If there is one thing that foreigners love about Thai food, it's the vibrant spices that make each dish an explosion of flavors. And when it comes to spice, Thai curries take the prize. From the creamy coconut-based green curry to the tangy and spicy red curry, these dishes are a staple of Thai cuisine and an experience that every traveler should try at least once.
But with so many curry options available, it's easy for non-natives to get confused. How do you know which curry to order? And even more importantly, how do you know how spicy it's going to be? As a Thai native and an avid foodie, I have tasted my fair share of curries, and I can attest that the level of spice can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant.
Thus, I have decided to take it upon myself to create the ultimate guide to Thai curry's spiciness. In this article, I will break down each curry type and tell you about their level of heat from mild to fiery. You will learn about the different kinds of chili peppers used in Thai cooking and how to identify them in your dish. Whether you are new to Thai cuisine or just want to elevate your spice game, this guide will have you covered. So without further ado, let's dive into the world of Thai curries!
Understanding Thai Curry Types
Thai cuisine is known for its distinctive and delicious flavor that features a range of curries with sauces that have different levels of spiciness. From mild to fiery hot, the heat scale of Thai curries will make your taste buds dance! If you are a spice lover, chances are you've already tried a few of the most popular types of Thai curries such as the Red Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry, and Massaman Curry. Now, let's delve deeper into the spiciness of these fiery favorites!
Scoville Scale and Heat Units
Before talking about the spiciness of Thai curries, it’s essential to understand the measurement of spice, known as the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). The SHU is used to measure the amount of capsaicin, a compound that creates heat, in a pepper or a spice. The spiciness level of curries is determined by the amount of chili peppers used in the recipe, which in turn affects the SHU rating.
Now, let’s take a look at the SHU ranges of the different types of chili peppers used in Thai curry:
- Thai Bird's Eye Chili: 50,000 to 100,000 SHU
- Serrano Chili: 10,000 to 23,000 SHU
- Jalapeno Pepper: 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
- Anaheim Pepper: 500 to 2,500 SHU
Common Spices Used in Thai Curry
To further understand how Thai curries are spiced, let's take a look at the most common spices used in Thai curries:
- Lemongrass: adds a bright, citrusy flavor to the curry
- Kaffir Lime: brings a slightly bitter, tangy flavor to the curry
- Galangal: a root that is similar to ginger and adds a slightly sweet and spicy taste
- Garlic: adds a pungent aroma and flavor to the curry
- Shallots: adds a mild onion flavor to the curry
- Coriander: the seeds are used to create a warm and nutty taste
- Cumin: adds a slightly bitter and warm flavor to the curry
- Turmeric: gives the curry a bright yellow color and a slightly bitter and earthy flavor
Red Curry: Mild to Medium Spice Level
Red curry is the most popular type of Thai curry made with red chili peppers, making it the spiciest of the four curries we're discussing. Red curry has a vibrant color and a rich aroma that comes from the combination of several herbs and spices, including lemongrass, kaffir lime, and garlic. The level of spiciness of the red curry can be adjusted by using fewer or more chili peppers, depending on your spice preference.
In terms of spiciness level, red curry can range from mild to medium, with the SHU rating ranging from 50,000 to 100,000. So, if you're looking for a mild red curry, ask for it to be made with fewer chili peppers. If you want to turn up the heat, you can add extra chili pepper or opt for recipes that include Thai Bird's Eye Chili.
Green Curry: Medium to Hot Spice Level
Green curry is made using green chili peppers along with other herbs and spices such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime. The color of green curry comes from the green chili peppers and the fresh herbs, particularly basil and coriander. When compared to red curry, green curry has a milder taste.
Green curry's SHU rating can range from 50,000 to 100,000, which is similar to red curry. However, green curry is typically milder than red curry, and its spice level can range from medium to hot.
Yellow Curry: Mild Spice Level
Yellow curry is often considered as one of the mildest Thai curries and is made using turmeric and curry powder, in addition to other herbs and spices such as coriander, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. The bright yellow color of the curry makes the dish visually appealing, and the mild flavor makes it an excellent choice for those who want to try Thai curry without the heat.
Yellow curry's SHU rating ranges from mild to medium, with the heat level being around 1,500 to 2,500. However, some variants use more chili peppers, which can adjust the spiciness. Thus, if you’re looking for something mild, yellow curry can be an excellent option for you.
Massaman Curry: Mild Spice Level
Massaman curry is typically the mildest of all Thai curries. The sauce of the dish has a hint of yellow from the turmeric and a nutty flavor coming from roasted peanuts. Massaman curry is made with a unique blend of spices and ingredients, including cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, making it a bit different from other curries.
The SHU rating of Massaman curry ranges from mild to medium, with a heat level of 5,000 to 10,000. Compared to other Thai curries, Massaman curry’s spiciness is relatively low.
In conclusion, Thai curry is all about the spice and flavor that adds to its popularity. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with a better understanding of the different types of Thai curries and their spiciness levels. From mild to fiery hot, Thai curries offer a vast range of spice levels for spice lovers of any tolerance. So, next time you order Thai curry, remember to ask about the spice level and enjoy the rich and enticing flavors!