom : Thai name is Het Hom
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are available, but Thai cooks prefer to use them dried as they have a stronger flavour and more texture. Both types are available in supermarkets and Asian stores. Dried shiitake mushrooms must be reconstituted in water before beingused. The stems are usually discarded and the caps sliced or chopped for adding to soups or stews. The soaking water can be strained and used in a soup or stock as it takes on the flavour of the shiitake. The dried mushrooms will keep well if stored in a sealed plastic tub or bag in a cool, dry place.
Spring Onions : Thai name is Ton-Hom
Soring onions are a variety of onion harvested immature before the bulb has formed. Both the green leaves and white bulbs are used raw or cooked for their mild but still pronounced onion flavor. Spring onions are also known as scallions or spring onions. Spring onions are used in Thai cooking for stir-fries and in soups. They are also popular for garnishes, either sliced or cut into tassels, then curled in iced water.
Suger Pea : Thai name is Tua Lan Tao
You eat these whole, pod and all. They’re often stir-fried very briefly (no more than a minute), but they’re also good raw. They’re easy to prepare, just wash and trim the ends. Some people string them as well, but that’s not necessary. Select crisp, flat snow peas that snap when you break them.
Swamp Cabbage : Thai name is Phak Boong
This popular leafy plant, also known as water convolvulus or water spinach, is actually a herb. It grows in marshy areas, near rivers and canals, and is related to the morning glory that riots over walls and fences in many European gardens. It has slender, hollow green stems and thin ovate green leaves which are pointed at the ends. In some parts of Asia, the stems are pickled, but in Thailand, only the leaves and tender shoots are eaten. The flavour is similar to that of spinach. In Thailand, the tender tips are often eaten raw, on their own or with other raw vegetables, and served with a selection of hot sauces. When cooked, the stem tips stay firm, but the leaves rapidly become limp.
Sweet Chilli : Thai name is Pkrik Waan
Sweet chillis are sweet-fleshed, bell-shaped members of the chilli family, enjoyed raw or cooked. Unripe green and ripened red or yellow varieties are the most common. Pale yellow, orange, and purple-black types are also available. Italian chillis are slightly sweeter and more slender than regular chillis. Before use, bell peppers must have their indigestible seeds removed. Often the chillis are roasted, which loosens their skins for peeling and enhances their natural sweetness.
Eggplant (Ma Khua)
Eggplants are tender, mildly earthy, sweet vegetable-fruits covered with tough, shiny skin, which may be peeled or left unpeeled in grilled or long-cooked dishes. They vary in color from the familiar purple to red and from yellow to white. The most common variety is the large, purple globe eggplant, but many markets also carry the slender, purple Asian eggplant, which is more tender and has fewer, smaller seeds. When cooked, all eggplants have a mild flavor and tender, creamy flesh. Look for plump, glossy, heavy eggplants with taut skin and no bruises or scratches. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 2 days. Eggplants are also known as aubergine and in Italy as melanzana.
Taro : Thai name is Puak
This root grows wild on the banks of streams in Thailand and is particularly popular in the north of the country.The swollen tuber is full of starch and is eaten in the same manner as potatoes. The young leaves can also be eaten. Wear gloves when peeling taros.
Tomato : Thai name is Ma kheua Thet
Tomatoes, Ma-Kheua thet of three types are used in Thai cooking. The first is small, round fruits, not much bigger than a pea, which grow in clusters and have a sweet and sour taste. These are used in Northern and Northeastern dishes. Large-sized tomatoes are sweet and are used in sour and spicy soups and in spicy salads. The third type is cherry tomatoes. These have a sweet and sour taste and are used in Northeasternstyle papaya salad as well as in curries and sour and spicy soups.
Twisted Cluster Bean : Thai name is Sa Taw
Thailand, these beans are about the size of broad (fava) beans. The bright green pods that house them are flat and wavy. The beans themselves have a peculiar smell and nutty taste that give a distinctive flavour to regional dishes. The beans are usually eaten as a vegetable, and they taste good in a sweet-and-sour stir-fry. They are also sometimes roasted and eaten with nam phrik, and are made into pickles.
Wax gourd : Thai name is Fak Khiao
Wax gourd, fak khiao, Benincasa hispida, also called white gourd or Chinese preserving melon, is oblong and light green to white. The ends are rounded and the flesh is solid and white.
Winged Bean : Thai name is Thua Phu
It bears a pod which in cross section looks like a rectangle that has a fringe-like extension at each corner, the « wings » of the bean.
Yard Long Beans : Thai name is Tua Fugk Yaew
These are long, deep green ,stringless beans which grow up to 30-60 cm. Cut in short lenghts, they are used in stir-fries, curries and sometimes soups, They have less flavour than other types of green beans but are easier to prepare.
Apple Aubergines : Thai name is Makheua
These small round aubergines are pale green, yellow or white. They are eaten raw with the ubiquitous chilli sauce, nam phrik, or cooked in curries. They have little flavour, but when raw have an interesting texture. They discolour rapidly once cut, so drop’ them into salted water if you are preparing them in advance.
Asparagus : Thai name is Nor Mai Faruang
Asparagus are long, slender vegetables that grow as shoots in spring and early summer. The straight, firm stalks, which range from pencil thin to as thick as your thumb, are prized for their delicate flavor ; the tender tips have a particularly delicate flavor and texture. The most common variety is green and sometimes tinged with purple at the bud. White and all-purple stalks are also available in farmers’ markets and well-stocked grocery stores. Look for asparagus with crisp, straight stalks and tight buds. Wrap in damp paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 4 days. Trim the stalks before using. Cut or snap off the tough ends and discard. If desired, peel the bottom third or half of each stalk with a vegetable peeler for a more tender texture.
Baby Corn : Thai name is Khao Phod On
Baby corn refers to whole, entirely edible cobs of immature corn, no more than 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long. Corn is a popular vegetable in Thailand. For stir-fries and soups, Thais prefer baby corn cobs, which have a musty sweet flavour, as well as a crunchy texture. They are available fresh and canned. Fresh baby corn cobs are best eaten soon after purchase but can be stored for up to 1 week in the salad drawer of the refrigerator.
Bamboo Shoot : Thai name is Nor Mai
Bamboo shoots are the crisp, mild-flavored, white to ivory shoots of the bamboo plant. The shoots of the bamboo are cut when they have grown about 15 cm. above the ground. Before using, peel the skin and boiled the inner white part for 30 minutes. The canned variety needs to be boiled for only 10 minutes. This is a popular ingredient in Thai cooking and can be purchased from general stores and markets.
Banana Blossom : Thai name is Hua Plee
Also called banana flowers and banana blossoms, these are in fact the tender hearts of unopened banana flowers, which have been stripped of their purple petals. They are available fresh in some Asian markets and also canned or dried. Fresh banana buds discolour rapidly once they are sliced or shredded, so should be brushed with lemon juice to prevent this. Banana buds are used in northern Thailand to make a tasty, squash soup. They are also a popular salad ingredient, tasting rather like artichokes.
Bean Sprout : Thai name is Thua Ngok
Most often used of bean sprouts in Thai cooking are the small « green » sprouts from mung beans and the larger « yellow » sprouts from soya beans. Soya beansprouts have a stronger flavour than mung beansprouts, but both are relatively delicate, with a pleasant and unique crunchy texture. Fresh beansprouts are widely available in supermarkets, health-food stores and Asian food stores, or you can easily sprout your own beans at home. Avoid canned beansprouts as they are flaccid and tasteless.
Bell Chilli : Thai name is Phrik Youkg
Bell Chilli, phrik youkg, is light green in color and mild in taste. They are used in spicy salads and chilli Pilstes for their fragrance, and in stir-fried meat dishes for both flavor and aroma.
Bitter Melon : Thai name is Ma Ra
Tropical, annual vine has bitter taste Culinary use : Soup, curry, and salad. (If you don’t like the bitter taste, parboil with salt and rinse 2-3 times before cooking.) The Thais belive that it is very good for the kidneys and blood. Look for small and firm specimens that are still green when buying. Medicinal use : Mild laxative, antipyretic gargle the fruit juice to relieve an aphthous ulcer.
Broccoli : Thai name is also Broccoli
Broccoli, a member of the cabbage family, is green to purple-green in color and has tightly clustered flowers, or florets, borne on sturdy stalks. The florets are the most tender part. The stems, if peeled, can also be used. Choose firm stalks and closed heads with deep color and no yellow areas. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 4 days.
Carrot : Thai name is also Carrot
Carrots are root vegetables that are bright orange in color, with a sweet flavor and a crisp texture. They range in size from small, baby carrots to short, almost round varieties to long, slender roots. Fresh carrots are sold year-round. Avoid droopy carrots with cracks or dry spots. Remove the feathery green tops and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Peel or scrub carrots before using.
Cauliflower : Thai name is Dok Kha Lam
Cauliflower, a member of the cabbage family, is a solid head, white in color, with tightly clustered flowers, or florets. The florets are the most tender part, but the entire head is edible. Cauliflower is available year-round. Avoid heads with brown patches or speckles or yellowed leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.In Thai cooking, Cauliflower florets often wind up in soups and stir fried, or as a side dish dipping with spicy shrimp paste sauce.
Chinese Broccoli /Kale : Thai name is Phak Ka Na
A dark green vegetable with strong, thin, long round trunks, soft, deep green delicate leaves, and sometimes tiny white flowers. It does not look like or taste like the common broccoli. It has a slightly sweet and bitter taste. Delicious stir-fried, steamed, or boiled but never eaten raw. Most popular dish is Ka na nam mun hoy which is stir fired with oyster sauce. Unlike regular broccoli, the stems are usually tender and do not need to be peeled. However, more mature or larger stalks should be peeled before cooking. It is always smart to separate the leaves and trunks. The trunks require more cooking time, then add the leaves near the end, so that they cook evenly. When buying Chinese broccoli, choose brightly colored ones with slender thin trunks.
Chinese Cabbage : Thai name is Phak Kaet Khaao
Also known as celery cabbage, this vegetable has soft green and white leaves with a mild, sweet flavour and crisp texture. It is widely available in supermarkets and is easily recognized by its fat, cylindrical shape and tightly packed leaves. When buying, choose specimens that are heavy and firm. Before use, discard any damaged outer leaves and trim the root. Do not worry if the leaves have small black spots on them ; they are harmless. This type of cabbage keeps well and can be stored in the salad compartment of the refrigerator for several weeks. It is used in stir-fries, salads and soups.
Chinese Chives : Thai name is Kui chai
These pungent herbs look more like long, flat spring onions than their Western equivalent. The leaves are peppery, crunchy and chewy. They are eaten raw and cooked and are prized for both their texture and flavour. Spring onions can be used as a substitute but they will not have the distinctive garlic taste of Chinese chives.
Chinese Mustard Green : Thai name is Phak Kwang Tung Jeen
The Chinese name for this type of cabbage is choi sum. It is widely grown in the West and is often available from farmers’ markets, as well as Asian food stores. The stalks, leaves and yellow flowers of this plant are all edible and have a delicate flavour. The cabbage is usually cut into short lengths and used in soups and noodle dishes, but it may also be stir-fried.
Chinese Radish : Thai name is Hua Chai Tau or Hua Phak Kat
Thais value this vegetable, believing that it aids digestion, cools the body and improves blood circulation. Also called giant white radish or winter radish, it is a long white root that resembles a slender, smooth-skinned parsnip in appearance. It can be up to 40cm/l6in long, although the Thai variety is often considerably smaller. Large specimens tend to be fibrous and should be avoided. When raw, the flavour of mooli is cool, sharp and peppery, and the texture is crisp. Thais don’t often eat it this way, but the grated flesh is sometimes used to tenderize seafood. When the vegetable is cooked, the characteristic texture is retained, but the flavour becomes quite sweet.