Thai Food and Thailand Travel
For years, ThaiTable has been one of the leading Thai food and travel websites.
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.
In Thailand, there are so many varieties of mangoes ranging from over a kilo per mango to a tiny little mango the size of an olive. Some varieties are lip puckering sour when green but soft and sweet when they ripen. A few varieties are so sour that they are perfect for making this Mango Salad.
This Mango Salad is fairly easy to make and often wows people. It encompasses all the great Thai flavors. A perfect combination of sour, salty, nutty and spicy draws you back for more. And dialing down on the heat won’t ruin the great flavors.
Fried Chinese Chive Cakes are a favorite snack that Thais inherited from our Chinese immigrants. Fresh Chinese chives on their own do not have much flavor, but have a spiciness that resembles garlic. When stir-fried, the leaves transform into a tasty vegetable dish.
Combining the sauce, the crunchy fried cake exterior and the tender cake on the inside makes Fried Chinese Chive Cakes a hit.
In Thailand, you see the same vendor offering both chive dumplings and chive cakes. While the flavors are comparable, the Chive Cakes are so much easier to make. I personally prefer eating the cakes to the dumplings.
Pork meatballs are a big hit amongst Thai children. You can often see a meatball vendor by the school entrance. Fried and grilled pork meatballs are skewed for easy handling and dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce. The meatball vendors pride themselves in having a delicious secret sauce.
The pork meatballs are made with lean pork and spices. The mixture is finely ground until very smooth at a low temperature. Sometimes, ice is added in the grinding process. The pork mixture is made into balls and dropped into a hot water bath.
Good meatballs are bouncy and smooth. When boiled, they expand to double in size.
Most people know Tom Yum Goong but a few know Tom Yum Noodles or ‘Guay Tiew Tom Yum’. Some dishes come and go but the noodles are as popular now as when I was a kid. The flavors are a combination of Chinese noodles with Thai flavors, similar to Pad Thai but different. Both share the key ingredients: ground peanuts, lime and chili powder.
Like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Noodles were never a haute cuisine but everyday lunch. You can walk into most Thai noodle shops and ask for Tom Yum Noodles. They’ll ask you for your choice of noodles; egg noodles (sen mi), small rice noodles (send lek), large rice noodles (sen yai) or rice vermicelli (mi kow). You also have a choice to have the soup or not.
There are 2 steps in making the noodle soup. First, you make the soup and let it simmer for 1 hour while you prep the noodles and the condiments. The second step is assembling the noodles, vegetable and condiments into a bowl.
This clear broth is full of flavors with a hint of spices. It is very easy to make and tastes so good. Use this soup base to make pork noodle soup and rice porridge.
You can drop all the ingredients in, add water and let everything simmer for an hour. The key is to keep the lid off and keep the boiling to a simmer for at least one hour.
Walking around Thailand’s streets, markets and food courts, if you spot a giant bowl the size of baby bathtub with rich dark brown liquid bubbling with deep brown pork shanks and green Chinese broccoli on the side, you might want to stop for a treat. It’s a comfort food, it’s a favorite food and it’s so delicious.
In Thailand, when you order the Braised Pork Shank (aka Kow Kha Moo), you'd let the vendor know if you want, rind only, meat only or combo. The skin on Braised Pork Shank is soft and gummy and the meat is tender and full of seasoning. Together with the blanched Chinese broccoli and pickled mustard, the braised shank tastes so good with the slightly spicy and sour chili garlic sauce. You’ll also get fresh garlic cloves and Thai chili peppers to cut the cholesterol down. Served with rice, the Braised Pork Shank is a complete meal with meat, vegetable and pickles.
This braised pork shank recipe is easy to make but has many steps to it; boil the pork shanks, make the seasonings, boil the eggs, blanch Chinese broccoli and chop the pickled mustard. With 2 shanks, you can make it a day in advance and have many delicious meals. You can’t go wrong with Kow Kha Moo.
In Thailand, traditionally, hard liquors are more popular than beer and wine. People get together to drink and eat at a restaurant and then just continue to sit and talk and drink long past dinner. Since drinking reduces the sensitivity of the taste buds, people ask for spicier food as the evening progresses, so the cooks pile on chili peppers and seasonings to please the crowd.
Pad Kee Mao has changed quite a bit in Thailand. Some people now make it with vegetables. Some recipes confused Pad Kee Mao with Pad Cha which starts the same as Pad Kee Mao with garlic and chili peppers but ends up with Chinese keys, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. This Kee Mao recipe keeps the authentic flavors and ingredients with the right amount of heat.
Over the years, Drunken Noodles or Pad Kee Mao has acted like drunkard, relaxing its boundaries. What started simple and clean, got dressed in random vegetables and herbs. Then people confused it with another dish. Now it is barely recognizable. This recipe dials Pad Kee Mao back to its roots.
When I was still living in Thailand, Pad Kee Mao was a very hot stir fry with meat, holy basil and seasoning. When oyster sauce became popular; it was incorporated into Pad Kee Mao. Spaghetti Kee Mao was popularized. Seafood Kee Mao was added.
Recently, Pad Kee Mao has gotten so drunk that it can’t even remember its repertoire. More vegetables and herbs slowly show up on Pad Kee Mao’s ingredient list; mushrooms, onions, baby corn, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, kaffir leaves, Chinese keys and fresh green peppercorns, Thai basil and even eggs. All in all, the common thread is still the intense heat. The tongue of a drunk can’t feel the spicy hot chili peppers; the vibrancy of the flavors and seasoning must make up for it.
As most of us will be cooking and eating Drunken Noodles sober, I tone down the heat but keep all other flavors true to the dish. When you feel like having the noodles with an insanely amount of alcohol, crank up the seasoning and the chili peppers as you please. Enjoy!
I recently found fresh pork rinds at markets. They come in sheets and without thick layer of fat...ready to use. They are available at the meat department at most Asian and Hispanic markets.
Thai silk and carved teak elephants are not the hottest items to bring back home to your family and friends from a trip to Chiang Mai; instead, go for the Nam Prig Noom. A spicy green chili sauce, Nam Prig Noom, is a true reminder of eating and being in the north.
Part of the fun about visiting Chiang Mai is sitting down for a Khantoke dinner at the end of the day and watching the traditional Thai dance. Nam Prig Noom, sticky rice and pork rinds and other dishes are served on a raised tray while you sit on the floor waiting for the hosts to come around with your delicious food and drink.
After you’re fed, walk over to a night market and take the fun of northern Thailand in. Then, before leaving Chiang Mai, visit Warorot Market (Kad Luang) or other markets in Chiang Mai to see Nam Prig Noom in packages and containers for your friends and families.
This recipe is a vegetarian, traditional and authentic. Nam Prig Noom sold in Bangkok often has lime juice, fish sauce and/or pickled fish. In the north, it’s far simpler: chilies, garlic, shallots and salt.
Nam Prig Noom goes exceedingly well with sticky rice and pork rinds.