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Posts Tagged ‘Traditional Thai Cooking’

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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Rubber tree plantation in Phuket, Thailand

Image via Wikipedia

My Love for Mushrooms

My love for mushrooms was born when I was in my teen years in my Thai village. The village is surrounded by mountains on one side and rice fields on the other. It was a perfect place for wild foods. I learned to gather wild vegetables such as bamboo shoots and green and ginger family rhizomes, and of course I picked some wild orchids for myself on the way home. There were also many rubber plantations. The dried falling branches from the rubber trees were a source of firewood and rubber tree mushrooms called Hed Kreng. They are a typical mushroom that grows only on the old rubber trees which cover most of the southern peninsula of Thailand.

In Seattle, I enjoy various mushrooms and we are in luck, there are plenty of fresh mushrooms from local mushroom growers.

If you are hesitant to cook this recipe for any reason, I want to reassure you that this dish is packed full with flavors and received a five star rating from an admirer on yelp.com.

Grilled Spicy Phuket Mushroom - Rubber Tree Mushroom

 

 

Grilled Brown Button Mushrooms with Thai Basil Leaf in Banana Leaf

HED MOK PHUKET

Servings: 4 (one parcel per person)

We used to gather Hed Kreng mushrooms from old rubber tree trunks and bring them home for my mom to make my childhood favorite, Hed Mok (Grilled Mushrooms). I recreated this recipe by using brown button mushrooms that have a flavor similar to Hed Kreng. While creating this recipe, I recalled my vivid memories of how my mom prepared them, and the taste and aroma that I used to savor. The intense flavors of basil, chili, and earthy mushrooms come alive. An important part of this recipe is to grill or bake the mushrooms over high heat to intensify the flavor. Also, use coconut cream rather than coconut milk so the mixture won’t get too wet.

1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon red curry paste
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup coconut cream
¼ cup shallots, sliced
1 pound brown button mushrooms, brushed and sliced
1 cup Thai purple basil leaf
4 Thai chilies, halved
4 parchment papers (12”X16”) or banana leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, mix fish sauce, red curry paste, salt and coconut cream together until blended. Stir in shallots, mushrooms, and basil until mixed.

Divide mixture into four batches, and place each batch in the center of a piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper over to make a bag; try to make it as flat as you can so the heat will distribute equally. Lay the bags of mushrooms on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with warm steamed rice.

Pranee’s note: Oyster, button, or Portobello mushrooms would all be great for this recipe, or you can use a combination of them. Wrapping the mushroom mixture in banana leaves and then grilling them creates another depth of taste and aroma.

© 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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Iyara Thai Cuisine

A friendly Staff

I have to give credit to my students for introducing me to the Iyara Thai Cuisine restaurant in Redmond. I took their recommendation seriously because the more I talked to them, the more I realized how serious they were about the Thai dining experience. They had mentioned their favorite Thai restaurants throughout America, including Pok Pok, and other renowned Thai restaurants, some of which are owned by people I have taken workshops with at various food conferences.

They said that Iyara may not be as good as the Pok Pok Thai restaurant in Portland in terms of the ambience, menu and creativity, but it is their favorite when it comes to authenticity close to their home in Redmond.

A week later, two Thai friends and I had lunch together at Iyara Thai Cuisine in Redmond. It is in a convenient location, with plenty of free parking spaces on the street. It has a casual setting; we started with soup, Suki nahm, and then used our fingers to enjoy the rest of our meal of Isaan food (the food from Northeastern Thailand).These were our choices from Iyara’s menu:

Suki nahm: Thai-style hot-pot in a bowl with crystal noodles, chicken and prawns, egg, napa cabbage, and green onion with a chili-bean curd sukiyaki sauce. $10

Sai grog kra prow: grilled homemade pork and spicy basil Thai-style sausage. $7

Muu ping: grilled pork sirloin skewer marinated in garlic, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. $7

Som tum and kai todd: deep-fried marinated half Cornish game hen, crispy shallots with a small green papaya salad and sticky rice. $11

Sticky rice $2

Chinese doughnut and pandan custard for dessert.

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Iyara is a great place for you if you love Som Tum (shredded green papaya salad). It is offered with three options. The standard one has lots of crushed peanuts, salted crab and Thai anchovy sauce.

There are many more dishes that I would like to return and check out. All are a rustic style or street foods of Thailand; these are the owner’s new menu items and a concept that they are working on. There are also plenty of standard Thai dishes if you have friends who may not be as adventurous as you are.

For all of you that love to explore new flavors, please check out Iyara Thai Cuisine. I hope that one day Thai foods in America will be as good as in Thailand, then we won’t need to travel to Thailand or Portland to savor the dishes.

Kin Hai Aroy: Bon Appétit

Iyara Thai Cuisine
16421 Cleveland St., #E
Redmond, WA 98052
(425) 885-3043

Menu: http://iyarathai.com/iyarathaimenu.pdf

Website: http://www.iyarathai.com/


Pranee’s Thai Restaurant Review is a fun read to help students enjoy the Thai dining experience. I believe that eating Thai foods is a part of learning about Thai food and the Thai culture as well.

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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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