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Palm Sugar & other Thai ingredients

I want to start cooking more Thai food and plan to buy some ingredients on line that I cannot find locally. One of the them is Palm Sugar. I was surprised to see it is not considered a 'health food' item. There go the prices through the roof. However some of the true Asian brands seem to have refined cane sugar added in. What is the tradition? Which should I buy?

any other must have ingredients for Thai food? Is powdered galangal useful? I plan to buy shrimp paste too. I already have tamarind paste. I can get kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass at my grocery store (granted it is not very fresh).

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  1. I've never used powdered galangal, but look for frozen galangal in the freezers of your asian market. Golden Boy fish sauce is great as is Dragonfly oyster sauce, roasted chili paste and a thick Thai black soy sauce. Check out http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/ for brands Kasma recommends. Tons of good info here, plus recipes.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sf415

      are the fish sauce and oyster sauce the same as other brands? I can find both of those locally. I don't have an Asian market, hence having to order on line, but next time I am in the city I will look for the frozen galangal. I have sweet soy, looks as though it is the same as the black soy sauce. I will look for roasted chili paste.

      1. re: cleopatra999

        Brands make a huge difference as there is a lot of variation in taste and quality. Kwong Hung Seng is the black soy sauce I use. Pantai norasingh is the brand of chili paste. http://importfood.com/cppt1601.html

        1. re: sf415

          thanks. do you use a specific palm sugar?

          1. re: cleopatra999

            It's Thai, but nothing in particular. Good luck!

      2. For items that you cannot get locally - Importfoods.com I buy a lot of hard to find items and their prices are reasonable.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Maggie19

          both helpful websites thank you Maggie19 & sf415

        2. I use palm sugar, and have bought several forms, including the paste and small disks. A large solid disk would be less useful since I'd have to break chunks off for most uses. But I don't consider it to be essential While I prefer the ones that claim to be '100% palm sugar' I don't worry that they might include cane sugar.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            I think palm sugar is the one Thai ingredient that you don't really need. I wouldn't cook Thai without tamarind paste, a good fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, etc. and I do keep palm sugar on hand, but if I run out I'm not stuck like I would be with other Thai ingredients. IME it doesn't impart anything to the finished dish that white or brown cane sugar wouldn't do just as well. Plus it's more effort to use because it needs to be broken up or grated off the cake.

          2. You don't need to go out and try to find palm sugar. You can find it in Asian markets if you have any in your town, but plain old brown sugar works just fine and many recipes tell you that you can use that instead.