Sweet basil / Horapa / ต้นโหระพา

Thai sweet basil is of the same family, but different from Italian Basil. Thai basil has a purple steam, with dark green leaves tinged with purple, and produces purple and white flowers.It has an aniseed-like flavour, and is used in red and green curries.


Available from any decent chinese supermarket, but typically they will only have one delivery a week.


Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir Lime Leaves are leave from the Kaffir Lime (Citrus Hystix) which is a small knobbly lime which grows on a thorny bush. Its aromatic leaves are a staple ingredient of so many thai dishes - curries, stir fries, salads and soups.

The grated skin of the kaffir lime is used to make green curry paste - essentially it is that which makes green curry green.

Unfortunately in the uk, the import of Kaffir Lime leaves are banned because of the threat the pests and diseases they have been found to carry would pose, principally to citrus production in the south of the European Community. Fortunately from a certain point of view, they aren't doing a very good job at stopping them being brought in, although supplies are rather sporadic. English supplies are available but at an extortionate price (one internet provider charges 50p per leaf).

Fresh lime leaves do freeze very well, so buy as many as you can and freeze them (as I did in the picture).

Dried lime leaves are downright horrible and detract rather than add to the dish. If that's all you can get, don't.


Ginger / Khing

You know what ginger is, so let me just say that thai food requires fresh root ginger, not dried or preserved ginger.

Most noticeable in Pat Khing.




Galangal is a hard root spice with a slightly citrus taste. Most famous in Tom Kha Gai (it being the Kha element), it is also used in the making of curry pastes, and is popular in the dishes from the North East Isaan region.

Despite being called "Blue Ginger" it is neither blue, nor ginger and ginger is not an acceptable substitute. Pretty stupid name really.

Galangal freezes well.

Do not buy powdered dried galangal. It's a mistake !


Grachai , sometimes called Fingerroot is, you've guessed it, another of the ginger family. It doesn't taste like ginger and you can't substitute it for ginger nor ginger for it.

It's main use is in curry pastes, and some Isaan dishes.

It is not very easily available, but freezes well, so if you see it, snap it up !

Pandan Leaves

Pandan Leaves are the leaves of the 60 foot high Pandanus tree, and are used in asian cooking to give a subtle flavour and make things green. Mainly used in desserts.

[ If you buy from a Chinese supermarket, try the Chinese Pandan mochi - green pandan flavoured rice flour surrounding a sweet red bean paste interior. Much much nicer than I have made it sound. Go on - you can always spit it out and give the rest away. I love them. ]