It’s right about the time of year when we’re thinking “What have we done with summer?” and begin wanderlusting to the extreme. But, we have real responsibilities (ugh, jobs. Ugh rent). So what better way to get away for a little than with a tropical, fruity drink?
We got a hold of Khun Tak, the “Spice Concierge” at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, to talk about the herbs and spices of Thai cooking that might just transport you for an evening. Thai basil aside, there’s plenty to explore, and plenty of cocktails to whip up. Check out this quick guide to three main spices of Thailand, then head on over to our slideshow for five Thai-inspired cocktails to whisk you away for at least a good hour.
Ginger: While most of us may know this spice as a thick, beige stringy root of sorts, Tak notes that there is a difference between young and old ginger. “Young ginger looks fresh and a little pinkish at the joints,” Tak says. “Old ginger has a rough and dirtier-looking skin.” Tastewise, young ginger is slightly more tender and sweet than old ginger, which has a stronger flavor and a spicier kick.
Kaffir Lime: Not technically a spice, this bitter fruit is like a traditional lime on crack (“it’s much stronger in flavor and aroma,” Tak says). The leaves, also used to flavor food, are traditionally used on gums and teeth to improve dental health, aid digestion, and purify the blood. In cooking, however, the lime peel is often used in curry paste, as “it blends very well with other Thai spices, especially lemongrass,” Tak says.
Galangal: This gnarly-little root is often confused with ginger, but when you slice it open, you’ll find the flesh to be white, instead of yellow. “Galangal has a flowery and intense flavor that is often paired with ginger and lemongrass in traditional Thai cooking,” Tak says. Although galangal is also spicy, the flavors are slightly more peppery than that of ginger, and the root is often used to cure nausea, relieve ulcers, and treat arthritis.