Born and raised in Thailand and now based in Vancouver, Canada, Chef Pailin “Pai” Chongchitnant is one of the biggest names in Thai cooking on the internet. Just ask the whopping 1.35 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Pailin’s Kitchen. Her cooking videos balance education with fun and ease, making authentic Thai cuisine accessible to people of any experience level.
CLEAN EATING: What makes Thai cuisine special?
PAILIN CHONGCHITNANT: It treats all flavors – sweet, salty, sour and spicy – with equal importance. In any well-balanced Thai meal, all these flavors will make an appearance. We’re also big on fresh herbs. Thai curries also have a light consistency, usually soupy or brothy, not rich and thick like Indian curries.
CE: How do you choose the spices used in your cooking?
PC: I always choose curry pastes made in Thailand. The ingredient list shouldn’t have anything other than herbs, spices, salt and shrimp paste. If the name of the brand is Thai, that’s even better.
CE: What are your top tips for building an authentically Thai curry?
PC: I’ve provided a delicious, authentic optional curry paste recipe, but don’t stress too much over making curry paste from scratch – it’s a lot of work, and most Thai cooks don’t do it either. Make sure you buy a good paste, as per the tips above. If you do make it from scratch, get the right ingredients for the best flavors. If you have to make multiple substitutions or omissions from the paste recipe, it’s probably better to buy it premade.
A lot of Thai curry recipes will ask you to sauté the curry paste in oil and then add coconut milk. But traditionally, we sauté the curry paste in reduced coconut milk, so no oil is used. Using reduced coconut milk adds so much more flavor and richness, and you’re using a healthier fat than oil.