How To Shop A Thai Market Like A Pro

Via LAist but the information applies anywhere…


I wish we had those sort of ethnic markets where I live in Annapolis MD. I have to go back to Northern VA (an hour and a half each way) for interesting shopping.

The article though is a farce. Lamoun, my Thai sister-in-law (born there, moved to the US in her 20s) would laugh. I would have to read it to her as her English was good but she never learned to read it. The article is just elitist blather that looks like a compendium of Wikipedia articles.

If y’all will excuse me, I’ll be making peanut sauce the way 'moonie taught me, starting from peanuts and sitting on the floor pounding nuts in a pestle with a mortar the size of a baby’s arm.

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I’m making no positive or negative points, just posting it for discussion.
I appreciate your thoughts on the subject.


Interesting, thanks for posting.

I do wish s/he had gone into more detail on some of the sections as on others, but maybe the target audience is the completely unfamiliar?

Woks of life has a good online ingredient reference that I’ve checked to every so often, but it’s mostly chinese ingredient focused.


You’re lucky to have had a knowledgeable teacher within the family.

Re mortar and pestle - my grandmother encouraged / insisted on the use of a blender, food processor, and other “technology” as it became available, so that’s how I make my spice pastes and curry bases.

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I’m very technology oriented. Often I find the clean up time of “labor savings” devices overcomes the in-use time. Food processors and stand blenders are among the worse. For small quantities a mandolin or a knife is usually faster for me. Maybe I’m overly fussy about how clean “clean” is. grin I love my stick blender - fast and also easy to clean.

My sister-in-law passed away last year so using the mortar and pestle to make peanut sauce has an emotional component. Sometimes what we do doesn’t make sense. 'moonie did embrace technology in its place. She learned to cook squatting beside a charcoal brazier; she thought stoves are wonderful. Her knife skills did not match Jacques Pepin but they were impressive. Very fast and accurate. I miss her. Lots of stories, most of which start with “I was sitting on the floor with 'moonie.”


Wonderful memories - and recipes - to cherish. Food associations with family are such a powerful thing. My home recipes are from grandparents or parents, and I feel them with me (sometimes scolding :joy:) when I’m making one.

When I graduated college and moved to my first apt, the aforementioned grandmother gave me a 6L pressure cooker that fits four internal containers… enough to prep a full meal for a family. It was a rite of passage for her - I was going to have my own kitchen, so of course how could I possibly cook a full meal without a PC?

I fought, argued, mocked, laughed, pleaded… and then brought it home. I still have it. Actually, I have 3 sizes now. And I smile thinking of my grandma and the OG PC every time I use any of them.


I love this sentence and the sentiment you express in it.

Also: OG PC. :heart_eyes:


Kasma Loha-Unchit, Thai cookbook author and cooking teacher in Oakland, CA, has a blog that has extensive links and pictures of Thai ingredients and tips for Thai (and other Asian) markets. The market specifics are for Oakland and the CA Bay area since that’s where she is located but I think her brand choices are excellent and her ingredient pictures can be helpful. I’ve taken her cooking classes—they are phenomenal—but I still reference her lists often when I’m ingredient shopping.


Thanks for the links, they are useful references.

Glad that you started to post after long time joining us. Welcome!



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I’m curious as to which part of the article is “elitist blather”. I have no Thai family connections, but I’ve taken some lessons in Thai cooking, and I didn’t notice any glaring inaccuracies in the text. What about it offended you?

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I bookmarked both posts for future shopping a dinner prep. Thank you for posting here!

Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone!


I wouldn’t say it rises to the level of offense, but it is just elitist blather. Just for you, I went back and worked my way through the first half of the article.


"The brand with the rooster logo, marketed by Vietnamese American David Tran and his company Huy Fong Foods, has become iconic but it’s not the sriracha I grew up with.

Sriracha comes from the town of Si Racha in the eastern half of Thailand, along the gulf. The Thai version of the sauce is smoother, more liquid and poured from glass bottles. You dip grilled meats and seafoods in it"

Historically accurate but in modern Thailand there are different varieties of sriracha in every town.

“Instead, it adds a sweet, savory, briny, fiery kick to dishes and makes a great addition to grilled cheese sandwiches”

Just food elitism that is not at all my experience with Thai food.

“An essential ingredient in the Thai pantry, fish sauce, aka nam pla, adds a distinct briny funk and goes well with anything that needs a savory boost.”

More self-important food elitism. It’s like saying ‘this wine has the fragance of door hinges with an after taste of a very light lubricating oil - you can hardly taste the corrosion at all.’

“Thai cuisine relies on many aromatics and herbs that are hard to find, even in other Asian grocery stores.”



Other than the stupid (<- personal opinion) comment about agriculture across Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Malaysia there isn’t much wrong. A good editor could have tightened up the language to convey more information without coming off so poorly.

You might have firm opinions about barbecue, especially if you’re in the American South, but talking about “notes” and “subtexts” would likely just irritate you. That’s how the language in the article hit me. I cannot think of a more accurate word than elitist. The paragraphs about fish sauce (“just buy one of everything and taste them”) made me want to write to the advertisors of LAist and tell them they are wasting their money. Now saying fish sauces A, B, and C with particular characteristics tend to be popular in Northern Thailand but D and E are more likely to be found down toward Malaysia would be interesting. Add in the proximity to fishing grounds and shipping of fish oil to production and product to point of sale and you really have something. Instead it’s just superficial and pretty well useless.

There are experts on nearly any subject and then there are drips under pressure (this is a joke in the technical circles I run in). The article is, in my opinion, the product of someone more interested in making himself feel good about himself than conveying information.

Lots of authors of Thai heritage (like the author) as well as Vietnamese (Andrea Nguyen) and Korean (David Chang) heritage, use the word “funk” in a positive sense to describe strong fermented flavors.

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I use the term funk, both positively and negatively too. I think the importance is adding more context to what you mean. I’m not a big lover of cheese, so when I describe funky cheese I usually explain that its the smell of sweaty socks that makes it clear it’s not particularly appetizing to me.

But for instance, pidan – the Chinese “century eggs” – I also consider having an ammonia-like funk (admittedly not that tasty-sounding). To me it’s a delicious funk that I love, but I know it’s not for everyone. I don’t object to the word if someone adds more clear descriptors. It’s like saying something smells. Well, a lot of stuff smells - just depends if it’s a good smell or a bad smell.

Have you read Fuchsia Dunlop’s marvelous article about holding a stinky cheese tasting in China with Chinese chefs? Their very discerning and interesting comments about subtle differences in the funk of cheese vs that of Chinese ingredients (like stinky tofu or century eggs) are fascinating.


Thank you for sharing that! The following quote is an illuminating take:

‘said Mao, “vegetable stinky foods are very clean and clear in the mouth (qing kou), and they disperse quickly, while milky foods are greasy in the mouth (ni kou), they coat your tongue and palate, and they have a long, lingering aftertaste.”’

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That article is a great find! Thank you for sharing. Sadly, my dad’s pedestrian taste buds could only describe cheese as disgusting or smelly and would never volunteer for a tasting – but he did like his other Chinese stinky foods.

This has to be my favorite quote, from the writer, “All were shocking at first taste, with their earthy, old underwear aromas, but strangely addictive.” [in describing the local stinky delicacies] :rofl:

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