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WaveHunter

What spices for cooking are indigenous to Thailand, and where can I buy them (highest quality)?

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I have a friend in the USA who loves to cook all sorts of international foods and I thought it would be a great Holiday gift to buy her a selection of high-quality Thai cooking spices...except I don't know a thing about cooking, and also I'm not sure if I can send them to the USA without violating import regulations.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks

Edited by WaveHunter
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1 hour ago, impulse said:

I brought about $100 worth of Thai spices into Houston (IAH) last week, told the guys at customs and immigration I had them and they just waved me through.  They didn't even ask to see them.  Those $100 of Thai spices from BKK would have cost 3-5 times as much in the USA.

 

The best place I found in BKK to buy Thai spices is in Chinatown, in the covered alley right next to the new MRT station.  Here's their website...

 

http://www.nguansoon.com/index.php?page=home

 

DO NOT buy the spice assortments at Chatuchuk market.  I did, and they were all stale and crappy when I opened them.  Not to mention very expensive.

 

Here's some photos from the shop in Chinatown, for an idea of what they have and how much it costs...  Someone else can tell you which spices are must-haves for Thai cooking.

 

 

 

 

8A5EF4DF-8E7B-43EC-8F6B-FCBB82951011.jpeg

62F23F73-E220-4D54-81E6-00ADD376B342.jpeg

8094C51C-1D7E-4464-8FF8-F12D6A54894B.jpeg

Thanks so much for your very informative reply.  nguansoon website is amazing!  I should have mentioned that I am in Chiang Mai.  Hoping they distribute to a store up here or I'll be able to order and have them ship.

 

As you suggested I hope some kind soul here on ThaiVisa can give me a list of "must have" spices.

 

MUCH APPRECIATED @impulse !!!

Edited by WaveHunter

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55 minutes ago, Oxx said:

I would have thought that a selection of Thai curry pastes would be a better option, going beyond the usual red and green.  Guarantees a more authentic taste than making one's own sometimes produces.

I can buy the same brands and selection of curry pastes in a UK supermarket as I can in Thailand. Curry pastes in a plastic bag bought at the local market (what I/the wife normally use) probably wouldn't make it through customs. Disagree on home made,  even in the UK I can make a more authentic Thai curry paste than anything bought in a packet.

 

The biggest problem in the UK is buying certain fresh vegetables, pak bung is very difficult to source and expensive. My wife wouldn't be able to make her Issan som tam (tam mak hung) in the UK either, pappaya just not the same, mak kork doesn't even translate into English, let alone buy it in the UK. A complete deal breaker for her living in the UK!

 

 

Edited by DannyCarlton

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43 minutes ago, DannyCarlton said:

I can buy the same brands and selection of curry pastes in a UK supermarket as I can in Thailand.

 

Big C carries 30 different Lobo brand pastes (plus other brands).

 

https://www.bigc.co.th/search?q=lobo

 

Tesco's only has red and green curry pastes.

 

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/shop/food-cupboard/cooking-sauces-and-meal-kits/all?aisle=Thai %26 South-East Asian Cooking&viewAll=aisle

 

Sainsbury's does a little better and adds in massaman and panaeng pastes.

 

 

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Just now, Oxx said:

 

Big C carries 30 different Lobo brand pastes (plus other brands).

 

https://www.bigc.co.th/search?q=lobo

 

Tesco's only has red and green curry pastes.

 

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/shop/food-cupboard/cooking-sauces-and-meal-kits/all?aisle=Thai %26 South-East Asian Cooking&viewAll=aisle

 

Sainsbury's does a little better and adds in massaman and panaeng pastes.

 

 

I usually shop at Sainsbury's in the UK. Also a Chinese/Thai supermarket nearby with a bigger range of pastes. As I said, quite easy to make your own.

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There aren't ANY spices that are uniquely endemic to Thailand, but you can get as good a range of choice as anywhere in the world. Number one on my list would be turmeric, bitter melon, Thai chilli, Lotus flowers and stems (for sale) and not much else.

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20 hours ago, cooked said:

There aren't ANY spices that are uniquely endemic to Thailand, 

Plaa raa, they use it in Laos and Cambodia also but it's the closest to unique. 

How about some shrimp paste to go with that. 

To the OP. 

0010057_suree-pickled-mud-fish.jpeg

Shrimp-Paste-Pantai.jpg

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Makro has a wall of spices like the one you see in the first picture. I suggest going there if you've got one near you. Most real Thai home cooking is done with very fresh ingredients so a lot of the stuff you want for cooking is not going to be able to be taken back by plane but there are some dry spices. Actually you can plant a lot of Thai ingredients back in the west depending on your location. I grew chilis up the snowy lands but I had to start them in a greenhouse first then replant them when the weather was tolerable.

 

 

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If you are in Chiang Mai, then why not get her a copy of Andy Rickners - Pok Pok cook book (from Amazon) then send her some things from your local markets that she won’t find in the US.

 

If you haven’t a digital copy already, both books are essential reading for anyone who loves Thai food, There is a shopping list in the book that will help you select ingredients to send to her.
 

She can get most ingredients from Asian supermarkets in the US, but there are some unusual things that you can only get in the north. Things like curry paste that is prepared in the market, there are so many regional variations, seal it up in an airtight bag and container and hope for the best.

 

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One caveat with the pre-made Thai sauces is that some of them are loaded up with a lot of MSG.  Some folks (myself included) are sensitive to overdosing on MSG, as often happens when eating in a Thai restaurant.

 

I'm not saying MSG is good or bad.  Just mentioning that it's endemic in a lot of prepared Thai foods.  Do your own diligence and make your own decision.

 

Edited by impulse
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do not fall for the large bags of stuff marked as Saffron it is actually Safflower petals. I have known lots of people buy it as it seems very cheap for Saffron.

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Wararot Day Market has heaps of fresh, dried, powdered, pastes etc. .the aromas are terrific.

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On 11/23/2019 at 9:10 PM, impulse said:

I brought about $100 worth of Thai spices into Houston (IAH) last week, told the guys at customs and immigration I had them and they just waved me through.  They didn't even ask to see them.  Those $100 of Thai spices from BKK would have cost 3-5 times as much in the USA.

 

The best place I found in BKK to buy Thai spices is in Chinatown, in the covered alley right next to the new MRT station.  Here's their website...

 

http://www.nguansoon.com/index.php?page=home

 

DO NOT buy the spice assortments at Chatuchuk market.  I did, and they were all stale and crappy when I opened them.  Not to mention very expensive.

 

Here's some photos from the shop in Chinatown, for an idea of what they have and how much it costs...  Someone else can tell you which spices are must-haves for Thai cooking.

 

 

 

 

8A5EF4DF-8E7B-43EC-8F6B-FCBB82951011.jpeg

62F23F73-E220-4D54-81E6-00ADD376B342.jpeg

8094C51C-1D7E-4464-8FF8-F12D6A54894B.jpeg

 

that place is great. quality spices at a fraction f big c prices. lots of interesting food in that alley as well as tea's, some very fine ones from china.

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