Skip to content
Buy one order of Pinkglow® Pineapples, and get 3 tote bags for free! Use Code BOG3 at checkout.
Buy one order of Pinkglow® Pineapples, and get 3 tote bags for free! Use Code BOG3 at checkout.

Easy Thai

By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Image of Stir-Fried Prawns With Thai Vinaigrette, Baby Greens and Papaya
Exploring ethnic cuisine can be tricky, especially if it entails using unfamiliar ingredients. Thai cuisine is a perfect example because its complex flavors are, in part, attributable to components that are not a part of mainstream American pantries. Yet, Thai cuisine is actually relatively easy to prepare when you have the right ingredients and understand how to balance their bitter, salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavors.

Here is a shortlist of distinctive Thai ingredients:

Black Pepper and Chiles
Black peppercorns were the original Thai chiles and have always been a staple ingredient in Thai cooking. There are also many varieties of Thai chiles and chili sauces, including cayenne and tiny bird chiles. If you don’t have fresh chiles on hand, you can always use dried or even red chili flakes.

Coconut Milk
While fresh coconut milk is undoubtedly the authentic way to make a fabulous curry or soup, canned coconut milk is very easy to find and widely available.

Curry Paste
I love to make my curry pastes, but it is a labor of love. Roasting fresh spices and grinding them with galangal (Thai ginger), lemon grass and shallots can be time-consuming, and I know there’s not always time for that! But it’s easy to find jars of delicious premade curry pastes in the grocery store or an Asian market. It may take a few tries to find your favorite, but it will be worth it.

Fish Sauce
Known in Thai as nam pla, this seasoning is a pungent liquid made from fermenting fish, such as anchovies with salt. Nam pla contains ~ 1000mg sodium in a tablespoon, so you don’t need much. My favorite brand is Red Boat, which also makes a dried nam pla in the form of salt; it’s an umami bomb and my new favorite ingredient.

Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs make everything taste better. Cilantro, mint and Thai basil are commonly used in Thai dishes.

Kaffir Lime
Kaffir lime leaves are often used in Thai cooking to add a unique citrus note. I usually find them in an Asian market, and I freeze whatever I don’t need for later use. If you’re unable to find them, it’s ok to use freshly grated lime zest.

Lemon Grass
Though this herb is considered grass, it is very dense and fibrous; it can be added to a dish during cooking to infuse a unique citrus flavor and then removed before serving. You can also mince and add to curry paste, sauces or vinaigrettes.

Thai Rice
Jasmine rice is a staple throughout Thailand, but sticky rice (or glutinous rice) is more prevalent in Northern Thailand. You should be able to find them in an Asian market or the ethnic aisle of larger grocery stores.

Thai Shallots
Smaller than their European counterparts, Thai shallots are a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine and are used in many recipes, including curry pastes and sauces. European shallots can be used as a substitution, but you can easily find Thai shallots if you’re headed to an Asian market.

Unseasoned Rice Vinegar
This is widely used in many Thai sauces, marinades and dressings to add a tangy note. On the other hand, seasoned rice vinegar has salt and sugar added to it, but in specific recipes, it can be a suitable substitute.

It’s not always easy to find fresh Thai ingredients when you live in the country as I do. I’ve learned to carefully wrap and freeze any leftover galangal, lemon grass, or kaffir lime leaves, so I always have some available. If your grocer doesn’t carry Thai chiles, lemon grass, galangal, or Thai basil, ask them to order it from Melissa’s Produce. For convenience, you can also order online from 

Aside from the chopping for the vinaigrette, this recipe takes minutes to make. It’s delicious and tastes even better the next day, should you have leftovers. If you prefer a vegetarian version of this recipe, the shrimp could easily be substituted with chicken or tofu.

Stir-Fried Prawns With Thai Vinaigrette, Baby Greens and Papaya
Yield: 4 appetizer servings or 2 main course salads
This tasty salad is perfect for a summer lunch or supper. If you don’t have papaya, small wedges of melon or mango would also work.
Image of Ingredients for Stir-Fried Prawns With Thai Vinaigrette, Baby Greens and Papaya

1½ tablespoons galangal, chopped
1½ tablespoons lemon grass, chopped
1½ tablespoons shallots, chopped
1½ tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
½ teaspoon red chili flakes (substitute Thai Peppers, if you like)
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt (I love to use Red Boat anchovy salt)
⅛ teaspoon cracked black pepper


4 cups washed baby arugula or baby greens
3 sweet baby bells; red, yellow and orange; seeded; 1 ½ inch julienne
6 medium basil leaves, chiffonade


1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ pounds raw shrimp; peeled, deveined


1 Melissa’s Tai Nung Papaya; peeled, seeded, cut into eights lengthwise; then cut in half crosswise (16 pieces total)

For vinaigrette:
Image of galangal, lemon grass, shallots, and liquids
Combine galangal, lemon grass and shallots in a small food processor or a mortar and pestle; process or grind until well incorporated. Add zest, chili flakes, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and stir. Drizzle in olive oil and continue to stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper; set aside for at least one hour; there will be about ½ cup of vinaigrette.

For Salad:

Prep salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl; refrigerate.

For Prawns:

Place prawns on a plate and pat dry with paper towels; lightly season with salt and pepper.
Image of prawns in pan
Heat wok over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil; add prawns and quickly stir-fry until just cooked through about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour two tablespoons of vinaigrette over prawns and toss.
Image of salad in bowl
Add 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss well. Carefully divide the greens between 4 salad plates or between 2 dinner plates if serving as an entrée.

Carefully arrange cooked prawns around each salad. Top each plate with 4 pieces of papaya, and serve the extra dressing separately.
Image of Stir-Fried Prawns With Thai Vinaigrette, Baby Greens and Papaya

Previous article Tomato Time
Next article Simple Salmon Salad

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields