Craving fast food? Packed with spicy heat, healthy proteins and fragrant herbs, home-made Thai hits the sweet and sour spot like no other cuisine
Thai cuisine has a rep for being esoteric and best outsourced to Deliveroo, but it needn’t do your noodle. “It’s very easy to cook,” says Saiphin Moore, founder of Rosa’s Thai Café. “It’s about balancing the flavours of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.” Restock your cupboard with these essentials and you can tuck into home-made fitness fuel that delivers flavour and health benefits by the wokful.
Far more than just a portion of performance-boosting carbs, rice noodles also boast a hefty mineral payload. They contain selenium, a compound that works to combat the oxidative stress linked to mental decline and even Alzheimer’s.
Though best known for bolstering your immunity, vitamin C also happens to be essential for retaining muscle mass as you age. The juice of one lime delivers a fifth of your RDA, helping you hold onto your hard-won muscle well into your forties and beyond.
This sugar undergoes minimal processing, so it retains its heart-healthy antioxidants. Unlike white sugar, it contains a prebiotic fibre called inulin, which lets you fuel your muscles without the energy slump.
Proof that good things come in small packages, these compact vegetables are packed with vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Most importantly, B2 – riboflavin – has been linked to a powerful boost to your immune system, helping to preserve your health all year round.
The round-bottomed wok is a Thai kitchen staple, but a flattened base is a better match for many gas and electric stovetops. “We use a high heat to cook, so if you’re not comfortable with constantly stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn, a non-stick wok is your best friend,” says Moore. Traditional chefs swear by carbon steel woks, but they require seasoning to build a protective, non-stick coating. Whichever kind you choose, invest in a shovel-like silicone spatula to manoeuvre ingredients while keeping your wok scratch-free.
For soups and curries, use a saucepan which features lips for pouring. Finally, pastes are central to Thai cooking, so invest in a pestle and mortar. “Choose a heavy granite one,” says Moore.
In Thailand, people use chopsticks only for stand-alone noodle dishes. Otherwise, they eat with a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left. The spoon is the primary tool; the fork
is used just to manipulate food. Knives aren’t needed, as the food is served in bite-sized pieces. With sticky rice, fingers are used to scoop up food and sauces – but don’t worry if there’s a limit to your need for authenticity.
Want to avoid the blood-sugar-spiking starch of white rice? Sub it out with these alternatives.
As well as fibre, this is a source of manganese, which improves brain power.
Nutritious black rice contains dozens of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, which help to reduce inflammation.
Load up on protein and amino acids – in particular, the mood-boosting phenylalanine.
Recipe: Feed Your Brain Pad Thai
• Rice noodles, 300g
• Tamarind paste
• Shallots, 3, chopped
• Palm sugar, 2tbsp
• Fish sauce, 1tbsp
• Eggs, 4, beaten
• Prawns, 8-10
• Turnip, 2tbsp, dried
• Bean sprouts, two handfuls
• Chilli powder
Mix three tablespoons of the paste with six of warm water. Stir-fry the shallots in a wok. Add the diluted paste, sugar and fish sauce. Cook for one minute, then set aside. Scramble the eggs. Add the pre-soaked noodles and fry until soft. Throw in the prawns and turnip. Add the sauce, the bean sprouts and chilli powder. For extra authenticity, top with spring onions and peanuts. Fry for two minutes and serve.
Recipe: Power Source Green Papaya Salad
• Palm sugar, 1½tbsp
• Red chillies, 5
• Garlic cloves, 5
• Green beans, 2
• Cherry tomatoes, 4
• Lime juice, 2tbsp
• Fish sauce, 2tbsp
• Green papaya, ½
• A carrot, shredded
• Dried shrimp, 2tbsp
• Peanuts, 2tbsp
Grind the chillies and garlic together using a pestle and mortar. Add the palm sugar, beans and tomatoes. Lightly pound, then squeeze in the lime juice and fish sauce. Pound again; add the green papaya and carrot. Pound and toss to combine. The taste should be a balance of sweet and salty, with a sharp, sour and spicy tang. Spoon the salad into a bowl and sprinkle over the dried shrimp and roasted peanuts.
Recipe: Stay Stacked Tom Yum Noodle Soup
• Lime juice, 3tbsp
• Veg stock, 400ml
• Coconut milk, 200ml
• Galangal, 3 slices
• Lemongrass stalk
• Small red chillies, 2
• Coriander stalks, 4
• Mushrooms, 100g
• Tofu, 120g, firm
• Chilli paste, 1tbsp
• Cherry tomatoes, 3
Half-fill a pan with water and boil. In another, boil the stock and coconut milk. Add the galangal, lemongrass, chillies and coriander stalks. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tofu, chilli paste and lime juice; for extra flavour, add soya sauce and sugar to taste. Cook for one minute, then add tomatoes. Simmer while cooking the noodles in the other pan. Mix in bowls and garnish with coriander leaves.
Recipe: Immune Defence Green Curry
• Pea eggplants, 130g
• Green curry paste, 2tbsp
• Coconut milk, 750ml
• Palm sugar, 1tsp
• Fish sauce, 2tbsp
• Kafir lime leaves, 3
• Chicken, 500g
• Basil leaves, 20g
• Red chillies, 2
Heat oil in a saucepan and add the curry paste. Sauté for 10 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium and add half of the coconut milk. Cook for two minutes. Add the remaining milk, along with the palm sugar, fish sauce and salt.
Stir in the lime leaves, chopped chicken and pea eggplants. Cook for seven minutes. Ladle into bowls, garnish with chillies and basil leaves. Serve with some pre-cooked rice.