Thai cuisine offers an explosion of flavors that’s simply irresistible. The balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour that makes the dishes so distinctive also makes them personal. The spirit of Thai cooking is one that invites every cook to make adjustments to suit individual taste. If my Thai is not exactly your Thai, you might kick up the chiles or go easy on the lime, tweaking the flavors so they harmonize perfectly in the only mouth that really matters—your own.
Cooking Thai food at home can involve ingredients you may not have in your pantry. Supermarkets are an increasingly good source for some Thai essentials, and Asian markets and online grocers can provide the rest.
One ingredients you won’t easily be able to do without is fish sauce (nam pla). Look for a high-quality brand, such as Squid or Tiparos, and don’t be put off by the aroma—fish sauce is a magical, transforming ingredient, and one of the secrets to great Thai cooking.
—Story by Laraine Perri, a food writer in New York City.