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For Richer or For Poorer

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In Thailand, fish sauce is called nam pla. It is made of anchovies and salt which are fermented for 6 to 12 months under the tropical sun. The process of fermentation leaves behind an elixir laden with flavor and concentrated glutamic acid. This elixir creates a mouthful of flavor when added to salads, soups, curries, stir-fries, dipping sauces, rice and noodle dishes, or served simply as an everyday condiment – Nam Pla Prik. It is is a medium-brown liquid  that is available in bottles of various sizes ready to use for seasoning and cooking.

When it comes to Thai cuisine and culture, one can’t live without fish sauce. It is important to get the best quality fish sauce, so I have some recommendations for buying it outside of Thailand.  My favorite fish sauce brands, which I use interchangeably, are Thai KitchenTiparos and Three Crabs. Once the bottle has been opened, you can leave it out at room temperature if you cook with fish sauce often, otherwise you can keep it in the fridge for up to 6 months. When it gets too salty or stale, replace it with a new bottle.

Nam Pla Prik as a condiment

Thai people from all walks of life always have fish sauce in their kitchens and typically use it every day, either in their cooking or as a condiment. Thais value its significant flavor and Nam pla is part of Thai people’s lives, regardless of whether they are from rural villages, big towns or the capital city of Bangkok. In fact, it is a Thai’s best friend in all life situations, but especially in economic down times, or for newly married couples starting their lives together. When Thais face financial struggles, one often says “a fish sauce and warm rice is simply enough” (in Thai: มีข้าวกับน้ำปลาเพียงพอแล้ว).  When we go through a tough time and have just  enough money to buy rice and fish sauce, life is still good, still filled with hopes and dreams, and we still have each other, for richer or for poorer.

Nam Pla Prik

 

Spicy Fish Sauce

Nam Pla Prik 

น้ำปลาพริก  

Yield: 1/4 cup

Nam pla prik is no secret to Thai dining;  Thais use  it the way Americans use salt and pepper. This liquid of chili and garlic-infused fish sauce is delicious over warm steamed jasmine rice or just about any Thai food you are about to savor. The fresh layer of fish sauce enhances the food and adds another dimension to each mouthful, heightening the experience on your palate. My favorite way to use it is over a fried egg and steamed hot jasmine rice, with fresh sliced cucumber and tomatoes alongside. Any time you are dining at a Thai restaurant, you may ask for nam pla prik the same way that you would ask for salt and pepper.

¼ cup fish sauce
2 Thai chiles or a jalapeno pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon lime juice, optional

Stir fish sauce, Thai chiles, garlic, sugar and lime juice together in a small bowl. Use this spicy fish sauce for seasoning. You may keep it in an airtight jar up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

img_0054.jpg

Thai Condiment Set – with Nam Pla Prik

© 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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Curry Without the Hurry

Sometimes we can add a little creativity and time to an ordinary Thai curry dish and a magic spell happens. When you bring the food to the table it produces a touch to the heart as well as a gastronomic experience. When I returned home for a visit, my mom’s kitchen invoked a fond memory of her preparing stuffed southern style eggplant in Phuket red curry sauce — her specialty. The Thai people often speak the language of the heart with food, and I remembered well those days of a warm welcome home. My version of stuffed sweet peppers in green curry sauce was prepared and served at my family table here in Seattle. I took a few photos, knowing that one day I would share this curry recipe so that you could try this curry without the hurry: Braised Stuffed Sweet Peppers in Thai Green Curry.

Stuffed Sweet Pepper Thai Green Curry with Thai Eggplant

Braised Stuffed Sweet Peppers and Thai Eggplant in Green Curry

With only a little effort you can surprise someone with a memorable result when you prepare Braised Stuffed Sweet Peppers in Green Curry Sauce. I chose to make this dish with the mini bell peppers that are available in the market all year round so you can enjoy this recipe at any time. My favorite times for preparing this dish is in the fall when local varieties of sweet peppers are available, or in the winter when the weather is cold, but the kitchen is cozy and warm. You can cook without the hurry—just let the peppers simmer away without the worry and enjoy the fragrance throughout your kitchen.

Stuffed Sweet Pepper

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Use a paring knife, slit the peppers on one side and open them with one straight line the length of pepper. Using your thumb, press at the bottom and with your index finger press at the top, squeezing the pepper to make it open up. Remove the seeds then stuff in the meat mixture. If desired, you can complete this step ahead of time and keep the stuffed peppers in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

Thai Eggplant

Thai Eggplant

Thai eggplant is a typical vegetable to add to green or red curries. You can make this recipe with or without them. Simply remove the stems and cut each of them into 6 wedges. Soak the wedges in salted cold water to prevent the eggplant from turning brown. Drain them just before adding to the curry.

Gaeng Keow Wan Prik Yad Sai  

Stuffed Sweet Pepper Green Curry

แกงเขียวหวานพริกยัดไส้

I love to prepare this dish and once taught it to my Seattle area students during the winter months. The best part is letting the stuffed sweet peppers braise away in the green curry sauce. Don’t worry about the time, the curry has a way of telling you when it is ready when the fragrance of the sweet coconut milk, spices and herbs reach their highest level.

Serves: 4 to 8

8 small, whole mini sweet peppers, or Anaheim peppers

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems

5 black peppercorns

1 pinch of salt

½ pound coarse-ground chicken

1½ cups coconut milk

2 to 3 tablespoons green or red curry paste

4 kaffir lime leaves or lime peel

4 Thai eggplants, please see the preparation above

½ to 1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce, as needed

¼ cup basil leaves

Use a paring knife to slit open peppers on one side with one straight line the length of pepper. Then use your thumb at the bottom of the pepper, and your index finger at the top to squeeze them open; remove the seeds.

Place garlic, cilantro stems, black peppercorns and salt in a mortar. Pound with a pestle until they become a paste. Place into a medium-size bowl with the ground chicken and mix well. Stuff the meat mixture into the peppers and set aside. (This step can be done ahead of time and the stuffed peppers kept in the fridge until ready to cook.)

In a saucepan on medium-high heat, bring ½ cup of coconut milk and green or red curry paste to boil; stir well. Let the mixture cook until the oil separates and curry is fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add kaffir lime leaves or lime peel and stuffed peppers to the mixture. Add the remaining 1 cup coconut milk to cover all ingredients; bring to a boil. Let cook on medium-low heat for 8 minutes, then stir in Thai eggplant and keep cooking until the chicken filling is cooked and the peppers are soft, about 7 minutes. Check the center of the stuffed pepper to make sure chicken is done, then stir in sugar, fish sauce and basil leaves. Bring mixture to a boil and remove from heat.  Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

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

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What is a Fruit, Eaten as a Vegetable, and Used as a Sponge?

Wait—you are eating luffa? Yes, in Thailand luffa fruit is eaten at a young stage as a vegetable. It is soft, sweet and aromatic after cooking, either in a stir-fry or a soup dish. We eat the whole fruit except for the skin.

When I have a craving for luffa as a vegetable, I only choose the youngest luffa available. As the fruit gets older, the fibrous veins becomes more visible and tough and the flesh gets more airy and dries out to become a sponge. Farmers leave many healthy-looking luffa fruit longer on the trellis in order to harvest seeds and sponges as the annual vine grows old, dies, and dries up. The last harvest for the plant is healthy seeds and luffa sponges for bathing or cleaning pots and pans.

บวบหอม

บวบหอม – Smooth Luffa – Luffa aegistiaca

We enjoy two species of luffa as a vegetable in tropical and subtropical countries. The above luffa is บวบหอม – buap homSponge Luffa or Smooth Luffa. Below is the บวบเหลี่ยม – bump liam –  Ridged Luffa or Angled Luffa.

Growing up in Thailand I felt that what makes a Thai village scene beautiful is walking around and seeing both kinds of luffa growing in and around granny’s home, either on the fences or the chicken penthouse or on a tree. And one doesn’t need a fancy vegetable garden to grow them, just two square feet of fertile ground, routine watering, then a bit of training to get the vine to climb up a twig or fence as it grows. After that it can take care of itself and all you have to do is admire the yellow flowers, harvest the luffa, collect seeds for the next season and enjoy a supply of sponges.

Angled Luffa on the arbor - Angled luffa - Luffa acutangula

บวบเหลี่ยม – Angled Luffa on the trellis – Luffa acutangula

This picture was taken a few years back when I visited my mom and uncle and we walked around my village in a circle. The angled luffa is young, long, and round with ridges. This one is a perfect size for harvesting. It could be from 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter and 8 to 12 inches long. The yellow flowers were bright against the dark green guard hanging on the chicken coop to provide shade for chickens. I trust that the yield of luffas from this single plant provided many meals, stir-fried, in a country-style soup, or served with Nam Prik – Thai Chili Dip

Step-by-Step: How to Peel and Cut Luffa 

One year when I visited mom I found her in the kitchen just about to prepare stir-fried luffa with egg for lunch. Because I wanted to share the technique and recipe with you and all my blog followers, I asked her if she could do this in slow motion and let me interrupt her so I could take photos of her peeling and cutting luffa the way everyone from our Thai village always did. I want to share with you this treasured culinary moment in my mom’s kitchen.

how to peel angled luffa

How to peel angled luffa

The luffa is actually related to the cucumber family. They are alike in many ways but the luffa is softer. We use a cucumber peeler to peel the ridged skin.

IMG_0171

Angled luffa looks like a soft cucumber

After peeling and rinsing, we do the oblique cutting or roll-cutting.

oblige cut is a cutting style for stir-fried luffa

The oblique cutting style is used for stir-fried luffa

Please click here to see a video and the explanation from Simply Ming about how and why oblique and roll cutting is used in Asian Cuisine.

The reason we love luffa so much is that it is succulent, moist, sweet and tender. Therefore we don’t need many ingredients in this stir-fried dish. We often enhance the flavor with some protein like egg, prawn or pork, then a little fish sauce or soy sauce for salt. The taste has a hint of zucchini and cucumber. It has a delightful silky smooth texture that is soft, but firmer than a marshmallow.

Mom's style stir-fried angled luffa with egg served with steamed jasmine rice

Mom’s style stir-fried angled luffa with egg, served with steamed jasmine rice

Both species of luffa can be cooked in the same way. There is not a big difference between the two, but I prefer angled luffa over smooth luffa as it is more succulent and sweet. This recipe, and the photographs were recorded many years ago in my mom’s kitchen in Phuket. It captured our fine day visiting and savoring real Thai home cooking.

Stir-fried Angle Luffa with Egg

Buab Phad Khai
บวบผัดไข่
Serves: 4

Like any Thai stir-frying dish, cooking on high heat is the key. Shrimp or pork are popular proteins used in stir-fried angled luffa, and almost always with egg, some soy and fish sauces and a pinch of sugar. It can be served as a side dish or a main dish with steamed jasmine rice.

3 tablespoons high heat cooking oil such as canola, peanut or soy bean oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 eggs

3 large or 4 medium-size angled luffa, peeled and oblique-cut, about 1 and 1/2 pounds

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup water or chicken broth

Heat a wok on high heat until it is hot. Pour in cooking oil and stir in garlic. When garlic is golden, stir in eggs and stir a few times. When the egg is cooked, stir in luffa. Stir for 1 minute and add fish and soy sauces and sugar. Add water or chicken broth and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes with the lid on. It should have a soft texture and some sauce like the recipe above. Serve warm.

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 Links

http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_luffa_angled.html

How to Grow Your Luffa Sponge

http://www.luffa.info/luffagrowing.htm

Roll-Cutting Video

http://www.howtocookmeat.com/techniques/howtorollcut.htm

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Pranee's Thai Kitchen

My very  first breakfast in Yangon.

When I was in Yangon last year I spent my first morning looking for a market near the hotel. It was a street that had many stalls and breakfast type food stands. Everything in Yangon was very exciting for me, as a neighbouring country to Thailand. I found that our culture and cuisine are very different in many ways. The thing that catched my eye most was a lady making an almond pancake on the street. I stood in line and signalled for some almond pancake, the same one that she just did for the customer in front of me.  First she poured the pancake batter in the pan, sprinkled generous amount of almond on top, then she placed a charcoal heater on top. Like baking, the cake actually rise after a few minutes. She then gave it to me in a plastic bag. I ate there on the street. I really loved it, as its almond flavor and…

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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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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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Food & Friends

Most food lovers dream about food and share their ideas and creations enthusiastically with friends. For many, however, the passion drives us to go even further and become food professionals. This past September, many food lovers attended the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) held in Seattle. The conference was a place for all to explore their dreams and potential, not only for sharing food with friends and family, but in the blogging world. This year’s conference was my first, and I am glad I finally attended. I met many interesting bloggers and speakers from across the country, including many from Seattle. I loved all the workshops and presenters at the conference, including local Seattle writers and speakers Jess Thomson, Dr. Jean Layton and Kathleen Flint.

After the conference, a Seattle area group was formed to share food, friendship and support. With Raquel DeHoyos, Sonya Law and Miriam Gabriel-Pollock to name a few, we held our first get together on October 11, 2015. We were nine like-minded people, passionate about food, gathered around a painted table at a potluck, sharing food and friendship. All things related to food and blogging were the center of our attention, and this led to many conversations and much laughter.

Teavana

To welcome my new friends, I prepared Teavana Spiced Apple Cider Rooibos tea. Teavana tea comes from a company founded in the United States in 1997 to engage and educate new tea enthusiasts and tea connoisseurs alike about the ritual and enjoyment of tea. I have attended many tea workshops in Singapore and America, and was fortunate to be able to learn first hand about preparing Teavana teas from the founder and tea expert. I also shared Thai Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, a simple dish that with a little hot sauce, is even more delightful as a comfort food.

Tea from Teavana

Tea from Teavana

At the potluck we planted the seeds of the love of food and friends, and our group now has a name: Seattle Food and Friends. Thank you to Raquel DeHoyos for sharing her talent and time to create and administer the Seattle Food & Friends Facebook page. And thank you to the core nine members for sharing your passion and drive to launch our first meeting, and for your continued support.

Food Lovers Blog

I am looking forward to the International Food Blogger Conference 2016 for continue opportunities to learn and be inspired,  and to continuing to share inspiration and support with our Seattle Food and Friends group.

Related Links:

What to Do After You Hit Publish: http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/sheriwetherell/ifbc-2015-what-do-you-do-after-you-hit-publish

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