Many food aficionados might scoff at the idea that a Thai person would resort to eating instant noodles! Instant ramen noodles like "Top Ramen" are nothing more that mass-market slop for ignorant Americans. Surely, the best you can hope for are those unidentifiable salt-bombs labelled chicken, beef, or vegetable.
Although we tend to associate rice with China, Thailand is one of the largest producers of rice in the world, and rice export is a very important part of the country's economy. Rice has been in Thailand for 5000 years and is served with every meal. The two main kinds of used in Thai cooking, are a long-grain rice called Jasmine rice and a short-grained rice called sticky rice or sweet rice.
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) is a widespread type of edible seaweed with thin crinkled green fronds that resemble a slightly translucent lettuce when it is submerged, but may appear more as a slimy green mass if washed up on the shore. It is found all over the world and is actually an alga from a family of algae called Ulvaceae.
A tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) looks like a small green tomato covered with a pale green leaf or husk. In fact, the name tomatillo means "little tomato" in Spanish, and the fruit is indeed related to tomatoes, both being a part of the nightshade or Solanaceae family. They are close relatives of the Cape gooseberry (not a true gooseberry) and the Japanese Lantern fruit (bladder cherry). All of which are in the genus Physalis.
Tomatillos are very popular in Mexican and Southwest cooking.
Bamboo shoots can basically be thought of as baby bamboo. These have been an important source of food in Asia for over 2,500 years.They are the very young and pale yellow beginnings of a bamboo "tree." Keep in mind that bamboo is really a very tall and woody grass, not a tree. There is a staggering number of different bamboo varieties, but only a few are edible. At the early stage, when the bamboo is first shooting up from the ground, these shoots have a tender heart, which is the part that is eaten.
Candlenuts (Aleurites moluccana) are a relative of Macadamia nuts and resemble them in appearance and in texture. They have a hard furrowed shell and the the nuts are yellow, waxy, and brittle, much like their Macadamia cousins. They are so named because they used to be used to make candles. The name is sometimes rendered as two separate words, candle nuts.
Fleur de sel is French for "flower of salt." It is a very expensive kind of sea salt that gathered from evaporated sea water from several coastal areas of the world, including most famously from the marshes of the Guérande in Brittany (Fleur de sel de Guérande) as well as other areas of the west coast of France such as Vendée, Aigues-Mortes, Île de Ré, and Noirmoutier1, and Aigues-Mortes in the South.
Brains are actually somewhat nutritious. They are high in protein, at least. Some folks eat them, and some folks find the idea of eating them offensive, on many levels. Nobody is going to want to eat cow's brains, for fear of "Mad Cow Disease" and not many of use would partake of monkey brains like in Indiana Jones. But what about pig brains? Ever heard of pig brains with eggs? It's a thing. What about canned pig brains in milk gravy in a can? Apparently that's a thing too.
Red adzuki (azuki, aduki, adsuki) or Vigna angularis is a cousin the the North American kidney beans and small red beans. They are also sometimes called adanka. They are a native of India or Japan and have been used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking for over 2000 years. Adzuki are used especially for sweet cakes and other delicacies, as well as sweet and savory dishes. The name adzuki comes from the Japanese word for the plant, azuki. They have a less beany flavor than other beans. In Japan, they are known as "the king of beans."
Nam Pla is a Thai fermented fish sauce, similar to Vietnamese nuoc-mom, but with less salt used. Like all fish sauces in Southeast Asia, it is a counterpart to garum of ancient Rome. Nam pla fish sauce is often said by Thai cooks to be the most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking.
Acocado, the fruit, is of course very important to Mexican cuisine. You may not know that avocado leaves, or hojas de aguacate, are used in cooking as well, especially in the Southern regions of Mexico such as Oaxaca.
The long serrated leaves of the Mexican epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides or Chenopodium ambrosioides) herb have an unpleasant smell similar to bleach, kerosene or gasoline, although it is sometimes described as minty or citrusy. They lose most of their aroma during cooking, however. The leaves are torn up or chopped similar to cilantro and are used to flavor many dishes, including beans, soups, and salads. Their flavor is bitter and pungent and will tend to drown out other flavors, so they are often used alone.
The quince fruit is in the same family as apples and pears. You will notice the family resemblance. The fruits look similar to a yellow pear with a light fuzz.
The tree and its fruit is thought to be native to Iran. Growing only in warm climates, it was once popular not only in the Middle East, but in Rome and Greece. Its scientific name is Cydonia oblonga and it is part of the Rosaceae family.
Pandan, or screwpine, also called pandanus, daun pandan, and screw palm, is a shrub with strap shaped leaves reminiscent of palm leaves. Some species of this plant have highly aromatic leaves that are prized in cooking. The flowers are also aromatic, and an extract called kewra (or keora) is made from them and used in Indian milk-based sweets. They are widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia and other tropical regions.
Stelle (pronohnced STAY-lay), or stellette is a type of small pasta shaped like stars with a small hole in the middle.
Stelle pasta is a pastini pasta, a name used to designate any type of very small dried pasta that is typically used in soups, broths, and sometimes salads.
Stelle pasta are also known as astri, or flori di sambuco (meaning elder flowers).
Stellitine is a smaller version, and stelloni is the largest. All of them are still small enough to fall under the pastini category.