I love Thai cuisine. I love to go to Thai restaurants but I especially like to cook it at home. I even took an intense series of classes in cooking Thai food from the wonderful Kasma Loha-Unchit, author of It Rains Fishes and Dancing Shrimp. And, though this food may be very exotic for us Americans, some of it is so easy to make that it isn’t worth leaving the house to enjoy it. The trick is having the right ingredients on hand.
I have a great Asian market near my house but my favorite place to shop for ingredients is ImportFoods. Not only does this terrific online merchant carry everything you will ever need—and a lot of stuff you never knew you needed—but each item has a useful description so you will know how to use it when you get it home.
If you are just learning to cook this delicious, spicy, aromatic cuisine, this site is the best. You can look up the dishes you like, read all about how to make them, and even watch video of experts preparing those dishes. When you are reading a recipe that you think you are ready to tackle at home, just click the handy button at the top of the recipe to put all the necessary ingredients in your shopping cart.
Don’t forget that preparing Thai food sometimes requires some special equipment—a Wok, mortar and pestle, or rice steamer for instance. So be sure and check out the site’s cooking tools and dishes, too.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a market nearby where you can purchase fresh ingredients like lemongrass, basil, Kaffir lime, and chilies, hit their fresh section. (For those of you who are already expert Thai chefs note that Importfoods carries Betel leaves for Miang Kham, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. You have to order a lot of them but it’s a great way to wow your party guests.) They ship on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so you’ll have the goods by the weekend and it won’t linger in a post office warehouse getting limp.
Once you get into this, though, you will want to grow your own Kaffir lime because nothing compares to the fresh-picked leaves and it is very simple to grow this dwarf citrus in a pot in any locale. (Just bring it inside if you get a harsh winter.) It’s hard to find the plants in local nurseries though so I get mine from Four Winds Growers. This is a terrific grower and your healthy little plant arrives carefully packaged and ready to put into dirt.
I’m on a hunt for great online food merchants. So if you have any you like, please tell me about it in the comments.