Recent Articles - Page 13

  • posted on 9/27/2011

    Green Curry Paste Recipe

    green curry paste recipe

    Even though most people living in Bangkok buy store bought curry pastes, nothing compares to the scent of the curry paste being made.  It perfumes the whole kitchen.  The arduous process, from sourcing the ingredients to pounding out the paste, is daunting but the reward is grand. 

    Often store bought green curry paste is too spicy so that I can't put enough paste in without having the curry be too hot.  When you make it yourself, you will be able to control the heat in your own curry paste by adjusting the amount of green chili peppers you add.

    Green curry paste's ingredients are the same as red curry paste, except for the chilies.  The red in red curry paste comes from dried chili peppers, while the green in green curry paste comes from fresh green chili peppers.  Green chilies turn from red when ripe.

    Don't worry about making too much: you can store excess in your freezer for up to a year.

  • posted on 9/27/2011

    Green Thai Chili Peppers

    green thai chili peppers

    A Thai riddle goes; when I’m a child I’m white, when I become full grown, I’m green, and when I’m old, I’m red.  Green chili peppers are the young form of red chili peppers; similar to bell peppers. 

    Green chili peppers are mainly used in making green curry paste.  For most Thai dishes that call for chili peppers, either green or red will do.

  • posted on 9/27/2011

    Chili Leaves

    chili leaves

    Chili Leaves don’t play an important role like galangal or kaffir lime leaves in most Thai dishes but when it comes to green curry paste, they shine. They give green curry paste its beautiful bright green color without adding so many green chilies, the curry would be too hot to eat. The leaves themselves have no heat and little flavor; they can best be thought of as natural food coloring.  They are also used in many other dishes, soups and curries.

    It's convenient to have a chili plant, but if not, Asian farmers at farmers markets have just about the whole plant (chili with leaves attached on the branches) available mid to late summer. I pick off the leaves for my green curry paste then wash and freeze the rest of the chilies.

  • posted on 9/27/2011

    Making Fish Sauce Part 2

    It has been about a week now that those beautiful sardines have been packed in salt. Looking at the brownish juice that came out of the fish, I can see the precursor to the fish sauce. I have to open the lid to add the next ingredient but don't want to -- will I get worst smell of rotten fish? Surprise, surprise, it smells good, similar to anchovies in a can.

    The basics of fish sauce ingredients are fish and salt. Many people add more ingredients to create their own signature on fish sauce. I have heard some people put cattle bones in. Commercial manufacturers normally add sugar. My mother likes pineapple in hers. She said, 'The pineapple will give the fish sauce beautiful reddish brown color. It also gives the wonderful fragrance.' Pineapple contains an enzyme that breaks down proteins. Sounds good to me. So, 'rind and all', per my mother, goes into the jars. I slosh the jars around to get the juice to cover the pineapple. The mixture of pineapple scent and fish smells great.

    See Making Fish Sauce Part 1

  • posted on 9/23/2011

    Bo.lan Restaurant Review

    At Bo.lan, the chefs will pleasurably force you to focus on the moment by nailing you in your seat, pulling you into the dinner with your tongue, and flying you from one height and experience to the next.   Knowing even a little Thai food history, you quickly recognize that your trip goes not only from flavor extreme to another, but north to south, street to palace, ancient historic food to childhood to now. If you visit Bangkok, you must eat at Bo.lan.

    What stands Bo.lan apart from most other Thai restaurants is the care and attention they put into all they do. Their recipes and menus are selected, developed and tested after deep research. Their flavors shine because they make everything, like curry paste, from scratch.  Many of their ingredients are adventuresome and unique.

    Bo.Lan was started by Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones, partners in life and in kitchen with a deep love of Thai food and food history. Trained in Western cuisine, Bo became interested in Thai cooking during her stay in the UK. Dylan had already knew how to cook Thai food before he met Bo. To further his knowledge in Thai cooking, he took up Thai lessons so that he could research Thai food.

  • posted on 9/21/2011

    Pad Thai Street Food Recipe

    pad thai street food recipe

    The Pad Thai most traditionally and commonly found at street stalls, food courts and open air markets, is made with dried shrimp. Competition drove many vendors to go high end by using fresh shrimp (Pad Thai goong sod). This pad Thai recipe is for the older, more traditional version.

    When I was growing up, my uncle was in charge of getting everybody late night snacks. He would go out to the nearest all night market and come back with everyone's orders. Mine was always Pad Thai.  The pad Thai came wrapped in an old newspaper page lined with a plastic sheet. They would put extra sugar and ground chili pepper between the newspaper and plastic sheet. You don't see such make-shift food wrap anymore; now it's in a foam box.

  • posted on 9/18/2011

    Making Fish Sauce

    making fish sauce closeupHow did I end up with 10 pounds of fresh sardines?  On our way back from Half Moon Bay, we stopped at a fish market. They had beautiful local fresh sardines. Hmmm... The fish looked so fresh: they could be delicious.

    It was the end of the day. The fish monger was trying to get Peter to take the 20 pounds that he had. “You’ve got a freezer?”, the guy said.  “Yes, but it’s full.”, I told him.  “They look really good.”, Peter said. "What would I do with them?  Fish sauce?”, I was just joking.  My memory was blurred from that point on. Somehow I reluctantly agreed with Peter and took 10 pounds of fresh sardines home.

    When we got home, the reality hit. I had to do something with the fish!  We ate some for dinner and decided to turn the rest into fish sauce.

    We didn't have big enough containers to hold them. Commercial fish sauce is made in a 4 cubic meter cement containers. Traditionally, home made fish sauce is made in an earthenware. My mother makes hers in an earthenware that is big enough to hold an adult.  It sits outside, sunny or rainy. I scrounged 3 jars; two hold 1 ½ pounds of fish and the other holds 3 pounds of fish. It will take at least 12 months for the fish sauce to finish the first stage of the process.  Then you continue to ferment it for a few more months to get better fish sauce. With my mother’s recipe, we’ll be adding pineapple to help breaking down the fish, too.

    I'll take pictures along the way.  Come back and check out how the fish sauce turns out.

    Read part 2 of Making Fish Saucemaking fish sauce

  • posted on 9/15/2011

    Stir Fried Bitter Melon Recipe

    stir fried bitter melon recipe

    Raw bitter melon may not be love at first bite, but correctly cooked stir fried bitter melon can be.  For those who appreciate the complex flavors bitter melon brings to a meal, this is a great dish.

    Success with this dish is all about technique: I love this dish when it is cooked right. When you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with a soft but not mushy texture and a perfect fish sauce aroma and taste balancing a delightful twang of bitterness. 

  • posted on 9/14/2011

    Oxtail Soup Recipe

    oxtail soup recipe

    Oxtail soup is one of my favorite muslim Thai dishes. Unlike western oxtail stew and oxtail soup, this soup follows other Thai spicy soups by having a strong lime flavor and being spicy hot. The spices in this dish compliment the beefy broth and the tender meat. I can just smell the aroma of the soup as I’m editing this recipe.

    In Thailand, the whole tail is first grilled over a hot fire to remove the hair. Then the tail is cut into 2-3 inch-sections without removing the skin. The best part of the soup is the soft and tender skin. I miss that part because we cannot get oxtail with skin attached in the U.S.; it's just a missed flavor opportunity!

  • posted on 9/14/2011

    Mooncake Tasting

    The Moon Festival

    In middle of the 8th month on the Chinese lunar calendar (approximately September), the Chinese celebrate the moon goddess. Mooncakes are given to family members, friends and clients during this period. We got some for our family and friends to taste.

    Mooncake Composition

    There are 3 parts to mooncakes, the outside skin, up to two egg yolks and the filling. Good skin is quite thin, no more than ⅛ of an inch thick. It is brown outside from baking.

    There are several types of filling, traditional, regional and what I call "ultra-modern". The traditional mooncake fillings are 5-seeds and lotus seeds. The 5-seeds filling, my grandfather's favorite, can include watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin, lotus seeds and peanuts. The special regional mooncake in Thailand has a durian filling and is my favorite mooncake.  The flesh of ripe durian is churned over a stove into a paste.  The paste is easy to work with because durian has high fat and sugar content, and is easy to shape into a thin skin.  The flavor of the sweet durian is a perfect compliment to salty egg yolk.  Recently, there are a few ultra-modern fillings like cream custard filling, jackfruit, coconut, pumpkin, seaweed and bird nest.  One other new twist is “snow skin”.

    The Tasting

    We tasted durian filled mooncakes from Shangri-La Hotel, S&P and Hong Kong Fisherman side-by-side.  The mooncakes from Shangri-La Hotel and S&P are large while the Hong Kong Fisherman’s are half their diameter.  

    The results are that the thin crust/skin winner is the Shangri-La Hotel.  But their durian filling was too sweet for our tasters.  While the Hong Kong Fisherman’s durian filling was the least sweet and the skin was the thickest of all three, our tasters like their flavor the best.  I've had many S&P durian mooncakes on past trips to Thailand and I do like them very much.  When asked about the other fillings, our tasters said ‘They were ok.  Durian is the best.

    If you are on the fence about eating durian, here is a safe chance to get your feet wet.  The durian paste has mild durian aroma with rich and sweet flavors.  Take the plunge!

    Please share your opinion on other mooncakes that you like and let us know what we should check out.

    Hong Kong Fisherman’s Mooncakes:  4 flavors are available, durian paste, lotus seeds, custard cream and green tea.  They come in a box of 4, 6, 8, 12 with or without salty yolk.  Price per piece: Lotus Seeds 48 baht, Custard Cream 25 baht, Golden Pillow-Durian 35 baht and Green tea 25 baht.

    Read our review of their dim sum.