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Golden Cup – กระทงทอง

Golden cup – Krathong Tong – is a classic Thai dish served as an appetizer or snack. I learned how to make golden cups when I had my first kitchen and was taking professional culinary classes. Making the filling is quite easy. The hard part is making the golden cup. It requires a perfect dough recipe, a flower mold and deep-frying. When I saw a few ready-made pastry cups, I decided to use them to make a quick and easy appetizer for a new year’s party. After all I was looking for some auspicious dishes to share with my Thai friends at our new year’s day gathering to wish for a prosperous and healthy year – Sawasdee Pee mai – สวัสดีปีใหม่.

Golden Cup - กระทงทอง

Golden Cups – กระทงทอง

Before you start to prepare this appetizer, you will have to decide what to use for the golden cup. The traditional Thai method would be to prepare the cup from scratch by deep-frying the dough, but today there are many options that can be easier and healthier as well. I happened to find these golden pastry cups at Pasta & Co. during the pre-holiday season.

Pastry Cups

Pastry cups

If these pastry cups are not available, I typically use a wonton sheet, brushing it well with cooking oil and then placing it in a small muffin pan, arranging the sheets to fit in the pan in cup-like shape. Then I bake it until it becomes golden and crispy. If you wish to make a traditional golden cup, give this video a try.

Krathong Tong Filling

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I give a local twist to a traditional filling for Krathong Tong

Starting at 6 o’clock and moving clockwise, add ground turkey, diced sweet petite pepper, diced celery, diced apple, black pepper and garlic, and cilantro. Place soy sauce in the center.

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Place ground turkey and seasoning in a pan

Heat a wok on a high heat and pour in a high-heat cooking oil such as peanut oil or canola oil. Stir-fry ground meat with Thai basic seasoning paste – Kratiem Prik Thai – until it is fragrant almost cooked through, about one minute.

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Ground chicken, celery, sweet pepper and apple

Stir in diced celery, sweet pepper and apple, and cook until the pork is no longer pink, about three minutes. After this is done, set it aside.

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Prepare garnish of sliced sweet petite pepper and cilantro leaf

While waiting for the filling to cool down, prepare the garnish. To prepare the garnish we will use 24 mini bell pepper rings and 24 cilantro leaves with about an inch and a half of the stem attached.

Place the filling in the golden cups

Place the filling in the golden cups

 Before serving, spoon the filling into the cups.

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Garnish with cilantro and sweet pepper

Golden Cup – Kratong Tong – กระทงทอง

There are many options for the types of vegetables to cook in the filling; peas and corn kernels is one combination. For the meat, you can use pork and prawns or any minced meat combined with minced prawns. The most important part of this recipe is the Thai basic seasoning paste which is fundamental to all Thai appetizers and an authentic flavor profile.

Yield: 1 1/2  cups

24 golden cups
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 cilantro root or 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup ground turkey, chicken or pork
1/4 cup diced sweet pepper
1/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced apple
Optional: 24 mini bell pepper ring and 24 cilantro leaves for garnish

To make basic Thai basic seasoning paste – Kratiem Prik Thai, place garlic, black pepper and cilantro root or stem in a mortar with pestle and pound until it becomes a fine paste. Gently stir in soy sauce and salt.

Heat a wok on a high heat and pour in a high-heat cooking oil such as peanut oil or canola oil. Stir-fry ground meat with Thai basic seasoning paste until it is fragrant and almost cooked through—about one minute.

Stir in diced celery, sweet pepper and apple and continue until the pork is cooked—about three minutes. Set aside.

While waiting for the filling to cool down, prepare garnish with 24 mini bell pepper rings and 24 cilantro leaves with some stem attached.

Before serving, spoon the filling into the cups and garnish with cilantro and sweet pepper.

Vegetarian Variation:

Substitute 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms for 1 cup ground turkey.

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

Happy Holidays with Aloha

Though I am Thai, and live mostly in Seattle with frequent visits to Thailand, I enjoy visiting Hawaii during the holiday seasons for an escape to warmer weather. In Hawaii, “aloha” is as commonly heard as Sawatdeeสวัสดี is in Thailand. Aloha, however, has many more meanings and today it is appropriate to choose this one: “affection, peace, compassion and mercy.” I would like to take this opportunity to wish you the best of the Holiday Season with Aloha. Happy Holidays to you all. 

Aloha for this Holiday Seasons

Aloha for this Holiday Season

When it comes to Hawaiian fruit, I have a deep love for passion fruit- Saowarod – เสาวรส – or as it is known in the Hawaiian language, Lilikoi. Hopefully this blog will help you learn about passion fruit and how I enjoy them, and give you a chance to share the ways you enjoy passion fruit.

Passion fruit is available in tropical areas such as Hawaii, South America and Southeast Asia. It has a perfect sour and sweet lemony taste similar to the citrus fragrance, and there are seeds and juice in the yellow or purple shell. Its taste and aroma will brighten your day. It brightens every day for me in this land that is abundant with passion fruit.

Kona Farmer Market

Kona Farmers Market, Near Ali’i Road

My first day in Hawaii I always go to the farmers market or fruit stands for fresh local fruits. This time I bought enough fruit to last the entire trip. Fortunately, as a tourist staying in a hotel room with a small refrigerator, I came up with a simple breakfast idea that allowed me to enjoy passion fruit every day. The method is very easy, with no cooking required. 

Passion Fruit at Kona Farmer Market

Passion Fruit at Kona Farmer Market

There are are two types of passion fruit: purple and yellow. The Thai yellow variety is more common here, and you can purchase as many as you would like as it travels well and makes a good instant juice. All you need to eat it is a pocket knife, a plastic spoon, and a napkin.

Step-by-Step How to Open Passion Fruit

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Cutting into the Passion Fruit

Before cutting the top as show above, you can cut off a small part of the bottom to make a platform for the fruit to stand on like shown in the third picture below. Then holding the fruit tight with one hand, cut around the stem end to create an opening large enough for the spoon. I came up with this method for eating fresh passion fruit because it is not as messy as cutting one in half.

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Insert the Spoon and Loosen All Around the Cell Wall a Few Times

Insert the spoon close to the inner shell and loosen the cell wall as you turn the fruit in a circular motion a few times. This technique will break up the fiber, and the inside becomes nice saucy seeds and juice.

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Passion Fruit Waiting for you to Enjoy the Seeds and Juice

Now the fruit can sit waiting for you at the breakfast table. You can enjoy it like a fruit juice, and the seeds are delicious and a great source of fiber and vitamin C.

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Passion Fruit and Greek Yogurt

My favorite way to enjoy passion fruit is to pour it on my Greek yogurt. This make a perfect breakfast or a snack during the day.

I hope you will enjoy passion fruit as much as I do and find different ways to enjoy it. Please share your experiences.

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

Related Photos from Pranee’s Photo Stock

 More photos of passion fruit

Passion Fruit Flower

Passion Fruit Flower in Nicaragua

Passion Fruit and Flowers at different stages

Passion Fruit and Flowers at Different Stages – Nicaragua

Related Link How to Eat Passion Fruit (www.ehow.com)

Amazing Fruit

Bael Fruit Tea-

Bael Fruit Tea-ชามะตูม

Bael fruit is not as mysterious as you might think. If you are one of the many people who have never heard of it, this recipe will provide you with a sweet and fragrant opportunity to learn about it. Its history is ancient, having been used long before the advent of Hinduism, and it carries religious significance. The bael fruit trees grow abundantly throughout the Indian subcontinent and southeastern Asia. In Thailand, we know bael fruit – matoom – มะตูม – both as a component of a popular cold drink during the summer, and for its leaves, which are used in religious ceremonies.

The Drink

Dry Bael Fruit มะตูม

มะตูม – Matoom – Bael Fruit aka Bengal Quince

For most Thais, bael fruit is a favorite that is instantly recognizable by its unique, sweet and aromatic flavor. It is also believed to be good for the digestion. Thais use the expression หอมเย็น ชื่นใจ to convey that the cold tea is fragrant, cool and refreshing. To my students it was a pleasantly delightful drink. They were even more surprised when they learned about the bael fruit. Now you can learn how to make hot or cold fruit drink from matoom.

Dry-Sliced Bael Fruit

Dry-Sliced Bael Fruit

Dry sliced bael fruit can be found at the Asian Market or an online grocery store. In a Thailand supermarket you can find matoom drink in a plastic bottle, or as an instant tea powder to which you simply add hot water. But there is nothing like making your own matoom drink.

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8 Pieces Dry Sliced Gael Fruit

In Thailand, a dry sliced matoom is heated over charcoal before making it into a drink. You may also put it in the toaster or place over a gas burner or gas grill. The direct heat will set off its sweet fragrance. In my kitchen in Seattle, I simply place 8 slices of sliced dry bael fruit on a baking sheet and put it under a preheated broiler for 1 minute or more on each side. You will smell a sweet, delightful fragrance.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil

Add 6 Cups Water and Bring to a Boil

Then place the slices in a medium sized pot, add 6 cups water, and bring it to a boil. Let it boil on medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. The sliced bael fruits that remain in the pot will look pale and soft after all their essence is released into the tea.

Bael Fruit Tea - ชา

Bael Fruit Tea – ชามะตูม

Delightful Beverages

During the winter months in Seattle I serve it warm from the teapot just like any other tea. In the summer months in Seattle and Thailand, I love to serve it over ice as a cold drink just like iced tea. It is a very satisfying drink either way. The taste is less sweet than it smells, but it does the trick – I often don’t add any sugar. Serve it at any time and for any occasion. I received a lot of admiration from my students and Thai friends for introducing and reintroducing this drink to them.

Bael Fruit Tea – Cha Matoom – ชามะตูม 

Yield: 4 cups

8 to 10 pieces dry sliced bael fruit

6 cups water

Sugar to taste

Pre-heat the oven on  broil.

Place 8 slices of sliced dry bael fruit on the baking sheet and put under the preheated broiler for 1 minute on each side, until it is fragrant but not burnt. Place the heated bael fruit in a medium size pot and add 6 cups water. Cover.

Bring to a boil then, then continue to cook on medium heat until the tea is a nice brown color, about 15 to 20 minutes. The remaining dry fruit should be pale and soft after all the tea is extracted.

Discard the bael fruit and strain the tea through the fine sieve or cheese cloth. Serve warm like a tea; stir in sugar as desired. For a cold drink, simply pour over ice before serving.

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

Related Link

http://matoomherb.blogspot.com/

Bilva or Bael Fruit and Hinduism (astropeep.com)

 

My Dream Kitchen

Last summer I had an amazing journey and discovery. It was not an actual trip in that I never left Seattle, but nonetheless it was a journey of many miles of driving, all to find my dream kitchen. I loved my old kitchen in its forest setting, a small and snuggled place on the hillside with a view of the bamboo plants—a place where I connect with Thailand. I have written over a thousand recipes there and have made memories with friends and family I will always cherish. But on the 15th anniversary of my Thai culinary profession, I realized that I had outgrown it. For the past few years, I had dreamed of a bigger kitchen, one where I could work on bigger projects and that would provide easy access for my friends and students. With commitment, persistence, hard-work, and good support from friends and family, my real estate agent and I found my dream kitchen by the end of August – Pranee’s Thai Kitchen.

I slowly moved into the new kitchen in September. I now treasure the memory of the stunning Seattle weather in the summer of 2014 when I found My Dream Kitchen.

Pranee's Thai Kitchen Studio

Pranee’s Thai Kitchen Studio

The brand new modern kitchen is in my favorite colors—all shades of blue and white with orange-gold accents—and it is perfect for a test kitchen, a cooking party kitchen, a kitchen studio, and most importantly, for my own down-time with a culinary escape.

The Table

The Table

My first experience with decorating it has been a joy as I sought to create a modern theme that is in harmony with and embraces my Thai village and its culinary culture. My dining table, from Tirto Furniture, illustrates this theme. It is made from the wall of a torn down house in Indonesia, and sets just the right mood for a Thai village and Thai street food. Many thanks to my friend Jennifer. She and I agreed on the spot that this was the table I was looking for.

The Drink

Matoom, Bael Fruit

I have recreated many drinks from my Thai village that I will soon serve on regular basis at Pranee’s Thai Kitchen. The picture above shows dried bael fruit from Thailand. I steep it into a delicious, fragrant tea—a favorite drink served cold or warm in Thai villages. I will soon write this recipe to share with you.

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Phad Thai Goong and Bael Fruit Tea

For a while now, the pursuit of my dream kitchen had been taking all my time, energy, frustration and joy. Looking back, I value the process and the result of finding my dream kitchen, and now Pranee’s Thai Kitchen is ready to welcome friends and students.

And for my blog fans from near and far, I am excited to share my Bael Fruit Tea recipe in my next post for us to celebrate together from your kitchen.

Prob Khan Mai — see you soon.

Pranee

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Gelle, Sri Lanka

Gelle, Sri Lanka

The time machine has been playing tricks on me and preventing me from keeping you posted on where I have been and what I have been cooking since January. During part of that time I was traveling across the South China Sea and Andaman Sea on the MS Amsterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship  (the 2014 Grand World Voyage), as a guest chef teaching Thai culinary classes. The ship traveled around the world and I joined the ship from Manila to Hong Kong, Singapore, Phuket and Sri Lanka. My full-month culinary experience on board the ship, plus my travels around Southeast and Central Asia, and the opportunity to explore the cuisine and culture of Sri Lanka were wonderful adventures which I will share with you at a later time.

The rest of the time here in Seattle I have been teaching, tasting delicious Thai foods around Seattle,  and keeping busy with my family and Seattle’s Thai community. Please visit my I Love Thai Cooking Facebook page, which I update often with photos and news. For the remainder of this year, I hope to share short recipes and techniques on my Pranee’s Thai Kitchen blog until I finally catch up with everything.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for Thai Egg Salad- ยำไข่ต้ม

Unpretentious

Summer in Seattle for me is about living a carefree life style, exploring nature and enjoying outdoor activities. Dining and entertaining are still important to me, but I try to stick with a nutritious and delicious cooking style that fits my summer style. The recipe I am sharing today reflects my cooking style at this time a year.

Hard-Boiled Eggs Salads - Yum Khai Tom

Hard-Boiled Egg Salad – Yum Khai Tom

When I had a potluck and Thai community gathering to attend one Sunday, I took the simple approach of deciding to prepare an impromptu dish using only those ingredients that I already had in my fridge or freezer, typically staple ingredients that one must have on daily basis. This hard-boiled egg recipe came naturally to mind. Eggs are a soul food for everyone, anywhere and anytime—breakfast, lunch or dinner. For me this week, I have eaten eggs at least one meal each day. I am proud to share this simple dish with friends and I hope you too will find this recipe suitable for your family, or to take to a party with ease. They are a food prepared with heart and nourishing value and the best fresh ingredients possible. Delicious, nutritious and unpretentious.

How to Prepare the Hard-Boiled Eggs – Kai Tom – ไข่ต้ม

Place 13 eggs (one more than you need in order to provide one for testing and tasting) in the bottom of a large pot; add enough water to cover them, plus two inches. Bring to a boil on high heat and then immediately lower heat to medium. Set a timer for 6 to 8 minutes depending how firm you want the egg. After 6 minutes, use one egg as a tester. Rinse the egg with cold water and peel to see how it looks inside. If the center is cooked enough for you, remove the pot from the heat, pour out the hot water, and rinse the eggs with cold water. Let them cool down completely—at least 30 minutes or longer. Once cooled, roll the eggs gently to crack and remove the shell. I learned over time that using older eggs or adding a splash of vinegar to the water makes the shells easier to peel.

The dressing below also works well with fried eggs. See Pranee’s favorite fried egg technique – Thai Fried Egg Kai Dao – ไข่ดาว

Thai Egg Salad

Yum Kai Tom

ยำไข่ต้ม

The hard-boiled eggs, dressing, and garnish can be made ahead of time and kept in separate containers until ready to use. It will only take about 15 minutes to cut the eggs and place them on the tray, randomly sprinkle sauce, and garnish the top. Then wait and see how many people say “Wow.”

12 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
3 fresh Thai chilis–red or green, optional
2 large shallots, minced
3 tablespoons fish sauce
5 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste, aka chili jam
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
 

Place cut, hard-boiled eggs on a deviled egg platter or a plate.

Make egg salad dressing by combining shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, roasted red chili paste and sugar.

Use a small spoon to spread sauce equally over each egg yolk. Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy as an appetizer or side dish.

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 
Related Link
 
Thai Fried Egg (praneesthaikitchen.com)
 

In Seattle, it is the re-sprouting of garlic chives from the ground that tells me every year that spring is here. Enjoy the first harvest of garlic chives.

Happy Spring !
Pranee

Pranee's Thai Kitchen

Garlic Chives, Herb Essentials

In Seattle, it is the re-sprouting of garlic chives from the ground that tells me every year that spring is here. By April, I am enjoying my first harvest of garlic chives. Growing up with a rich Thai-Chinese heritage, garlic chives were always present in my family kitchen. We call it Gui Chai -กุยช่าย. Also known as Chinese chives, allium tuberosum is native to China and Japan, and widespread throughout Southeast Asia. It is one of the many herbs that I enjoy growing in Seattle. It greets early spring every year around April, and in the fall, around September, the leaves die off. In warm climates like Thailand my family enjoys its long, flat green leaves all year round simply by cutting off a clump of chive stalks with a knife run close to the ground; two weeks later it will have grown up again…

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From Jade, to Mantis, to Celadon Green

Pandan Sweet Sticky Rice – ข้าวเหนียวแก้วใบเตย – Kao Neow Kaew Bai Toey

Kao Neow Kaew Bai Toey – Sweet sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar with pandan green color and flavor

Many Southeast Asian cultures have their own stories and culinary love affair with the liquid green of jade, the alluring fragrance of a wild flower, and the sweet, nutty and vanilla taste that comes from pandan leaf or Bai Toey, a member of the screwpine family of plants. I have stories of my own about helping my mom and three aunts prepare dessert each morning in order to supply the villagers’ demands for Thai desserts for breakfast at the local coffee shop. That was a long while ago, but today in Seattle I still practice my culinary heritage by adding this jade green water extract to many foods that I cook. No matter how far people are from their homeland, or how long they have been gone, the Thai culinary tradition of using Bai Toey – ใบเตย – is staying alive among those native to the cuisine. Pandan leaf, or Bai Toey, is known in Vietnam as La Due, and in Malaysia as Kaitha, to mention a few.

Pandan leaves give our kitchens a sweet, alluring fragrance, and the lingering of a sensational taste. Don’t be surprised by its deep green grass aroma when it is in its fresh state. When combined with palm sugar and coconut milk, or when cooked, it leaves behind an amazing taste that can surprise you with the excitement of a new culinary discovery. Fortunately, green pandan leaves are available at a reasonable price, either fresh or frozen, at Asian markets, so there is no need to miss out on this culinary tradition.

Adding green pandan extract to tapioca pearl – coconut pudding

Before you go any further, I hope you have a chance to first read my blog post on  Pandanus leaf – Bai Toey from years ago. It includes a Pandan-Jasmine Tea recipe and will give you an insight into Bai Toey and the ways it imparts its taste, aroma and color into Thai desserts and beyond. For my Thai Street Food series of classes, I prepared enough pandan custard with brioche for myself and the class, and indulged myself for breakfast. But it is not yet time for me to share the pandan custard recipe, nor other uses for the leaves. Today’s post will simply focus on the crucial step of making of green pandan water -น้ำใบเตย – Nam Bai Toey, an essential ingredient in many Thai desserts.

Exotic Green from Southeast Asia

The food photos above and below are from my own collection over the years, mostly from my visits to Thailand. The foods came from street foods venders, coffee shops, or my village market. The green color in all of them is from pandan water. When cooked, the jade green color can change to celadon or mantis green—how deep a green depends on the amount of leaves used.

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Steamed layer rice cake – ขนมชั้น – Khanom Chan

Khanom Chan – Layered steamed rice cake. Its ingredients are rice flour, coconut milk, sugar and green pandan water

pandan custard -สังขยาใบเตย- Sangkaya Bai Toey

Pandan custard -สังขยาใบเตย- Sangkaya Bai Toey

Pandan custard -สังขยาใบเตย- Sangkaya Bai Toey is a traditional custard that is used like a spread or dip.

ปาท่องโก๋ สังขยา

ปาท่องโก๋ สังขยาใบเตย – Chinese Doughnut with Pandan Custard

Pandan custard served for dipping with Chinese doughnuts – pla Tong go – ปาท่องโก๋ – or with cut soft white bread

Pandan Tapioca Pearl Cake - Khanom Saku

Pandan Tapioca Pearl Cake – Khanom Yok Manee – ขนมหยกมณี- Jade Gemstone

Another ancient Thai dessert, Pandan Tapioca Pearl Cake, it’s name is  Jade Gemstone – ขนมหยกมณี  – Khanom Yok Manee

Step by Step: How to Make Pandan Water, น้ำใบเตย – Pandan Extract Recipe

In Seattle, pandan leaf – bai toey – is available fresh or frozen at Asian Markets and comes in a package of six leaves. For green food coloring, I recommend that you use all six leaves and freeze any extra juice—the greener the better. I have been making many Thai desserts the last few months and have been using a lot of pandan leaves. For some desserts, the complete flavor profile is very dependent on the pandan flavor. One of these is sungkaya – Thai custard; I have added my favorite pandan custard – Sungkaya Bai Toey – to my Thai Street Food class.

Clean, dry and trim four pandan leaves. Cut each leaf into three pieces, then layer them in a pile.

pandan leaf

Layer all leaves together and cut into thin shreds

Then thinly slice pandan leaves.

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Place in mortar and pound with pestle

Place shredded pandan leaves into a mortar.

pound until it for a paste

Pound until it form a paste

Pound the pandan leaves for about two minutes, until they form a paste.

green pandan water

Stir in water

Stir in 5 tablespoons water.

pandan water

Green pandan water – น้ำใบเตย – Nam Bai Toey

Yields 1/4 cup green pandan water

The pandan water is ready for any recipe that calls for green pandan extract.

Alternative method: Place shredded pandan leaves and 1/4 cup water into a blender and blend for 30 seconds; strain, then discard the pulp.

Tips & Techniques. For a green pandan water concentrate, let the pandan water sit for 15 minutes. About two tablespoons of green concentrate will sit on the bottom. You may use just this portion.

The best way to make pandan water ahead of time or to preserve pandan leaves is to preserve the shredded pandan leaf in water and freeze the water and leaves together; the second best method is to make the green pandan extract and freeze it. When the whole leaves are frozen by themselves, it is easy for them to get a freezer burn or to dry out too quickly and lose their green color. When that happens I use the leaves for tea instead. Please see link below for my Pandan-Jasmine Tea Recipe.

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

Related articles

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas

All the best wishes and happy holidays….Pranee

The Umami of Thai Cuisine on Stage

shrimp paste and curry pastes

Shrimp paste and curry pastes

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

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

Kapi Nam Prik - กะปิน้ำพริก & Kapi Gaeng - กะปิแกง

Kapi Nam Prik – กะปิน้ำพริก & Kapi Gaeng – กะปิแกง

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

กะปิ – Shrimp Paste

kapi shrimp

กุ้งเคย- Goong Koey

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

Pak Nam Kradae Fishing Village

Pak Nam Kradae Fishing Village – ปากน้ำกะแดะ Kadae estuary

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

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

dry salted shrimp paste,

Dry salted shrimp paste,

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

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

กะปิ

Learning how to pound the shrimp paste

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

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

IMG_0058

Packaged to order

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

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

© 2012  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

I Love Thai cooking
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Southern Thai Red Curry Paste: A Blend to Suit Your Soul

While I was in Thailand, I indulged myself everyday with Southern Thai curries. No curries taste as good as the ones you grew up with! In Bangkok you may find them at the food stand known as อาหารปักษ์ใต้ – “Aharn Pak Tai” – Southern Thai Cuisine.

Perhaps it would be best if I could give you a snap shot of what Thai curries are like in my village on Phuket Island. The everyday Thai curries here are mostly red curries enjoyed with steamed jasmine rice. However, behind all these great curries, it is the curry paste itself that makes these curries stand out from each other. There are many curry pastes available in the market such as massaman or yellow curry. These are well-loved, but often for special occasions like a wedding or purchased from special vendors. There are also some green curry pastes available, but they are mostly used in Thai restaurants in the tourist area, and vendors offer them for variety and to venture out to cuisine from Thailand’s central region. For this blog post, I will talk only about the various types of red curry pastes, the mainstay of all Thai curries.

southern Thai curry merchant

Southern Thai curry merchant

A curry merchant such as Ja (“sister”) above can create a special blend for you with additional dry spices. You can discuss with her what ingredients you want incorporated into your curry and ask for the level of heat you prefer. For example, if you are cooking a game meat, the curry expert would add a few teaspoons of Sa Curry Powder to her recommended type of red curry. In Phuket, curry costs approximately 100 Baht a kilogram – about $3. And a small batch of 1 keet – ๑ ขีด-  (100 grams) – ๑๐๐ กรัม sells for 10 Baht, about 35 cents. One hundred grams of curry paste is a good amount for making one curry dish for a family of four.

My favorite curry merchants in Phuket are from Phuket Town Municipal Market and Kamala Beach Open Air Market. On my recent trip, during my first day at the open air market, my sister and I purchased  เครื่องแกงส้ม – Krueng Gaeng Som – sour red curry paste; and เครื่องแกงพริก – Krueng Gaeng Prik – water-based red curry paste; เครื่องแกงเผ็ดกะทิ – Krueng Gaeng Kati – coconut milk-based red curry paste; and  เครื่องแกงผัดเผ็ด – Krueng Gaeng Phad Phed – stir-fry based curry paste. And most importantly, we also purchased a genuine shrimp paste from a known source and artisan. Shrimp paste plays an important role in curry paste. Most curry pastes in the US have a small amount of shrimp paste already blended in.

Shrimp paste, red curry paste for curry, and for stir-fry

 The photo above from the left: kapi – shrimp paste; เครื่องแกงผัดเผ็ด – krueng gaeng phad phed – red curry paste for stir-fry style; เครื่องแกงเผ็ดกะทิ – krueng gaeng phed kati – coconut milk based red curry paste

Red curry paste is a mainstay in the Thai curry world. If you walk by food stalls on the street with a display of various curries, it is likely that many of them will be different variations of red curries. One type of curry paste doesn’t limit the home cook to making just one curry. There is no limit to your imagination to create curries with all sorts of combinations, with one type of protein such as meat, seafood or poultry and your choice of available seasonal fresh vegetables. There are many keys to what makes Southern Thai cuisine different from other regions; the southern curries is definitely one of them.

I hope you find the explanation below of four types of red curry pastes and a style of cooking helpful, and that you will get a chance to prepare some of my Thai red curry recipes.

Phad Phed Sator Goong – Stir-fried Spicy Stink Beans with Prawns

1) Krueng Gaeng Phad Phed – เครื่องแกงผัดเผ็ด – is a red curry paste specifically designed for a sharp, pungent, hot, and bold flavor. It adds an extra bold flavor to all stir-fries. You may add fresh green peppercorns to stir-fried curries. Typically cooking oil is use for stir-frying, with a little water added to make a sauce. But if the taste is too pungent, a tablespoon or two of coconut milk will reduce the intensity. Please see the recipes that I posted previously on this blog: Phad Phed Talay Tua Fak Yao – Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yard Long Bean and Phad Phed Sator Goong PhuketStir-fried Spicy Stink Beans with Prawns Phuket Style. 

Red Curry with Morning Glory and Salted Croaker

2) Krueng Gaeng Phed Kati –  เครื่องแกงเผ็ดกะทิ – is a typical red curry paste. It is a basic paste that is typically cooked with meat, seafood, or poultry and vegetables. In America, and around the world, you will see many brands of red curry paste such as Mae Ploy, Thai Kitchen and more. They are not exactly the same as my hometown version, but  I often use them to substitute for each other with a hotter flavors and less red in color. For an even hotter version, you can ask a curry merchant for Krueng Gaeng Phed Kati Piset. Please check out my recipe for Gaeng Tapo Pla KemRed Curry with Morning Glory and Salted Croaker.

Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry with Green Papaya

3) Krueng Gang Prik –  เครื่องแกงพริก –  is a red curry paste specifically for water-based curries such as Gaeng Prik – Phuket Black Pepper Curry, which is similar to Geng Pah – Jungle Curry. Jungle Curry is a rustic curry paste we often use with wild fresh herbs and with wild boar. Gaeng Tai Pla – fish maw curry – has more black peppercorn than regular curry paste. Please check out my recipe Gaeng Pah MarakorPhuket Jungle Curry with Green Papaya.

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi

4) Krueng Gaeng Som –  เครื่องแกงส้ม – is a red curry paste specifically for sour fruit broth / water-based red curry with fish or seafood. The sour broth could be from the fruit, tamarind, or lime juice. The most famous one is Gaeng Som Pla Nor Mai Dong – sour curry fish with bamboo shoots. You can find this anywhere in Thailand. In Pranee’s Thai Kitchen I posted Gaeng Som Pla Talingping –  Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi Recipe. There are so many versions of seafood, sour fruit and vegetable pairings that you can create almost a hundred versions of sour curry in Southern Thailand.

Among these four curry pastes, my personal favorites and the ones I have had most often are the Phad Phed and Gaeng Som.

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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Embrace Bitter

IMG_0366

Pak Wan Pah – ผักหวานป่า

Pak Wah Pah – ผักหวานป่า –  Melientha Suavis Pierre

My favorite vegetable from the wild—Pak Wah Pah—is high in antioxidants and Thai research shows that it has amazing health benefits. I used to enjoy harvesting them with my three aunts.

I was home in Phuket again in August and September this year. It was like taking a culinary vacation for real Thai food. At almost every meal with family and friends in my Thai village we ate authentic Thai food just like my grandma and our ancestors used to eat. Thai cuisine is famous for its harmonious balance of pungent hot, sweet, sour and salty. However, only native Thais embrace the bitter side of Thai food.  What I learned from my grandmother is that the bitter is medicine.

Before leaving for Thailand, I was lucky to receive a precious book, “Eating on the Wild Side,” by Jo Robinson. Jo encourages people to “eat on the wild side,” by which she means finding the modern-day fruits and vegetables that come closest to matching the nutritional values of our original wild plants. I was delighted to find that Jo recognizes the fundamentals of Thai food ways and understands how Thai cuisine embraces bitter tastes. Please read more in Jo’s book about the link between the bitter taste of some foods and the health benefits one can get from them.

I am my grandma’s grand-daughter and I love to eat Thai on the wild side and all thing bitter in Thai cuisine. I either eat on the wild side, or as wild as I can. Without a doubt I have become a fan of Jo Robinson and her work and I have been following Jo on the news and through her talks. I am excited to continue to follow Jo’s work and find out more about her study of fruits and vegetables and their health benefits. I hope you learn a lot from this short interview video.

I hope you will also enjoy these photos from my previous visits to Thailand. They highlight some of the practices that still exist in my hometown. Most of these photos are from the Thalang Open Air MarketTalad Nud Thalang – in Phuket.

If asked what is the most authentic Thai dish, I think most Thais would say,  Nam Prik – chili dip. It is the number one most-served dish, and a must-have, along with soup, stir-fry and curry dishes, for a real Thai family table. There are many kinds of chili dip throughout  the four regions of Thailand. Nam Prik is never served alone, it is usually accompanied by Pak Kred – ผักเกร็ดi – fresh wide leaves or a vegetable accompaniment. The dip and its accompaniment are equally important; both embrace each other. I never think of Nam Prik as a peasant food. Our ancestors wittingly created this as a health food. Nam Prik is just one example of how Thais include fresh healthy choices with our meals. Thank you to the many villagers who still preserve, domesticate and grow this edible plant that is so close to the wild, despite the threat of lifestyle changes that locals in Phuket are facing.

bookcover-lg

Now that I am back to Seattle, I can’t wait to continue reading the rest of “Eating on the Wild Side.” I hope you too will have a chance to read it and check out all of the reference articles and videos regarding Jo’s works and books at  Eat Wild. You won’t need to travel with me to Thailand to find wild vegetables, “Eating on the Wild Side” will help you choose vegetables from your grocery store that are as close to wild as you can get (Huffingtonpost) in order to enjoy optimal health.

IMG_0365

Assortment of nam prik – น้ำพริก – Thai chili dip

In Thailand, the wet market, open air market, and even the mall supermarket will have a variety of fresh nam prik ready to order.

Nam Prik

Nam Prik – น้ำพริก – Chili Dip

Choose your bitter green and pair it with your nam prik. This is a daily option for my family and Thai villagers or even large city dwellers.

IMG_0362

Bua Bok – บัวบก – Centella asiatica

Bua Bok – บัวบก – Centella asiatica is widely used in southeast Asian cuisine and Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. The American Cancer Society is exploring its potential.

ดอกแค

ดอกแค

   Sesbania_grandiflora

lotus and lotus stems - ดอกบัว และ สายบัว

Lotus and lotus stem – ดอกบัว และ สายบัว

IMG_0080

ใบตำลึง – Coccinia grandis

ใบตำลึง – Coccinia grandis

ดอกสะเดา

ดอกสะเดา – Flowers and leaves from neem tree

ดอกสะเดา – flowers and leaves from neem tree

ผักกระเฉด

ผักกระเฉด – Water mimosa

ผักกระเฉด – water mimosa

ใบย่านาง

ใบย่านาง – Yanang Leaves – Tiliacora triandra

Tiliacora triandra

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

Happy as a Clam in a Lemongrass Broth

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

Tom Takrai Hoy

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

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

Baan Keang Lae Seafood

Baan Keang Lae Seafood

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

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

ต้มตะไคร้ – Tom Takrai  

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

Lemongrass Clam Soup

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

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

Steamer Clam in Lemongrass Broth

Thai-style Steamed Clams with Lemongrass

Thai Steamed Clam with Lemongrass

Hoi Tom Takrai

หอยต้มตะไคร้

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

Serves: 1

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

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

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

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

A Gift from a Thai village, Durian Paste Candy – ทุเรียนกวน – Thurian Guan

When I visit home I love hanging around the open air market in my village. It is common for each village in Thailand to have an open air market in the late afternoon till the evening from 1 to 3 times a week. We call it ตลาดนัด – Talad Nad – and it is the best way to get fresh and dry ingredients for cooking when traveling to the wet market in town in the early morning is not an option. It is similar to the Seattle Farmers Market, but the stalls are a mix of merchants and farmers. I often enjoy snacks from the food stands, take pictures, and pick up a few things for myself and my family. You can find everything from fresh ingredients to cooked food and seasonal fruits. One durian season I had a chance to reconnect with an old friend, the durian farmer shown below. He had loaded his freshly picked durian fruits—that had dropped from the tree that day—into the back of his motorcycle basket. The durian flesh stays good in the fruit for a few days. He sold his durian at the Talad Nad and around the village. What was left was likely to become durian paste candy.

Phuket durian farmer

Phuket durian farmer

A good grade durian sells for a good price

The peak season for durian is in June and July. During that time, farm families will turn their large surplus of durian into durian candy. In Kamala village, durian plantation owners are famous for their durian candy, a rare specialty commodity. When durian season comes, make sure you ask to be on the list for freshly made durian paste candy, a gift of pride from the village.

Kamala Village Durian Paste Candy

Mangosteen, durian and durian candy

Durian, mangosteen and durian paste candy are in season during the monsoon season

Photo is a courtesy from Old Phuket Town Community and was taken on July 6, 2013 on Kamala Agricultural Day.

Please click photo to see the event

In the above photo, the durian paste candy is wrapped in plastic and rolled into a tube. Last year, due to a drought, no durian paste candy was available.

Durian flesh or durian custard

My first post on durian was written in 2011. It was called  “What is the durian and how to open it?” It showed, in detail, how to open durian. Now you are going to learn how to remove the flesh from the stone after you open the fruit. The pulp from 5 durian fruits roughly this size will yield about a kilogram of candy.

remove and discard seed from durian flesh by hand

Remove seeds by hand from durian flesh and discard

The best and easiest to remove the pulp from the seed is to use both hands to squeeze out the seeds, discard them, and leave the durian pulp in the container.

The making of durian paste candy in Kamala Village, Phuket Thailand

The making of durian candy

Making durian paste candy

In July 2006, I asked around during one of my visits to Kamala village, Phuket, Thailand and learned that my friend’s family was making durian paste candy. I was able to take pictures and videotape the process. Following is the recipe from my notes and video interview. The durian plantation owner—her name is Pranee as well—said there is no secret to making durian paste candy. It simply requires patience, time, and strong arms to stir the durian constantly. It usually takes her a whole day in preparation. The candy can be 100% durian, or it can call for adding 100 grams of sugar for every kilogram of durian pulp. It is cooked over a low, simmering heat and stirred until the flesh turns into a sticky brown candy. It takes about 6 hours, from morning to late afternoon, until the pulp becomes a shiny lump and it can be rolled into a ball and rolled like a marble. After it cools down, it is wrapped in plastic and rolled into a tube. It is made to order for sale in a half kilo or smaller. The price varies from year to year. This year’s price right now in Phuket is around 200 baht, which is about $7.

The making of durian paste candy, Phuket, Thailand

Pranee’s tip for small plantation owners is that she saves durian pulp in the refrigerator each day until there is enough pulp to fill the pan. This way it becomes worth her while to prepare the candy with a full pan of durian pulp while she takes care of her granddaughter at the same time. While I was learning from her, I enjoyed watching villagers going by. I had a chance to taste the durian candy shown above. There wasn’t any durian candy last year because the dry and short monsoon season limited flower productivity, but this year there is a great surplus of durian, which predicts that there will be a lot of durian paste candy going around in the village. I can’t wait to taste it again this year.

ทุเรียนกวน

Durian Paste Candy –  ทุเรียนกวน – Thurian Guan

This is a typical durian paste candy – ทุเรียนกวน – Thurian Guan found in American Asian markets for a short period of time each year.

It is also known as Thurian Guan, Durian Guan, Durian Paste, Durian Fruit Roll, Durian Cake and Durian Jam.

It is available at online market such as Amazon , Temple of Thai and Import Foods under durian paste.

Love Thai Cooking

© 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 

Good Time & Bad Time

เวลาที่ยากลำบากและเวลาที่สบาย

I had Tom Yum Mama Noodle Soup for lunch today, instant ramen noodles made from the Mama brand with Tom Yum Goong favor. I took a short break from working in the garden and went into my kitchen, but there weren’t any leftovers and I had a craving for the flavors of Tom Yum Mama Noodle Soup. It is common—but not often—that I reach into my kitchen cabinet where a few emergency instant noodles are hidden. It is an honest confession that I take pleasure in eating instant Tom Yum Mama noodles once in a while. I am not alone. One of the photos below was taken a few years back when I visited my friend Varuunee one hot and humid afternoon at her food stand in Bangtao Village, Phuket, Thailand.

Tom Yum Mama Ramen Noodle Soup

Varunee prepared our lunch –Tom Yum Mama with egg and Chinese celery – for her neighbor and me. The neighbor happened to be the head chef for the Thai restaurant at a famous resort hotel nearby. There we were, two cooks, leisurely slurping the simplest dish prepared from instant noodles – just for good time’s sake!

Oriental Style Instant Noodles Shrimp Flavour (TOM YUM)

Mama and Wai Wai are two famous brands among instant noodles

Above is my favorite, Mama Shrimp Tom Yum flavor

In Fall 2011, I was in line at the cashier’s stand in an Asian market in Seattle when I saw a food stamp shopper demand to know when Thai instant noodles would be back on the shelves. The cashier simply could not give a precise answer due to the huge domestic demand in Thailand and the shortage due to the extreme flood crisis during the late monsoon season that September. The flood effected many families; some were living on instant noodles and other foods in their emergency food supply. Instant noodles can be kept for extended periods and by adding just a small amount of warm water they can become a good emergency food source. In fact, a hike in sales of instant noodles can be use as an index for indicating bad economic events in Thailand. In general the sale of the noodles is high at the end of the month, during economic crises, and when there are extreme weather conditions—times when when every Baht (Thai currency)- ทุกบาททุกสตางค์  – is stretched -เวลาที่ยากลำบาก

Raining Season in Phuket

Raining season in Kamala, Phuket, Thailand

May 26th, 2013

Photo above is a courtesy of Niruj Kamala News

Lately my family and friends have mentioned a lot on Facebook about power shortages and heavy rain in Phuket, Thailand. Monsoons start at the beginning of May and end around September, though the weather varies from year to year as does when a storm will hit. The posts on Facebook reminded me of the story that I want to share with you from the year 2011. That year, Thailand was faced with some of the most extreme floods in its history. Perhaps you still remember the news of the difficulties people experienced who lived in the flooded areas in central Thailand. For some people it was more than two months before the water receded.

Tom Yum Mama with Egg

Instant noodles can be a fun dish that is quick and easy for students, or for the many Thais who experience a random craving for a familiar taste during good times or bad!

It tastes like tom yom soup. Ingredients: wheat flour, palm oil, salt, sugar and CMC, soup base ingredients, kaffir lime leaf powder, lemongrass powder, sugar, MSG, chili paste, chili powder, palm oil and artificial shrimp flavor. Net Weight 2.10 oz. Product of Thailand.

Tom Yum Mama with Egg and Celery

I don’t recommend instant noodles as an everyday food for anyone. I am sharing them with you today because they tell a story about how what we eat is affected by economics, politics and environment factors. Instant noodles often serve as temporary foods to alleviate hunger. For many people, sometimes hunger is real. There are proteins that you can add to your noodle soup such as ground pork or beef, shrimp, and egg. For vegetables, the options are choy sum, bok choy and bean sprouts. For the herbs, Kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, cilantro and chives.

Tom Yum Mama Noodles

ต้มยำบะหมี่มาม่า

Tom Yum Bamee Mama

Serve: 1

Cooking Time: 7 minutes

1 package Mama Noodles Tom Yum Flavor
1 egg
1 rib or stalk Chinese celery or celery heart, chopped (use both leaf and stalk)
1/2 lime, cut into two wedges
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, optional
 

While bringing 1 cup water to a boil in small pot on high heat, open a package of instant noodles and the seasoning packet, and chop the celery. When the water comes to a boil, add seasonings and stir, then add the noodles. Cover, and let cook for 2 minutes. Stir the noodles to loosen them and make a well in the center. Crack the egg and drop it into the center. Cover and let the egg poach in the liquid for 1 minute. Stir in half of the celery and the juice from one lime wedge. Garnish with remaining celery, lime wedge, and chili power if desired. Enjoy immediately.

© 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 
 

Love the One You’re With

When you want to cook Thai food outside of Thailand and rare ingredients are missing or their availability is limited, we learn how to make substitutions for critical ingredients. Thus it often transpires that some ingredients in traditional dishes change over time. Green papaya salad – Som Tum – is not acceptable without green papaya, so how do you create this traditional dish when the freshest texture and flavor are important and all you can find is an aging and bitter green papaya? My friend in Switzerland and some Hmong farmers in the Pacific Northwest use sweet, fresh local carrots from their gardens in place of the hard-to-find green papaya. The homesickness for this traditional dish can be cured by the sound of the mortar and pestle and the pungent authenticity of the rest of the ingredients. I never forgot the taste of the Som Tum I ate in Switzerland after being away from Thailand for two months for the first time. Love the one you’re with!

Khmer Chicken Curry with Sorrel

Khmer Chicken Curry with Sorrel

The best and freshest ingredients from our garden can also replace the absent or impossible to find tamarind leaves. This is perhaps what led me to this next local Pacific Northwest ingredient—sorrel—and the discovery of a pattern of substitutions: the similarity of the texture of carrots to that of green papayas, the similarity of the flavor of sorrel leaves to young tamarind leaves, and the similarity of the flavor and texture of green apples to green mangoes. I am not here to change Thai cuisine. These new dishes arenot the same as the old, but the substitution of nostalgia for a traditional culinary love affair.
young tamarind leaves

Young tamarind leaves

My photos from a fresh market in Surathani
Young Tamarind Leaves 
ยอดใบมะขามอ่อน
Yod Bai MaKham Oon
Young tamarind leaves have been used as food in Southeast Asia for a long time. My family and other Thais in my village cook them in vegetable stews like Tom Som and use them to add a sour flavor to coconut milk and non-coconut milk based curry dishes. In addition to having a delightful tangy sour taste, tamarind leaves have a medicinal benefit: they are packed full of vitamin A.
Sorrel

Sorrel – ซอรเรล – Rumex acetosa

Sorrel– ซอรเรล- Rumex acetosa is native to Europe and northern Asia. Only 15 years ago, I discovered cooking with sorrel for the first time. It was at a Thai community kitchen when some elders from Lao and Cambodia brought a fresh sorrel and vegetable condiment. Then my friend Ruth Huffman showed me the sorrel  in her garden. Ruth uses it as a leaf vegetable and culinary herb. Now I have three vegetables in my garden from the Polygonaceae (buck wheat) family: regular sorrel, sorrel ‘raspberry dressing’, and rhubarb. Sorrel is recommended for eating in small quantities because of its oxalic acid content. High levels of oxalic acid, like in the green in rhubarb leaves, can be a poison. In the recipe below,  you can use more Swiss chard if you do not have sorrel and simply add more lime juice as desired. I am staying in town this summer and you will find me posting more Thai recipes made with wholesome local sustainable foods. My summer lifestyle is big on gardening, grilling, and entertaining outdoors.
Khmer Chicken Curry with Sorrel

Khmer Chicken Curry with Sorrel

From left to right, I combine regular sorrel, sorrel ‘raspberry dressing,’ and baby Swiss chard from my garden in this curry.
You can find sorrel and Swiss chard all year long in the Pacific Northwest.

Khmer Chicken Curry with Sorrel leaves

แกงไก่เขมรใบซอรเรล

Gaeng Gai Khmer Bai Sorrel

The delightful taste of Khmer chicken curry with sorrel leaves can make it hard to make the recipe stretch to six servings. This curry is more of a comfort food, reminiscent of vegetable stew, with a hint of citrus curry—rice porridge with a wonderful aroma. It is packed with health benefits from fresh turmeric, galangal, and tamarind or sorrel leaves. The curry is flavorful, but not hot, and the coconut milk is only required to taste. The toasted rice makes the soup rich in texture but light in taste. I enjoy this as a one-dish curry meal with a bit of steamed rice on the side. This recipe tastes best made with fresh Khmer Curry Paste or Phuket Curry Paste.

Serves: 4–6

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 chicken breast or 4 chicken thighs, sliced
5 tablespoons Khmer curry paste 0r 3 tablespoons Phuket Red Curry Paste or 3 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4  cup to 1/2 cup coconut milk
3 to 5 tablespoons toasted rice powder
2 cups sorrel leaves
2 cups Swiss chard leaves
½ tablespoon lime or tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon palm sugar, optional
 

Heat a pot with a heavy bottom on medium-high heat, then stir in canola oil, chicken, and Khmer curry paste; cook until fragrant and you see the oil separate out from the remainder of the ingredients. Pour in 1 cup water and let cook on medium heat with the lid on until the chicken is tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and toasted rice powder and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in sorrel, Swiss chard leaves, and lime juice and cook for 30 seconds. Serve right away with warm steamed jasmine rice.

 
© 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 
 
I grow my sorrel in a pot

I grow sorrel, sorrel “raspberry dressing” and Swiss chard in the same pot

East Meets West Salad Dressing

I have been gone from regularly writing in my blog and would like to thank you for your patience. I haven’t forgotten it. In fact, there are many posts with photos and recipes waiting in line! Finding time to focus on writing has been most challenging as I am thinking in two languages but must write it in only one. Here is the Sweet Chili Vinaigrette Recipe that I promised to recreate after the Thai Dinner at Dog Mountain Farm last fall. Finally last month I had a scrap of paper in my hand with my notes on the ingredients and quantities and all of the necessary ingredients in my kitchen. With a little fine tuning, Sweet Chili Vinaigrette is now ready to share with you to help you welcome summer. This delicious dressing has been enjoyed by my friends and family. It is good for easy entertaining as well as for an every day salad dressing. It is a Western dish with an Eastern twist!

Thai Flavor - Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Mixed Salad with Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Just two weeks ago I was lucky to have Sylvie, a French chef, caterer and the owner of Sylvie Cooks for lunch. While I prepared Asparagus & Lovage Soup, Sylvie helped me prepare the salad and sweet chili vinaigrette. Thirty minutes later we were enjoying the soup and salad in the warm sunlight on the deck. Thank you to Sylvie for a great presentation on plating the salad. In the photo I use an organic mixed green salad with a few fresh red sorrel leaves from my garden, a hard-boiled egg and a mandarin orange.

 
Mixed Salad Green, Hard-Boil Egg and Mandarin Orange with Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Mixed Salad Green, Hard-Boil Egg and Mandarin Orange with Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Having friends over for lunch should be fun and casual. In my case it is often spontaneous in time and cooking style as well.

Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

My Thai take on a vinaigrette when cooking for friends and family is not constrained to just one tradition. In fact, this is not a traditional Thai recipe but a study of the tastes of Thai ingredients co-existing with Western cuisine. It illustrates for students and blog followers that often we can take one ingredient beyond where we usually find it. In this recipe I use the Thai sweet chili sauce, fish sauce and lime juice that I would use in traditional Thai salad dressing (nahm yum) and combine them with the ingredients for a classic vinaigrette such as olive oil, vinegar and mustard.

The forecast for Seattle promises a long week of sunshine and warm weather, so I will prepare hard-boiled eggs and sweet chili vinaigrette again tonight and keep them in the fridge. For dessert, I will prepare Yangon Almond Pancake to serve with strawberries and whipped cream.

Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

น้ำสลัด

Sweet Chili Vinaigrette is easy to love and easy to adapt. The flavor is great—you will hardly recognize the fish sauce or sweet chili flavor, just a nice balance of sweet and salty. The fish sauce is used here in much the same way as a French vinaigrette uses anchovy. The sweet chili sauce has complex ingredients like garlic and chili, but is also just a plain sweet contribution. I love the tangy flavors of the vinaigrette. I recommend adding toasted sesame seeds to the dressing or to the salad itself to bring out more flavors of sesame oil and an essential oriental flavor and texture.

Yield: 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper powder
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whisk sweet chili sauce, lime juice, coconut vinegar, fish sauce, sea salt, white pepper powder, mustard in a medium size bowl until well blended, about 30 seconds. While whisking rapidly with one hand, use the other hand to pour in the sesame oil and olive oil. Continue whisking for 1 more minute to emulsify the dressing. An alternative method is to place all of the ingredients in a salad dressing bottle and shake well, then shake well again before serving with your choice of salad.

 
© 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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Garlic Chives, Herb Essentials

In Seattle, it is the re-sprouting of garlic chives from the ground that tells me every year that spring is here. By April, I am enjoying my first harvest of garlic chives. Growing up with a rich Thai-Chinese heritage, garlic chives were always present in my family kitchen. We call it Gui Chai -กุยช่าย. Also known as Chinese chives, allium tuberosum is native to China and Japan, and widespread throughout Southeast Asia. It is one of the many herbs that I enjoy growing in Seattle. It greets early spring every year around April, and in the fall, around September, the leaves die off. In warm climates like Thailand my family enjoys its long, flat green leaves all year round simply by cutting off a clump of chive stalks with a knife run close to the ground; two weeks later it will have grown up again. I can tell you from experience that garlic chives are easy to grow and delightful to have in your garden. A little bit of fresh garlic chives in your cooking will go a long way to providing an essential flavor of Southeast Asia.

Garlic Chives - Kui Chai-กุยช่าย

Garlic Chive – Kui Chai -กุยช่าย

One of my projects last summer was growing garlic chives from local Ed Hume Seeds for this post

Garlic chives are easy to grow from seeds. They like to grow in a cluster,
so I sowed 10 to 15 seeds next to each other.

I love the fact that growing a few clusters of garlic chives inspired me to cook more with them. While waiting for one plant to re-sprout after cutting, I would cut a second one that had completely re-sprouted. The fresher the garlic chives, the sweeter and less pungent they are. They taste more like garlic than regular chives, and not at all like green onions. Don’t reject the pungent aroma of fresh garlic chives—after cooking they have a sweet and complex flavor with a delightful fragrance.

Garlic chives are essential in Southeast Asian cuisine. In Thailand, they are widely used in stir-fries, dumpling fillings, rice pancakes, added to soups, as one stalk in a fresh noodle roll, and, most importantly, they are inseparable from the renowned Phad Thai noodles. But they are important in other cuisines as well. Recently, at Hue Ky Mi Gai restaurant in Seattle, a simple chicken broth with a few strands of garlic chives caught me by surprise. I was amazed at how much the garlic chives in a simple good broth enhanced the food experience of the Vietnamese cuisine.

Classic Garlic Chives Dishes in Thai Cuisine

For this post I will focus on garlic chives and how we use them in dishes, and not talk about possible substitutions. It is the essential flavor from this long, green, flat-leaved herb that completes the taste and gives some classic dishes the flavor profiles that make them stand out in world cuisine.

Phad Thai

Phad Thai at May's Restaurant

Bean sprouts, lime, banana blossom, garlic chives, ground roasted peanuts and chili powder are classic condiments for Phad Thai

Garlic chives play a more important role in Phad Thai than non-Thais could imagine. It is a common fact in Thailand that we use garlic chives for Phad Thai and have done so since Phad Thai’s inception less than a hundred years ago. In a Phad Thai dish there is a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The incredible flavors of sweet from palm sugar, sour from tamarind, salty from fish sauce and spicy from chili are combined with one more element—bitter from garlic chives. Together they build a complex and memorable flavor profile.

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

bean sprout, tofu and garlic chive

Bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives – Phad Tao Gua Tao Nge Phuket- ผัดถั่วงอกกับเต้าหู้ภูเก็ต

Mung bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives are classics for stir-frying. It is amazing to also see these same three ingredients in Phad Thai.

Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย

garlic chives dumpling

Garlic Chives Dumplings – Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย

Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย – is a street food and a snack that is very popular throughout Thailand. My photo above is from the floating market in Thailand where many Thai-Chinese families sells their specialties to locals. Garlic chives are stir-fried with soy sauce for a filling and the dumpling is steamed and fried. Before serving, a little bit of dark and light soy sauce is added as seasoning.

 
© 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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Incredible Me

Banana Tender Stems

Banana Tender Stems

Banana Stemsหยวกกล้วย – are considered a vegetable in Thai cuisine.  They are available everyday at wet markets and open-air-markets if you don’t have your own banana tree growing in your backyard or can’t get them from the nearby forest. Actually, the banana tree is not a tree at all. It is a giant herbaceous plant, with large leaves that closely roll up one over the other. Together they look like a trunk, but they are leaves from underground stems and they form only an “apparent trunk. Villagers in Thailand and many countries in South and Southeast Asia consider the tender core of the banana stems, the apparent trunk,  a valuable nutritious vegetable. In Thai we call them, หยวกกล้วย – Yuak Kluey – Banana Stems. Each leaf can be peeled off. As you get closed to the center, you will find the most tender leave.

Banana stem cut crosswise

Banana stem cut crosswise

Banana leaves closely rolled up one over the other. This is a cut from a five-month-old banana apparent trunk. Banana trees usually have about 15 to 20 leaves.

Just like corn is used in the United States for both human and animal food, all parts of the banana plant—leaves, banana, banana skin, and roots—have minerals, vitamins, and fat. Thai farmers feed all parts of the banana to their pigs and farm animals. When I was in high school I had a pair of piglets. On the weekends I chopped down banana stems, cooked them with broken rice, and let them stew into a porridge before feeding them to the pigs. Farmers also mix chopped banana stems with other grasses during dry season for cows, goats and cattle—there are plenty of bananas in Southeast Asia. Banana stems are one-third edible vegetation and two-thirds water, but have a good amount of protein and fat plus minerals and vitamins. They are a good source of fiber, potassium, phosphorus, B6 and calcium, as good as the banana fruit itself. The stems are considered food in everyday cooking in Asia and Southeast Asia.

Banana Tree Trunks

Banana Tree Trunks

On Phuket Island, there are two varieties of bananas that have stems considered excellent for cooking. They are Kluey Nam Wah – กล้วยน้ำว้า – which are similar to apple bananas, and  gluey pa – กล้วยป่า – wild bananas that are best for their delicious stems. In Phuket, it is typical for mountain- and hill-sides to be covered with wild bananas. The best time to harvest quality banana stems for cooking is when they are about 3 to 4 months old, before the tree begins to flower and the core is still tender.

Phuket Tom Som - Phuket Sour Soup with Wild Vegetable

Phuket Tom Som – Phuket Sour Soup with Wild Vegetable

After banana stems are cooked, the texture is juicy, crunchy, and squishy, and the taste is sweet, tart, and bitter, plus their air pockets absorb the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish. I can’t compare the flavor of banana stems with anything else, but I can say that the texture and taste give me the same satisfaction as when I bite into Belgian endive. I would like to encourage you to try banana stems when you have a chance. If I were a banana stem, I would say that I am incredible, and that my taste, texture and nutritional value make me stand out with great personality. The dish that presents me is always memorable because of the incredible me!

Banana Stems

Add sliced banana stems to sweet and sour vegetable soup

One morning last month I found my mom, sister, and sister in-law prepping and cooking together in the kitchen. I immediately grasped my camera and, trying not to interrupt everyone in the middle of the process, I took a snapshot of a real life in my Thai family kitchen. This is a typical vegetable soup of Phuket; it has been part of my mom’s new low fat, low sodium diet since she returned from the hospital. For this post, I will just highlight the banana stems themselves without adding a recipe in order to demystify the ingredients and cutting techniques, and help you to understand the amazing beauty of banana stems in Southern Thai cooking. I was lucky that my family prepared banana stems two ways while I was there, one for soup and another for sour curry. I hope you enjoy a real cooking show from my mom’s kitchen.

Step-by-Step How to Prepare Banana Stems for Soup

discard the tough outer layer of banana stem

Discard the tough outer layer of the banana stem

After purchasing the banana stems from the market, my mom removed the tough outer layer to get to the tender part.

Preparing banana stems for making the soup

Preparing banana stems for making soup

Preparing banana stems for making the soup

Preparing banana stems for making soup

Use your  index finger to remove the soft fiber strand or stringing.

soak sliced banana stem in cold salted water or lime water

Soak sliced banana stems in cold salted water or in lime water

Soak sliced banana stem in a cold salted water or lime water for a short or long period of time, then it is ready to incorporate into a soup or stew.

Step-by-Step How to Prepare Banana Stems for Curry

Cut into one a half inch pieces

Cut into one and a half-inch pieces

Cut into pieces about one and a half-inches in length.

Cut Banana Stem in four pieces

Cut banana stem in four pieces

Then cut each piece lengthwise into four pieces as shown in the photo above.

banana stems

Soak cut banana stems in cold salted water or lime water

Keep the stems fresh and prevent browning by putting them in cold water with salt or lime juice, about 1 teaspoon salt or the juice of 1/2 lime for 4 cups water.

Sour Curry with Fish and Banana Stem

Gaeng Som Pla Yuak Kleuy – Sour Curry with Fish and Banana Stems

My sister cooked  Gaeng Som Pla Yuak Kluey, Sour Curry with Fish and Banana Stems.

Tips and Techniques for Cooking with Banana Stems

After you learn how to prepare the banana stems step-by-step, now you need to encourage yourself to incorporate banana stems into these incredible dishes. Here are my favorites: Phuket Tom Som (Phuket Sweet and Sour Vegetable Soup Recipe), Gaeng Som Moo Sam Chan (Surathani Pork Belly Sour Curry), Gaeng Yuak (Northern Thai Curry with Chicken, Gaeng Kati Gai (Thai curry Chicken with Coconut Milk). I would also not hesitate to try them in Tom Kha Gai.

Buying and storing. Buy the freshest banana stems and cook within a day; with exposure to light and air they will keep growing and get tougher. One can store them in the refrigerator for a day or two, but I prefer to cook them as soon as I can to enjoy the best taste. The cooking time for banana stems is about 3 to 5 minutes. Keep them soaked in cold water with salt and lime juice until you are ready to cook.

 
© 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 

Thai Monastery Kitchen

Buddha Sculpture

Buddha Sculpture

Thai Culture

As soon as I arrived at the Phuket Airport, my brother broke the news to me that my friend’s mother had passed away—the grandmother of the boy who asked for the quail eggs. Looking back, I treasure the time I had spent with her in December 2012. She had talked of my childhood and we talked about the many things that came to our minds. In Thai culture, elders are living treasures of our community; we always pay respect to elders. For instance, on Thai New Year’s Day (สงกรานต์ – Songkran) and on wedding days, a blessing  from the elders is a village custom. Her funeral was held in our village monastery hall. More than 25 dining tables were set up so that when friends and relatives from near and far visited and gave their condolences, the foods and drinks could be promptly served. I spent a few hours each of my first two days in Phuket at the funeral.

I

ดอกไม้จันทน์ – Dok Mai Jan – A sandalwood flower is used to say a final farewell

The funeral ended with the cremation at a crematorium nearby in the monastery. ดอกไม้จันทน์ – Dok Mai Jan – a sandalwood flower, is placed next to the coffin near the crematorium, a chance for all to pay respect and say their final farewell. That day, people stopped to pay their respects in order of status and seniority. First there were monks, then the vice governor of Phuket, the woman’s children, and all relatives, friends, and all neighbors. I placed a Dok Mai Jan and thanked her for her contribution to my childhood and our community. And like other Thais, I asked for her pardon for any physical or verbal act I might have done against her—intentionally or unintentionally—and that all be forever forgiven.

Thai Cuisine and Culture

In Thailand, a funeral typically lasts for three to seven days and takes place either at the person’s home or at the monastery. Nowadays, it is often most convenient to have the funeral at the monastery. In my village, the monastery is equipped with everything that the community needs to cater a successful event, from cooking utensils to serving dishes, and dining tables and chairs enough for 800 guests.

Dishes and tableware for serving

Dishes and tableware for serving

Thirty years or more ago, all cooks and servers were volunteers from the community, and kids would learn culinary skills, dish cleaning, and serving skills at such a function. With today’s lifestyles, however, local caterers are depended upon to buy ingredients and prepare two meals each day. Close friends and families provide additional help dishing up and serving.

Phuket Cuisine

Phuket Cuisine

The Phuket cuisine served at the funeral and the flavors of my hometown gave me a complete feeling of homecoming. After the cremation, I found the lead cook resting in the kitchen, her long hours of intensive cooking done. I was delighted to get a chance to interview Pee Yoiy -พี่่ย้อย บ้านดอน, a caterer and a head chef for the event. Pee Yoiy and her team did amazing work providing two large meals a day for five days. During a funeral, food is typically prepared for 300 people for lunch, and 500 people at dinner time. About 600 people came for a full meal for lunch before the cremation. They came to eat and eat well, to connect, to rebond and to celebrate the life of the deceased. A donation to the host is expected, but the amount is for making a merit -ทำบุญ – Tum Boon – to share the expense of the funeral with the family. The Thai culture is a food culture, and providing a meal at a funeral is very important.

Pee Yoiy - พี่่ย้อย บ้านดอน - Top Chef on her last day of duty

Pee Yoiy – พี่่ย้อย บ้านดอน – Top chef on her last day of duty

In the Thalang district, on the Island of Phuket, Pee Yoiy and her team caters large events such as weddings at private homes or rental places. Funerals and the ordinations of new monks are typically held in the temple kitchen. You can reach Pee Yoiy at พี่่ย้อย บ้านดอน 084 8487228.

What are local favorites in Phuket cuisine?

pork stuffed bitter mellon soup - แกงจืดมะระยัดไส้หมู

Pork stuffed bitter melon soup – แกงจืดมะระยัดไส้หมู

Southeast Asian delight: Pork-stuffed Bitter Melon Soup – แกงจืดมะระยัดไส้หมู – Gaeng Jued Mara Yudsai Moo

IMG_0240

Gaeng Tai Pla – แกงไตปลา – Southern Hot and Spicy Vegetable Curry

Gaeng Tai Pla –  แกงไตปลา – Southern Hot and Spicy Vegetable Curry is a southern Thai dish that uses fermented fish stomach as a base for curry. The dish is then enjoyed with fermented rice noodles or steamed jasmine rice.

IMG_0292

Moo Hong Phuket – หมูฮ้องภูเก็ต – Braised Five-Spice Pork Phuket Style

Moo Hong Phuket – หมูฮ้องภูเก็ต – Braised Five-Spice Pork Phuket Style in soy sauce. Pork belly or pork shoulder is braised with hard-boiled eggs in a five-spice powder with a dominant cinnamon flavor.

IMG_0293

Stir-fried Phuket Hokkien Mee – ผัดหมี่ฮกเกี้ยนภูเก็ต

Phuket favorite all-occasion noodles.

IMG_0294

Phuket Nam Prik – น้ำพริกภูเก็ต

Nam Prik – น้ำพริก – a traditional Thai dip to accompany vegetables (ผัก
เก็ด)

vegetable accompaniment - ผัก เก็ด)

Vegetable accompaniment – ผัก เก็ด)

A vegetable accompaniment— ผัก เก็ด – Pak Kred— is the most important complement to the main dish in southern Thailand. It is ideal to graze on Pak Kred during a meal that has one or more spicy dishes served with rice or fermented rice noodles – ขนมจีน  – Khamon Jean. It can be made of any vegetables or fresh herbs. The photo above shows cucumber, blanched wing beans, sliced white turmeric, bean sprouts, and young leaves from the cashew-nut tree.

Gaeng Som Pla - แกงส้มปลา -  Sour Curry Fish

Gaeng Som Pla – แกงส้มปลา – Sour Curry Fish

Gaeng Som Pla – แกงส้มปลา – Sour Curry Fish is a typical curry of southern Thailand.

IMG_0255

ข้าวเหนียวตัดหน้าสังขยา – Sticky rice with Thai custard topping

Plenty of dessert is available throughout the function.

Pa Tong Ko - ปาท่องโก๋

Pa Tong Ko – ปาท่องโก๋

Pa Tong Ko – ปาท่องโก๋ – Deep-fried dough sticks with pandanus-infused custard is served as a snack or dessert.

© 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 
 
Follow Me on Pinterest

Eat Like a Local (continued)

A fish stand on Rawai beach at sea gypsy village

A fish stand on Rawai beach at sea gypsy village

I grew up on Phuket Island at a time when seafood was three-times cheaper than meat. I remember my grandmother giving me two baht to buy a kilogram of the fish of my choice. Today seafood costs much more due to the high demand and limited resources. In restaurants in tourist areas you might see it on the menu for 300 baht (about ten U.S. dollars at today’s rate) per kilogram, with your choice of preparation. Before you order, be sure to check on the price because the market price changes on a day-to-day basis.

What you see below are typical dishes that you can order at any seafood restaurant in Phuket, and especially those around the southern tip of Phuket Island and the Rawai Beach and Chalong Bay areas. I hope you enjoy photos of foods from our family reunion at Talay-Zep Restaurant. For seafood lovers, I recommend that you include lunch or dinner on your itinerary when you visit the beautiful area of southern Phuket. Afterwards, take a leisurely walk to Rawai pier, the sea gypsy village, and the sea shell museum. Like the locals do, dine on seafood and appreciate the source and the scenery.

The feast from the sea at Talay-Zep Seafood Restaurant.

Talay-Zep's chef prepared Som Tum

Talay-Zep’s chef prepares Som Tum

Som Tum green papaya salad is prepared in a large wooden mortar.

Green Papaya Salad with Anchovy and Blue Crab

Som Tum Phoo Sod – Green Papaya Salad with Anchovy and Blue Crab

Phuket Som Tum Civeche: the owner designed this Som Tum to please locals with a touch of raw blue crab and fried anchovy.

Grilled Butterflied Fish with Seafood Dipping Sauce

Grilled Butterflied Fish with Seafood Dipping Sauce

Grilled fish over charcoal or coconut husk is simply delicious served with Phuket garlic-lime dipping sauce.

Pla Nuang Manao ~ Steamed Fish in Lime Juice

Pla Nuang Manao ~ Steamed Fish in Lime Juice -ปลานึ่งมะนาว

Steaming fish is the healthiest way to cook it, and the flavor is supreme when a delicious garlic, lime, and cilantro sauce is poured on top. The sweetness comes from steaming the whole fish with a salty, spicy and sour sauce. The sour is from lime – manao – มะนาว, and gives this dish its name.

Blanched Wing Shell - หอยชักตีน

Blanched Wing Shells – หอยชักตีน

Blanched wing shells with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

Wing shell is a common shellfish found on Phuket Island and the nearby province. Its scientific name is Strombus camarium.

Wing Shell - หอยชักตีน - Strombus camarium

Wing Shell – หอยชักตีน – Strombus camarium

To eat wing shells, pull the nail—Thais call it ตีน – the foot—to remove  the flesh from the shell (or insert a toothpick to make it easier to remove) and dip it in the seafood dipping sauce.

Wing shell - หอยชักตีน

Wing shell – หอยชักตีน

Blanched cockles - หอยแครงลวก

Blanched cockles – หอยแครงลวก

Blanched cockles - หอยแครงลวก

Blanched cockles and Phuket seafood dipping sauce

Phuket seafood dipping sauce is the accompaniment to all seafood dishes.

IMG_0166

My family: sister, sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews

After our seafood feast, we had our photo taken with Kularb, my friend who owns the restaurant.

© 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 
 
Follow Me on Pinterest
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