The Health Benefits of Thai Curry Paste and Thai Cuisine
Friday, June 13, 2008 by: Neil McLaughlin
(NaturalNews) Capturing the essence of Thai food requires a handful of special ingredients that you likely do not have in your kitchen. This blend of plants is called Thai curry and contains natural preservatives while providing strong medicinal properties. Despite tremendous flavor, the purpose of a curry blend is primarily to prevent food spoilage. We'll explore the main components of Thai curry in this article before providing three basic recipes to get you started making your own Thai dishes.
While many imagine that Thai curry paste grows on the Thai curry tree, in reality the paste is a blend of many plant foods. This blend will keep indefinitely so it is worth taking the time to understand and to prepare these ingredients.
* Kaffir Lime Leaves - Citrus hystrix (Rutaceae)
Kaffir leaves have antioxidant properties and contain volatile oil. A digestive aid, Kaffir leaves cleanse the blood while helping maintain healthy teeth and gums. Kaffir can be applied to the hair and scalp, and even prevents hair loss. It is used as a deodorant. The fresh lime fruits can also be used if available.
* Lemongrass - Cymbopogon citratus (Gramineae)
Lemongrass contains the volatile oil Citral along with Citronellal, both sedatives. Lemongrass detoxifies the liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and the digestive tract. It reduces uric acid along with blood pressure, cholesterol, excess fats and other toxins. Lemongrass stimulates digestion, blood circulation, and lactation.
* Galangal Root - Alpina galangal (Zingiberaceae)
Galangal contains the volatile oils Alpha-pinene, Cineole and Linalool. Also known as Siamese Ginger, Galangal Root can be purchased fresh or dried. It resembles ginger root and is known as the "defisher" as it reduces the fishy smell of foods. Galangal stimulates digestion, alleviates motion sickness and nausea, and reduces inflammation of the stomach and ulcers. Galangal root boosts the immune system, treats colds and flu, reduces fever and rheumatism, and freshens the breath. Galangal has antibacterial and antispasmodic properties.
In most curry blends the above ingredients are mixed with Red Pepper, Garlic, Cumin, Cilantro and Coriander (see my article Homemade Superfood II: Guacamole and the Science of Salsa for more information on those ingredients).
Once we obtain a curry paste we can use it to quickly prepare Thai curried coconut milk by adding some additional ingredients. This blend will keep for several days in the refrigerator:
* Coconut Milk - Cocos nucifera (Arecaceae)
Coconut Milk is combined with Curry Paste to form the base broth for many Thai dishes. The key is to use fresh coconuts or to buy organic canned Coconut milk. Most retail canned will contain dangerous preservatives like potassium meta-bisulfite. Coconut milk contains high quality fatty acids along with high Omega-3 coconut oil. Coconut milk boosts the immune system, regulates metabolic functions, and lowers cholesterol, while helping reverse the aging process by inhibiting free radical damage.
* Thai Basil - Ocimum basilicum (Lamiaceae)
Thai Basil has the volatile oils Cineole, Estragole, Eugenol, Limonene, Linalool, Myrcene, and Sabinene, along with Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Magnesium. Basil contains the antioxidants Orientin and Vicenin, both water-soluble flavonoids that stimulate the immune system and prevent DNA damage in white blood cells. Basil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
* Thai Sugar - Saccharum officinarum (Poaceae)
Thai Sugar comes in a candy-like form that resembles a soft serve ice cream cone. Thai Sugar is whole sugar that contains some molasses, which is known to contain high concentrations of certain minerals.
* Fish Sauce - Engraulis encrasicolus (Engraulidae)
A favorite of ancient Romans, fermented fish sauce is a whole food that contains trace minerals along with high quality monounsaturated oils. Some of the highest quality fish sauce is said to be made on the island of Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand, where anchovies are layered, salted, and fermented for 3 months in wooden casks. The juice is then tapped and basted back on top of the layered fish. The process is repeated and the highest quality first pressing is used as a condiment while the second and third pressings are used for cooking. Sadly, fish sauce has been phased out in most kitchens over the past century in favor of cheaper and less nutritionally balanced Worcestershire sauce. (Source: soupsong dot com).
* Shrimp Paste - Penaeus vannamei (Crangonidae)
Another complete and concentrated food, shrimp paste is fermented the way fish sauce is, however shrimp paste comes in a jar and resembles wax with a thin layer of lard on top. One jar will last nearly forever so it is a great food to have in your kitchen. Shrimp Paste has healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids including EPA and DHA and is a powerful antioxidant.
Source: Natural news.com