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Archive for February, 2011

The Heart of Phuket Muslim Cuisine

When I was growing up I was always fond of the pungent flavor of Phuket Muslim cooking—it must have been the aroma and the ritual that came with this food that I experienced in the diverse culture of Southern Thailand. The flavors and aromas were different and exciting compared to my family’s traditional Thai-Chinese cooking.

While visiting Phuket just two weeks ago, my dream came true when Varunee, my long time friend and a chef for my culinary tour, shared many of her family’s recipes with me. The one that I am sharing with you today is a Sa Curry with Buffalo Meat and Sa Spice Mix. This recipe is part of her family’s traditional cooking and has been passed on for many generations.

Varunee

 

Our meeting Point, Bangtao Mosque

I waited for Varunee at the Bangtao Mosque, a famous Phuket landmark, then followed her through the roads that snaked behind the mosque near the foot of the hill. My lesson on Aharn Muslim (Muslim food) began in her home with beautiful birds singing in the background.

 

Sa powder from Bangtao Village, Phuket

We started by making an aromatic Sa spice mix (Krueng Sa), the heart of the cuisine. The Thai name for cumin is Yee Rah, but Phuketians call it Sa. Varunee called cumin “Sa Lek” (meaning small Sa), and fennel is “Sa Yai” (big Sa). Cumin has a pungent hot Sa feeling (numbing) and the fennel is cooling and sweet after the numbing sensation. Thais use cumin to reduce the meaty smell. The rest of the spices are typical Southeast Asian ones such as turmeric, black pepper, coriander and dried chili. You may toast the spices before grinding to intensify their flavor.

Water Buffalo Meat

Water Buffalo meat is a more common meat in the Southern part of Thailand, especially in Phuket. Sa Curry with Buffalo Meat with Sa Spices is a stand out among Phuket Thai Muslim dishes.

Sa Spice Mix

Krueng Sa

Yield: 4 tablespoons

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
10 dried Thai chilies (Varunee recommended 20 to 30)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Place cumin, fennel, coriander, and Thai chilies in a small pan; toast the spices on medium heat until fragrant.

Let cool, then place them in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder, or place them in a mortar and pound with a pestle to yield a fine powder.

Store cooled spices in an airtight jar and store for up to 3 months.

 

Buffalo Curry with Sa Spices Mix


Sa Curry with Buffalo meat

Gaeng Kwai Kab Krueng Sa

Serves: 2 to 4

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 shallots, peeled and sliced, about ¼ cup

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced, about 3 tablespoons

4 tablespoons Sa spices mix from recipe above

¾ pound buffalo meat or beef top sirloin, thinly sliced

½ cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon palm sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Heat canola oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir in shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then add Sa spice mix and stir for 1 minute. Stir in buffalo meat and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in coconut milk. Let cook until the meat is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in palm sugar, salt and fish sauce. Serve with warm jasmine rice and a vegetable side dish.

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© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .


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Eat Phuket at the 12th Annual Old Phuket Festival

Phuket Old Town Festival 2011

Last night I had a great experience traveling back to my old Phuket lifestyle with the first day of the 12th Annual Phuket Old Town Festival. We started the evening around 8pm. The first visit was to the Blue Elephant Restaurant and Cooking School. I had a chance to visit a cooking class at the restaurant which is located at the West end of the festival on Krabi Road. A block further down that road we crossed Yaowarat to get to Thalang Road where the festival takes place every year. The buildings on both sides are in the Sino-Portuguese style that was built in the 19th century.

Thalang Road, Old Phuket Festival 2011

We walked on Thalang Road where the street was full of activities related to foods and crafts that reflect the Phuket Paranakan Culture. We listened to live music. We found the Kopitiem Restaurant which has an entire menu of old Phuket foods. My niece and I ordered three dishes to share. Salad Kaek is a salad with peanut dressing with Phuket-Muslim cooking flavors. Phad Bee Htun is stir-fried rice noodles with Choy Sum and egg that looks and tastes like Singaporean Noodles. Another noodle dish that we had is Phad Mee Sua (stir-fried thin wheat noodle with seafood).

Kopitiem~Restaurant on Thalang Street, Phuket

The evening was complete when I savored the taste of home and a taste of culture. I took in the whole experience and felt my old sense of connection to our heritage. I was lost between places and tastes like a time traveler. One moment I was eating on the streets in Singapore and a few minutes later in Penang, Malaysia. But it all makes sense. Please see an excerpt below from the Thai Paranagan Association

“Baba-Paranakan culture is beautiful in both spirit and expression. It deeply blends several customs and traditions from Thai, Chinese, Malay and Western into Phuket culture, throughout many civilizations for hundreds years.”

Stir-fried Thin Rice Noodle with Choy Sum, Phad Bee Htun Phuket

Phad Bee Htun was my favorite noodle dish when I was growing up. I am proud to share this recipe with you. I hope that you can taste the flavor of Southeast Asia and the culture in that region of Paranakan.

Stir-fried Thin Rice Vermicelli with Pork and Choy Sum

Phad Bee Htun

Servings: 4 to 6

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

½ package Thai Kitchen thin rice noodles or any thin rice noodle
4 tablespoons cooking oil, or more as needed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, minced
½ pound pork chop, sliced
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups Choy Sum or Chinese kale
A dash dark soy sauce, optional
4 green onions, sliced diagonally, about ½ cup
4 lime wedges, to garnish

Soak noodles in hot water until softened, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a wok. Beat two eggs in a bowl and then pour them into the wok. Tilt the wok so the egg will spread to make a thin omelet. Cook for one minute and flip once. Place on the cutting board and shred; set aside.

Heat wok on high heat and add 2 tablespoons canola oil and garlic. When garlic is yellow, stir in pork, light soy sauce, and fish sauce and cook until the pork is cooked. Stir in Choy Sum, cook for 30 seconds, and then stir in noodles. If desired, add a few drops of dark soy or molasses to get a tan color and a little sweet flavor. When the noodles are cooked, stir in green onion and shredded omelet; remove and serve with lime wedges and condiment below.

Condiment:

½ cup rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced

Place rice vinegar, sugar and jalapeno pepper in a small bowl, stir.

© 2011  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

I Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com

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Celebrating Chinese New Year in Phuket

I love visiting my family during Chinese New Year. It is a festive time, a time for family reunions, reconciliations, and a good time.

On February 1, the day before the New Year, my sister, sister-in-law and my mom were busy like we are every year, cleaning the house to sweep away ill-fortune. Then we spent most of the day shopping, cutting and stocking up the pantry.

It is our family tradition to hold Chinese New Year at my mom’s home, the main house where our ancestors lived long before. We place pictures of our ancestors on an altar and worship. On February 2 we woke up in the morning and were ready to cook our traditional dish feast at the same time the sun was rising, which is around 6:30am.

 

Ba Mee Phulket for stir-fried Phuket Hokkien Mee: symbol of longgevity

Slowly my nieces and nephews showed up and took part in helping, and the foods were placed on the table in front of the altar as we finished cooking.

 

Phuket Chinese New Year Feast

Steamed jasmine rice should have a tall peak for a symbol of wealth

I helped by shaping the steamed jasmine rice into tall peaks. The Thai word for this shape is Poon Pon which means plenty and fruitfulness. It is a symbol of wealth.

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We offered two feasts, one inside our home in front of our ancestors (paternal side), and one in the back of our house for all departed relatives (maternal side) or people that once were related to us, and any wandering spirits. We invite them all to enjoy the feast.

At the end, we burn the gold paper and money paper to make it available for all the departed spirits.

At the end we had a feast together and while we were sharing the food, we catch up with each other and bond with food and the pride of our tradition.

 

Family gathering

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