10 tips for making home-cooked Thai food, from a Le Cordon Bleu-trained professional chef

Natchayakorn “Chef Fai” Limkertpol is a graduate of Thailand’s best culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Bangkok. These days, the Phuket chef splits her time between making new culinary creations at the uber-romantic Black Ginger restaurant in Phuket’s Nai Yang Beach, and teaching resort-goers to cook at Khun Moo’s Cooking School inside The Slate resort (which we previously reviewed here).

Coconuts asked Chef Fai to tell us her top tips for making Thai food at home, and she was nice enough to share her wisdom. 

Natchayakorn “Chef Fai” Limkertpol. Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media

Here’s what she had to say:

  1. If you get chili on your hands — which you will if you are making any kind of authentic Thai food — hold them over the steam from a boiling pot of water. “It will burn really badly for a minute but then it will feel better,” she said.                                                                                                                                                                        

    Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media
  2. “Water and sugar can make a salty dish better,” Chef Fai said as she stirred both into my overly salty krapow gai (basil chicken). She also reminded us that all dishes will be diluted with rice, so so salty plates may not be as bad as you fear. 
  3. Mosquitoes hate kaffir lime. So if you’re having issues in your home, leave bowls of the discarded skins from your cooking on your balcony, table, or table.      
  4. The basics of every Thai sauce is a paste made of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime (leaf and skin), shallots, and garlic. Each sauce requires these ingredients in different quantities. So, if you have them on hand, you’re in good shape for Thai cooking.

    Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media
  5. Red curry paste gets its color from red chili and green curry gets its hue from green chili. Yellow curry, however, gets it shade from fresh turmeric root.
  6. When making Thai food, don’t use just any soy sauce, make sure it’s a Thai one. Japanese soy sauces, such as Kikkoman, doesn’t taste the same. It’s a bit sweet while Thai soy sauce is purely salty.                             
  7. Chef Fai is also a huge fan of the inexpensive Squid brand fish sauce. She says it makes all Thai dishes taste better.
  8. If you feel like you aren’t getting all the juice out of your limes, try holding a spoon perpendicular and push the edge against a quartered lime. Rub the lime back and forth along the spoon edge to get all the juice out.
Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media
Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media

9. When making deep fried Thai food, such as corn fritters or bananas, they are obviously not supposed to touch each other. If they get stuck, push the less cooked one one underneath the older one to separate them.

10. When asked why there are no real Thai appetizers, Chef Fai laughed, “Thai people eat snacks all the time, they just eat whenever they are hungry, so there are no appetizers. Most Thai people don’t wait until they are so hungry for a meal that they need an appetizer before their meal arrives.”

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