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Archive for the ‘Thai Cooking School: How to series’ Category

Chasing the Monkey Tails

Early Morning around Surathani Province

Coconut Trees along the Roads, Southern Thailand Scenery

Kadaejae Monkey School, Surathani

I have been home again on Phuket Island for a few days now but still haven’t gotten used to the weather yet. Not that I want to complain about 94°F weather that feels like 104° F because of the humidity. I always love my visits with family and the foods here are truly exquisite.

While allowing myself to acclimate to the weather by drinking cool coconut water, I pulled out a lot of my notes, pictures and videos from my previous trip to Surathani. I was searching for information about a monkey school in Southern Thailand where monkeys learn how to pick coconuts from the coconut trees. My video took place at the monkey school.

Before leaving Seattle, I had been enjoying cooking with all forms of coconut: spicy-lime coconut chips, green or red curry with coconut milk, cucumber salad with coconut water vinegar and stir-fried fresh grated coconut with Phuket curry paste. Perhaps today is an appropriate time to learn about coconuts. What is a coconut anyway?

Before I answer this question, I want to first share some of the highlights of my trip to Surathani, a province in Southern Thailand that is famous as the land of a million coconut trees. I was lucky to have my brother as my tour guide taking me to all the famous Thai food restaurants and important sites along the way. He is a professional tour guide  and an expert on the Southern region. Most importantly we had a good time visiting the monkey school. Everyone was so warm and agreed to give me information and be part of the video taping, which you will see below. Thank you for P’ Paew, the owner of Kadaejae Monkey School and brother Sumit for the insight and patience. I had so much fun “Sanuk.”

When you start Thai cooking at home, you will encounter a lot of terms and types of coconut, so I think it is a good idea to start at the beginning with what is a coconut? In short, it is a seed, a fruit and a nut (in the botanical sense) What part of the coconut is used in cooking? In my Thai kitchen I cook with palm sugar which is made from the sap of the coconut flower. I use the heart of a coconut palm, which is nice and crunchy, in Sour Curry with Fish, and the heart of coconut palm (Gaeng Som Pla khab Yod Maprow). I also use coconut water vinegar, coconut milk, coconut cream, young coconut with coconut water and grated fresh and dry coconut—to name a few.

So here is a quick lesson on a coconut: coconut cream, coconut milk and coconut water.

When you remove the coconut husk (mesocarp) from a whole coconut, you can see the coconut shell (endocarp). After cracking the coconut shell, you get to the natural water inside the nut and this is called coconut water. The white meaty part inside the shell is the coconut meat (endosperm). Grating a chunk of white of coconut meat with a coconut grater gives you fresh wet grated coconut. To extract coconut milk, add a cup of water to 2 cups fresh grated coconut, then squeeze out the white milky liquid; this is concentrated coconut milk. (Thai call this the “head” of coconut milk). Add 1/2 cup water to the used grated coconut to extract  a thin coconut milk (Thai call this the “tail” of coconut milk). Let the coconut milk sit, and a fat creamy layer will form on the top; this is the coconut cream.

Back to the coconut water. Coconut water occurs naturally and has nothing to do with the process of making coconut milk. Nature provides the coconut meat and water as nutrients for shoots to grow near the three germination pores, or “eyes,” on the coconut. This coconut water inside the coconut shell is very good for the coconut plant, but it is also very good for you. It is full of vitamins and minerals. It is especially high in potassium and electrolytes, and has a neutral ph level. I strongly recommend that tourists traveling to paradise island drink this natural drink to help with rehydration, and it has the added benefit of being a sterile juice inside the shell.

I have  over 20 recipes on this blog that use coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut water vinegar and palm (coconut) sugar.

I hope this is a good start and I hope that my next trip to Thailand I will bring more inspired recipes to share with you.

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From Las Delicias with Love

It was Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011, when I arrived as part of a team of eight gracious women in the Nicaraguan village of Las Delicias. The village is situated in the hilly northern area in the Matagalpa region and is surrounded by coffee plantations. We were there with the organization BuildOn to present  the community with a new school on behalf of many generous donors from the United States.

May 8, 2011, Las Delicias

The welcoming and celebrating event was an indescribably heart-warming experience. It took place right on the grounds of the future school. For the next four days, our host families shared their food, their houses and their children with us and our lives were enriched by their culture, foods and hospitality.

Dinner with Rice, banana and bean

Jacqualee, one of my group members, and I were fortunate to have Thelma and Ricardo and their daughter Helene as our host family. A typical day began around 5:30am with the sound of Thelma’s tortilla-making or the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo. Then we would have breakfast at 7am before going to work on the building project with local volunteers. A typical meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner was corn tortillas, rice, bananas, and beans, accompanied by either eggs or chicken.

Jacqualee and I were very excited when Thelma and Ricardo asked if we could teach them the cuisine we ate back home. We happily agreed and I cooked up the menu with Jacqualee. I wanted something practical that Thelma would enjoy cooking for her family and that would use ingredients that were available in her backyard or the local market—forget about Tom Yum Goong and fancy Thai dishes. We decided on Son-In-Law Eggs, Mango Salad and Sweet Rice, Bananas & Beans Wrapped in Banana Leaf.

Banana leaf just right outside

We started with Kao Tom Mud. First Ricardo helped with cutting the banana leaf from the tree which was right outside in their yard. I removed the stems and tore the leaves into pieces 8 inches wide, then cleaned them well with a damp cloth to remove dirt. I only had to show Thelma once how to use the banana leaf for wrapping, then she took over the task with confidence. We made enough of them to give some to her neighbor.

While it was in the steamer, we prepared mango salad and son-in-law eggs. While we were cooking, Danilo, our translator, translated our cooking lesson from English into Spanish. Danilo helped me explain the most important part of Thai cooking was the harmonious blend of the four essential flavors of Thai cooking: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The sweet was the sugar, the sour available to us was mango and two citrus juices, the spicy was Nicaraguan chili and, the salty was salt and the salty peanut that Jacqualee brought from home. I loved listening to Danilo speaking in Spanish explaining to Thelma about sweet, sour, salty and spicy. It was one of the highlights for me personally and professionally, and cooking for Thelma and Ricardo gave us a chance to thank them for their warm welcome to their home.

Thelma wrapped rice, banana and bean with banana leaf

I have used my recipe below countless times in cooking classes. It is basically a two-stage process. In the first stage, the sticky rice cooks until it has a sticky texture but it is still grainy and raw and is ideal for wrapping around a banana. It is pliable like playdough to form or shape and then it gets wrapped by the banana leaf. The second stage is the actual cooking of Kao Tom Mud, which is generally done by steaming. We steamed the rice and banana all the way through, which can take from 30 to 50 minutes. After 30 minutes of steaming, open one up to check if more steaming time is needed.

Kao Tom Mud

In my Seattle kitchen, I love to put the wrap on the grill or in the oven for the second stage, which is how I teach it in my classes. Now that summer is finally here, I hope that you will enjoy preparing this recipe either in a steamer or on your grill. Banana leaves are easy to find in local Asian markets in the freezer section.

I hope that you will enjoy cooking rice, banana, and beans wrapped with banana leaves. You will feel like you are in the tropical countries of Thailand or Nicaragua.

Kao Tom Mud, Steamed Sweet Rice and Banana Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Sweet Rice and Banana Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Kao Tom Mud 

ข้าวต้มมัด

Servings: 8

2 cups Thai sticky rice, soaked for 3 hours or overnight, and drained
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, optional
1 cup canned black beans, drained, optional
1 teaspoon salt
2 bananas, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and also crosswise to get 4 pieces from each banana
8 (8 X 8-inch) banana leaves or pieces of parchment paper
 
Stir sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar and salt together in a large pan over medium heat. Stir until all the coconut milk is absorbed. Stir in black beans and fold gently to mix.

Divide sticky rice mixture into 8 equal portions. Spread each portion onto a banana leaf, spreading to cover an area 6 by 4 inches, then place a section of the banana in the center. Fold the banana leaf to wrap the sticky rice around the banana.

Then fold the banana leaf into tamale-like envelope and secure both ends with a toothpick that pokes down and then up through the banana leaf. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until the sticky rice is translucent and cooked.

Pranee’s note:

If banana leaf is not available, you can use parchment paper. See Pranee’s Grill Sticky Rice in Bamboo Tube Recipe for details.

Pulut Lapa

Image by chooyutshing via Flickr

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Two Uncommon Ingredients in a Pot of Curry Stew

My sister and I once had a dream that we would work together in our own restaurant in Phuket. But as it turns out, she has her restaurant and I am a culinary instructor here in Seattle. But we do share with each other what we have learned over the years. During my last trip home I learned about an herb in the mint family called Bai Lah. It is an herb used in Thai cuisine. I took a picture of my sister’s Lah plant. I believe that Lah is a Thai word that is short for perilla.

Green Perilla—also called Green Shiso or Beefstalk—is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, but it doesn’t taste like mint. The  Purple Perilla is more common in the markets, but it belongs to a different species in the botanical world. Purple Perilla is also known as Japanese basil or purple mint. It has a very refreshing taste. To me it tastes like lemon verbena, cinnamon and grass.

In Seattle, I was familiar with the plant Green Perilla because I am a Vietnamese food fanatic and I have a passion for herbs. I even made Jerry Traunfeld’s Green Apple & Green Shiso Sorbet once. But seeing Lah in Thai cuisine is a new experience for me.

Thai Bai Lah ~ Green Perilla, my sister’s plant in Thailand

The second unusual ingredient in my stew is stingray. In Thailand, stingray is hard to come by so my mom would be sure to bring some home whenever it appeared in the market. In Phuket, stingray is available in the market already barbecued and ready to be eaten. The venders would grill it in pieces about 2 to 3 inch wide and the length of half of the wing.

We eat stingray with spicy chili and lime dipping sauce and steamed jasmine rice. It is simply delicious. Another delicious way to eat stingray is to cook the flesh from a barbecued stingray in a curry with a flavorful leaf such as wild pepper leaf (please see Pranee’s Blog entree on wild pepper leaf). Stingray is eaten in Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Singapore and Southern Thailand. We eat the wings or flaps and the flesh, but not the bone and skin. Because they have such a strong flavor and aroma, the first thing we do with fish like stingray, tuna and catfish is to barbecue them with salt to temper the strong fishy flavors and aromas.

One day I decided to cook stingray and Green Perilla leaves together in a curry. It turned out to be a splendid idea. The perilla leaves left behind a unique flavor and aroma of lemon, cinnamon and cloves in my new creation of fish curry stew ~ Pla Kraban Kub Bai Lah ~ Stingray Curry Stew with Green Perilla.

Two uncommon ingredients - Stingray and Green Perilla

Through I haven’t had stingray curry for over 20 years, seeing a frozen stingray at Mekong Rainier Asian Market inspired me to cook it for the blog and for myself to revisit the flavor. I bought small portions of the stingray flap at the Asian market, then took them home and baked them instead of grilling or barbecuing them. It needed to be cooked first before I did anything else because we never handle fresh stingray.

Stingray curry with green perilla

This recipe is not  hot like most curries. This allows you to enjoy the flavor of the fish more than in a hot curry sauce.  But if you wish it to be hot like any curry, follow the steps below, but double the amounts of curry paste and coconut milk.

This recipe is for anyone who might  find stingray in the market and be interested in learning how to cook it. It was fun to make this recipe with stingray, but on a regular basis I am more likely to make this recipe using halibut cheeks or grilled catfish.

Stingray Curry Stew with Green Perilla

Gaeng Pla Kra Baen Bai Lah 

เคี่ยวแกงปลากระเบน

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds stingray, prepared as describe below (or halibut or grilled tuna)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ tablespoon red curry paste
6 tablespoons coconut milk, divided
1 cup water
1 cup green perilla leaves, stems removed
1 teaspoon fish sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place parchment paper on the bottom of a baking sheet and place the stingray on top. Bake stingray for 30 minutes, or until the meat pulls away from the bone as shown in the photo below. Using a fork, remove the cooked fish from the bone and the skin; it should come off easily. Discard the bone and skin.

Heat a heavy bottom pot and stir in canola oil;  pan-fry curry paste in the oil until fragrant. Add coconut milk and let it cook on medium-high heat until oil is separated and the curry is fragrant. Stir in coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Stir in the previously prepared stingray and boil for 3 minutes. Add green perilla. Let it boil for 1 more minute to allow the flavor of perilla into the soup, but not so long that the fresh herb flavor disappears. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

© 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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Let It Stew

I love having a stew cooking on my stove top while I am catching up with a pile of work. I have had a frozen pork belly in my freezer for a month now, waiting for the time when it will become Moo Palo, or Stewed Pork Belly with Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce, a delightful dish of Thailand. I could no longer make excuses that I was too busy too cook—I can accomplish both working and cooking: Just let it stew.

I worked at my home office all last week to meet my deadline for editing recipes and writing a proposal. When I saw the frozen pork belly in my freezer I pulled it out to thaw so that I could cook it the next day.  The rest was simple. I cut the pork belly into pieces, placed them in a Dutch oven and sprinkled the remaining ingredients randomly on top. Then I let the stove top (or you can use the oven) do the work of cooking. I took a break from work from time to time to check on the stew. While it cooked itself on the stove top for 2 hours, in my office I enjoyed the aroma of soy and cinnamon and star anise interacting with each other.

Stewed Pork Belly with Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce, Moo Palo

This dish is similar to Thai Moo Palo but I omitted the hard-boiled eggs and instead of using five spice powder, I used Vietnamese cinnamon and star anise.  What I was looking for was a sweeter and more delicate flavor than from the Vietnamese version with cinnamon and dark soy sauce. It was surprising good and sophisticated. When I checked with my family they had no idea that there was a tablespoon of black pepper in it. It had just a hint of black pepper deepening the sauce.

In Phuket, this dish is called by its Phuket Hokkien name: Moo Hong – หมูฮ้องสูตรภูเก็ต. I cooked it the same way my mother would, with the fat and skin attached to the pork belly to keep it sweet and moist. The important ingredients that give  Moo Palo or Moo Hong Phuket its unique flavor are dark soy, crushed garlic cloves, black pepper, cinnamon powder, cinnamon sticks and star anise.

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Stewed Pork Belly with Vietnamese Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce

Moo Palo

หมูพะโล้

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Stewing time: 2 hours on medium heat on stove top

2 pounds pork belly (aka side pork) with fat and skin attached, cut into 1½-inch thick pieces
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (Bengal)
3 tablespoons light soy sauce, more as needed
2 tablespoons Vietnamese cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon whole black peppers, crushed
8 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled (don’t chop, keep them whole)
3 star anise, whole
5 cloves, whole
2 cilantro stems, see Pranee’s explanation on cilantro root
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Place cut up pork belly in a dish and stir in the dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Vietnamese cinnamon powder and black pepper; mix well. Marinate overnight or for several hours.

Place the pork belly and marinade in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add garlic, star anise, cloves and brown sugar on top of pork. Brown the meat a little, then add water to cover the top of pork by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium or medium low (depending on the burner) to create a nice gentle boil. Let it cook for 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add water if needed.

After an hour and a half, cover the Dutch oven with a lid and let the pork simmer for about a half hour, or until tender. (It is tender when you can cut it with a fork and it breaks up nicely without an effort.) Reduce the sauce to 1 cup, about ¼ cup per serving.

Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

 Pranee’s note:

Vietnamese Cinnamon or Saigon Cinnamon has more essential oils and 25 percent more Cinnamaldehyde  than other kinds of cinnamon.

You may add 4 shelled hard boil eggs during the last 1 hour of stewing time. It is also delicious served with cooked thin rice noodles.

An alternative cooking method is to braise the stew in the oven at 300°F for 3½ hours.

© 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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A Stir-Fry from the Palm of My Hand

When I was growing up, in the mornings my grandma would often drop a few coins in the palm of my hand and tell me to go purchase Tao Gua (Tofu), Tao Nge (Mung Bean Sprout), and Guiy Chai (garlic chives) from a mobile market—a pick up truck filled with ingredients. I would return with a bag full of three pieces of tofu cake, mung bean sprouts, and a bunch of garlic chives. Together they made the cheapest and best stir-fry and we ate it about once a week. We would usually stir-fry them later for lunch; if it were for dinner, my grandma would soak the bean sprouts in cold water to keep them fresh in the tropical climate. This was back before we had a refrigerator. When I was at the Asian Market yesterday, I purchased these three ingredients in almost the same quantities as I did then and it came up to $ 2.75, only a few dollars and some coins.

Thais call bean sprouts Thua Ngok (ถั่วงอก), but in my hometown of Phuket we call them Tau Nge, a  Phuket Hokkien word. Hokkien is a Chinese dialect spoken by many Chinese throughout Southeast Asia. Tauge, is the word for mung bean sprouts in Chinese Hokkien and in Indonesian and Malaysian languages as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Dutch also use taugé for bean sprouts, probably a holdover from the time when they occupied Indonesia.

Mung bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives are long-time favorite vegetables of Chinese Hokkien cuisine and culture, even though bean sprouts are actually native to Bangladesh.

Firm Tofu, Mung Bean Sprouts and Garlic Chives

Green onions or regular chives are usually a good substitute for garlic chives, but in this case I strongly recommend that you use garlic chives in order to maintain the flavors and authenticity of this dish. Garlic chives are available all year round at the Asian Market and it is a perennial herb in the Northwest. You may find other recipes where you will want to use them as well.

The other day when I was dining with a friend, I was so impressed to find a similar dish served at the Tamarind Tree Restaurant in Seattle. Their dish was almost identical in flavor, but instead of tofu, it used shitake mushrooms. I hope when you are at the Tamarind Tree Restaurant, you will please try Nấm xào giá ~ Bean sprout mushroom.

Phuket Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

Phad Tao Gua Tao Nge Phuket

ผัดถั่วงอกกับเต้าหู้ภูเก็ต

5 minutes total preparation and cooking time, 3 ingredients and less than $3. It is my all time favorite stir-fry.

Serves: 4
 
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 (16 ounce) package  firm tofu, cut into large pieces about 1/4-inch thick
1 cup garlic chives cut into 1-inch lengths (about 15 garlic chives),
6 cups mung bean sproutss, washed with cold water and strained
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus one tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat the wok on high heat, then test it with a few drops of water. If the water evaporates in two seconds, pour in 1 tablespoon canola oil. Cover the surface with oil by using a spatula or other utensil, then spread out tofu in the wok and fry on medium heat until they firm up and turn a golden color. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the same wok on high heat and add the remaining canola oil and the garlic; stir until golden, about 10 seconds. Stir in bean sprouts and cook on high heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly. It will sound really interesting and steaming. It is the moisture from the bean sprouts creating the sounds against the hot wok. You will see steam, but not smoke. Then stir in garlic chives to cook lightly, about 45 seconds. Stir in tofu, soy sauce and sugar. Mix together, then serve promptly with hot steamed jasmine rice.

Pranee’s note:

The bean sprouts should not cook longer than 2 minutes, or they will lost their crunch. This dish is very simple and the flavors depend on having the freshest bean sprouts, tofu and chives—and that is enough! I love this dish because it has a clean and simple flavor and texture. The moisture released from the bean sprouts makes a sauce. If that doesn’t happen, add one or two tablespoons of water.

Another variation of this dish that you might see in Thailand substitutes calamari, prawns or pig blood cake for the tofu.

© 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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My Very First Fresh Garbanzo Beans

Fresh Garbanzo Bean or Chickpea

Please don’t think that I always play cat and mouse with my food before eating it. But when I am teaching myself how to cook something new, I often think of it as playing with food. And that is what I did with my very first fresh garbanzo beans.

I had never seen fresh garbanzo beans before. I found them at the store in a 10-ounce package. They were in a plastic container for $2.99 on the shelf among many vegetables. I purchased them thinking they would provide a good opportunity to learn something new.

In my kitchen, I enjoyed opening up the individual beans to see how they looked on the inside. A beautiful rounded bean was snuggling in the pod. Some pods had one large bean and some had two smaller beans. I pressed some beans between my fingers and found that they were pretty airy—less dense and not creamy like edamame or peas. Another night I dropped a few beans in boiling water while cooking spaghetti; 12 minutes was way too long for the beans. Finally I felt I knew enough to make an educated guess about a better cooking time and method. Yes, I steamed the whole package of beans as-is for 10 minutes. Then I placed them in a bowl and sprinkled on generous amounts of sea salt and ate them like edamame. They turned out just perfect for eating warm or cold.

Fresh Garbanzo Beans from Mexico

In Thailand we don’t use garbanzo beans—fresh, dried or canned—in Thai cuisine. But we do use them when cooking Indian or middle eastern dishes. The beans are grown in India, but in Southern Thailand many Indian or Bengal merchants sold a variety of spicy legumes from village to village. When we were kids at a festival or open-air movie, I always loved cracking and eating dried, salted, spicy chickpeas. They were served in a paper bag, just like popcorn, and were good for sharing with friends.

A beautiful bean in a green pod, garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, belong to the legume family. They are full of protein and fiber. Interestingly, the flavor of garbanzo beans is mild and unassertive and they have a soft (not dense) texture that holds it shape well in gentle cooking, like in a rice soup or a salad. It is healthier to snack on steamed garbanzo beans than anything else. So if you happen to see fresh garbanzo beans, don’t hesitate to take some home to try. It is fun and everyone is kept busy opening the pods while they enjoy the conversation.

© 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 New Year with Thai Sticky Rice and Alms Giving

Alms Giving with Jasmine Rice or Sticky Rice

Yesterday, April 17, 2011, I celebrated Thai New Year’s Day~ Songkran~ with Thai and American friends at the Songkran Festival at the Washington Buddhavanaram (Buddhist temple in Auburn, Washington ) It was so much fun, Sanuk.

First, we started with the alms-giving ritual. We gave offerings to the monks of steamed jasmine rice and steamed sticky rice, and for the first time I offered Chicken Biryani Rice (Kao Mok Gai) instead of the two other kinds of cooked rice.

Som Tum ~ Green Papaya Salad

Outside in the yard there were tents with prepared street foods of Thailand, just like at festivals in Thai villages. I sampled almost everything including grilled Thai sausage (Sai Grok Isan), sticky rice (Khoa Neow), green papaya salad (Som Tum), and noodle soup (Kuey Tiow Nahm), to name a few.

A majority of the guests at the festival were from Laos, northeastern Thailand and Cambodia. Steamed Sticky Rice (Khao Neow) is an important part of the day at many Thai gatherings, and Khao Neow and Som Tum are well-loved dishes for Thais who live abroad. As I have mentioned before, these two dishes are a good cure for homesickness for Thais.

Thai Chili Dip ~ Nam Prik

We walked around, enjoying the sunny day and buying street food like Thai Chili Dip (Nam Prik) to take home. I got three different versions of this red-hot chili paste to season my steamed jasmine rice: Red Eye Chili Dip (Nam Prik Ta Daeng), Tilapia Chili Dip (Nam Prik Pla Nill) and Crunchy Pork Chili Dip (Nam Prik Moo Grob). Now these three Nam Prik are in my freezer for days when spicy hot food will comfort my mood.

Bathing and Placing Gold Leaves On the Buddha Image

In Burma, Laos, Thailand, Southern China and Cambodia, a part of celebrating Solar New Year is bathing and cleaning an image of Buddha. I celebrated this ritual here in Washington with many people from these countries.

Flags on Sand Mount

Building a sand hillock and decorating it with flags is also a common practice. 

Dancing to the Laotian Music

Eating a lot of sticky rice and dancing  to Laotian live music was a perfect “sanuk” day to welcome the new year.


Steamed Sticky rice

Khao Neow Nueng

ข้าวเหนียวหนึ่ง

Serves 6 to 8

Sticky rice is a long-grain rice with a sticky and soft texture. There are several names for sticky rice, including sweet rice and glutinous rice. Sticky rice is ideal for desserts as well as for serving with Northeastern dishes such Som Tum (green papaya salad) and Laab Neua (beef mint salad). There are also main dishes on my blog that are great to serve with steamed sticky rice, such as Green Papaya Salad with Smoked SalmonGrilled Fish Sauce Chicken Wings (Peek Gai Nam Pla Yang), and Green Papaya Salad with Salted Crab and Rice Noodle (Som Tum Sua). This last recipe includes a video of my sister-in-law preparing the salad.

After 30 minutes, flip the sticky rice over

I hope you have a chance to learn how to cook steamed sticky rice. You may use a double boiler/steamer or purchase a bamboo steamer.

2 cups sticky rice

Cover sticky rice with room temperature water at least 3 inches above the rice. Let rice sit for 2 hours or overnight, then drain off any excess water.

Steam sticky rice in a steamer with a lid over high heat for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is soft. Flip the rice over so that the sticky rice on the top will go on the bottom and steam with the lid on for 5 more minutes. You can keep the rice warm for a few more minutes with the steamer on simmer, or remove it and keep it in a thermal-controlled container.

The steamed sticky rice is ready to serve with main dishes or to use in a dessert that requires steamed sticky rice.

© 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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Pandanus leaf (Bai Toey), a Thai Culinary Treasure

Something about spring made me want to share my favorite cup of tea recipe with you. Maybe it is the fragrance of fresh pandanus leaf, which is like fresh green grass, or jasmine rice that makes me anticipate more spring. The long narrow leaf looks like a gladiolus leaf however pandanus belongs in the screw pine genus. It is known in Southeast Asia as Pandan. Besides using the leaf for cooking, I grow Bai Toey as a decorative plant and use it in flower arrangements. In my village in the old days, every household grew them near a damp place in their garden. If you are interested in growing Pandan as a house plant, please check with your local nursery. The scientific name for Bai Toey is Pandanus Amaryllifolius.

Pandanus Leaf-Bai Toey

Thai cooking depends on Bai Toey much like Westerners depend on vanilla. That is a simple comparison I often use when I introduce this plant in my cooking classes. But pandanus leaf has so many uses I would need many pages and recipes to show and tell you all of them. But I will try to make it short and just highlight the plant’s significant qualities. Over time I will provide recipes in upcoming posts that highlight the broad uses of Bai Toey.

Below are pictures and short descriptions of how I have used pandanus during the past four months while I was in Thailand and in my classroom and my kitchen here in Seattle.

Roses made from Pandanus leaves for worship or air freshener

Thais use pandanus leaves to make  rose flowers for worship or to use as an air freshener.

Please click the picture to see Pranee’s YouTube video and learn how to make rose flowers from pandan leaves.

Pandanus leaf cups

Thais use Pandanus leaves to make decorative containers.

Adding green color extract from pandanus leaf to pearl tapioca pudding

Thais extract the green color from Pandanus to use as food coloring in Thai desserts.

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A Perfect Thai Herbal Tea

My usual cup of tea is a light tea that I brew from a combination of pandanus leaf and jasmine tea. I grew up with this tea in a village where, in addition to the famous Thai Ice Tea, it seemed to be available everywhere,  rain or shine, in everyone’s kitchen, or to welcome guests at a big gathering. For funerals or other large  functions, this tea is brewed in large quantities, steeped in a pot that can serve up to 100 people. I love this tea both warm and cold. The fragrance and flavors of pandan leaves and jasmine tea seems to be a perfect pair – my favorite combination. Not to mention that my favorite hand lotion from Thailand is a combination of pandan leaf and jasmine—classic Thai aromatherapy. Please click here to learn more about pandan leaves and their medicinal benefits.

Pandan leaf is available fresh or frozen at Asian markets.

Jasmine Pandanus Tea

Cha Mali Toey Horm

ชามะลิใบเตย

Jasmine and pandanus is a classic fragrant infusion for Thai tea and desserts. This tea is very popular,  but it is served mostly at large group functions such as funerals. In my village it is prepared in a large pot three feet in diameter by three feet tall, ready to serve tea for the whole village. It can be served with a snack, dinner or dessert. Serve plain without sugar. The tip is don’t make the tea too strong.

1 to 2 teaspoons loose jasmine tea
1 pandanus leaves, torn lengthwise into narrow strip and tied in a bun, or folded to fit the teapot
2 cups boiling water

Place jasmine tea and pandanus leaf in a teapot. Pour boiling water over all and let it steep for 5 minutes. Serve right away.

© 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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The Mystery Dish of Southern Thailand

Stir-fried Fresh Grated Coconut with Phuket Curry Paste and Chapoo Leaf

I uncovered a mystery about my grandmother’s cooking during my last trip to Phuket. I asked around about Phad Maprow Khub Kruang Gaeng, a stir-fried, fresh grated coconut with Phuket curry paste. During my childhood and adult life, I had never seen it cooked or eaten or even mentioned by anyone except members of my family. And it was only my grandmother who always asked me to assist her with it when I was young. I always wondered if it was served for health or economic reasons, or simply a food that the women of the house put on the table for their large extended family. It was never served alone, but with other main dishes and steamed jasmine rice.

I described the dish to my family to refresh their memories. My mom said that mostly we prepared it with a special kind of coconut (out of a thousand different kinds of coconuts, we used one that has an interesting texture with more like a virgin coconut oil). Then my sister-in-law, who was born in Phang Nga (80 kilometers away from Phuket), recalled eating the dish in her hometown. She said she had prepared it before, but not often. Luckily for me, she was very happy to prepare this for me while I took notes and photographs. She did it exactly the way I remember my grandmother preparing it. Thank you to my sister-in-law Tim, who helped me preserve the history of this lost recipe.

We shared the dish afterwards and more than anything else, more than its just being an interesting dish, it was a moment of rediscovery of the old time flavors of the south. We bonded again with foods. I hope that some of you will try this recipe so it won’t be lost forever.

Curry paste and fresh grated coconut in a mortar mix with pestle

First, Tim pounds the Phuket curry paste. When it became a fine paste she mixed in the freshly grated coconut and pounded to combine all of the ingredients. Then she stir-fried the mixture in a wok.

Coconut and turmeric—the colors and flavors of Southern Thailand

Stir-fried Fresh Grated Coconut Meat with Phuket Curry Paste

Phad Maprow Khub Kruang Gaeng Phuket

ผัดเนื้อมะพร้าวสดขูดกับเครื่องแกงภูเก็ต

Serves: 8 (as a side dish)

Yield: 2 cups

1/2 to 1 recipe Phuket Curry Paste (please click here for the recipe)
2 cups freshly grated coconut meat, or frozen (thaw before cooking)
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
Salt to taste
32 chapoo or wild pepper leaves

Combine curry paste and grated coconut by hand or with a mortar and pestle. Place in a wok (without cooking oil) over medium heat, and stir constantly to allow the coconut and curry mix to become one texture. Continue stirring until the moisture in the coconut dries up and the curry paste is well-incorporated, about 5 to 8 minutes. It should be flaky with a little bit of moisture left, neither too dry nor too oily. Serve at room temperature with wild pepper leaves on the side.

Enjoy this as a tidbit by placing about 1 tablespoon on a wild pepper leaf, then wrapping it up so you can eat it in a single bite. Or simply mix it with warm jasmine rice and enjoy it as an accompaniment to curry and vegetable dishes.

Pranee’s Note:

This recipe has not been tested yet in my kitchen, so pay attention to spicy, salty and sweet when trying this recipe.

Chapoo leaf or wild pepper leaf is also known as la lot leaf (please see Pranee’s Blog Entry on Chapoo leaf)

Pranee’s Video on Youtube: How to Open a Coconut Husk: Thai Style

More Recipes by Pranee on Phuket Curry Paste

© 2013  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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Playing with Food: Cassava

Cassava-Sweet Potato Pancake, a delicious Thai Dessert

I noticed recently that I have told my students to play with food in almost every class. I hope they have. After learning all the essential tips and techniques, the way to become a good cook is by experiencing the ingredients and having fun.

On the weekends, I clean up the fridge and cook creatively.  This weekend I had fresh cassava and sweet potato leftover from my class. While I was holding them in my hand, I heard an echo of Rösti. Rösti is a fried, grated potato dish made in Switzerland. I made a quick decision and at almost the same time my hand reached to turn on the oven to 450°F. I will heat up my well-seasoned 8-inch cast iron pan and make this quick & easy Thai dessert, Rösti style.

Cooking with cassavas is not hard at all. After grating the cassava, Thai simply add enough sugar to sweeten to taste, and some salt to bridge the flavor; a bit of coconut milk can also be added to heighten the flavor. Then the mixture is steamed and grilled until it is cooked and translucent. But something new today that I haven’t tried before is adding grated sweet potato. Why not? It was perfect. I used about 2 parts cassava to 1 part sweet potato. The glutinous property of cassava helps the sweet potato hold up nicely, and the sweet potato gives a nice orange color and sweet compliment to the dish.

Learn something new while playing with food and discover a new excitement and a sweet reward to the lesson. Cassava-Sweet Potato Pancake makes a perfect snack or dessert with light herbal tea.

Cassava - Sweet Potato Pancake

Cassava – Sweet Potato Pancake

Khanom Man Sumpalang Oop

มันสำปะหลังมันเทศแพนเค้ก

Servings: 6-8

2 cups grated cassava, fresh or frozen (if fresh , use a 10-inch-long cassava and remove the skin before grating)
1 cup grated sweet potato, about 1 small or medium
1/2 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoon rice flour, optional
1 tablespoon cooking oil
 
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
 
Combine grated cassava, sweet potato, sugar, salt, coconut milk and rice flour in a large bowl; stir until well mixed.
 
Heat 8-inch cast iron pan on medium heat and cover the entire surface with cooking oil. Pour cassava-sweet potato pancake mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Place uncovered in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the bottom is crusty brown. Then turn the oven to broil and place the pan right underneath. The top of the pancake should be 6 inches below the heat source. Remove when the top is brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it! A nice crusty brown is the most delicious part of the cake. Let the pancake rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or cold.
Cassava (yuca) roots, the Taínos' main crop

Image via Wikipedia

Pranee’s Thai Kitchen note:

Cassava is a root from the Cassava or Tapioca Plant (Manihot esculenta Crantz). It is a bushy plant that grows to about 3 meters tall. It is an annual plant with underground food-storing root-tubers. The tuber is large and long with a dark brown skin and pink underneath to protect and keep the white flesh moist. In Thailand, cassava is usually boiled or roasted and serve with sugar. It also is made into various sweets combined with grated coconut and/or coconut milk and sugar. Raw cassava is poisonous, but when cooked it became a delicious dessert.  Pearl tapioca and tapioca starch and flour are all products of cassava roots.

© 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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Comfort Me with Kabocha & Rum

I amuse myself in the kitchen every year by discovering new ways to use Kabocha, my favorite squash. Seeing snow on the ground meant no going out today, so I decided to get into the kitchen to play with the Kabocha puree that I made the other day.

I was thinking of a decadent dessert that did not require any cooking on the stovetop. I had classic cream cheese in the fridge and many basic staples in my kitchen, so I started from there. After finding the right ratio between the puree and the cream cheese, I added enough sugar to make a good balance. Then I added spiced rum, one tablespoon at a time. Spiced rum is a Caribbean rum that has an amazing blend of spices, caramel and other natural flavors. I may get a little carried away in my recipe below with the Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, but when it comes to rum, the amount to add is very personal. At this point, there was still something missing from the recipe, and when I went through my spice rack, the nutmeg was yelling at me. Adding it did the trick—nothing more or less was needed.

While watching the snow melting away, my hand was busy spooning away this decadent dessert. It is pumpkin-creamy, sweet, with rummy-coconut and aromatic nutmeg. Just a perfect way to pamper oneself with comfort—a decadent dessert. Winter will be here for a while.

Pranee’s Spiced Rum Kabocha Mousse with Coconut Cream

Spiced Rum Kabocha Mousse

Serves: 6

8 ounces classic cream cheese
1½ cups Kabocha puree (see note)
⅓ cup evaporated cane sugar
¼ cup Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, divided
¼ to 1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons coconut cream (the thick top layer from a can of coconut milk)
6 Kaffir lime leaves or mint sprigs to garnish

Use an electric mixer to blend cream cheese in a large bowl until soft, about 30 seconds. Add Kabocha squash puree, sugar, 3 tablespoons rum, and nutmeg; blend on medium speed until well-blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Chill mixture in the fridge at least 3 hours before serving.

To make spiced rum coconut cream topping, whisk coconut cream and 1 tablespoon rum in a small bowl for 10 seconds. Set aside in the fridge.

To serve, place equal amounts of the mousse mixture into 6 glasses. Garnish the top with coconut cream and lime leaves or mint sprigs.

Pranee’s Tip on Making Kabocha Puree

A medium size Kabocha squash will yield 3 to 4 cups Kabocha puree. To prepare Kabocha pumpkin puree for dumplings or pie, simply remove the skin and seeds and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Steam about 15 minutes, or until tender. Use a ricer to make a fine mash.

More recipes on this blog with Kabocha pumpkin:

Thai Pumpkin Custard, nam tao sangkaya (recipe and slide show)

Stir-fried Kabocha Pumpkin with Pork (recipe and vedio)

© 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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You say Pummelo, I say Pomelo, and Thais say ”Som Oh

One of my goals for the New Year is for my blog readers to learn light and easy Thai cooking and some new exotic ingredients. Thai cuisine has been famous for many centuries and I want people to have a more in-depth knowledge of it.

Pomelo, Thai Grapefruit - The Flower Market in Bangkok

One way that I hope I can deepen your culinary skills is simply by showing you some of the techniques that Thais use to handle their ingredients, methods learned from our families, our communities and our ancestors.  I hope the instructions in my video demonstration will help you to open your pomelo.

Pomelos tastes so great by themselves, you don’t need to cook them. I created this simple fun recipe on New Year’s Eve to provide a zing to welcome the year 2011.

Best wishes to you all.

I love pomelo. It is in season around New Year’s time, but you can enjoy it every week to give a zing to your life. There are so many way to create a wow moment with pomelo. My favorite recipe is from Phuket, Thailand, and is made with shrimp, tamarind sauce and caramelized shallots. It is a great dish for teaching my students about the layer of flavors and textures that can be found in a Thai salad.

Yum Som Oh, Pomelo Salad with Crab

For my blog visitors, I think learning to open a pomelo is challenge enough, so I am keeping this recipe simple (which is also how I cooked during this past week). This recipe is prepared like a crab or shrimp cocktail rather than the traditional pomelo salad from Thailand.

Pomelo Salad with Crab

Yum Som Oh Khup Phu

ยำส้มโอกับปู

Serves: 6

1 pomelo (prepared as shown in the video above), about 2 cups
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus 6 cilantro sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup cooked crab meat or cooked shrimp
1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons lime juice, about 1 lime
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more as needed
1/8 teaspoon chili powder

Place pomelo, shallot, cilantro and crab in a medium size salad bowl. Whisk sugar, tamarind concentrate, lime juice, fish sauce and chili powder until well-blended, then pour over pomelo. Fold all of the ingredients together gently with a salad spoon and serve in a nice glass. Serve at room temperature or chill. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Vegetarian option:

Omit crab and use a few pinches of sea salt instead of fish sauce.

© 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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Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Kao Lam

I have fond memories of sticky rice in a bamboo tube—it looks so cool! At every festival in my village when I was growing up, there was a man who made and sold this Kao Lam. We would eat some at the festival then bring home a few for family members who couldn’t go. It is a perfect take-home food, since it is already packaged in a bamboo tube.

Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Cambodia

The sticky rice is cooked in a segment of bamboo, the kind that has a thin wall so the heat can penetrate to cook the rice inside the tube. After it is filled with the sticky rice ingredients, the bamboo is plugged with a piece of coconut husk wrapped with banana leaf to keep in the steam for cooking the rice. Then the bamboo tubes are placed over charcoal. When it is done, the outer skin of bamboo is removed and a thin wall left behind to protect the rice inside. All Southeast Asian countries have some version of this, and they are all cooked in a similar way. The photo below is from Cambodia. In Thailand this dish is called Kao Lam; in Malaysia it’s Lemang.

Thai Sticky Rice in Bamboo Sticks in Cambodia

If you like sticky rice with mango, you will like Kao Lam, too. I love the fact that when you peel the bamboo away (see photo below), the powdery fiber in the bamboo tube leaves a sheen. The rice comes out shaped like a stick and looks like it was wrapped in edible paper. The vendor in my village usually made three varieties: white sticky rice, black sticky rice, and white sticky rice with black beans.

How to open the bamboo tube

In America you can find cooked sticky rice that comes straight from Thailand in the frozen food section in Asian markets. But I would rather you try my sticky rice recipe below. I wrap it up in parchment paper, roll it into a cylinder, and bake it. It is delicious, has a very nice texture, and is as satisfying as the original.

During the summer of 2010, I taught Grilled Sticky Rice with Black Bean and Banana Stuffing in a Banana Leaf (Kao Neow Mad) in my Thai Grill class. Organizing my photos from my recent trip to Cambodia led me to this project, a Kao Lam version baked in the oven. It is not easy to cook sticky rice in a bamboo tube—only a few experts from each Thai village know how. Last August I created this adaptation, wrapping and rolling the sticky rice in pieces of parchment paper and then baking them. The results were good. It was easy, and the flavor and texture were satisfying. Then I made a lot of them in small packages and even put some in the freezer. I microwave them or reheat them in the oven and eat them for a protein snack before teaching my classes. In Thailand, most farmers eat sticky rice before working in the rice field.

Baked Sticky Rice and Black Bean Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Kao Neow Yang

Serveings: 8

2 cups Thai sticky rice, soaked in water for 3 hours or overnight, then drained (see note)
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, optional
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned black beans, drained
8 (8×8) inch pieces of banana leaves or parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir sticky rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt in a large pan over medium heat. Stir until all coconut milk is absorbed. Stir in black beans and fold gently to mix.

Put equal amounts of the sticky rice mixture onto 8 banana leaves. Form the rice into a cylinder about 6″ long and lay it in the center of the leaf so that you have about 1 inch left on either end. Fold the banana leaf in half around the rice, then roll it around the cylinder; fold in both ends and secure them with a toothpick, poking down and then up, or you can twist the ends and tie them. When you are done, each bundle will make a round tube about 6 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Grill for 5 minutes on each side until the sticky rice is translucent and cooked, or bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Pranee’s note:

In Thailand, recipes generally use one of two types of rice: jasmine rice or Thai sticky rice. The starch in rice is made up of two components, amylose and amylopectin. Jasmine rice has more amylose than amylopectin, giving it a puffy appearance, whereas Thai sticky rice has more amylopectin than amylose, creating its sticky texture. Both white and purple Thai sticky rice are long-grain rices with a firm grain and become sticky when cooked. They are tropical rices, and different from Japanese, Chinese or Mediterranean (Arborio and Valencia) rices, which have a medium or short grain and grow in temperate climates.

© 2010 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com

 

 

Outer layer of bamboo tube is removed

 

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Hi Pranee!

I made tom yum gai and green curried fried rice.  It was delicious.

Can I freeze leftover coconut milk?  I’m never sure what to do with the leftovers when I only need a portion out of a can.

Thanks so much.

JC

Dear JC,

Thank you for your questions.  Could you please save some leftovers for me?  I mean the soup and the fried rice, not the coconut milk.

Yes, keeping it in the freezer is a good way to save the leftover coconut milk.  I would recommend saving it in a portion needed according to your favorite recipe.  Then thaw it overnight in the fridge or place the whole container of coconut milk in warm water for a short period of time.  When the frozen coconut milk separates from the container then place the coconut milk in a small pot and let it sit at room temperature or heat at a low temperature until it thaws.

After opening a can of coconut milk, you may store it for 2 to 4 days in the fridge, then it goes bad quickly after that.  So the freezer is the sure thing.

I hope these tips help.

Pranee

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Corn and Scallion, a perfect pair

On the street corner of Hoi An, sliced scallion is soon ready for making into scallion oil.

The most memorable time for me in Hoi An was getting up to see the sunrise over the Bon River while drinking Vietnamese coffee shortly before heading for the market.  Then I walked along the street, and the scenery was very beautiful. The aromas and sounds were so enlivening and the taste of the food was phenomenal. I tasted many street foods along the streets and took a lot of it back to the hotel so that I could taste more during the day. This is part of the learning, culture and cuisine. Now, as I look at all my photos, I am getting hungry from the taste of foods that I still remember and long for.

I came to love one particularly famous grilled corn dish in Hoi An, Mo Hanh. It is made of grilled corn with scallion oil. You will see pictures of why the Vietnamese are so fond of this dish by the amount of corn on the street of Hoi An.

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Yesterday, I was grilling corn for a special event at Magnuson Park in Seattle. About 500 people were there. I have 3 flavors for them to choose from: with spicy coconut sauce, jalapeno sweet and sour sauce and scallion oil. They were all a big hit at the event. I am delighted to share grilled corn with scallion oil recipe with you and hope that you will get a chance to enjoy until the last harvest of local fresh corn.

Grilled Corn with Scallion Oil

Serves: 8

1 cup thin sliced green onion, only green part–about 4 green onions
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ears of corn, peeled

 Pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat.

To make scallion oil or  Mo Hanh, heat canola oil until very hot and drop in green and let it cook for 40 seconds. Stir in salt. Let it sit until cool. Keep well in refrigerator for a week.

Grill corns over high heat 6 to 8 minutes, until some pope with nice brown cornel. When serve, dip each ear in scallion oil. Enjoy while it is warm.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking

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Thai Pumping Custard

Tomorrow, I will visit a friend on Vashon Island, and I want to surprise her with some Thai pumpkin custard for dessert. Yesterday I found the right size of Kabocha pumpkin and some fresh pandanus leaves (also known as pandan), two crucial ingredients for making this dish. Now it has been cooked and is sitting in my refrigerator.  All I have to do is to take it with me before catching the ferry.

Thai pumpkin custard is every Thai’s favorite dessert. We seldom make them at home but we always purchase from the artisans when available. Most of the time it is hard to find small-sized Kabocha pumpkins. I use duck egg but chicken eggs also work, so I would suggest that the freshness and availability should be considered key in making a decision. Pandanus leaf is an important part of making traditional Thai custard, you can find it fresh or frozen in various Asian markets. At home I always have a dozen in the freezer. If I don’t have the right size pumpkin and pandanus leaf, I prefer to prepare other custard dishes instead of using a substitution.

Below is a slide show of pictures taken in Khmer Cooking Class which is located in Siem Reap. To my surprise, the teacher didn’t use the pandanus leaf but instead used a whisk to mix the custard mixture instead. This could be another way for you to try at home when pandanus leaf is not available. The rest of the steps are very much the same.

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Sangaya Namtao

Thai pumpkin Custard

Serves: 6

Preparing time: 15 minutes

Steaming time: 45 minutes

1 small Kabocha pumpkin, about 5  inches across and 4 inches tall
4 duck eggs, about 1 cup eggs or chicken eggs
½ cup evaporated cane sugar or palm sugar
½ cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon salt
2 pandanus leave, torn into 4 pieces lengthwise from each leaf

Clean outside of the pumpkin well and dry with towel. Insert the knife on the top pumpkin to make a lid of about 2 inches wide (please see photo from a slide show). Remove all seeds from the inside the pumpkin until completely clean.

Add water to a steamer to 1 ½ inches tall and bring to a boil while preparing the custard.

To make custard, place egg, sugar, coconut milk  into a medium-size bowl. Use torn pandanus leaves to massage and mix the custard mixture by hand constantly for 8 minutes. This is a Thai  tradition way to make a custard instead of whisking. Pandanus leaves helps the mixing process, at the same time pandanus flavor is infused into the custard mixture.

Strain and fill the custard into the pumpkin, make sure to leave a 2/3 inch free space from the top.

Steam the pumpkin custard in the steamer, also the lid but separately. Do not cover pumpkin with the lid. It should be done between 40 to 45 minutes. To tell the custard is cooked when shake the custard is not moving except 1 inch in the center. And that is when to turn off the steamer and remove the lid and let the pumpkin custard sit until cool down.

Cut into wedge and serve cold or at room temperature.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
 I Love Thai cooking
 
Pranee teachs Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is:  I Love Thai cooking.com

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How to make a banana leaf-cup for Amok, Kratong

Banana leaf-cup should hold about 1 cup of serving

It is hard to believe that it has been almost three months now after I returned home from Southeast Asia trip. I have been eating and traveling  through all the big cities: Hanoi, Hoi An, Saigon, Siem Reap and Bangkok. This week, I am working on the photos and recipes  from our trip. As I work on this project, I would like to share with you stories, recipes, food photos. Working on these photos and writing a food blog has helped me with “flavor-memories”. It is easy for me to recall Southeast Asian flavors because I am familiar with all the ingredients and the techniques used in these cuisines. I treasured my time with tour members in Siem Reap, savoring Khmer foods as much as we could in three days. Last month I posted Kroeung, Khmer Curry Paste Recipe and Amok, Khmer Curry Fish Stew Recipe and now it is time for me to share photos and steps of making banana leaf-cups. After trying a few times, it should be easy. Banana leaves are available in Asian Markets. In Seattle, if you have fig leaf in your garden, I would recommend you to try that first. Have fun!

How to make a banana leaf-cup for Amok, Kratong

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Thai & Khmer Banana leaf-cup for Amok or Hua Mok in Thai cuisine

Remove frozen banana-leaf package from the freezer over night or leave at room temperature for 2 hours before making.

Tear banana leaf into 6 inch width and clean with damp paper towel. Need 12 pieces to make 6 leaf-cups.

 
 
 

To make a cup, lay 2 banana leaves on top of each other with the  beautiful green side facing outward. Trim with scissors to make a 6″ by 6″ square. Fold in the center of each side to make 1 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch over lappin., Secure with staple. Repeat the same process three more times on three sides of the square.

 
 
 
 

It is done and ready for using to serve Amok, steamed jasmine rice, or any Asian dishes.

 

Banana Leaf Package

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Banana Blossom  Hue Plee

How to prepare Banana BlossomMost of my students have no idea of  how to prepare banana blossom. Then even after knowing how, they still need to acquire a taste for it. It is a little bitter by itself. I would recommend anyone to try it with Phad Thai for the first time just like you would  fresh bean sprout; the contrast in the texture and flavor that makes the whole experience very exciting.

The steps to prepare banana blossom are very simple. You will need to learn how to do it once. Then cooking with Southeast Asian recipes will be easy. My favorite way to cook banana blossom is in banana blossom salad and lightly salt coconut milk broth (Tom Kati). Thais love to eat it fresh as prepared below and serve as- is as alongside with Phad Thai and Chili dip.   

 Now that you have an idea of how to use the prepared shredded banana blossom, let the lesson begin…

Banana tree with banana and blossom

 First, the farmer will remove the flower about about 6 to 10 inches long) from the tree. 

 

In your kitchen, remove and discard all pink pedal until it comes to a white or ivory color part. 

  

Discard the stem. 

 

Fold a few petals together and slice 

 

Soak in salt water or lime water immediately and keep in a bowl until ready to use. Use about 1 cup water with 1/2 teaspoon salt or 1 tablespoon lime juice. Drain.

Those are all the steps to it. But there will be another blog entry on where and how to buy banana blossoms.

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local fresh asparagus, from the farm to the wok

I was glad to stay home and cook for my family tonight. But it is not just any cooking; I was wokking up Grace Young’s recipe: Velvet Chicken with Asparagus. It was the recipe from the cooking class and the cookbook “Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge’. This recipe was appealed to me during the class last week of how the chicken was cooked by her technique (velveting) was so succulent. She mentioned that it is also the same technique that is used by Chinese chef to prepare chicken for Kung Pao Chicken and other classic dishes. At home today I followed Grace’s advice. I purchased the best and freshest ingredients. I purchased local organic chicken and local Washington asparagus. I dropped water in a wok to test and it did evaporate in two seconds. Like I always tell my students, please try to cook the recipe from the class within a week. And I did follow my advice. While cooking, I remember every step that Grace showed us during the class. With prepping before hand, the cooking went really fast. I was glad that my husband and son were already at the table with steamed jasmine rice waiting for the dish and we enjoyed while the wok hay was still in our dining atmosphere. 

It was quietness and the way we ate, I knew my family was happy with warm jasmine rice and velvet chicken and asparagus. And I was too that the cooking was easy, quick and fun altogether. The most important thing is I don’t need to search for a good Chinese restaurant any more. All I have to do now is trying new recipes from Grace Young’s cookbook. She is amazing teacher and cookbook author. Let’s Stir-fry to the Sky’s Edge.

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Kroeung, Khmer Curry Paste

Kroeung is Khmer curry paste that is versatile for many curry dishes in Khmer cuisine such as famous national dish, Amok (fish cake), chicken curry with sorrel leaves or fish stew with seasonal vegetable. Like Thai curry paste, Khmer curry paste consists of fresh herbs which will give pungent flavor and aroma. This curry paste is easy to prepare with a food processor and keeps well in the freezer for up to 6 months. This recipe is inspired by Le Tigre De Papier cooking class, my recent trip to Siem Reap March 2010.

 

Kroeung

Khmer Curry Paste

น้ำพริกแกงแดงเขมร

Yield: 1 cup curry paste for making two to three curry dishes

 
10 fresh or dried Thai chilies
2 large fresh Thai spur chilies or dried New Mexico Chili pods or guajllo chile pods
2-inch galangal root, trimmed and sliced to about 1/4 cup
4-inch fresh turmeric, sliced to about ¼ cup or 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and finely sliced
2 shallots, peeled and sliced to about ¼ cup
10 Kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
¼ cup canola oil

Cut and soak dried New Mexico chili pods in hot water water for one hour; then drain. Place New Mexico chili pods,  fresh or dried Thai chilies, galangal, turmeric, garlic, lemongrass, shallots, Kaffir lime leaves, black peppercorns, salt and shrimp paste  in food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste, about 15 minutes. Use spatula to clean the edge a few times. It is ready to use for cooking.

Thai Vegetarian option: omit shrimp paste and replace with 2 teaspoons mushroom powder

Gluten-Free Recipe

 

© 2012  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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