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Posts Tagged ‘Cambodian Cuisine’

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

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The Hungry Planet

I attended the Hungry Planet: What the World Eats grand opening at the Burke Museum. I was totally awestruck by the large photographic exhibit and printed information from Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio who show us how the rest of the world eats and feeds their families with one week of purchased food supplies. “A picture said a thousand words” and I hope that you will have a chance to view the exhibition which will be at the museum through June 10.

On Saturdays, PCC Cooks also participates in the exhibition by providing a cooking demonstration of one of eight different cuisines from around the world. I had the honor of representing PCC Cooks one Saturday by preparing Kao Tom Gai, Rice Soup with Chicken. I demonstrated how to prepare this Thai dish and provided samples. When I was growing up in Thailand this particular dish meant so much to me and the rest of the country. It was a time when families had to nourish their families with simple, healthy foods.

I was lucky to grow up in the land of plenty in Phuket, Thailand. My village has a mountain on one side and a rice field on the other. The Srisunthorn Road was on the edge of the mountain and our home was just off this main road. We spent our weekends gathering foods from the forest such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms and other edible plants. Our family also owned a plantation which provided an abundance of fruits such as rambotant, durian, jackfruit and coconut.  At the end of each month, or after each sale of a crop from the plantation, my grandmother made sure to purchase a month’s supply of rice and to stock up on all stable dry ingredients. Mobile markets would came every morning with meats, seafood and fresh vegetables and herbs. The open air market was full of venders of all sorts and once a week villagers could fill up their kitchen cabinets with food. In our family, when my grandmother was the treasurer of the household, she decided what was on the table on a daily basis, through times of abundance and scarcity.

Phuket Open Air Market

My grandma shared many bedtime stories with us about the lives of others or her experiences during economic down times. She taught us that every grain of rice should be eaten. Phuket is rich in tin,  rubber and other natural resources, but when it came to rice production, we depended on supplies from the central part of Thailand–a supply that was affected by the economy, politics, and climate. When the price of rice increased, our regular steamed rice would change to rice porridge to make our supply last as long as possible.

One cup of rice grains yields about 3 cups of steamed rice or 4 cups of thick rice porridge which can be thinned down to make 6 cups of rice soup. Instead of making 3 servings, 1 cup of rice can be stretched to provide 6 servings.

The Hungry Planet exhibit is eye opening. It shows how the rest of the world eats, what is available to them, what they can afford, what they choose, and the limitations. I love the picture from Mali, Africa, which shows the ritual of a family sharing a rice porridge that is cooked with sour milk.

For me, rice porridge is a soul food, comfort food and a health food. It has a healing and nourishing element and it is suitable for everyone and every occasion.

Now that you have heard my stories, what is yours?

Rice Porridge Three Ways

I know three ways to enjoy rice porridge. The first one is as a rice soup base which can then be made into Kao Tom Gai

Kao Tom ~ ข้าวต้ม

(Click photo above for Pranee’s Kao Tom Gai recipe)

A second way to enjoy rice porridge is to make a rice soup buffet for a big crowd or special event.  To do this, take a rice porridge and add a little bit of ground meat. Cook it without adding flavoring, but serve it with condiments as shown in the photo below. The condiments typically consist of ginger, white pepper powder, sugar, soy sauce, chili powder, fried garlic, vinegar with jalapeno peppers and green onions.

Thai rice soup condiments

A third way to eat rice porridge is to serve it the same way as steamed jasmine rice but ideally with Chinese-Thai style main dishes such as stir-fried vegetables with salted soy bean or oyster sauce, salted egg, salted peanut, pickled mustard green, or braised pork in five spices.

Either for stretching a dollar or caring for yourself and your family, rice porridge is my comfort food for every occasion.

Kao Tom (Rice Porridge)

ข้าวต้ม

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 cups

1 cup jasmine rice
6 cups water

Bring jasmine rice and 2 cups of the water to a boil on high heat. Stir often while cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let cook on medium heat for 15 minutes more, until it yields 4 cups.

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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Are Winter Squash Leaves Edible?

I enjoyed the Seattle sun last Wednesday at the Columbia City Farmers Market along with the delicious food from the stalls. I purchased a few fresh vegetables from various farmers and, like always, a bunch of winter squash leaves from a Hmong farmer’s stall. This time the squash leaves prompted me to cook and share with you a recipe from my Thai kitchen: how to cook winter squash leaves –Yod Namtao – ยอดน้ำเต้า.

Winter squash leaves are edible. In fact, all parts of squash family plants are edible, from leaves to stems, flowers, fruit, skin and seeds. The young leaves and stems are shown in the photos above and below. These edible greens become available when a farmer cuts back the leaves on a plant in order to encourage it to produce fewer but larger fruits. Winter squash leaves are popular in rustic-style cooking in Southeast Asia and they are great sources of fiber and other nutritional benefits.

Winter Squash Leaves and Blossoms - my visit to Hoi An Market 2009

Though they may feel a little rough to the touch, the young leaves from winter squash have amazing flavors when cooked. They have a  spinach-like texture, but are richer and denser with a bite to it in flavor. Like any leafy green vegetable, you can stir-fry, steam or stew them. In my kitchen, I either blanch them in salted coconut milk or saute them with butter, then add water and chicken stock and cook them down until the leaves are softened but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Last year I made a winter melon leaves stew with dried fish and shallots using a Hmong farmer’s verbal recipe. It was similar to my Watermelon Rind Soup and made a delicious vegetable stew.           

Winter squash leaves are only available in the summer and only at the Hmong farmers’ stalls. Because of this limitation, I never fail to purchase a bunch of winter squash leaves each visit to the market. Supporting the Hmong farmers also helps me to ensure that there will be a continuing supply due to the demand. When you get a chance, please pick up some winter squash leaves at a Seattle Farmer Markets near you and give them a try.

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Winter Squash Leaves Boiled in Salted Coconut Milk

Yod Namtao Luak Kati

ยอดน้ำเต้าลวกกะทิ

Winter Squash Leaves in Salted Coconut Milk

One bunch of winter squash leaves weighs about a pound. After removing all of the twine holding them together and the hard stems, the soft edible part weighs about six ounces; the rest goes into a compost. If I have time, I use a peeler to remove the rough skin on the stems then cook the stems down until they are soft, about 8 minutes.

There are many ways to prepare winter squash leaves, but blanching or boiling them in salted coconut milk produces my favorite quick and easy side dish. This same method can also be used with many other leafy green vegetables, which can then be served with Thai Chili Dip. You will be surprised how the flavor of winter squash leaves and leafy green vegetables are complimented by just a little coconut milk and salt.

 
Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
 
6 ounces winter squash leaves (see preparation above)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt

Bring coconut milk, water and salt to a boil on medium-high heat. Then add the squash leaves, using tongs to turn them around to make sure they are all cooked in the liquid—like blanching the leaves in a coconut broth. Cook from 3 to 5 minutes until the greens reach your desired degree of tenderness. Serve with the broth as a side dish, or with warm jasmine rice as a main dish.

© 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 Sweet is a Faintness and the Bitter is a Medicine

I often hear the old Thai saying  หวานเป็นลม ขมเป็นยา: kwan pen lom kom pen yah. This culinary wisdom literally says “the sweet is a faintness and the bitter is a medicine.” Growing up in a village in Thailand with my grandma and her friends, I acquired a taste for the bitter and exotic vegetables from their gardens and the wilderness around us.

Bitter melon or Bitter Gourd is called มะระ—Mara—in Thai. Its scientific name is Momordica charantia and it is native to Asia and Africa. It is a climbing annual plant that one can grow anytime, anywhere in Southeast Asia and South Asia regardless of the season.

Bitter Melon – Photo from my morning walk in Hoi An, Vietnam

In most Thai or Asian villages, where there is a fence or an arbor there will be a climbing plant next to it. There just needs to be a space large enough for seeds to grow.

Chinese Bitter Melon – the China phenotype is common in Thailand

Bitter melon is best eaten when it is green and young. When the fruit grows older, the taste gets more bitter. It is not common to eat the older fruit when it turns yellow-orange and the seeds become red; at this later stage the plant is mainly used for growing the seeds for future new plants.

Indian variety of bitter melon – photo from my visit to a market in Hue, Vietnam

Bitter melon is widely cooked in many ways in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, I often enjoy it in stir-fried dishes with soy sauce and with or without egg. It is also popular with mara yad sai—stuffed with pork in a soup. Fresh green or boiled bitter melon can be served in a Thai crudites platter with Thai chili dip, or it can accompany pickled cabbage in a pork-bone soup or stewed bitter melon and pork-bone soup. It can also be cooked in a curry dish as well. In Myanmar and Bangladeshi, bitter melon is often stir-fried with garlic and turmeric powder.

How to prepare bitter melon

All parts of the fruit are edible after you remove the seeds and stem. For stir-fries, thin-slice the melon as shown above. Then I often take steps to reduce some of the bitterness. There are two ways to do this: put the sliced melon in boiling water for a few minutes and then strain out the melon and discard the water. Or sprinkle some salt on the melon, mix it in well and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing them in water. You may squeeze to dry. I personally like to use this latter method before making my stir-fries as some of the bitter flavor is left behind.

Why should you eat bitter melon? For much the same reason that you eat broccoli or spinach: for their health benefits. Bitter melon is an aid to diabetes control. It lowers blood sugar and promotes healthy insulin levels; besides that it also has Vitamin C, B1 and B2. While more studies need to be done, it is time to learn about new vegetables like bitter melon or get back to eating them routinely and celebrating the sweet truth about bitter melon. Cheers to a bitter melon!

Stir-fried Bitter Melon with Egg

Stir-fried Bitter Melon with Egg

Phad Mara Kub Khai 

ผัดมะระกับไข่

Serves: 4

Cooking Time: 4 minutes

When one has acquired a taste for bitter melon, stir-fried bitter melon with egg is a delightful dish. Personally, it makes me happy like after eating bitter-sweet chocolate. A bite of sliced bitter melon contrasts with the sweet, cooked egg and the hint of salty-soy flavor,  making this three-flavor combination very memorable and it lingers on my palate. When trying this dish for the first time, don’t be afraid of the bitter that you will taste at first. Wait a little while and you will taste the sweet from the egg, then the salty from the soy sauce. Serve the stir-fried bitter melon as a side with a curry dish and warm steamed jasmine rice.

Serves: 2

3 to 5 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 eggs
1½ cups sliced bitter melon, about 1 large bitter melon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup water or chicken broth
 
Heat a wok on high heat until it is hot. Pour in 3 tablespoons canola oil and stir in garlic. When garlic is golden, stir in one egg and stir a few times. When the egg is cooked, stir in bitter melon. Stir for 1 minute, then add another egg and stir a few times before adding soy sauce and sugar. Add water or chicken broth and let it cook 1 minute. Depending on one’s liking, the melon should be not too soft or to firm; it should still have some crunch. Serve warm 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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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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泼水节

Image via Wikipedia

Sanuk Mai? This is a question Thais ask each other when they share experiences of any activities you do in life.

สนุก-Sanuk means to have a good time, to enjoy or to get pleasure and joy from anything we do. Tiew hai sanuk means travel and have a good time. Tum Ngan hai snuk, is to work and to enjoy working. When making choices in our life,“Sanuk” is a factor in our decision making: some pleasure has to be combined with whatever we do.  And when life is lacking Sanuk, then let’s plan it. This week in Seattle, I am going to do something I actually planned a month ahead to “Sanuk” with friends and that is to celebrate Thai New Year’s Day, or Songkran, with friends at the Washington Buddhavanaram.

Songkran is Thai New Year’s Day. It is is a national holiday in Thailand celebrated on April 13th. It is also a New Year’s Day for Lao, Burma and Cambodia. The Thai New Year is a solar new year, and not to be confused with the Chinese New Year, which is a lunar new year. In Seattle, the Thai community celebrates the holiday on Sundays so that locals can take time off on the weekend to celebrate. Please click here to see how these countries celebrate: Cambodia, Laos, Mon-Burmese and Thai. Many westerners know this celebration in Southeast Asia as the Water Festival.

Songkran is such a special day that we can’t complete our Sanuk without sharing food. Everyone brings food to share, which is set out on the table, then a bell is rung to signal lunch time. Sticky rice is well-loved, and the most popular dish to share.

Thai Community Potluck in Washington

I decided to do Kao Mok Gai (Phuket Baryani Rice) as a main dish, and sticky rice in bamboo tubes (my version with parchment paper in the oven) for a dessert. I chose these recipes because I wanted to do something that was easy to cook in large quantities and also something that is a traditional dish and a crown pleasure. Kao Mok Gai is a special dish from Phuket for a special event. In Cambodia,sticky rice in a bamboo tube, known as Kralan, is a traditional dish to be eaten on New Year’s Day.  Here are links to recipes for these dishes that are already available on this blog: Kao Mok Gai and Kao Lam.

Phuket Chicken Baryani Rice--Kao Mok Gai Phuket

Thai Kao Lam, Sticky Rice in Bambo Tube

I hope to get some more recipe ideas at this event as well as some photos to share with you.

May I wish you a Happy Thai New Year and have a lot of Sanuk in the coming year.

สวัสดีปีใหม่ค่ะ

Pranee

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Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Kao Lam

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

Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Cambodia

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

Thai Sticky Rice in Bamboo Sticks in Cambodia

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

How to open the bamboo tube

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

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

Baked Sticky Rice and Black Bean Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Kao Neow Yang

Serveings: 8

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

Preheat oven to 350°F.

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

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

Pranee’s note:

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

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

 

 

Outer layer of bamboo tube is removed

 

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Three Kinds of Pepper Leaves in Southeast Asia

There are three kinds of pepper leaves in the black pepper (Piperaceae) family. They can be easily confused by the inexperienced. This is how I explain the three types to my students when the lesson comes to the use of wild pepper leaf.

Wild Pepper Leaf - Chapoo - La Lot

A wild pepper leaf, or Piper Sarmentosum Roxb, is a common name for cha plu in Thai, Kaduk in Malaysian and la lot in Vietnamese. It is a ground cover in my garden in Phuket. Thais use it in Hua Mok, Miang Kam and tidbits. My favorite of all is when it is put in a stink ray curry.

Black Pepper Plant

A black pepper plant, Piper Nigrum, is in the same family as chapoo and la lot but it is a climbing plant. Only the fruit is edible. Thais love to cook green peppercorns with hot pungent curry dishes. When the pepper corn matures and is sun dried, it can be used to make black peppercorn.

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Last in the family are betel leaves, or Piper Betle. When I was young, I always picked a fresh betel leaf for my grandmother, who enjoyed chewing the leaf when it was painted with pink limestone and wrapped around a sliced betel nut. Afterwards she would enjoy her afternoon siesta. Betel leaves and betel nut are also used for worship and are special symbols in ritual events.

Curried Scallop with Wild Pepper Leaf — Gaeng Hoy Shell Bai Chapoo

I cook professionally during the week but at home on the weekend I cook like any home cook. Sunday is an iron chef day – I use whatever is in my refrigerator. I had some wild pepper leaf, a leftover from a Miang Kam dish during the week, and some Alaskan scallops in the freezer. I like to cook chapoo leaf in a curry with a strong flavored fish or meat; a hint of black pepper from the leaf gives a very interesting flavor to the dish, and coconut milk sweetens the bitter edge. This recipe is very quick. All you have to do is write down the word “la lot” and go to a Vietnamese market.

Curried Scallop with Wild Pepper Leaf

Gaeng Hoy Shell Bai Chapoo

Serves: 2

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup water
6 large scallops
30 wild pepper leaves, AKA chapoo in Thai and La Lot in Vietnamese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons fried shallots

Heat canola oil in a medium-size pot on medium-high heat. Stir in red curry paste and fried until fragrant. Stir in 1/3 cup coconut milk and let it cook until oil is separated and fragrant; add the rest of the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Stir in scallops and wild pepper leaves and cook until scallops are opaque in color, about 5 minutes. Season with sugar and fish sauce and serve hot. Garnish with fried shallots. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

© 2010  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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Ramadan 2010

Follow the Tradition of Thai Muslim Cooking on Phuket Island during the Ramadan

Now

Phuket Chicken Biryani Rice, also known as Kao Mok Gai, is a well known Thai-Muslim rice dish. Southern Thai cuisine gets its distinguished flavor from the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Growing up in Phuket I loved the diversity of our local cuisines. Our family cooked Thai and Chinese cuisines and at the market I enjoyed Thai Muslim cooking. After Persian Muslims settled in Phuket, their descendants took their traditional Biryani Rice and created a Thai variation, Koa Mok Gai. It is cooked for special occasions like weddings or during Ramadan. It is not a common dish to cook at home but most of the time we can purchase it from Kao Mok Gai vendors. If you want to try it when you visit Phuket, stop by an open air market in Bangtao or Kamala.

Phuket Chicken Biryani Rice—Kao Mok Gai Phuket

Over the past 10 years I have stayed in contact with a few chefs from Bangtao and Kamala Village. I learned to cook Kao Mok Gai from Varunee, my Thai chef for the culinary tour in Phuket. Her mom is a renowned caterer among the Muslim population in the Bangtao area. Over the years, I have written down many versions of her Kao Mok Gai.

Kao Mok Gai with Fresh Vegetable, Chile Sauce and Chicken Soup

The other day I wanted an easy lunch, which led to the creation of a quick and easy version of Kao Mok Gai. It took me 10 minutes to make, since I already had the ingredients in the house. It may take you 15 to 20 minutes to prepare the ingredients.

If you have an old-style rice cooker that is easy to clean, I recommend using that. Otherwise place everything in a Pyrex 9″x13″ pan and cover neatly with foil, bake in an oven at 350F for 25 minutes and let rest for 10 minutes before removing the foil and serving.

Phuket Chicken Baryani Rice

Kao Mok Gai

Serves: 4 to 6

Active Time: 10 minutes

2 cups jasmine rice, basmati rice, or any long grain rice
2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon fried garlic or shallot, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1 tablespoon canola oil, garlic oil or shallot oil
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon lemongrass powder
1/2 teaspoon galangal or ginger powder, optional
1 bay leaf
6 pieces fried or baked chicken
 
Rinse the rice and drain, put in a rice cooker with water, fried garlic, canola oil, curry powder, lemongrass powder, galangal powder and bay leaf. Mix well and place cooked chicken in the center of the rice cooker, cover, turn on rice cooker. It takes about 30 minutes to cook and then let it sit for 15 more minutes before serving.
 
Serving suggestions:

Buffet Style: Place rice and chicken on a nice platter and garnish the top with fried garlic or shallot. Served with condiments suggested below (please also see photo).

Individual serving: One cup rice, 1 piece chicken, garnish with fried garlic served with condiment and sauce.

Condiments: Sweet chili sauce, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, cilantro and green onion.

Thai Vegetarian Option: Saute shiitake mushroom, fried firm tofu, raisin and cashew nut. Thai Cooking for Kids Gluten-Free Recipe

  

Then

Here is a famous Kao Mok Gai prepared by Varunee’s mom for 250 children. I hosted this event for school children at the Kamala Beach School 6 month after the Tsunami. We served the food at the temporary kitchen in July 2005.

 

Pranee with Mama Boo, July 2005

 

Kao Mok Gai, Lunch for Kamala School Students July 2005

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen I Love Thai cooking

Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle, Edmonds, Redmond, Issaquah, Lynwood and Olympia areas. Her website is:  I Love Thai cooking.com 
 
To learn more on the history of Biryani Rice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biryani

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Som Tum, a Green Papaya POK POK 

Som Tum - Thai Green Papaya Salad

Pok Pok is the sound made when a wooden pestle hits a clay mortar. This is a classic sound in the green papaya making process and it is a familiar sound for Thais and tourists alike because Som Tum vendors are everywhere in Thailand. When I teach papaya salad recipes, I make sure to carry my clay mortar and wooden pestle with me to my cooking classes in Seattle, Lynwood, Edmonds and even Portland. I feel that it is important for students to understand the cultural and traditional aspects of  Thai cuisineFor me, making and eating green papaya salad is a cure for homesickness. But is not easy to find green papayas outside of Thailand, so sometimes we have to improvise.

Shredded Green Papaya and Carrot for Som Tum

Carrots are always a great substitute when fresh green papaya is not available. My first experience eating Som Tum made from other vegetables besides green papaya was when I was traveling in Switzerland and France visiting friends and relatives.

In Seattle you can find green papaya everyday at the Asian markets, but at farmers market events in Washington I always enjoy making Som Tum with various farm fresh vegetables. And I am always delighted that it still makes a great impression on everyone. First the Pok, Pok sound, then the flavors of chili-lime and peanuts dressing that make all fresh salad tastes so good. My favorite vegetables and fruits for this recipe are carrots, kale, green apples, green mangos, green beans and cucumbers.

Som Tum – Thai Green Papaya Pok Pok

Yesterday I was making special version of Som Tum for a Pike Place Market Sunday Event. I combined Som Tum made from local carrots and kale with cooked rice noodles and smoked local King salmon. Combining Thai and northwest flavors together using a mortar and pestle produced a delicious dish.  Let’s cook with the Thai rhythms!

Please also see Pranee’s Somtum Recipe featured in Seattle Times, Pacific Northwest Sunday Magazine

SOM TUM PLA SALMON

Green Papaya Salad with Smoked Salmon and Rice Vermicelli

Servings: 4
 
3-6 garlic cloves, peeled
5 Thai chilies, whole
2-3 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
6 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
¼ lime, cut into 4 small wedges
8 cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2 large tomatoes cut into wedges
½ cup green beans, cut into 1 inch lengths
2 ounce smoked salmon, sliced, about ¼ cup, divided
2 cups shredded green papaya, carrot, cabbage, kale or any fresh vegetable
1 cup rice noodles or rice vermicelli, cooked using the instruction on the package

To make a dressing, use a wooden pestle to crush garlic, chilies, palm sugar and 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts in a clay mortar until it forms a paste. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice with pestle in circular motion until blended.  With pestle, gently mix in lime wedges, tomatoes, string beans, half of the smoked salmon and shredded papaya by pushing down the ingredients against one side of the mortar and using a large spoon to lift up on the opposite side. Repeat a few times until well incorporated.  Serve right away with rice noodles and topped with the rest of the smoked salmon.

Cook’s note: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, here is an easy way to make a salad dressing. Blend garlic, Thai chilies, palm sugar, 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, fish sauce and lime juice in a blender until smooth. Mix the rest of peanuts, string beans, dried shrimps, tomatoes and green papaya in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently mix them together by hand until salad is well coated with the dressing.

© 2010  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 Rustic Style Cooking of Thailand  

Unlike the morning  glory found elsewhere, in Thailand, this morning glory is a vegetable and it is called Pak Bung in Thai. It is also known to all Asian cuisines as Kangkung in Malaysia and Ong Choy in Chinese. It’s scientific name is Ipomoea aquatica. You may know it as Chinese Spinach or Swamp Cabbage. I want to call it morning glory because it is a beautiful name and it belongs in the same family with its leaf and flower. I remember having morning glory in my garden here in Seattle. 

 Thais love to eat Pak Boong fresh, stir-fried in the famous dish “Pak Boong Fai Daeng” and often in a curry as a classic Gaeng Tapo dish. In Seattle, I often teach students the stir-fry dish. Then the other day, I walked down the aisles and saw three dried salted croaker and right away, I was just craving for this dish that my grandma used to cook during the monsoon time when fresh fish and other proteins such as meat were hard to find and morning glory were abundant. That was because it is an aquatic plant that grows on the edges of swamps canals or any damp soil. I wrote this recipe to honor both of my grandmas.

Red Curry Morning Glory and salted Croaker — Gaeng Tapo Pla Kem

This recipe is easy to adapt. You may use pork, beef, or salted cod. I love the fact that this recipe require less coconut milk than most curry to reflect my grandma style of cooking. And it is truly delicious. I ate every drop of the curry broth.

Red Curry with Morning Glory and Salted Croaker   

Gaeng Pla Tapo Pla Kem   

Serves: 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk, divided
1 dried salted croaker, cut into a steak of 1/2 inch long, or 5 pieces salt anchovies
2 cups water
3 cups morning glory, tough stems removed and cut into 3 inches long, see note
1/2 tablespoon sugar

Heat canola oil and curry paste in a large pot on medium-high heat and stir constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons coconut milk, and let it cook for 30 seconds. Pour in water in the pot and place in croaker and let it cook for 8 minutes on medium heat. Then you may strain to remove the bone and pour back into the same pot, add the rest of coconut milk; and then bring back to a boil. Stir in morning glory and sugar and cook for only 1 minute, just to cook morning glory.  Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.  

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

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A Romance in a Thai Granny’s Garden

Thai Country Style Soup with Lemon Basil    

Gaeng Leang Bai Meng Luck    

Every time I visit a Seattle Farmers’ Markets  and see Hmong-farmer stalls that have fresh lemon basil; I get excited and want to cook Gaeng Leang–a Thai country-style soup. It is our Thai ancestor’s creation and a classic soup that is known in every village in Thailand. Any vegetables that grow together in a Thai granny’s garden seem to go together in a pot with a finish touch of lemon basil — a romance of flavor is in the pot. Thais seem to keep it simple with three to five vegetables. If there are five kinds of vegetable with five-different hues of color then the classic name is “Gaeng Leang Benjarong” and one of the vegetables must be Kabocha pumpkin with its yellow-orange color.

Anchovy, red onion, watermelon rind, lemon basil

Thai food historians believe that the soup base or broth derives from the base of Nam Prik (Thai traditional Chili dip). Making Gaeng Leang Soup base typically it starts with pounding shallot, shrimp paste and chilli in a mortar with pestle to form a paste, and placing it in boiling water, similar to my recipe below. The alternative to a shrimp paste is dried salted shrimp, dried salted anchovy or dried grilled fish–think of it as Dashi, Japanese fish stock.

After making the soup base, the rest is simple. You may use any authentic Asian vegetable of your choice such as luffa, Kabocha pumpkin, young corn, melon, corn kernels or watermelon rind. The final touch is always lemon basil (Bai Maeng Luck).  Lemon basil is inseparable from this soup. In Seattle in the summer I always use lemon basil either from my garden or the farmers’ market.

Watermelon Rind Soup with Lemon Basil

I challenge myself to reconstruct a rustic Thai dish in a sophisticated way while keeping the original concept and authenticity. I cut anchovy fillets into small pieces and dice watermelon. The soup is gentle and not as hot and earthy as in Thailand with shrimp paste. Thais generally serve this soup warm. But my recipe is generous with the amount of watermelon rind so it is sweet and sophisticated enough that you can serve either warm or cold.  I love the simplicity of Gaeng Leang — a flavor of fresh seasonal vegetables  in a bowl.

Tomorrow my friend  will drop by for lunch. I want to prepare a summer soup for her, a country-style but elegant for girl lunch. I know she will like it. Our desert will be Yangon Almond Pancake with Berry and honeyed yogurt. All I hope for is a nice sunny day, so we can enjoy in my Thai garden here in Seattle.

Watermelon Rind Soup with Lemon Basil    

Gaeng Leang Pueak Tangmo Kub Bai Meng Luck

Serves: 2

1 tablespoon chopped dried anchovy fillets or dried salted shrimp, pounded
1/4 cup diced purple onion or shallot
1 cup diced watermelon rind or any mixed vegetable (please see list above)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Thai chili powder to taste
2 tablespoons lemon basil leaves,  plus 2 sprigs for garnish

Bring 1 1/2 cups water, anchovy and purple onion to a boil and keep it simmer on medium heat for 15 minute to develop the flavors for the soup.

If you don’t want to eat anchovy, you may strain to remove the anchovy and purple onion at this point.

Combine watermelon rind, salt, black pepper powder and chili powder with the soup and let it cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon basil and serve right away. Garnish with lemon basil sprigs.

Note: When lemon basil is not available, I compromise with Thai purple basil and it will not be lemony flavor that finish the soup but licorice instead.     You may use any vegetables from farmer market or your garden such as zucchini, squash, pea leaf, corn and more.

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

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Thai Village Style Cooking    

Fried fish recipe from the Southern region of Thailand 

The other day, when I was at Pike Place Market, wandering around almost aimlessly like a tourist. I purchased a pound of sardines, I hadn’t tasted fresh sardines for the longest time perhaps since my grandma’s kitchen. I want to rediscover more Thai village style cooking with local ingredients here in Seattle. This was a good start.  

Thai Fried Sardines--Very Rustic Thai Cooking

The sardines are fresh from the Gulf of California and there is no need to worry about mercury because it is known to be very low. There are many good reasons to eat sardines, they are rich with Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, calcium and B 12. Perhaps that’s why both of my grandmother hardly saw any doctors in their life time. Every single day growing up, fried fish with turmeric and salt was on the table, besides other fish dishes. It was my grandma’s rule. The fish was the cheapest and healthiest protein that Phuket villagers could provide for their family way back then. I love fried sardines, they have a mouthful flavor and the aroma is unique.

If you are trying this for the first time, the challenge is how you will cook them, so you can eat everything including the soft bone and when crunchy enough, the back bone. It is a calcium intake time. As my rule goes, if it is chewable then it is edible! But trust your judgment and comfort zone also.

 

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First I removed the fish guts. That was not fun. The problem is the sardines were so small and the belly was so relatively big. I tried the best I can to make sardines look good in the photos. After I gutted, cleaned and dried the fish, I followed my grandma’s old advice. I cut the flesh through the skin into tiny strips (the knife is perpendicular to the fish back bone) just enough to hit the backbone (please see the slide show). I repeated on the other side. I salted them and seasoned with turmeric. I placed 8 sardines in a food container and kept in the refrigerator for a day. I had something else planned for dinner that evening. When you want to keep the fish for a day in fridge, be generous with salt and turmeric. It is a way that we use to keep the fish fresh for the next day, back when we didn’t have electricity.

You may use the recipe below and cook sardines on the grill on medium heat on both sides until crispy. The problem with frying in your kitchen is the smell of the fish lingers for a day. I just want you to know that, but it tastes divine with hot steamed jasmine rice. Especially good if you eat it with your fingers, and easy way to remove the backbone then mix the fish by hand against the warm jasmine rice before eating,  just like Thais in the Thai village do.

 Thai Fried Sardines  

 Pla Sardine Tod

ปลาซาร์ดีนทอด 

 Serves: 4

 1 pound sardine, about 8 sardines, gutted and cleaned and dried with towels
2  teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 to 5 tablespoons canola oil

 Lay the fish perpendicular to you on the cutting board, cut the flesh through the skin into tiny strips (the knife is perpendicular to the fish back bone) just enough to hit the backbone (please see the slide show), Repeated on the other side. Follow the same steps with the rest of the fish. Sprinkle salt all over the fish and follow by turmeric until the fish is evenly cover.

Heat the frying pan on medium heat, when the pan is hot add canola oil. Fry on both sides until they are crispy by the touch and a light brown color. Serve with warm jasmine rice.

 

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

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The high point of my Forth of July celebration was having my friend and her family over for Thai Grilling. Our last Fourth of July celebration together was in 2008 on Phuket Island during the monsoon season.

Before noon, I marinated some Cinnamon Pork Tenderloin and Lemon-Lemongrass Chicken. Then I prepped for Cucumber-Pineapple-Tomato Salad. I made some “Coconut Water Vinegar Dressing” ahead of time and kept it pickled  in the fridge. Everything was done in about an hour.

For lunch before the party, my family and I went to Sunfish on Alki Avenue in Seattle and got Fish and Chips. I had my seafood combo as usual and enjoyed it with some chili flavored vinegar. I complimented their homemade vinegar and they shared a secret with me: they make the chili-infused vinegar with 6% Malt Vinegar.

I enjoyed organizing the house before the party but had to make sure I had one hour free before the party time. Half an hour later, I knew the rain would not stop, so I wore a rain jacket and did all the grilling on my patio.

 

 

Coconut Water Vinegar

Coconut Water Vinegar

Before sharing my recipe calling for coconut water vinegar in a salad dressing, I want to give you a quick lesson on 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.

In the Philippines, this natural water is used to make coconut water vinegar, but I don’t see it being made in Thailand where we use 5% distilled vinegar. I love the flavor of coconut water vinegar and felt inspired to use it in the cucumber-pineapple-tomato salad that I served with my grilled cinnamon pork tenderloin. Distilled vinegar will work for a substitution, but for this recipe, I strongly recommend that you try it at least once with coconut water vinegar.

I love the blend of cucumber, pineapple and tomato with a hint of coconut flavor. Brown sugar adds a nice touch to it. One of my students told me that the leftover dressing had such a great flavor that she ended up using it in a martini. In this case, I would recommend using mint instead of cilantro for the herb option.

Learn more about: Vinegar

Thai Cucumber-Pineapple-Tomato Salad

CucumberPineappleTomato Salad

Yum Sam Khler

4 tablespoons coconut water vinegar or distilled vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced cucumber, about 1/2 English cucumber
1 cup sliced pineapple, about 1/3 whole pineapple, or from a can
1 cup sliced tomatoes, about 2 medium size
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup snipped cilantro leaves

Heat vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot over  low heat and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside.

Place cucumber, pineapple, tomato, shallot, and cilantro in a medium-size salad bowl; when the dressing is cool, pour it over and stir. This recipe works best when the salad and dressing are mixed together from 1 to 8 hours before serving.

Thai Vegetarian Cooking

Thai Cooking for Kids

Gluten-Free Recipe

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

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Phnompenh Noddle House

Rediscovering my favorite restaurant

When I walked in the restaurant yesterday, and despite everything it looks the same 5 years ago… but I felt different.  I felt like I was being in Cambodia and was connected like when visiting home: the pungent smell in the air, the picture of the Apsara Dancers and Angkor Wat on the wall. And the most important thing is  the body language of the people who were there, related to the food while they were eating. Their expression told me that they had a food moment.

Only a few tables were available at 11:30am and most guests are interesting crowd of mixed Southeast Asian ethnic groups and ages and I know it is going to be good again. The restaurant is famous for noodle dishes, the menu has 11 dishes list for appetizer, 12 for the noodles, 16 for the entrée, 9 vegetable and 3 for salad. It must be related to the sunshine, my mind was already set for salad, and after a friendly  chat with the server, she reassured me that the shredded green mango with pork and shrimp with a three star level would suit my mood for the day.

 

 

Nhoam Swai, Shredded Green Mango Salad with Shrimp

And When I finally tasted shredded green mango salad and steamed jasmine rice and I felt totally transported my whole experience being in Cambodia.

I tasted the two countries: Vietnam  and Cambodia with reminisce of rustic Thai cooking. My taste buds started to scan all layer of flavors and record in my taste memory hard drive. I have learned how to re engineer our favorite dishes at the restaurant from my mom and cooked ourselves at home. And this was how it went.

Layer of flavors: I detected palm sugar, shrimp powder, a hint of shrimp paste, lime juice, fish sauce and spicy is ground fresh Thai chili. For the layer of texture: the crunchy shredded green mango and carrot (garnish) dried shrimp chunk and powder that garnish on top, cooked prawn and pork, and fresh herbs are Vienamese mint (rau ram) and a  fresh Thai chili.

Durian Custard with Sticky Rice

When I searched for a dessert on the menu, my eyes stopped moving for a while when saw Durian Custard with Sweet Rice. When did I have durian with sticky rice the last time?  15 years? Not only that, it is Durian Custard? Never tried this combination together! New interesting concept way of introducing a famous the King of the fruit. When the dessert came, it was fancy and when I tasted it, it is a taste of home: it was a satisfying moment with custard, durian and sticky rice melt in one bit.

I definitely recommend this restaurant to everyone, please visit the website to learn more about their unique story, but one thing that I can tell you now is, vice-president El Gore was one of his fan.

Phnompenh Noodle House is located on South King Street and a few steps from 6th Ave, it founded and run by family members. Every visit, you always see the chef and owner around.  Perfect location in the heart of the International District, also known as China Town.

Phnom Penh Noodle House

(206) 748-9825
660 S King St Seattle, WA 98104
http://www.phnompenhnoodles.com/index.html

 

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

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Last Wednesday I had a great dining experience at Sostanza Trattoria in Madison Park. What does Italian food has to do with Thai? Well, for me all foods are related somehow. When it comes to the way I cook, yes it does. I love risotto and chicken liver, and I was in luck. A special menu featured that night had a few choices but the risotto with White chicken liver appealed to me the most. It had an amazing flavor which was enhanced by a generous helping of chicken liver. I don’t have any photos to share, unfortunately.

Pranee's Chicken Live Fried Rice

At home I enjoy cooking fried rice, rice pilaf and risotto for my family. I love borrowing ingredient themes and cooking with any method that is suitable for the situation (including menus of all kinds, what ingredients are available, etc). When I have time in the kitchen, I cook risotto. And when I have a lot of left-over rice, I prefer to make fried rice.

This recipe for fried rice serves as main dish with fresh sliced cucumber and lime wedge as accompaniment.

 Kao Phad Tub Gai

Chicken Liver fried rice with garlic, ginger and red onion

Serves: 2

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup finely shredded ginger
½ cup finely sliced red onion
6 ounce organic chicken liver cut each in half
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ cup cooked rice, room temperature
2 pinches salt
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped

Heat a wok on high heat, place hand 6 inches above the wok when hot adds canola oil. Add garlic and ginger, stir constantly to fry evenly until golden-yellow, about 30 seconds. Then stir in onion and cook until onion is translucent. Stir in chicken liver and ½ tablespoon soy sauce. When the liver is nice and brown on the outside, add water to cover, about 3 tablespoons water. Cover with lid and let it cook for 5 minutes or more until the liver is cooked. Stir in rice and the rest of soy sauce and salt. Stir until well mix and rice is heat up. Stir in green onion and mix well. Serve right away.

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

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

Banana leaf-cup should hold about 1 cup of serving

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
 

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

 
 
 
 

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

 

Banana Leaf Package

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The Making of Amok, Angkor Thom in 1300

Amok
Khmer Fish Stew

Servings: 4
3 tablespoons canola oil
8 tablespoons Khmer curry paste (please see Khroeung, Khmer Curry Paste Recipe)
3 cups spinach, amaranth, la lot (wild pepper leaf) or pea vine
1 pound catfish filets or any white fish cut into a bite size
6 tablespoons coconut milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons fish sauce
½ cup Thai basil

Heat canola oil and curry paste in a frying pan until fragrant. Stir in spinach until wilted and then stir in fish. Add coconut milk and egg and fold in until the fish is cooked. Then stir in fish sauce and Thai basil until Thai basil is just wilted.  Serve with jasmine rice.

© 2009  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

I Love Thai cooking

Amok, Khmer fish curry in banana leaf-cup

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Kroeung, Khmer Curry Paste

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

 

Kroeung

Khmer Curry Paste

น้ำพริกแกงแดงเขมร

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

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

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

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

Gluten-Free Recipe

 

© 2012  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 

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