Some useful tools for your Thai cooking:
US Unit Equivalents
1 Gallon (G) = 4 Quarts (Qt)
1 Quart = 2 Pints (Pt)
1 Pint = 2 Cups
1 Cup = 8 Fluid ounces (fl oz)
1 Fluid ounce = 2 Tablespoons (Tbsp)
1 Tablespoon = 3 Teaspoons (tsp)
1 Pound (lb) = 16 ounces (oz)
Metric Unit Equivalents
1 Liter (L) = 1000 milliliters (ml)
1 Kilogram (kg) = 1000 grams (g)
These are not as widely used:
1 Liter = 10 deciliters (dl)
1 deciliter = 10 centiliters (cl)
1 centiliter = 10 milliliters
1 Cup = 240 ml
1 Tbsp = 15 ml
1 tsp = 5 ml
1 fl oz = 30 ml
1 Quart = 946 ml
1 Pint = 473 ml
1 Gallon = 3.78 L
1 lb = 454 g (0.454 kg)
1 oz = 28.35 g
1 kg = 2.2 lb
Thai Basil / Holy Basil
Italian Basil will work quite well as a substitute for both of these exotic basil.
Fish sauce is usually available in the supermarket, but those who need a substitute are usually looking for something vegetarian. For soups and curries, use salt. Use soy sauce for applications where the liquid nature of the fish sauce is important. For example, in salad dressings, marinades and stir-fries, the fish sauce makes up the volume of the sauce of the final product.
This is an acid ingredient, so the best substitute would be fresh lime juice, although it will lack the color and body of tamarind juice.
Lemongrass and galangal unfortunately do not have a good substitute, so look for dried or powdered versions of these herbs as they will be your best bet. Do not attempt to use ginger for galangal! (well, you can, but you’ll end up with a different tasting product.) They may look similar but the flavors are as different as different could be—the flavor of ginger is hot and sharp, while galangal has an earthy, cooling aroma.
Coconut milk is usually available in some form or other. If you cannot find a liquid version, sometimes you can find powdered coconut or “creamed coconut,” which can both be used. However, if you are interested in substituting it for something lower-fat, soy milk is a good substitute.
Light brown sugar or white granulated sugar both work as a substitute. For recipes that rely much on the caramelly flavor of palm sugar, I would tend to use brown sugar, such as in Pad Thai and papaya salad. For curries and stir fries, white sugar is fine.
You can grow your own cilantro and take the roots! But for those of us who can’t grow anything to save our lives (that would be me), cilantro stems will work as a substitute. Or try to look in the frozen section of your Asian market, I have found my cilantro roots frozen from Thailand.
Meat & Poultry
Gai = Chicken – ex. “Tom Kha Gai”
Moo = Pork – ex. “Larb Moo”
Neua, Nua = Beef
Bped, Ped, Phed, Bhed = Duck
Pad = To Stir fry – ex. “Pad Kee Mao”
Yum = A type of salad – ex. “Yum Woon Sen”
Gang, Kaeng, Gaeng = Curry – ex. “Gang Garee”
Tod = To deep fry
Neung = To steam – ex. “Pla Neung Manao”
Goong, Gung = Shrimp – ex. “Tom Yum Goong”
Pla = Fish – ex. “Pla Raad Prik”
Pla Meuk = Squid
Bpu, Pu, Bhu, Phu = Crab – ex. “Kao Pad Bpu”
Hoi, Hoy = General terms for molluscs, e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops
Talay = Seafood (adjective), literally means the sea
Ahaan Talay = Seafood (noun)
Prik, Prig = Chilies – ex. “Pla Raad Prik”Grob, Krob = Crispy
Kao, Khao = Rice – ex. “Kao Mun Gai”
Ped = Spicy
Pak = Vegetables