Thai Food and Thailand Travel
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I didn't grow up eating Watermelon Rind Sour Curry and I wish I did because it's so good and so accessible. I'd heard of Watermelon Rind Sour Curry from a friend and decided to give it a try. My family loves it. Now when we buy a watermelon, a Watermelon Rind Sour Curry is expected.
The watermelon rind works so well absorbing spices and strong flavors in the sour curry. The dense texture keeps the rind from falling apart during cooking. With mild flavor, the rind absorbs and tone down the sharp spices and flavor. Every bite of the watermelon rind is full of flavor.
Gang Som or sour curry is more common at a Thai's dining table than red or green curries. It uses core Thai ingredients, shallots, shrimp paste, dried peppers, tamarind and fish. No need for coconut milk. It's extremely easy to make and can last several days. Several types of vegetables and vegetable combinations are common such as yardlong beans and daikon, Chinese water spinach, drum sticks, green beans, green papaya, bean sprouts and napa cabbage. Adding shrimp or big chunks of fish is also a favorite of restaurants as a way to give oomph to the homey curry.
The term 'som' has 3 meanings: orange as in the fruit, orange as color and a sour taste. In this case, som is an old term referring to the sour taste. If you ever run into a recipe for 'gang som' and it calls for an orange, please note that something was lost in the translation.
Sour Curries are native to central Thailand. The south has their version which includes fresh turmeric and seafood. Try a Southern Sour Curry, it's another of my favorite dishes.
Sour curry paste is one curry paste that most people don't buy, but make it themselves right before making sour curry. The core ingredients in sour curry paste are dried chili peppers, shallots and shrimp paste. Other added ingredients such as garlic, Chinese keys and fresh turmeric depends on the region and personal preference.
I add garlic to mine. The amount of garlic should be minimal compared to shallots. Many people, including my mother, add Chinese keys to tame the fish flavor and add a nice aroma to the curry. Southern Sour Curry Paste is made with fresh turmeric and garlic.
People from the south of the US pickle watermelon rinds, while Thais cook them in curry. The texture and mild flavor are perfect for absorbing spices. Next time when you have a watermelon, try watermelon rind sour curry.
I didn't think about watermelon rind being edible until a friend was talking about it. When the green skin is removed, the light green rind is still hard, but can be bitten. It's texture reminds me of cucumber or winter melon but much denser, while it's taste is simply slightly sour, perfect for cooking or pickling.
Pork Rice Porridge is such a comfort food in Thailand that serves well as breakfast or late night snack. It's filling but easy to digest since it's mostly water. The sick loves a bowl of hot porridge as well.
When the Thais travel, they often pack instant rice porridge anticipating the unavailability of the food that they like. Instant rice porridge is handy, just add hot water which is usually available at most hotels.
Rice porridge is an easy dish to make. You can make it from left over rice (great way to modify left over!) or start from uncooked rice.
My tradition of eating rice porridge is rushing to eat all the crispy fried noodles before they turn soggy from the steam. The crunchiness of the noodles is almost as satisfying as the warm bowl of porridge with runny yolk. The julienne ginger brings extra heat to the tummy. Ahh...a warm bowl of rice porridge...a perfect comfort food.
Thank you all for participating in the raffle and survey. We learned that the 3 most popular brands are Panasonic, Tiger and Zojirushi. And they are all equally popular. Jasmine and Japanese rice are both very popular. I'm surprised that about half of the people say they cook organic rice which is harder to find and also more expensive. It's great to hear how organic food is becoming a norm. If I could, I would love to cook organic jasmine rice every day.
I'm happy to hear that every person say they cook rice at least once a week! But only half of the people own a rice cooker. If there is a rice cooker that you're curious about, please let us know, we'll seek one out for a review.
Our winner for this Miracle Exclusive rice cooker is ABJ from Massachusetts.
Thai grilled chicken is a popular dish available on most street corners in Thailand. Other street vendors travel from neighborhood to neighborhood with a trail of smoke offering grilled chicken and sticky rice. Similar to KFC, some restaurants make their fame entirely on their special grilled chicken recipes.
The popular styles of grilled chicken come and go. When I was kid, chicken baked in a heap of straw was the flavor of the era. I still remember the distinct aroma from burning straw. That style eventually waned. Many regional styles of grilled chicken also made their names all over the country. Some emphasize on the marinade. Others make their name through spicy dipping sauces. Recently, 5-Star Chicken (ไก่ย่างห้าดาว ), a franchise restaurant from a deep pocket conglomerate like CP Group, planned to bring their grilled chicken to the rest of Asia.
When ordering grilled chicken in Thailand, there are 2 types of chicken, Thai or farm raised chicken (native or foreign). Thai chickens have long necks and legs. The meat is lean, firm and full of flavor. Farm raised chickens are meatier, fatter and more tender. Thai grilled chicken is drier, more cooked than American grilled chicken.
All these grilled chicken vendors, big and small, have their own secret recipes, which are generally based on a common core. The base ingredients are salt, peppercorn, garlic and cilantro root. In this recipe, I add lemongrass to give the Thai spice aroma. Other ingredients in secret and not-so-secret recipes include shallots, pandan leaves, soy sauce and even milk. You can build your own secret recipe from this basic recipe. What ingredients will you add to your recipe?
Serve the grilled chicken with green papaya salad and sticky rice.
Win this rice cooker! See details below.
For the longest time, a standard rice cooker has had a metal inner pot with a Teflon coating. While the teflon is effectively non-stick, it scratches off and recently I have heard concerns about eating Teflon. Since I’ve also heard people are starting look at stainless steel rice cookers, I had to test one. I contacted Miracle Exclusive and received an 8-cup rice cooker with stainless steel inner pot for testing. Please note that discussing food safety relating to cooking with Teflon is beyond the scope of this article.
Sour Bamboo Curry is a curry that I make quite often because I love the subtle sourness of the pickled bamboo shoots that seems to tame the heat from the red curry paste. The previously pale bamboo shoot slices pick up some color and now sit pretty in a pot with floating red oil. The sour bamboo shoots absorb the spices while give up the pickling property to flavor the curry.
The distinct taste and smell of Sour Bamboo Curry takes me back to Thailand. A street food hawker on a sidewalk with gigantic pots of curries and other dishes is sure have this Sour Bamboo Curry. The curry is often a favorite in cafeterias. But you rarely find the curry in Thai restaurants inside or outside of Thailand.
When I make Sour Bamboo Curry, at lunchtime, I sit down with a plate of rice, Sour Bamboo Curry on top and a chili fish sauce on the side. I'm tasting home again.
Outside of cosmopolitan Bangkok, bamboo groves grow along the edges of rice fields, around people's homes, in the woods and up on the hills. The shoots are cut and trucked into Bangkok in the middle of the night. They're ready for chefs and housewives early in the morning when the markets convene. Some of the harvest turn into pickled bamboo shoots or Sour Bamboo shoots.
A young bamboo shoot is sliced thin and pickled in a simple brine of water and salt. It takes about 3 days to 2 weeks for the pickle to mature. The pickled shoots don't smell or look very attractive but the extra dimension that the pickling process brings out makes Sour Bamboo Shoots an important ingredients in several dishes such as Sour Bamboo Curry and Southern Sour Curry.
A good sour bamboo should not have a strong sour smell. The bamboo should be thinly sliced and tender. They come in a plastic and glass jar in a clear brine.
A Thai riddle: what has 2 legs walking but when stops and settles down has 6 legs?
South Asian immigrants in Thailand seem to monopolize the fried bean street food business. When I was growing up, a South Asian man would walk around carrying a small table with long legs on his head. The table had sections, each filled with various fried beans along with chopped green onion, chili pepper and salt. When you'd ask him for some beans and he'd take the table off of his head, set it down and get out a small plastic bag. You could choose from fried mung beans, fried peanuts, fried fava beans and fried peas.
My favorite is the fried mung beans. The crunchiness of the beans mixed with the aroma of the green onion and chili peppers make them addictive. Each bite is a little salty and spicy. I can inhale a little bag of 3-5 teaspoons in no time.
Answer to the riddle: a mung bean vendor
Now in the 21st century, the South Asian immigrants still monopolize the fried bean business. The table, though, is gone, replaced with a plastic basket. The sight of a bean vendor with plastic basket is not as romantic as the table, but the fried beans are as addictive as ever.