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Posts Tagged ‘Phuket Cuisine’

Curry Without the Hurry

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

Stuffed Sweet Pepper Thai Green Curry with Thai Eggplant

Braised Stuffed Sweet Peppers and Thai Eggplant in Green Curry

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

Stuffed Sweet Pepper

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

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

Thai Eggplant

Thai Eggplant

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

Gaeng Keow Wan Prik Yad Sai  

Stuffed Sweet Pepper Green Curry

แกงเขียวหวานพริกยัดไส้

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

Serves: 4 to 8

8 small, whole mini sweet peppers, or Anaheim peppers

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems

5 black peppercorns

1 pinch of salt

½ pound coarse-ground chicken

1½ cups coconut milk

2 to 3 tablespoons green or red curry paste

4 kaffir lime leaves or lime peel

4 Thai eggplants, please see the preparation above

½ to 1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce, as needed

¼ cup basil leaves

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

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

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

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

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
Lets connect on  Twitter,  FacebookYoutubeInstagram and Pinterest
For more in-depth in Thai ingredients and Hand-on Cooking Class please check out
Pranee’s One day Asian Market Tour & Cooking Class at Pranee’s Thai Kitchen

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Thai Ceremony & Culinary Traditions

One year, remembrance.

I arrived in Phuket in late March 2015 amid the stunning beauty of the hot season. All my favorite flowers from large trees were in full bloom, and the sky had a beautiful blue hue. The heat and humidity greeted me and welcomed me home. I love Thailand at this time of year. However, this visit was unlike any other. It was an urgent one to visit my mom whose health had worsened since my visit just a month before.

The golden shower tree - Rachapruek - ราชพฤกษ์

The golden shower tree – Rachapruek – ราชพฤกษ์

I only had a chance to admire the season’s beauty from the car window because I had come to spend whatever precious moments I could with my mom. I had my blessing, as we were able to give each other hugs and say our farewells just two days before her passing.

In accordance with the tradition in our region, a celebration of her life followed immediately afterwards. Her funeral was held for six days; the last day was the cremation day. These events all took place on the grounds of our village monastery in a special section where there was a large hall, praying chamber and a kitchen. Over 3,000 friends, relatives and family paid tribute, and on the cremation day, over 145 monks and novice monks and hundreds of people came to honor my mom’s life. She is missed and loved by her family and community.

Thai Temple

Early Morning Sunlight at the Thai Temple

Thai-ness

In honor of Thai culture and Thai-ness, I am sharing these stories and pictures with you. I hope you can read with your open heart and mind and that you learn something of a different people and culture.

In February 2013 I wrote the post Thai Monastery Kitchen about Thai culture and the cuisine at a Thai funeral or celebration of life. I hope you had a chance to read it and see how Thai culinary traditions and culture revolve around the Thai monastery kitchen and event hall where we share food, mourn, laugh, and mingle.

Just two years after that post, my four brothers and my sister and I were suddenly very busy organizing all the details for my mom’s celebration of life. Because the system for doing this event is already in place and the ritual is the same for everyone, there is nothing to reinvent but from 5:30 am till 10 pm each day we were busy shopping for foods and serving them.

Serving Tea and Water

Getting Tea and Water Ready for Our Guests

My mom’s funeral was held in our village monastery hall which was attached to a large kitchen. More than 25 dining tables were set up so that when friends and relatives visited and gave their condolences, the foods and drinks could be promptly served. We steeped tea in a large pot and always had two types of tea: a Thai tea with a hint of sweet and a fragrant Pandan Jasmine Tea. As guests arrived, we welcomed them to sit and promptly served them tea.

My brothers, sister, and all of the in-laws wore black and white and greeted and served with care the friends and relatives from near and far. About 500 people visited each day and the kitchen was always busy with commotion during lunch and dinner time. Generous donations from everyone helped us to keep this tradition alive. It is a big part of helping us mourn the loss of a loved one and I had good visits with many relatives that I hadn’t seen for over 25 years.

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At the funeral, a 10-foot-long table was covered with symbolic and auspicious foods, then groups of related kinship in a clan were called to pay homage, group by group. The first group was the deceased’s children and their spouses. The photo above is of my sister and brothers and their spouses. The next group called is the deceased’s brother and sister, and so on. We added this step to our Thai buddhist ceremony before the cremation to honor my mom and our family’s Phuket Baba culture.

IMG_5340.

At the crematorium everyone lined up to pay their respects and say farewell.

Because I was so busy most of the time I only had a chance to take a few pictures on the second day of mourning, but I hope you enjoy the photo log below and the chance to see what it was like in a Thai monastery kitchen during my mom’s celebration of life. If you wish to see more, please check out my photo album “My Mom’s Cerebration of Life.

Thai Ceremony Cooking in a Monastery Kitchen

Thai Village Chef

Jee Lah spoons Hua Mok batter onto a banana leaf

My mom had always admired Jee Lah, the head chef and caterer for most events in the village. Jee Lah was about to go on vacation when my brother asked her to be the cook for the six days of my mom’s celebration of life. Jee Lah agreed to honor my mom’s wish to have her cater her celebration of life. We were so fortunate to have her. Jee Lah specializes in Phuket cuisine and local popular dishes. She created the menu for each day. The foods was real local cuisine expertly prepared with the best taste and quality and she appreciated how all our brothers and sisters made her job easier.

My sister, Rudee prepared mixed fruit plate

My sister Rudee prepared mixed fruit plate

Above, my sister Rudee is preparing fruit platters for snacks or after-meal palate cleansers. In this photo she is preparing sliced green mango and rose apple with nam play wan – น้ำปลาหวาน – a fruit dipping sauce.

Thai Coconut Ice Cream

Thai Coconut Ice Cream

We served my mom’s favorite ice cream to our guests.

Thai Vegetable Accompaniment to Nam Prik and Curry Dish

Thai Vegetable Accompaniments to Nam Prik and Curry Dish

Above is a Thai vegetable accompaniment to Nam Prik – น้ำพริก – hot sauce. There are cucumbers, young corn, cauliflower, and Thai eggplant.

Slicing Technique for Snake Bean for Thai Salad

How to Slice a Snake Bean for Thai Salad

Technique is so important and cooking for 300 guests each meal means there are many helping hands for the long hours of patient and hard work. The snake beans here are sliced thin like paper in an oblong. This preparation is for Thai Southern bean salad.

How to Slice Shallot for Thai Chili Dip and Fried Shallot

Slicing Shallots for Thai Chili Dip and Fried Shallots

In Thai cuisine we use a lot of shallots. Slicing them very thinly, like paper, is always important to allow them to combine well in a salad, chili dipping sauce or making fried shallots.

How to Slice the Green Mango for Thai Salad for Thai Chili Dip

Slicing the Green Mango for Thai Salad or Thai Chili Dip

Green mango is shredded into thin strips for green mango salad. One could use a julienne peeler to accomplish the work but for the beautiful looks and best quality, hand shredding is preferred.

Barracudas - ปลาสาก For Hua Mok, Thai Fish Cake

Barracudas – ปลาสาก For Hua Mok, Thai Fish Cake

The meat from these large fish was for a Hua Mok – a fish cake steamed in banana leaf. The yellow batter that Jee Lah was spooning from the large pot into a banana leaf in the earlier photo was 90% fish meat and the rest is spices and herbs.

How to minced the pork with Clever

How to Mince the Pork with a Cleaver

To make minced meat for soup or meat balls, first slice the meat and then chop it repeatedly with a cleaver until the pork is minced into small pieces.

The Real Thai Local Cuisine

Real Local Thai Cuisine

Everyone worked hard to make everything well to honor our mom. All of the hard work serving the mourners was helping us with the mourning as well.

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
Lets connect on  Twitter,  FacebookYoutubeInstagram and Pinterest
For more in-depth in Thai ingredients and Hand-on Cooking Class please check out
Pranee’s One day Asian Market Tour & Cooking Class at Pranee’s Thai Kitchen
 
Related Link
 
What to expect if you are invited to a Thai Funeral.
http://www.thaibuddhist.com/what-to-expect-if-you-are-invited-to-a-thai-funeral/
Thai Monastery Kitchen
https://praneesthaikitchen.com/2013/02/25/thai-monastery-kitchen/
 
 

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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.

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Stir-fried Phuket Hokkien Mee – ผัดหมี่ฮกเกี้ยนภูเก็ต

Phuket favorite all-occasion noodles.

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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 
 
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Eat Like a Local

Everyone in my Thai family was born and lives in Phuket, as we have for many generations. This is also true for many of Phuket’s over 200,000 natives, though there are about one million people living on Phuket Island today. Despite all of the changes, one place remains almost timeless. This is Rawai Beach, where the pace of change is slow compared to other parts of Phuket. So where do Phuket natives escape to on the weekend? Rawai Beach – หาดราไวย์.

Rawai Beach – Thailand

There we dine on seafood as we did for many generations before there were so many foreign influences, enjoying a typical menu of grill seafood or blanched cockers with Phuket seafood dipping sauce. In my next post I will show you exactly what we ordered the last time I was at Rawai Beach with my family, and how we ate it. This may help you understand our cuisine and culture. I hope you will enjoy my personal story of how my family eats and travels. When you get a chance to visit Phuket, I hope that you, too, will have a chance to eat like a local.

Talay-Zep Seafood & Wine Restaurant

ร้านอาหารทะเลแซ่บ ชายหาดราไวย์

Rawai Beach Phuket Thailand

Each visit I make to Phuket provides fun reunion time with my family. Almost every weekend during my short visits we bond over food, whether it is fresh home cooking, or take-out from Talad nad – ตลาดนัด  or nearby restaurants. Sometimes my family and I will take a little adventure travel to another end of the island or to the nearby province of Phang Nga. This trip my sister-in-law and I had a desire for seafood Phuket style. As always, we visited Talay-Zep restaurant, the scene of countless of our reunion dinners.

Talay-Zep Seafood Restaurant in Rawai, Phuket Island

ร้านอาหารทะเลแซ่บ ชายหาดราไวย์

My friend Kularb -กุหลาบ – and her husband Pho – โปั – own Talay-Zep Seafood and Wine Restaurant, which is on Rawai Beach Road among 15 other Phuket seafood restaurants. We enjoyed a big seafood feast, which I will share with you in my next post. Today, however, I will share just my family’s favorite dish: Horseshoe Crab Salad with Mango. Just like Anthony Bourdain, most of my family consider this a delicacy dish—though I myself was not convinced to eat these eggs, which are the only edible part of the crab. In fact, the horseshoe crab is not a crab at all, and it does not have edible flesh like other crabs. It is more closely related to spiders and scorpions, a living fossil that has remained virtually unchanged for millions of years. But now, after doing some research, I have learned more about the risks involved in eating horseshoe crab eggs, and how to avoid them, so I may take one bite the next time around.

Talay-Zep Seafood and Wine on Rawai Beach

Talay-Zep Seafood and Wine on Rawai Beach

Kularb, Pranee and Pho

Nevertheless, I asked Kularb to share her knowledge of horseshoe crab eggs and her verbal recipe with you. Today I am not encouraging you to cook, but to read and learn about something you may never have heard of before: Horseshoe Crab Egg Salad – Yum Khai Mengda Talay – ไข่แมงดาทะเล.

Horseshoe Crab – แมงดาทะเล

Kularb’s notes on how to prepare horseshoe crab for its eggs

Horseshoe crab is not difficult to cook, but  the person who removes the eggs—or roe—from the horseshoe crab must know the correct procedures to do this to prevent the other inedible parts of the crab from contaminating the eggs. If the eggs get contaminated, you can fall sick with dizziness or the symptoms of food poisoning and complications of the digestive system. Kularb suggests that you only harvest the eggs from cooked horseshoe crabs. The eggs, which are found in the belly area, can be green or orange-colored, about the same size as salmon roe but with a firmer, crunchy texture and an interesting flavor.

There are two ways to prepare horseshoe crabs before removing the eggs. One way is to place the whole horseshoe crab in boiling water and cook it until the eggs are just cooked. Another way is to place the horseshoe crab on the grill until the eggs have cooked, about 5 minutes. Kularb notes that it is a very difficult task to remove the eggs from the shell and that it requires a skilled cook to prepare the eggs. She or her husband prepares the horseshoe crab eggs for her restaurant.

Horseshoe Crab Egg Salad

Yum Kai Meng Da

ยำไข่แมงดาทะเล

Yum Kai Meng Da is the only way that Thais usually prepare horseshoe crab eggs. Kularb’s verbal recipe is the same as my green mango salad recipe so I hope you enjoy this recipe even beyond the horseshoe crab egg salad. For everyone to enjoy this salad without the risk, I have created a Mock Horseshoe Crab Egg Salad, which can be prepared substituting Israeli couscous cooked al dente with a touch of fish sauce in place of the crab eggs. With the mock salad recipe there is nothing to worry about—just enjoy the delicious salad! You may use horseshoe crab eggs if desired, but do so at your own risk and with an awareness of the risks involved.

Horseshoe Crab Eggs Salad

Serves: 4

 1/2 cup cooked horseshoe crab eggs (see Kularb’s note), or Isreali couscous cooked al dente
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice, about 1 large lime
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar
2  fresh Thai chillies, chopped, or 1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons sliced shallot
1 cup shredded green mango, from about 1/2 green mango (or substitute a granny smith apple for the green mango)
1/4 cup Chinese celery, cut into 1 inch lengths
1/4 cup cashew nuts, chopped
2 lettuce leaves

Cook horseshoe crab eggs according to Kularb’s instruction and set aside.

To make the salad dressing, stir fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and chili powder together in a large bowl. Stir well until the palm sugar is dissolved. Then stir in Israel couscous or horseshoe crab eggs, shallot, green mango, Chinese celery, and cashew nuts until well combined.

Place lettuce leaves on the serving plate and top with salad mixture. Serve right away.

© 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 
 

Should You Eat Horseshoe Crab Egg? 

“Although many experts and doctors would suggest staying clear of consuming horseshoe crab it is quite possible to eat them on a regular basis. It is important to ensure that the person preparing the delicacy is familiar with the correct procedure as otherwise it is possible to fall sick if you were to consume the wrong parts or organs. Today it is a species that is becoming more common in seafood restaurants tanks not just in south Asia but around the world.” from Crableghowtocook.com

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Do Nothing Day

Honey-lime Tea

Honey-Lime Tea, Cough Remedy

I got bit by a winter bug and have been resting for the past two days. What do I eat on such a do nothing day?  I prepared Honey-Lime Tea to sooth my coughing and sore throat. For dinner I prepared myself a rice porridge. While the rice porridge was on the burner, I whisked up an omelet from an old family recipe – a classic Thai omelet with pickled sweet radish – Kai Jeow Chaipor Wan. I took some pictures to share with you so you could enjoy eating this omelet along with rice porridge – Kao Tom from a recent post. This good gentle food doesn’t take long to cook, another reason why it is good for a day when you are not feeling well.

The four ingredients are eggs, shallot, Thai chilies and pickled radish. The pickled sweet radish is the same one that Thais use in phad thai, so it is easy to find. You may use dried daikon radish from PCC Natural Markets, but add a squeeze of lime juice and a teaspoon of fish sauce or soy to the recipe. You may also try it with Kimchi and pickled mustard greens; since both are pickled, you do not need to add fish sauce or soy sauce.

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe with four ingredients and three cooking steps. Twenty minutes after starting, I had both rice porridge and omelet on the dining table. I enjoyed this warm, down-to-earth comfort food and once again felt like I was at home with my mom and family in Phuket.

Pickled Sweet Radish Omelet

Kai Jeow Chaipor Wan 

ไข่เจียวไชโป้วหวาน

Serves: 2

1 small shallot, peeled and sliced
2 eggs
2 fresh Thai chilies or serrano chilies, sliced
1/4 cup pickled sweet radish
3 tablespoons canola oil

Place shallot, eggs, chilies and pickled sweet radish in a medium size bowl, then beat with fork to mix, about 1 minute.

Heat 6-inch cast iron pan or frying pan on medium-high heat. Pour in canola oil and tilt to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour omelet batter in the hot pan, stir quickly 5 times and then let it spread out to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the burner to medium heat, cover with a lid and let it cook until the bottom of the omelet is dry. Flip the omelet and cook for 30 seconds more. Serve with rice porridge or steamed jasmine rice.

Sliced shallot, eggs, sliced chilies and pickled sweet radish

First you place shallots, eggs, chilies and pickled sweet radish in a medium size bowl.

Stir with fork until it well-mixed

Then beat it with a fork to mix, about 1 minute.

Phuket Pickled Sweet Radish Omelet

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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Not Just for Fine Dining, Golden Trout

Last Saturday I went to the Pike Place Market to get the fresh fish of the day for my family dinner. Golden trout caught my eye. When I visited the market last summer, only City Fish carried it. This time around it seemed that every fish stall had a pile of golden trout, so I thought this would be a perfect time to share my recipe with you for Steamed Golden Trout in Lime-Chili-Garlic-Dill Sauce. The pictures were taken a while ago, but the recipe is timeless. It is based on Phuket Pla Nueng Manao—steamed fish in lime juice—but the way I prepared it reflects my new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Golden trout is a sub-species of rainbow trout, both of which are related to salmon. The pale pink color of the flesh and its texture are a really amazing mixture of both trout and salmon. There are many ways to prepare golden trout, but today my favorite is to steam them. I love cooking fish whole, so using the oven is a quick way to go.

The golden trout I bought was from a farm in Idaho. Golden trout’s natural habitat is the “clear, cold headwaters of creeks and lakes at elevations above 6,890 feet,” but most golden trout come from fish farms. This is because you may fish for them for your personal consumption but not to sell them commercially. Most golden trout in the markets are from the Idaho Trout Company. From my research I learned that fly fishing for rainbow trout and golden trout is a very popular activity.

Fresh Rainbow Trout from Pike Place Market

When it comes to steaming fish, I am my grandma’s grandaughter. I ate many meals of steamed fish with my grandmother, like Clay Pot Lemongrass-Steamed Fish (Pla Nueng Morh Din). I hope you will have a chance to cook a few of her recipes. Several of them are featured in the Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Pat Tanumihardja. At home here in Seattle, I have adapted my grandmother’s recipe into an easy and fun way to prepare fish for my friends and family. My recipe below reflects my quick and easy method for doing this at home. I will let you decide which way you prefer.

Garlic, Lime, Dill and Purple Chili

PLA NUENG MANAO

ปลานึ่งมะนาว

Steamed Golden Trout with Lime-Chili-Garlic-Dill Sauce

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

If you love fish, this recipe works for all occasions! It is light, fresh and delightful — yet easy to prepare. While steaming the fish, prepare the sauce. When the fish is cooked, just pour the sauce over it and serve with hot, fragrant jasmine rice.

1 whole golden trout, or any fileted fish (cooking time may vary)
4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and smashed
large sheet of parchment paper and foil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Thai red chilis, purple chilis, jalapeno or Serrano peppers
1 cilantro root
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped dill or cilantro
4 lime slices for garnish

Using a mortar and pestle, pound garlic, peppers, cilantro root and salt until smooth. With pestle, blend in sugar, fish sauce and lime juice until sugar dissolves. Stir in dill. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place 1/4 cup water in a 9” x 13” baking pan, then spread the lemongrass out. Place the trout on the bed of lemongrass and sprinkle salt on top of the fish. Cover the dish with parchment paper and then the foil, wrapping it around the edges to form a seal. Bake until the fish is cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes. (The good thing about steaming is you never overcook the fish). To check if the fish is done, insert a knife into the thickest part of the fish and lift the flesh away from the backbone. If it is easy to separate the flesh from the backbone, then it is done. If not, steam a little bit longer.

Place trout on a serving dish along with all of the steaming water. Pour the lime sauce over the top, then garnish with sliced limes and serve with jasmine rice.


Cook’s Note:

~Thai chilies are recommended for this recipe because they have a lingering flavor; you may remove seeds if needed. To control the spiciness of your finished dish, use 2 chilies for mild, 3 or 4 for medium, and 5 or 6 for a full spicy flavor.

~Always add the fish sauce before the lime juice to keep the sauce vibrant and fresh tasting.

~Best of all is to prepare the sauce while the fish is cooking. If you have a steamer, you can steam the fish in a serving size bowl and pour the sauce on top just before serving.

~The sauce can be used as a dipping sauce for any seafood, including mussels, clams and crab meat.

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 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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Eat Like a Local

Papa Seafood Restaurant, Laem Sing, Phuket, Thailand

Stir-fried Blue Crab with Black Pepper – ผัดปูม้ากับพริกไทยดำ

It was less than a month ago that I was at Laem Sing, Phuket, soaking up the warm sunshine before leaving for Seattle. Laem Sing is my favorite beach for getting away for a half day—or all day—to just hang out on the beach with nature and good Phuket seafood. Typically one should visit early enough to choose the best location among the sun loungers that are lined up along the beach. The sun lounger will cost 50 to 100 baht ($2 to $3), which is paid to the owner of the restaurant in front of which the sun lounger sets. It also means that you should order food and drink from that restaurant as well. That’s how I came to know Papa Seafood Restaurant, as I make sure to visit Laem Sing each year. This is a private beach but it is open to the public. It is located on the northwest coast of Phuket on Millionaire Road between Kamala and Surin Beaches.

Pay for parking (40 baht) near the road, then walk down the hill to this quiet beach.

Laem Sing Beach

At Papa Seafood Restaurant, the seafood is purchased fresh each day and the menu is full of mouth-watering dishes—from local Thai seafood favorites to a few western dishes for those who prefer western comfort food such as sandwiches. The drink menu has a long list of tropical smoothies and other beverages that can keep you hydrated throughout the day.

As my eye glanced over the menu, I began to wonder about the possibility of taping the cooking at the restaurant to share with my students and Thai foods fans. Never afraid to ask, I found that the cook didn’t mind me taking photographs and video. I hope that you will enjoy the video on Stir-fried Blue Crab with Black Pepper recipe and that it will help you to duplicate this dish at home. If you get a chance to visit Phuket, please check out Laem Sing Beach and stop by Papa Seafood Restaurant. From Laem Sing Beach to your kitchen!

Stir-Fried Blue Crab with Black Pepper Recipe

Phad Phu Ma Kub Prik Thai Dum

ผัดปูม้ากับพริกไทยดำ

I grew up in the southern region of Thailand eating two kinds of crab: a rice-field crab (Phu Dum) and blue crab (Phu Ma), which is the most common crab caught in the Indian ocean. My family’s favorite ways to prepare the blue crab are either to steam it and serve it with a lime-garlic dipping sauce, or to stir-fry the crab with black pepper and green onion. Blue crab is so sweet and delicate in flavor, the cooking is best when it is simple with few ingredients. I love stir-fried blue crab with black pepper and the contrast of the sweet, juicy, fresh crab and the excitement of crushed black pepper. Kin Hai Aroy! Bon Appetite!

Serves: 2

Cooking Time: 5 to 7 minutes

3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons garlic 
1/2 onion, sliced
4 Thai chilies, cut in half
2 blue crabs, cleaned and cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water or more as needed
1/2 tomato, sliced
1/2 cup Chinese celery and green onions cut into one inch length 
 
Heat the wok on high heat and stir in onion and chili; stir back and forth until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then stir in blue crab and let it cook for 2 minutes. Stir in black pepper, oyster sauce, sugar and soy sauce. Stir well, then add water and let it cook until the crab is completely pink in color and the crab meat is opaque, not translucent. It takes about  3 to 5 minutes for the crab meat to cook.  Add more water in between to make a good amount of sauce but not too watery. Last, stir in tomato, Chinese celery and green onion and continue stirring for 30 seconds. Serve right away with steamed jasmine rice.

Credit: Papa Seafood Restaurant

Laem Sing, Phuket, Thailand

© 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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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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Your Bilimbi, My Taling Pling

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

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

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

Bilimbi Fruits

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

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi – Southern Thai Cuisine

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi

Fish Head Sour Curry with Bilimbi

Gaeng Som Hue Pla Taling Pling

แก้งส้มหัวปลากับตะลิงปลิง

Serves: 4

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

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

Pranee’s Note:

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking 
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 
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Kamala Beach, Phuket Thailand

A Walk for Remembering

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

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

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

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Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yardlong Bean

Phad Phed Talay Tua Fak Yao 

ผัดเผ็ดทะเลถั่วฟักยาว

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

Thai Spicy Stir-fried Seafood with Yardlong Bean

Preparation: 10
Cooking time: 5
Servings: 2-4
 
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste, Phuket Curry Paste or Prik Khing curry paste (Mae Sri)
5 Kaffir lime leaves 
1/2 cup calamari rings
1/2 cup shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup yardlong beans beans or green beans, cut into 1 inch-lengths
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup Thai basil
  
Heat the wok on high heat. When it is hot, add the cooking oil, then the red curry paste and Kaffir. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then stir in calamari, shrimp, beans, yardlong beans, cauliflower and sugar. Stir until the seafood cooks through and the vegetables are cooked, but still crispy. Add a few tablespoon water as need to create steam and sauce for the cooking. Then stir in basil for 10 seconds. Serve over jasmine rice.
 
© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking 
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 
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From Las Delicias with Love

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

May 8, 2011, Las Delicias

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

Dinner with Rice, banana and bean

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

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

Banana leaf just right outside

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

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

Thelma wrapped rice, banana and bean with banana leaf

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

Kao Tom Mud

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

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

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

Sweet Rice and Banana Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Kao Tom Mud 

ข้าวต้มมัด

Servings: 8

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

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

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

Pranee’s note:

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

Pulut Lapa

Image by chooyutshing via Flickr

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My Everyday  Asian Vegetable

Choy Sum - Flowering Cabbage

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

Stir-fried Choy Sum as a Side dish

Stir-fried Choy Sum

Phad Pak Gwang Tung

ผัดผักกวางตุ้ง

Servings: 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

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

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen 
I Love Thai cooking
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 

Stir-fried Phuket Hokkien Mee with Choy Sum

 
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Two Uncommon Ingredients in a Pot of Curry Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two uncommon ingredients - Stingray and Green Perilla

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

Stingray curry with green perilla

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

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

Stingray Curry Stew with Green Perilla

Gaeng Pla Kra Baen Bai Lah 

เคี่ยวแกงปลากระเบน

Serves 4

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

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

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

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .

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Let It Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moo Palo

หมูพะโล้

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Stewing time: 2 hours on medium heat on stove top

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

 Pranee’s note:

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

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

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 

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A Stir-Fry from the Palm of My Hand

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

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

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

Firm Tofu, Mung Bean Sprouts and Garlic Chives

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

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

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

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

Phad Tao Gua Tao Nge Phuket

ผัดถั่วงอกกับเต้าหู้ภูเก็ต

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

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

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

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

Pranee’s note:

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

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen 
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. 
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .


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Pandanus leaf (Bai Toey), a Thai Culinary Treasure

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

Pandanus Leaf-Bai Toey

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

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

Roses made from Pandanus leaves for worship or air freshener

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

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

Pandanus leaf cups

Thais use Pandanus leaves to make decorative containers.

Adding green color extract from pandanus leaf to pearl tapioca pudding

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

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A Perfect Thai Herbal Tea

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

Pandan leaf is available fresh or frozen at Asian markets.

Jasmine Pandanus Tea

Cha Mali Toey Horm

ชามะลิใบเตย

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

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

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 
 

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The Mystery Dish of Southern Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coconut and turmeric—the colors and flavors of Southern Thailand

Stir-fried Fresh Grated Coconut Meat with Phuket Curry Paste

Phad Maprow Khub Kruang Gaeng Phuket

ผัดเนื้อมะพร้าวสดขูดกับเครื่องแกงภูเก็ต

Serves: 8 (as a side dish)

Yield: 2 cups

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

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

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

Pranee’s Note:

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

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

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

More Recipes by Pranee on Phuket Curry Paste

© 2013  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 
 
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Playing with Food: Cassava

Cassava-Sweet Potato Pancake, a delicious Thai Dessert

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

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

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

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

Cassava - Sweet Potato Pancake

Cassava – Sweet Potato Pancake

Khanom Man Sumpalang Oop

มันสำปะหลังมันเทศแพนเค้ก

Servings: 6-8

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

Image via Wikipedia

Pranee’s Thai Kitchen note:

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

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

I Love Thai cooking

Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.

Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .




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