Find a Balance of Salty, Sour, Spicy, and Sweet

In Thai cooking, taste-testing is a complete necessity. Following a Thai recipe is a good start, but because tastes vary from person to person, you will need to find your own balance of seasonings with each dish you make. Here are some tips to help you achieve that balance:

· To tone down a dish that is too spicy, add coconut milk or yoghurt. A little sugar may also diminish some of the fire.

· To tone down a dish that is too salty, add lime juice, lemon juice, or tamarind water (made from a little tamarind paste mixed with water).

· When you find a dish not salty enough, add fish sauce instead of salt—or soy sauce if you are vegetarian. This way you will get more flavor as well as the saltiness you’re seeking.

· To sweeten Thai dishes, you can use plain white sugar, although brown sugar is closer to the rock sugar most Asian chefs use. Since I prefer not to use sugar in my cooking, I substitute with xylitol—a sweet, sugar-like ingredient that does not raise blood glucose levels (available at health food stores). This is also an excellent substitute for diabetics.

· If you find your dish not sour enough, a little lime juice or tamarind water will suffice nicely (for tamarind water, see above).

· Not spicy enough? That’s easy! Add more fresh (or dried) chillies, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, or a teaspoon of Thai chilli sauce (available in Asian stores).

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