Take advantage of your trip to Thailand to buy top quality ingredients to cook after your return to Europe! But what exactly are you allowed to take home?
The good news is that you can bring almost anything back! European phytosanitary regulations are rather tolerant regarding imported foodstuffs. Let's start by seeing what is not allowed and then we will recommend some authorized ingredients that will keep well during transport.
Few commodities are banned.
These include all meat products (e. g. dry sausages), everything that may contain soil and seeds. Unfortunately, you have to forget the idea of growing Thai vegetables in your garden! Be aware that, contrary to popular belief, you are liable to a fine if you carry these types of goods in your luggage.
Sugar, seafood, fruits, vegetables, plants and spices can be part of the trip.
If you like Thai cuisine, you already know that we add sugar to all our dishes, in generous quantities. Take advantage of your stay to buy coconut nectar, hard to find in Europe and very expensive. Below, in photo, our favorite variety, a real delight!
Among the seafood products, we recommend that you stock up on small dried shrimps for use in many salads. There are two main varieties: the one used in salads such as the famous "Som Tam" (picture 2 below) and a much smaller variety that will be found in the Pad Thai. Don't forget also the shrimp paste, it is used in the composition of most of the curry pastes. If you like to eat "like locals" you may also be tempted to bring back locally caught and sun-dried squid.
Many fruits will keep very well during transport if you use a small icebox with a plastic ice-block: mangoes, different varieties of lychees, dragon fruits, passion fruits, jackfruit (unpeeled), guavas or rose apples. On the other hand, custard apples, sapodillo plums or mangosteen are more fragile. If you like to cook Thai food, don't forget to pack tamarind in your luggage. Once arrived, peel it and put it in the refrigerator or even in the freezer if you bought large quantities. You will use tamarind in many dishes as diverse as "Tom Kah" coconut soup, Pad Thai, massaman curry and many others.
Choose vegetables and plants that are difficult to find in Europe such as Thai bitter eggplants and pea eggplants. Use them to make a delicious green curry or panang curry! Think of the traditional "bouquet garni" of Thai soups: galangal, kaffir leaves and lemongrass. Know that these three can then be frozen without altering their taste, so don't hesitate to stock up on them, knowing that galangal and lemongrass are also used in many curry pastes and some salads.
Don't forget the spices! Even if you can easily find all types of spices in Europe, it will be much cheaper in Thailand. Choose the seeds of cumin, coriander and white pepper for your curry pastes. If you like Sino-Thaï recipes, buy a little cinnamon and star anise. You can also use them for a massaman curry. And maybe also turmeric, for your chicken satay? Unless you have the opportunity to visit a plantation, choose your spices at the supermarket instead of the market. They will be labelled, an expiry date will be mentioned and they will be kept in better temperature conditions anyway.
Finally, collect a few handfuls of chilli peppers, inseparable from Thai cuisine. Choose dry chillies and especially spur chillies (picture 1 below), well suited to the western palate. There are several varieties, so one that we use for the curry massaman (picture 2). Let yourself be tempted by a few bird-eye chillies, which you will reduce into powder for your Pad Thai. Don't buy chili peppers from the supermarket because industrial varieties are kiln dried. Go to the local markets, you will see large baskets with chilli peppers drying in the sun, in a traditional way. Finally, be sure to take home a jar of roasted chili paste (picture 3) to make soups such as "Tom Yam Kung", stir-fried dishes such as stir-fried chicken and cashew nuts or pomelo salad with shrimps, for example.
You are now equipped with the essentials of Thai cooking! If you would like more information about the recommended ingredients and how to store them, feel free to contact us, we will be happy to help you.
Reference of the article : Entering the European Union: banned and authorized foodstuffs, september 2014.