~ - Thai fish sauce, called nam pla. This amber-colored, odoriferous liquid - - used in everything from stir-frys to sauces - cooks down to a mellow undertone. Better brands are lighter colored and less pungent; Squid is a recommended brand.
~ - Dried shrimp. Salty and intensely flavored, these are used primarily as a seasoning ingredient. Usually sold in 4-ounce packages, dried shrimp should be plump and resilient, retaining enough moisture to evidence a little "give" when squeezed.
~ - Thai chili sauce, called sriracha. This is a sort of chili-garlic "catsup, " fiery, flavorful and slightly sweet. Huy Fong Foods Inc., of Rosemead, Calif., makes an excellent sriracha, packaged in a clear plastic squeeze bottle with a drawing of a rooster on the front.
~ - Holy basil. Thai cooking uses many different types of basil, and this type is intensely mint-flavored. Unless you grow it yourself, holy basil can be difficult to find; fresh mint makes a good substitute.
~ - Thai "bird" peppers. These little hot peppers, usually green but sometimes red, pack a notoriously powerful punch and are not for sissies. Serrano peppers make a good substitute if Thai chilies are unavailable.
~ - Chilies-In-Vinegar Sauce (Makes about 1/2 cup); hot and sour ingredient in soups and pad thai etc.
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
12 small Thai chilies, or 3 serrano chilies, finely sliced
Combine all of the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
>Adapted from "True Thai --- The Modern Art of Thai Cooking" by Victor Sodsook with Theresa Volpe Laursen and Byron Laursen (William Morrow and
the Courier in Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Ia. 6/