Salty, sweet, sour, spicy, bitter—Thai cuisine is loaded with each and every one of these flavors. It’s this versatility that makes it such a great pairing for Tilapia. With such a mild taste, this fish makes it easy for dishes to feature the bold, aromatic ingredients that are essential to Thai cooking.
Don’t believe us? The next time you plan to eat Tilapia at home, prepare it using a few of the delicious Thai ingredients listed below. We promise you’ll have a hard time cooking other cuisines (yes, even Italian) after trying this.
Noodles are found in a variety of Thai dishes, from warm stir fries and soups to cold salads. Some of the most common types include rice, egg, bean thread and glass noodles. Pad thai, one of the most well-known dishes from this country, is made with rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts and peanuts. While it’s usually topped with prawns or tofu, we don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t experiment with other seafood.
2. Curry Paste
This rich and aromatic paste forms the foundation of every curry dish. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own paste from scratch—but most home cooks choose to buy pre-made ones from their local grocery store. There are three types of Thai curry pastes to choose from: red, green and yellow. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll get to enjoy lemongrass, chili, coriander, turmeric, galangal or garlic (or a combination of those things).
Try the recipe: Thai Curry-Roasted Tilapia Loins from Regal Springs.
If you’ve ever visited Thailand, you may recall seeing chilies on display at the local street-food markets. There are a variety of ways to use chilies (which range from blazing hot to subtly sweet) when preparing a Thai dish at home. You can thinly slice them for a garnish, muddle them into a paste or incorporate them into a sauce. In fact, if you add chopped fresh chilies to fish sauce, you’ve made a common Thai condiment.
Try the recipe: Pan-Fried Fish with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce from Daily Cooking Quest.
While eating a traditional pad thai dish, you may have noticed a slightly sweet taste. That’s because of this staple Thai ingredient. Known for its fruity and tangy flavor, tamarind is the perfect counterpoint to the other bold ingredients commonly used in Thai cuisine. Plus, it pairs well with white fish like Tilapia. If you enjoy this type of food, you may want to start storing tamarind paste and concentrate in your pantry—it’s arguably one of the most important ingredients in Thai cooking.
5. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is the primary ingredient in many Thai curries and soups—and for good reason. It creates a velvety smooth texture and absorbs all the different herbs and spices. For curries that have a bit of heat, coconut milk also provides balance.
Try the recipe: Crispy Tilapia in Thai Coconut Curry Sauce from The Wanderlust Kitchen.
6. Fish Sauce
Is it any surprise that fish sauce pairs well with Tilapia? Derived from salted and fermented fish, this sauce has a naturally strong taste—so try using it the next time you want to enhance the seafood in your dish. When added to a Thai recipe, fish sauce provides a deeply savory, umami flavor. It’s no wonder it’s an essential ingredient in many Thai dressings, dipping sauces and condiments.
Lemongrass is a prominent herb found in Southeast Asian cuisine. When used in Thai soups and curries, lemongrass provides a unique lemony taste. In addition, this ingredient has many health benefits such as the ability to lower cholesterol and boost immune systems.
Try the Recipe: Char Grilled Lemongrass Tilapia from Food Network.
8. Thai Basil
Compared to sweet basil, this Thai variety has a distinctly spicy, anise-like taste. Under high cooking temperatures, Thai basil remains stable which allows it to hold its flavor. You can find Thai basil incorporated into dishes like noodle salads and stir fries, sprinkled on top of curries and wrapped inside salad or spring rolls.
Get creative in the kitchen with Tilapia and Thai food. By keeping the above ingredients stocked in your pantry or fridge, you’ll be prepared to cook dishes that taste authentically Thai.
Looking for more ways to enjoy Tilapia? Check out these five Asian-inspired recipes.
Photo Credits: Regal Springs, SoftSheep / Shutterstock Inc., successo images / Shutterstock Inc., etorres / Shutterstock Inc., NUM LPPHOTO / Shutterstock Inc.