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Archive for the ‘Thai Ingredient 101’ Category

Your Bilimbi, My Taling Pling

My favorite plant and fruit to watch as it grows is Taling Pling. It is also known as bilimbi and other countries have their own names for it as well. Its flowers and fruits grow in a cluster from the trunk and the main branches of the tree. First the cluster of maroon flowers comes out, then within a few days a cluster of cucumber-like fruits appears. The mature fruit can grow to 2.5 inches long. Because of its greenish color and the shape of the fruits, this tree has been nicknamed the Cucumber Tree. Its young leaves can be cooked and eaten or it can be used as an herb. The leaves have a sour flavor similar to sorrel and they are also know as Tree Sorrel.

Bilimbi or Taling Pling (Averrhoa bilimbi) is a relative of carambola or star fruit (Averrhoa carambola); it belongs to the genus Averrhoa and family Oxalidaceae. Bilimbi is native to Indonesia and the Malayan Peninsula and known throughout Southeast Asia, though it was not introduced to other parts of the world until the late 17th century. It is easy to grow and I grew up with a Taling Pling tree in my backyard. Most of the children growing up in my village had the experience of getting the fruit from the tree with a stick. We used to snack on it with sugar, salt and chili powder, just like we often did with green mango.

The Taling Pling that grows in Thailand is a sour variety. I cut it into small cubes to substitute for lime wedges in Miang Kam, a Thai snack dish. My family often adds it to sour curry as an alternative to tamarind chunks. The fruits are usually plentiful all year round, but we often neglect them.

Bilimbi Fruits

Bilimbi serves as an inspiration when the fruits are available and plenty. We use Taling Pling creatively in place of other sour fruits such as tamarind, lime and mango, depending on the dish. As I mentioned above, I also use it in place of star fruit. But there is no other fruit around quite like it, so it is hard to find a substitute for its distinctive sour flavor. The two ways that I can think of to cook this dish outside of Thailand would be to substitute two star fruits plus one to two tablespoons lime juice to whatever you are cooking, or you could substitute 1 cup sorrel leaves in the recipe below. Star fruit will give you the flavor and aroma of Taling Pling, but you will need to add lime juice to get the sour that the star fruit is lacking. Sorrel leaves, on the other hand, provide the same nice sour taste, but not bilimbi’s distinct aroma and texture.

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi – Southern Thai Cuisine

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi

Gaeng Som Hue Pla Taling Pling

แก้งส้มหัวปลากับตะลิงปลิง

Serves: 4

2 cups water
3 tablespoons sour curry red curry paste aka Gaeng Som Curry Paste
2 fish heads, cut in half, or 1 pound black cod or halibut, cut into large pieces with the skin on
8 Taling Pling, cut in half lengthwise, or 2 star fruits, sliced, plus 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Add water and curry paste to a large pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir well before adding fish head or fish chunks and let it cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add Taling Pling or star fruit with lime juice and let it cook on medium heat until the fish heads are cooked and the Taling Pling is soft and juicy but still firm enough to hold it shape, about 5 minutes. Gently stir in sugar. Taste to find the balance of spicy, sour and sweet and adjust the flavor to your liking before serving. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

Pranee’s Note:

There are many kinds of Fish head curry in Southeast Asia. I have more stories and tips to share in the future.

© 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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Kamala Beach, Phuket Thailand

A Walk for Remembering

When I visit home, I often take a leisurely walk—Dern Kin Lom—เดินกินลม—in Thai this means “walk to eat the wind.” Today I walked on the beach and in the village just a bit before the sunrise, around 6am. During the first walk of each visit my mind can’t help but wander off a bit to the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. But as each year goes by, it is like a memory lost, and it does not stay in my mind as long. The rebuilding is beautiful with a park and the new-old town now filled with hotels, guest houses, shops and restaurants. And the people are moving on. Their daily lives are back to normal with cheerfulness as before.

I started my walk from the south end of the beach, then went along a canal through the tsunami memorial park. My first stop was to join locals at the breakfast stand.  (Please click here to see my  Breakfast on Phuket Island on YouTube.) After catching up with old friends and villagers at the coffee stand, I returned through the park and walked to the north end of the beach then back again. It takes about an hour and I become totally lost in the serenity.

I walked back passing the Kamala Beach School and stopped by the school kitchen to say hi to an old friend. As usual, I ended up joining the chef team and had a second breakfast. Today, however, was different. Khun Taeng, the head chef, was in the middle of preparing Phad Phed Talay Tua Fak Yao for 500 students for lunch. I hung around and took a bunch of photos and caught up on the good old days and how we used to cook together with my family and friends. I have more recipes from Kamala Village and the school kitchen to share with you later on during the year. For today it was a perfect way to share my morning walk with you as well as recipes from the Kamala School. Our greetings to you all — from Kamala Village with love!

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Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yardlong Bean

Phad Phed Talay Tua Fak Yao 

ผัดเผ็ดทะเลถั่วฟักยาว

My students enjoy all sorts of Chinese style stir-fries with a little spice and herbs. It is a very common practice in Thai kitchens to use a wok for a quick and easy approach, but to add a pungent, spicy curry paste and herbs. This creates a meal that bonds flavor and satisfaction and is served with steamed jasmine rice. This quick and easy one-dish dinner is called Aharn Jan Deow (อาหารจานเดียว)—”A Dish Deal.” Most Thai cooks cleverly combine their choice of protein and vegetable to create this Phad Phed (meaning “Spicy Stir-fried”). If this dish is too pungent for your taste buds, you can add a few tablespoons of coconut milk to lower the heat. And if you wish to create the same flavor as Phuket Phad Phed, please prepare it using my Phuket Curry Pasteinstead of store-bought curry paste.So I hope you like the Thai flavorful approach to Chinese-style wok cooking. Let’s add Thai spicy stir-fried to your repertoire

Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yardlong Bean

Preparation: 10
Cooking time: 5
Servings: 2-4
 
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste, Phuket Curry Paste or Prik Khing curry paste (Mae Sri)
5 Kaffir lime leaves 
1/2 cup calamari rings
1/2 cup shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup yardlong beans beans or green beans, cut into 1 inch-lengths
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup Thai basil
  
Heat the wok on high heat. When it is hot, add the cooking oil, then the red curry paste and Kaffir. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then stir in calamari, shrimp, beans, yardlong beans, cauliflower and sugar. Stir until the seafood cooks through and the vegetables are cooked, but still crispy. Add a few tablespoon water as need to create steam and sauce for the cooking. Then stir in basil for 10 seconds. Serve over 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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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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My Everyday  Asian Vegetable

Choy Sum - Flowering Cabbage

Choy Sum (also known as flowering cabbage) is a most popular vegetable in Southeast Asia. It belongs to the Brassica family along with Bok Choy and Gai Lan (Chinese kale or broccoli). The most common uses are in stir-fries and soups. My favorite way of preparing this is to stir-fry it as a side dish with salt and pepper or stir-fry with any rice noodles or egg noodles. It takes a short time to cook and is easy to pair with other ingredients. 

Stir-fried Choy Sum as a Side dish

Stir-fried Choy Sum

Phad Pak Gwang Tung

ผัดผักกวางตุ้ง

Servings: 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

3 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
12 choy sum 0r about 12 ounces, cleaned and cut into 2 inch-lengths
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat canola oil in a wok on high heat and stir in garlic. When garlic is golden, stir in choy sum. Stir in a few drops of water and season with salt and pepper to taste, stirring well. Serve hot as a side dish 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 .
 

Stir-fried Phuket Hokkien Mee with Choy Sum

 
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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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