Thai Food and Thailand Travel
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Here you can learn everything it takes to cook real and authentic Thai food, just like your Thai mom used to make.
And then read about visiting Thailand.
Of all the fried rice dishes, Crab Fried Rice is the king of fried rice that gets to meet and greet important guests. When I was a kid, crab fried rice was the dish that came at the end of the 10-20 course wedding banquet.
Crab Fried Rice is a dish that you do not want to order from small street stalls. You want to get crab fried rice at a nice restaurant because the quality of the crab determines how good crab fried rice can be.
This recipe reflects how crab fried rice is made in Thai restaurants in Thailand, no carrots, no peas, just crab!
Gui Chai or Chinese Chive Dumplings is my all time favorite snack. I used to get up real early to go to an open-air market around our house with my mother.
There was a lady busy frying Chinese Chive Dumplings for her customers and there was always a long line at her stall. We would always stop at this Gui Chai stall and buy some for a snack before breakfast (only for me, I guess no one else snacked before breakfast). She made the best Chinese Chive Dumplings sauce I ever had. The sauce recipe is made from my memory.
Fresh bamboo shoots make incredibly flavorful, clear soup with a few ingredients. The flavors in this soup come straight from the freshness of bamboo shoot and chicken. The natural sweetness comes from fresh bamboo shoot, not sugar.
With fresh bamboo shoots you can play around with shapes. They are easy to cut out and will please the smallest members of your family. Children tend to eat more or at least try their favorite shapes. I can attest that a heart or bunny actually tastes better than a rectangle or round piece.
Fresh bamboo shoots have been available at Asian markets now for a few years. They are the actual shoots that come up from the ground next to the parents' trees, similar to asparagus. Some shoots are even hidden underground but bamboo shoot experts always find them. They are 3-5 inches in diameter at the base, no more than 7 inches tall. The shoots that are available in the US are smaller and more yellow than the ones in Thailand. The flavor and texture are very similar, sweet with light yellow crunchy flesh when cooked.
In Thailand, at my grandparent's house during bamboo shoot season, the carving, preserving and packing was a miniature assembly line with a small group of ladies. They'd first peel the shoots into blocks. From the blocks, these ladies would delicately carve butterfly, rabbit, flower, petal and other beautiful figures. Then each carved block would gets thinly sliced into 2 dimension figures. The beautiful carved pieces then go next to the packing and preserving stations where they're canned in jars. During New Year, these jars of preserved bamboo shoots become homemade presents for my grandparents' friends and relatives.
Carving out the bamboo shoots is not as hard as I'd thought. I pick a metal cookie cutter the size of the bamboo block, press down hard to cut the block all the way through. Then slice it thinly to get the thin pieces of bamboo for soup and curry. There's more waste than doing it manually, but it's still fun.
Jackfruit seeds are a bonus from buying jackfruit. A whole jackfruit can be big and heavy. Pieces of cut up jackfruit are available at Asian and Indian markets. They are wrapped in plastic and usually sold by the pound.
A single jackfruit contains maybe 100 yellow fleshy pockets, and inside each there is a loose skin then a single large brownish seed. This skin usually comes off while cutting the yellow flesh open to get to the seed. The seed is a very thin, hard shell around dense off-white flesh.
You can make a snack or curry from the cooked, shelled seeds.
Boiled jackfruit seeds are a plain and simple snack that is made at home. I don't recall seeing the seeds for sale on the street. When you prepare ripe jackfruit, each pocket of the yellow fleshy "fruit" surrounds a large seed. That seed is edible, once cooked and peeled.
The simplest preparation is just to boil the seed and peel the thin husk. The boiled seeds taste like a combination of boiled potato and taro. It's soft and creamy. You can enjoy them plain!
Pomelo, a common Thai citrus, is becoming more popular in the US. I don't remember seeing pomelos at all the markets like I do now. The majority of Thai pomelos have light, yellow flesh, some with a tint of pink, not pink like the variety available in the US. Thai pomelos are also sweeter and less bitter. It's common to serve a plate of pomelo after a meal in place of dessert.
One of the things I remember that fascinated me about adults is their ability to peel a pomelo. My aunt would peel the thick skin off by going around with a knife while keeping the peel in one piece. Then she would peel the white fluff away from the fruit. She’d separate each section like you would with an orange. Each section's outer skin gets peeled off again, leaving with just the large plump pulp still attached like a section of an orange.
We eat pomelos as fruit and also add them to salad. The peel the would usually go on my head while I paraded around the house with my new hat!
Mee Grob comes as a snack and also a main couse. Mee Grob as a snack is also know as หมี่กรอบชาววัง, Mee Grob, the royal recipe. The common theme from the various palace recipes is that the ingredients are of highest quality, often hard to source and used generously. The palace recipes are optimized for the best flavor and presentation, not preparation time, labor efficiency or cost. This dish is more elaborate than the Mee Grob you normally see with rice. Since it has pork and shrimp, this Mee Grob is best to eaten right away.
The noodles are rinsed and let dry before frying, giving them the fried spring roll texture. Crispy fried beaten egg, pickled garlic, bean sprouts and Chinese chives add different textures and flavors to Mee Grob . The lime cuts the strong flavors of tamarind and sugar and brings refreshing citrus flavor. If you can get ahold of som sah (seville orange), the zest gives it a unique flavor, telling you, you have the real Mee Grob.
Many years ago, one of the gifts you would bring back from Chiang Mai for your friends and family was pickled garlic. Good pickled garlic is made with ripe (not young) garlic. The garlic is first soaked in water and then pickled in a vinegar, sugar and salt brine. The pickled garlic should have a soft crunch with well balanced flavors of sweet and salty.
There are 2 types of pickled garlic that are commercially available, whole head pickled garlic (in picture) and large individual cloves, more like shallots in appearance. The whole head pickled garlic looks good, but it requires more effort to eat because you have to slice/cut/separate the garlic from the stem and hard base. Pickled garlic is a great ingredient in many dishes like stir fries, salads and mee grob. Bland rice soup tastes great with pickled garlic and pickled garlic omelette. The brine from pickled garlic is also a secret ingredient in many great sauces and dishes.
I attempted to make my own pickled garlic, but ended up with a patch of garlic in my garden instead. I was supposed to soak the garlic for one night but I had too many things to do. So, I kept postponing making pickled garlic and letting the garlic soak in water. On the second night, I noticed that the garlic started to sprout roots and shoots. A couple of days later, I put them in the ground. Now, the green leaves are shooting out. I'll have more garlic at the beginning of summer.
Yum Woon Sen or bean thread noodles salad is a popular dish in both inside and outside Thailand. The combination of ingredients and seasonings make this dish delicious. I love how the bland noodles absorb the hot spicy sour dressing while the peanuts add the nutty, crunchiness to the salad. When you hit the dried shrimp, it packs with saltiness and flavor. Chinese celery and cilantro bring in freshness. I keep going back and forth, a little bit of this and and a little bit of that.
Many Thais view bean thread noodles as a diet food. I don't think it works for me. Yum Woon Sen is so good that I keep eating it. That's totally ineffective!
I recommend this dish for pot luck or party because it stays delicious at room temperature for a few hours. You can prepare all the ingredients ahead of time and mix the dressing at the last minute.
You can adjust Yum Woon Sen to have more or less ingredients. Many people like to add ground pork and tomatoes to yum woon sen. You can dress it up by adding cooked large shrimp like many restaurants do, too. I like mine simple with just dried shrimp for protein.