Thailand has an incredible assortment of vegetables that range from familiar to out of the ordinary. Learn how to identify and prepare some of the popular varieties so that you and your family can enjoy and benefit from their healthy nutrients.
Ask any doctor and they will tell their patients that eating vegetables is good for your health. Why? That’s because their dietary components include generous amounts of fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and even protein that help your body grow and repair itself.
Thai vegetables are served a variety of ways. Some are eaten raw and are presented as salads, served alongside soups, or paired with dipping sauces. Others are boiled, deep-fried or stir-fried, grilled, or steamed and accompany meat dishes and rice or noodles. Vegetables come in different shapes and sizes and many have edible leaves, stems, seeds, and roots, too.
Similar in look and taste as a green bean, its texture is more firm and crisp and its pods measure well over 30cm long. Yardlong beans are often found in stir-fries and soups but are also eaten raw with spicy dipping sauces.
This type of bean (legume) has a generous amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is key for a healthy digestion tract. It also is an excellent source of Vitamin A that helps maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes. 100g of yardlong beans contain just 47 calories.
Most popularly served stir-fried with oyster sauce and garlic, this aquatic or semi-aquatic green vegetable is grown in local rivers before being harvested. It has slender hollow stems and dark leafy green leaves that are pointed and narrow. Its flavor is similar to spinach and can easily be found in Thai markets.
Water spinach, also referred to as swamp cabbage, is rich in antioxidants and iron. It has detoxifying enzymes that have been used as treatment against liver problems. The tender shoots and leaves are eaten together and contain a mere 19 calories per 100g.
Once this underwater reddish brown root is peeled, it reveals a whitish crunchy flesh similar in flavor to young coconuts or chestnuts. A cross-section cut of the root will reveal an interesting geometric set of holes in its interior that is similar to lace. It is available dried or canned and is often used in desserts. The seeds and stem of the lotus plant are regularly used in Thai cuisine, too.
Lotus root is composed of slow digesting complex carbohydrates and contains healthy amounts of minerals such as potassium, copper, and iron. Its juice is easily digestible and easy on the stomach and therefore is often used to treat constipation or diarrhea. Once peeled, 100g of lotus root has 72 calories.
This root is a good source of starch and can be eaten in the same manner as potatoes: steamed, boiled, or even sliced and fried as crisps. It is surrounded by a brown fibrous skin that must first be peeled or cut away. Its white or creamy interior flesh is spotted with visually appealing purple pigmentation and is popularly used in desserts.
Taro contains gluten-free protein and is rich in fiber. It is calorically dense and contains 142 calories for every 100g of peeled root.
Thailand has hundreds of vegetables in the form of leafy greens, twisting stems, and colorful roots. The next time you head to the local market or grocery store, be sure to keep your eyes open for something new and give it a try.