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Archive for the ‘Pranee’s Travel Thailand & Beyond’ Category

Thai Ceremony & Culinary Traditions

One year, remembrance.

I arrived in Phuket in late March 2015 amid the stunning beauty of the hot season. All my favorite flowers from large trees were in full bloom, and the sky had a beautiful blue hue. The heat and humidity greeted me and welcomed me home. I love Thailand at this time of year. However, this visit was unlike any other. It was an urgent one to visit my mom whose health had worsened since my visit just a month before.

The golden shower tree - Rachapruek - ราชพฤกษ์

The golden shower tree – Rachapruek – ราชพฤกษ์

I only had a chance to admire the season’s beauty from the car window because I had come to spend whatever precious moments I could with my mom. I had my blessing, as we were able to give each other hugs and say our farewells just two days before her passing.

In accordance with the tradition in our region, a celebration of her life followed immediately afterwards. Her funeral was held for six days; the last day was the cremation day. These events all took place on the grounds of our village monastery in a special section where there was a large hall, praying chamber and a kitchen. Over 3,000 friends, relatives and family paid tribute, and on the cremation day, over 145 monks and novice monks and hundreds of people came to honor my mom’s life. She is missed and loved by her family and community.

Thai Temple

Early Morning Sunlight at the Thai Temple

Thai-ness

In honor of Thai culture and Thai-ness, I am sharing these stories and pictures with you. I hope you can read with your open heart and mind and that you learn something of a different people and culture.

In February 2013 I wrote the post Thai Monastery Kitchen about Thai culture and the cuisine at a Thai funeral or celebration of life. I hope you had a chance to read it and see how Thai culinary traditions and culture revolve around the Thai monastery kitchen and event hall where we share food, mourn, laugh, and mingle.

Just two years after that post, my four brothers and my sister and I were suddenly very busy organizing all the details for my mom’s celebration of life. Because the system for doing this event is already in place and the ritual is the same for everyone, there is nothing to reinvent but from 5:30 am till 10 pm each day we were busy shopping for foods and serving them.

Serving Tea and Water

Getting Tea and Water Ready for Our Guests

My mom’s funeral was held in our village monastery hall which was attached to a large kitchen. More than 25 dining tables were set up so that when friends and relatives visited and gave their condolences, the foods and drinks could be promptly served. We steeped tea in a large pot and always had two types of tea: a Thai tea with a hint of sweet and a fragrant Pandan Jasmine Tea. As guests arrived, we welcomed them to sit and promptly served them tea.

My brothers, sister, and all of the in-laws wore black and white and greeted and served with care the friends and relatives from near and far. About 500 people visited each day and the kitchen was always busy with commotion during lunch and dinner time. Generous donations from everyone helped us to keep this tradition alive. It is a big part of helping us mourn the loss of a loved one and I had good visits with many relatives that I hadn’t seen for over 25 years.

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At the funeral, a 10-foot-long table was covered with symbolic and auspicious foods, then groups of related kinship in a clan were called to pay homage, group by group. The first group was the deceased’s children and their spouses. The photo above is of my sister and brothers and their spouses. The next group called is the deceased’s brother and sister, and so on. We added this step to our Thai buddhist ceremony before the cremation to honor my mom and our family’s Phuket Baba culture.

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At the crematorium everyone lined up to pay their respects and say farewell.

Because I was so busy most of the time I only had a chance to take a few pictures on the second day of mourning, but I hope you enjoy the photo log below and the chance to see what it was like in a Thai monastery kitchen during my mom’s celebration of life. If you wish to see more, please check out my photo album “My Mom’s Cerebration of Life.

Thai Ceremony Cooking in a Monastery Kitchen

Thai Village Chef

Jee Lah spoons Hua Mok batter onto a banana leaf

My mom had always admired Jee Lah, the head chef and caterer for most events in the village. Jee Lah was about to go on vacation when my brother asked her to be the cook for the six days of my mom’s celebration of life. Jee Lah agreed to honor my mom’s wish to have her cater her celebration of life. We were so fortunate to have her. Jee Lah specializes in Phuket cuisine and local popular dishes. She created the menu for each day. The foods was real local cuisine expertly prepared with the best taste and quality and she appreciated how all our brothers and sisters made her job easier.

My sister, Rudee prepared mixed fruit plate

My sister Rudee prepared mixed fruit plate

Above, my sister Rudee is preparing fruit platters for snacks or after-meal palate cleansers. In this photo she is preparing sliced green mango and rose apple with nam play wan – น้ำปลาหวาน – a fruit dipping sauce.

Thai Coconut Ice Cream

Thai Coconut Ice Cream

We served my mom’s favorite ice cream to our guests.

Thai Vegetable Accompaniment to Nam Prik and Curry Dish

Thai Vegetable Accompaniments to Nam Prik and Curry Dish

Above is a Thai vegetable accompaniment to Nam Prik – น้ำพริก – hot sauce. There are cucumbers, young corn, cauliflower, and Thai eggplant.

Slicing Technique for Snake Bean for Thai Salad

How to Slice a Snake Bean for Thai Salad

Technique is so important and cooking for 300 guests each meal means there are many helping hands for the long hours of patient and hard work. The snake beans here are sliced thin like paper in an oblong. This preparation is for Thai Southern bean salad.

How to Slice Shallot for Thai Chili Dip and Fried Shallot

Slicing Shallots for Thai Chili Dip and Fried Shallots

In Thai cuisine we use a lot of shallots. Slicing them very thinly, like paper, is always important to allow them to combine well in a salad, chili dipping sauce or making fried shallots.

How to Slice the Green Mango for Thai Salad for Thai Chili Dip

Slicing the Green Mango for Thai Salad or Thai Chili Dip

Green mango is shredded into thin strips for green mango salad. One could use a julienne peeler to accomplish the work but for the beautiful looks and best quality, hand shredding is preferred.

Barracudas - ปลาสาก For Hua Mok, Thai Fish Cake

Barracudas – ปลาสาก For Hua Mok, Thai Fish Cake

The meat from these large fish was for a Hua Mok – a fish cake steamed in banana leaf. The yellow batter that Jee Lah was spooning from the large pot into a banana leaf in the earlier photo was 90% fish meat and the rest is spices and herbs.

How to minced the pork with Clever

How to Mince the Pork with a Cleaver

To make minced meat for soup or meat balls, first slice the meat and then chop it repeatedly with a cleaver until the pork is minced into small pieces.

The Real Thai Local Cuisine

Real Local Thai Cuisine

Everyone worked hard to make everything well to honor our mom. All of the hard work serving the mourners was helping us with the mourning as well.

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
Lets connect on  Twitter,  FacebookYoutubeInstagram and Pinterest
For more in-depth in Thai ingredients and Hand-on Cooking Class please check out
Pranee’s One day Asian Market Tour & Cooking Class at Pranee’s Thai Kitchen
 
Related Link
 
What to expect if you are invited to a Thai Funeral.
http://www.thaibuddhist.com/what-to-expect-if-you-are-invited-to-a-thai-funeral/
Thai Monastery Kitchen
https://praneesthaikitchen.com/2013/02/25/thai-monastery-kitchen/
 
 
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Almost, My Thai Herb Garden

Harvesting Lemongrass

Harvesting Lemongrass

Lemongrass – Takrai – ตะไคร้

I always try to enjoy my hometown of Phuket as a tourist would do, but my favorite part is visiting, catching up and dining with my family and relatives in the village. One of my fun days at home in Phuket was following my brother-in-law and admiring his Thai herb garden. We harvested some herbs for my sister Rudee and some for me. The Thai herb garden, with its scents of fresh citrus, wild lemongrass leaves, pungent cumin leaves, and the so-sweet anise aroma of Thai basil, is close to heaven. It has a timeless quality like that of a dream of a childhood day of wonder.

I took many pictures of the herbs from his garden; please check them out. The herbs that we cut with a knife are cumin leaves (Bai Yeerah – Tree Basil plants – Ocimum gratissimum), Thai Basil (Bai Horapa – Ocimum basilicum) and holy basil (Bai Kraprow – Ocimum tenuiflorum).

Thai Ginger, Lesser Ginger and White Turmeric

Thai Ginger, Lesser Ginger and White Turmeric

The Thai herbs that we dug up for the rhizomes were galangal (also known as Thai ginger), lesser ginger and white turmeric.

The lemongrass stalks can be easily removed at ground level, just above the root, with a sharp knife, but my brother-in-law removed the whole cluster and gave me all the trimmed lemongrass stalks.

Lemongrass - Takrai - ตะไคร้

Lemongrass – Takrai – ตะไคร้

As I headed back to my apartment kitchen in Phuket, accompanied by the scent of lemongrass from 30 lemongrass stalks, I knew what would I do with them: make Lemongrass Tea – Nam Takrai – ชาตะไคร้

Lemongrass - Takrai - ตะไคร้

Lemongrass – Takrai – ตะไคร้

You can use any part of the lemongrass plant to make lemongrass tea, from roots to leaves. I often save the leftovers pieces of lemongrass trimmed from my cooking and freeze them until I have a enough to make a tea. In Thailand lemongrass is inexpensive and freshly available everyday. Use the cleanest and freshest lemongrass you can get.

Lemongrass Tea – Cha Takrai – ชาตะไคร้

Lemongrass Tea - Nam Takrai - ชาตะไคร้

Lemongrass Tea – Cha Takrai – ชาตะไคร้

Lemongrass Tea – ชาตะไคร้ – Cha Takrai 

Yield 12 cups

Whenever I give students a demonstration on how to prepare lemongrass for Thai cooking, I always recommend that they save the trimmings and freeze them for making fresh lemongrass tea or a lemongrass simple syrup. Today, my lemongrass tea recipe is made in a large quantity, but you can scale it down to make smaller amount or to adjust the concentration to your desired taste.

12 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and smashed 

1/2 cup sugar, optional

Wash and prepare lemongrass stalk as shown on Pranee’s video

Bring 13 cups of water to a boil in a large pot on high heat. Add lemongrass and let boil for 10 minutes. Strain. If sugar is to be added, bring the tea back to a boil and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved.

Serve hot as a tea, or chill in the fridge and serve as cold drink.

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
Lets connect on  Twitter,  FacebookYoutubeInstagram and Pinterest
 
Related Links from Pranee’s Thai Kitchen
 
Lemongrass Paste and Lemongrass Tartar Sauce Recipe
 
Grandma’s Steamed Fish with Lemongrass Recipe
 
Lemongrass Vinaigrette Recipe
 
Thai Steamed Clams with Lemongrass Recipe
 
And much more by using key word “lemongrass” on this blog
 
How to Prepare Lemongrass for Thai Cooking
 
https://youtu.be/58rSRxb_BMU 
 
 

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Kin Khao Kan – กินข้าวกัน – Let’s Eat Together

Thai Omellet, Sour Fish with Taro Stem, Guava and Steamed Jasmine Rice

Lunch at Baan Kamala School

Kin Khao Rue Yangกินข้าวหรือยัง – Have you eaten yet? This is the warmest greeting in Thai culture. It is used like “how are you?” in other cultures and is an everyday practice for greeting family members, friends, neighbors or a visitor who happens to walk by or to your kitchen door. Thais bond strongly over food and a shared community-rich hospitality. When I visited home last November I hardly ate alone. One day I visited Khun Taeng, the head chef at the Kamala School in Phuket, a primary and secondary school that was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami,o but has since been rebuilt. She greeted me in just this way to welcome me back after a long absence. It has been since 2011 that I had spent time in her kitchen savoring Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yard Long Bean. First she said, “When did you return home?” then “Kin Khao Kan – กินข้าวกัน – Let’s Eat Together.”

Stir-fried Catfish with Red Curry Paste and Basil served with Jasmine Rice and a clear soup with noodles, mushroom and loofa.

Stir-fried Catfish with Red Curry Paste and Basil served with jasmine rice and a clear soup with noodles, mushroom and loofah.

Home sweet home! This time at the Kamala School, I joined a few teachers that I have known over the past 11 years. Kin Khao Kan – กินข้าวกัน – Let’s eat together! I was very happy to do this. Khan Taeng is an amazing head cook. She cooks for hundred of students, providing authentic dishes that are true to the original flavors of mom’s home cooking. I learned a long time ago that everyone at the school loved spicy foods, and one dish always has many spices. The lunch menu was my favorite famous Thai dish: Stir-fried Catfish with Red Curry Paste and Basil served with jasmine rice and a clear soup with noodles, mushroom and loofah.

While sharing lunch,  I was glad to learn that many students from the past 11 years had moved on, continuing in higher education, and having such adventures. It had been long since I had been there, cooking with friends and family; perhaps, it seemed, this was a time for me to bond with the new students who live at the school. Currently there were almost 200 of them. By the end of our lunch and conversation, I was glad that I would able to spend more time with the students for lunch the coming Sunday. Because the number of students had outgrown my ability to organize such a feast, I would not actually be cooking, just hosting and serving a meal instead. I was also hoping that my soon-to-arrive guests from the United States would also be able to join me.

Sour Curry Fish with Taro Stems served with Thai Omellette

Sour Curry Fish with Taro Stems served with Thai omelet

My guests arrived and two days later they joined me in contributing to and serving lunch to Kamala School’s resident students. Before enjoying each meal, students pay appreciation for foods and thank you to the farmer, caretaker, the cooks and everyone who is a part of contributing to the meal. After serving, we spread out and sat down among the students and ate together. Food-sharing and bonding is a way to build our community and to learn the culture up close and personal. It is simple cycle of eat, love and give. This time we spread the love across the globe at the school dining table. I cannot wait to see everyone again in March 2016. Kin Khao Kan Eek – กินข้าวกันอีก – let’s eat together again.

Thank you to my many students from Seattle, tour members and friends that have given your support to the school. As a result, the school has been able to accept more students and to meet their larger needs for education and a home.

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Thank you!

If you visit Phuket and would like to contribute towards education or food, your group is welcome to create and share a culinary experience with the students. Please contact Kamala School.

Baan Kamala School a.k.a 36th Rajachaprachcanogroh School Phuket

Kamala Beach Road, Kathu District, Phuket 83120, Thailand

Telephone (076) 279 293

Website: http://www.rpg36.ac.th

 

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
Lets connect on  Twitter,  FacebookYoutubeInstagram and Pinterest
 

Related Link

Give Back to Phuket: http://www.phukethasbeengoodtous.org

Below are Pranee’s Recipes of the dishes mentioned above and some that has been served and enjoyed at Kamala School.

Stir-fried Catfish with Red Curry Paste and Thai Basil Recipe

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi Recipe

Thai Omelet Recipe

Phuket Banana Pancake Recipe

Dragon Fruit Salad with Papaya and Grapefruit Recipe

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So Passionately

Kamala Beach at Sunset

Kamala Beach at Sunset

Every year I visit home I enjoy my leisurely walk in the early morning at Kamala Beach. This year I also found an excuse to embrace the beauty of sunset while walking in the evening and went off to do an errand when the sun was near setting and the humidity and heat were less intense.

I was working on a breakfast menu for my guests who were arriving that week. On the menu was an egg dish, bread with pineapple jam, juice, yogurt, tropical fruit, coffee and tea. I love having a basket of tropical fruits ready to peel and eat at anytime, so on this walk my destination was a fruit stand to stock up on tropical fruits like Phuket pineapple, pomelo, banana, mango and papaya. At the stand, I was delighted to see passion fruit. It is a common fruit in Thailand, but one that has rarely had a chance to be on the shelf at the food stand. This is because it has not been so poplar until just the last few years as we have become more aware of the health benefits of our own tropical fruits. Let’s embrace this opportunity.

passion fruit juice

Prepare passion fruit with juice by removing pulp and seeds

When I reached the fruit stand on the main road before the last intersection and the steep road to Patong, I filled my basket with Thai fruits and the owner gave me a bag full of 20 overripe passion fruits for 50 Baht (about $1.50). The good looking ones were 15 Baht (50 cents) each, which may help explain some of my excitement and appreciation for the passion fruit. Plus the best time to enjoy Thai passion fruit is when the skin is wrinkly and the juice is at its sweetest. I walked home with excitement—it was time to play with passion fruit again. (Please read my first post on passion fruit – เสาวรส – Saowarod.)

pineapple jam

Pineapple Jam

When I am on vacation I enjoy cooking in any small kitchen with just a few ingredients. The pineapple jam I had on hand prompted me to create a passion fruit-pineapple spread to serve on toast or plain yogurt. My tropical-inspired spread was complete. With its tangy, sour taste, the aroma of passion fruit, and the soft, sweet texture from pineapple jam, I had indeed created a wow moment. After tasting the spread, my sister, niece and guests managed to appreciate every drop on yogurt and on toast. This recipe captures the moment. So passionately.

passion fruit - pineapple spread

Passion Fruit – Pineapple Spread

Passion Fruit-Pineapple Spread

I already had some pineapple jam, and when I extracted the passion fruit juice, this versatile recipe easily came to mind. The bright tartness of passion fruit juice combined with thick and sweet pineapple jam to soften the jam’s thick texture and give the perfect balance of sweet and sour with a lingering fruity aroma. We enjoyed them both on toasts and plain yogurt.

Yield: 1 cup

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

1 cup passion fruit juice, freshly-made or ready-made

2/3 cup pineapple jam

Place passion fruit juice in a medium size pot over medium heat; when it come to a boil, stir in pineapple jam and whisk over medium-low heat until well combined, about 5 minutes. Let it cook on low heat for 20 minutes to thicken. Place in a clean mason jar and use as a spread or as a fruit sauce on yogurt or cake. It keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks, or 6 months in the freezer.
© 2015 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com
Lets connect on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest
For more in-depth in Thai ingredients and Hand-on Cooking Class please check out Pranee’s One day Asian Market Tour & Cooking Class at Pranee’s Thai Kitchen

Related Links

Sand Whiting: praneesthaiktchen.com

Passion Fruit: praneesthaikitchen.com

What is the Difference Between Jam, Jelly, Conserves and Marmalade : TheKitchn.com

 

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Young Galangal – Kha Oon – ข่าอ่อน

I have many fond memories of my apprenticeship at a young age to my grandmother in her kitchen. One of the tasks I performed was harvesting the tender stems and rhizomes—the horizontal, underground stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes—of the galangal plant.

IMG_0128

Tender Stems and Leaves of Young Galangal Plant

In the old days, we had a few galangal bushes in our garden and when grandma wanted to make her soup – Tom Som Kha Oon (ต้มส้มข่าอ่อน) – from young galangal stems she would ask me to go search for the youngest shoots and stems. Over time, I learned the wrong and right ways to harvest them, and I have some tips to help you with your harvest. As you read my story through to the end you will learn more about how to prepare and cook the young galangal stems as well.

First choose a young plant. It should be about one to three feet tall above the ground. (Older plants are about five feet tall.) A young plant should have no more than three green leaves. Harvesting the shoots is similar to harvesting bamboo shoots. Holding the leaves, I use strong force to snap and pull the stem away from the bush at a 45-degree angle. This should give me the whole stem and, with some luck, part of the young plant with the rhizomes attached as in the photo below. If grandma needed some older rhizomes, I would use a small shovel to remove the soil around the plant and a knife to cut out the clump of rhizomes around the new stems.

IMG_0125

Young Galangal and Tender Stem – ข่าอ่อน-หน่อข่าอ่อน

Galangal typically takes about four months to reach this size and become ready to harvest. Its smell is softer and gentler than the strong pungent smell of older galangal that has stayed in the ground for almost a year. In Thailand, you will typically find young galangal in the market and in the kitchen.

Lemongrass and kaffir lime fruit and leaves are common fresh Thai herbs, but galangal is just as significant—if not more so—to Thai cuisine. We use galangal widely. It is in almost every dish possible except for in the rustic vegetable soup known as yellow sour, or sour curry in Southern Thailand (Gaeng Luang or Gaeng Som – แกงเหลืองหรือแกงส้ม and Gaeng Leangแกงเลียง. The most well-known dishes that use galangal are Tom Kha, Tom Yum, and Thai curry paste.

Galangal Plant - ต้นข่า

Galangal Plant – ต้นข่า

A few years back I visited a lemongrass and galangal plantation. I am happy to share with you the photos I took there. This picture was taken during the dry season. This plant is not as busy as my grandma’s, which were planted closer to the water and given mulch. Galangal plants typically reach four to eight feet in height. When young plants reach about one to three feet tall, their young shoots and rhizomes – Kha Oon – ข่าอ่อน – can be harvested. The older and more pungent rhizome, called Kha Gae – ข่าแก่  is most like the galangal that you find in the U.S.

Young Galangal and Tender Stem

Young Galangal and Tender Stem

This beautiful bouquet of young galangal and shoots is fresh from the farmer’s market in my Thai village. I am glad that the farmers have them available every day. I purchased a few for my mom to make her favorite soup – Tom Som Kha Oon (ต้มส้มข่าอ่อน). It is a sour soup of young galangal stems and banana stems that is common in Phuket cuisine.

I hope you enjoy my mom’s tips and step-by-step techniques for preparing galangal stems. It may be difficult for some of you to find young galangal stems, so I hope that this post will at least increase your knowledge of Thai cuisine in a Thai village.

Step-by-Step: How to Prepare Young Galangal and Tender Stems

My mom removing some hard fibrous leave for young leave

My Mom Removing Some Hard Fibrous Leaves for Young Leaves

The general rule is to remove the hard, fibrous leaves of the galangal plant and to use all of the parts that are tender and can be cooked in 15 minutes. All parts that are tender are edible like just vegetables. Their texture is similar to asparagus, and they have a gentle fragrance that is sweet with a mild pungency that is not as noticeable after cooking in a sweet and sour soup.

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Place tender stems on a cutting board and smash with a cleaver or pestle to soften, then cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch lengths.

Tender Galangal Stem and Banana Stem Soup

Cook until tender in liquid such as soup or curry, about 15 minutes.

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

https://praneesthaikitchen.com/tag/how-to-prepare-banana-stem-for-cooking/

http://www.thekitchn.com/ingredient-spotlight-what-is-g-43841

Cooking Tender Galangal Stems in Green Curry  http://pantip.com/topic/30708280

Galangal VS Ginger http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/921739

How to Farm Young Galangal – Kha Oon 

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The Umami of Thai Cuisine on Stage

shrimp paste and curry pastes

Shrimp paste and curry pastes

After my last blog post on Southern Thai Red Curry Paste, I realized that this would be an appropriate time to introduce you to an ingredient that is important to making an authentic Thai curry: shrimp paste. In Thailand we call it กะปิ –Kapi. It is the hidden ingredient in most Thai curry pastes, as it is there only in small amounts. Most people can’t detect it, but like fish sauce in Thai soup, it makes a dish rich and robust. A small amount of shrimp paste in the country soup Gaeng Leang makes a good base for a soup, just like dashi does in Japanese soup. Perhaps I will write a blog post at a later time giving you an in-depth look at how shrimp paste is used in Thai cuisine, but for now I will focus on how it is made. Please follow me as I share some firsthand knowledge with you.

At Thai markets you will see big mounds of Kapi; in the supermarket it is packed in plastic tubes. It looks like a muddy, purple-gray paste and has a smell like a powerful blue cheese. The smell may make you pause and wonder why it is so significant to Thai cuisine. Shrimp paste is rich in umami—often referred to as the fifth taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is often described as savoriness, or “a pleasant brothy or meaty taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.” ((source)) The umami taste is created when the tongue detects components of the compound glutamate, which heightens flavors and creates a sensation of savoriness. The glutamate in fish paste is created by fermentation. Another umami-rich ingredient is Thai fish sauce – น้ำปลา – Nam Pla.

Kapi Nam Prik - กะปิน้ำพริก & Kapi Gaeng - กะปิแกง

Kapi Nam Prik – กะปิน้ำพริก & Kapi Gaeng – กะปิแกง

There are two grades of shrimp paste. The finest quality is for making the Thai Chili Dip กะปิน้ำพริก – Kapi Nam Prik and currently sells for about 150 Baht ($4.75) for a kilogram (a little over 2 pounds). The lower grade, which has a deeper flavor, is for incorporating in curries กะปิแกง – Kapi Gaeng. It costs about 90 Baht ($2.85) for a kilogram. My family always uses the premium grade for all dishes calling for shrimp paste.

กะปิ – Shrimp Paste

kapi shrimp

กุ้งเคย- Goong Koey

Shrimp paste is known in Thailand as กะปิ – Kapi. In my home town and many other parts of Thailand it is called เคย – Koey. It is made of กุ้งเคย – goong koey, a crustacean. In some regions, the shrimp paste is made from opossum shrimp which is in the same class as krill, but in a different order of the crustacean family. Shrimp paste is widely made in southeast Asia, but with different methods of fermentation. These result in different looks and they may be called shrimp paste or shrimp sauce. It also has different names in different countries: Hom Ha in Southern China, Belacan in Malaysia, Ngapi in Burma, Bagoong Alamang in the Philippines, and Terasi in Indonesia, to name a few (source). Nevertheless, the use and purpose of shrimp paste in each cuisine is very similar, and it provides a local a source of calcium, phosphorus and iodine.

Pak Nam Kradae Fishing Village

Pak Nam Kradae Fishing Village – ปากน้ำกะแดะ Kadae estuary

I was fortunate to have a chance to learn about making shrimp paste in the Kadae fishing village community directly from a Kadae fisherman and shrimp paste artisan at ปากน้ำกะแดะ  – Kadae estuary, Kanchanadit, Surathani. The majority of the fishermen and villagers in Kadae are descendants of Chinese immigrants from Hainan Island, China. I had a chance to meet with a few elders and hear fascinating stories of their ancestors.

At  the edge of the river, my brother introduced me to Lung Phumipat, a fisherman, and his wife. (Thais call a respectable man whose age is close to their parents’ ages or older uncle – Lung. A woman of the same age is aunt – Pah). Lung and his wife invited us inside their wooden home. I asked them for permission to take photos and notes on making shrimp paste to share with students and blog readers. They showed and taught us as much as they could. We were very appreciative.

dry salted shrimp paste,

Dry salted shrimp paste,

Lung Phumipat’s customers are typically neighbors or people who have heard about him by word of mouth. He never gets a chance to sell his shrimp paste at the market because people come to his home to get it or pre-order it.

He said his version of shrimp paste is very simple, but there are still many steps to make a good shrimp paste that he can’t leave out. He told me that after rinsing the fresh กุ้งเคย – goong koey or krill, he mixes it with salt and lets it ferment about 24 hours or a little longer. Then he drains it and spreads out the salted กุ้งเคย – goong koey on a blue nylon net and lets it dry in the sun for a few days. The next important step is pounding the salted, sun-dried shrimp into a fine paste.

กะปิ

Learning how to pound the shrimp paste

The pounding is to turn the sun-dried shrimps into a fine paste and to get rid of air pockets in order to avoid spoilage and provide a safe environment for the fermentation. He pounded it until it was creamy and sticky and formed a dense paste. It was a hard work because the stickiness caused resistance when pulling the pestle. When I tried to use the wooden pestle, Lung Phumipat made sure that I stood straight, held the pestle correctly and pounded the paste near the edge. Standing properly makes the whole process more efficient and prevents injury.

The final step is to place all of the shrimp paste in a container or fermentation jar by adding a small layer at a time and pressing hard to prevent air pockets, repeating this until the jar is filled. Then it is covered and left to ferment for at least two to six months.

IMG_0058

Packaged to order

This is where Lung Phumipat and his wife have simplified the process. They pack a half kilogram of the paste into a plastic bag, then roll it back and forth to get rid of air pockets, and form the dense shrimp paste into a cylindrical tube. Because the demand for his shrimp paste is so high, he doesn’t get a chance to let his shrimp paste ferment and it is his customer who lets the shrimp paste ferment on the shelf in their kitchen until it is ready to incorporate into a savory Thai dish. The locals know when the shrimp paste is ready. They can identify it by its distinguishing smell at each stage. I simply wrote a note on mine as to its maturity date. There is no expiration date for shrimp paste, but the best way to keep it is to store it in the fridge or freezer in an air-tight jar until it is gone.

Thank you to uncle Phumipat and his wife for their hospitality and the generosity of their time in educating and sharing their culture and their heritage. The time we were with them at Kradae estuary was memorable.

© 2012  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

I Love Thai cooking
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Happy as a Clam in a Lemongrass Broth

I am as happy as a clam in Seattle, where we have been having the best summer ever and a plentiful harvest from the land and the sea. The freshest of these local harvests bring the best flavors to our table. This recipe is an example of fresh local steamer clams from Washington State cooked in a simple Thai style: steamed clams with lemongrass. Many of you already have your own favorite recipe for cooking clams, but today I hope you can try my family’s favorite recipe. Often when we find fresh clams we prepare Hoi Tom Takrai in large pot so that we can each serve ourselves a bowl full of หอยต้มตะไคร้ – Hoi Tom Takrai – Steamed Clams with Lemongrass Broth.

Tom Takrai Hoy

Hoi Kao Tom Takrai – หอยขาวต้มตะไคร้ at Baan Keang Lay Seafood Restaurant

The photo above is of the หอยขาวต้มตะไคร้ – Hoi Kao Tom Takrai that I enjoyed when I was traveling in Thailand between Samui Island and Phuket. My route was on 4177 via Kanchanadit, Surat Thani. If you make this same trip, I would recommend that you stop for a meal at the Baan Keang Lay Seafood Restaurant. It is located at 124 Moo 7 Tumbol Kadae, Kanchanadit, Surat Thani in a fishing village of Kadae. Locals, as well as visitors from near and far, come here for fresh seafood and especially for Hoi Kao Tom Takrai, a local white clam cooked in a scented lemongrass broth. White clams – Hoi Kao – หอยขาว are only available in the gulf of Thailand and along the Pacific Ocean. (For more pictures, please view my photos from our trip and lunch experience at Baan Keang Lae Seafood.)

Baan Keang Lae Seafood

Baan Keang Lae Seafood

บ้านเคียงเลซีฟู้ด 124 หมู่ 7 ต.กะแดะ จ.สุราษฎร์ธานี, อ.กาญจนดิษฐ์

Baan Keang Lay Seafood Restaurant, 124 Moo 7 Tumbol Kadae, Kanchanadit, Surat Thani

ต้มตะไคร้ – Tom Takrai  

Tom Takrai is a traditional method of cooking fresh seafood in the southern region of Thailand, and it was a daily practice in our village. You may use the same recipe to cook any seafood. It is similar to steaming but uses just a small amount of water. It is a fast method that produces moist and tender meat. The broth is good as a soup, or can be kept to use in a recipe that requires clam juice or fish stock. It is a fresh tasting broth with a lemongrass aroma.

Lemongrass Clam Soup

Clam, lemongrass, Thai chili, garlic and fresh basil or lemon thyme

I made Tom Takrai recently at home. After cleaning the clams, I simply placed the cleaned clams, water, lemongrass, garlic, a lightly smashed chili, and fresh herbs like Thai basil or lemon thyme in the wok or pot. Then I covered and cooked them until almost all the clams were open, and discarded the ones that were not. I squeezed some lime juice over the top, stirred, and they were ready for the table. I didn’t have Thai basil, but I did have plenty of thyme, which was a good substitute in a clam dish.

Steamer Clam in Lemongrass Broth

Thai-style Steamed Clams with Lemongrass

Thai Steamed Clam with Lemongrass

Hoi Tom Takrai

หอยต้มตะไคร้

No salt or fish sauce is needed for this dish, just enough water to balance out the natural saltiness of the clams—about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup for a pound of clams. I use a glass lid, so I can see when all the clams are open. Serve at once when the scents of the sweet clam juice and the lemongrass are at their highest point. You can slurp up the clam broth or save and bottle it if some is left. It is just the best marriage and the cleanest flavor: clam and lemongrass.

Serves: 1

Cooking time: 2 to 3 minutes after the water comes to a boil

1 pound clams, cleaned, then soaked in cold water for 15 minutes and rinsed
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed (see Pranee’s video for step-by-step how to prepare lemongrass)
1 fresh Thai chili, smashed lightly
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed lightly
1 shallot, peeled, quartered and crushed
6 leaves Thai basil, or 3 kaffir lime leaves and 3 sprigs of lemon thyme
1 tablespoon lime juice, about 1 medium-size lime

Place clams, lemongrass, Thai chili, garlic, shallot, and Thai basil or thyme in a wok or sauté pan. Add 1/4 cup water and cover, using a see-through lid if you have one. Bring to a boil and cook until the clams are completely open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in lime juice and serve immediately.

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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