Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce / Nam Plar / น้ำปลา is almost the defining taste of Thailand as it is used in so many of the curries and some stir fries.

It is made from small, fresh fish such as anchovies, which are barrel fermented with salt and water for 9 months or so. It is extremely salty, so use with care ! If the idea of eating rotten fish liquid disgusts you, take consolation in the thought that you have most likely beein eating Worcester sauce for years which is also made from fermented anchovies !

Although we like the Squid brand, there isn't the difference in quality between the offerings as there is in say coconut milk. We'd recommend getting the least salty offering you can find (as you can always add more salt !).


Soy Sauces

Soy Sauce is brewed from fermented soya beans, grain, water,salt, yeast and mold.

However, there are some brands that make them from hydrolised soy protein instead of brewing, and this process produces a carcinogenic byproduct called 3-MCPD or 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol to you and me. An astonishing 22% of the brands tested by the UK's Food Standards Agency had this chemical.

Although they should in theory be banned, they are still readily available in your local chinese supermarket.

Here is the article on the Food Standard Agency's website.

Here are the pictures of the labels they recommend you should avoid (Golden Mountain, King Imperial, Pearl River Bridge, Jammy Chai, Lee Kum Kee, Golden Mark, Kimlan, Golden Swan, Sinsin, Tung Chun,Wanjasham)

I spoke to the scientist responsible for this report, they day it came out, as I used to use the green Golden Mountain bottle in certain dishes (it does taste very good). She basically said that you would need to eat quite a lot of it and frequently to be affected, so if you have been using these products occasionally, I wouldn't get too hung up on it personally. I've not got cancer yet, and statistically 30% of us get heart disease first !

Thin Soy Sauce

Light Soy Sauce is used in such Thai dishes as Pat Khing (stirfry with ginger), Pat Krapao (stirfry with Holy basil leaves) etc, and other dishes which were imported into Thailand by the Chinese.

This is the one I use. I'm not saying it is safe, just staking my life on it.. You make your own decision. It does taste ok though !



Thick Soy Sauce

 Thick Soy Sauce, sometimes called Sweet Soy Sauce is soy sauce with extra molasses and starch. It is not much used in Thai cooking except in Palo (a chinese style beef cassarole with 5 spice) or in Pat Se eow (stir fried noodles).

Unfortunately, it often has MSG in it, which I personally try to avoid.



Soy Bean Sauce

Soy Bean Sauce is soy sauce with crushed beans in it, and wheat flour.






Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce was traditionally made just by boiling up oysters and reducing down the resulting liquor. Unfortunately, most of the products you can buy today are nothing like as attractive, containing only around 30% oyster extract (of which 18% is water), with the rest being made up of soy sauce, corn starch and the infamous MSG.

Check that whatever you buy is not on the Food Standard Agency's avoidance list.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you know how to cook, you really don't need MSG or Oyster sauce. You can cook fried noodles, and thai stir fries perfectly well without it.

Sriracha Chilli Sauce

Sriracha Sauce / ศรีราชา is a sauce made out of chillies, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt, and is traditionally used as a dipping sauce (especially with chicken) and as an ingredient in a barbecue marinade.

We like the Flying Goose Brand which is slightly hotter and thicker than the others we have encountered.



Sesame Oil

 Sesame Oil is not used much in Thai cooking, but is a key ingredient in making marinades for barbecued chicken.





Sweet Chilli Sauce

Sweet Chilli Sauce is a dipping sauce that goes very well with chicken. It is made from pickled red chillies with their seeds, sugar, vinegar, salt and garlic.