Recent Articles - Page 5

  • posted on 2/8/2013

    Why coconut milk curdles?

    I often hear the instruction to stir often when cooking coconut milk otherwise it’ll turn into curds. I never questioned the common wisdom, just accepted that that is what we do when we cook with coconut milk.

    Recently, I met with a ThaiTable reader who asked why her coconut milk curdles. I promised her I’d find out why. Then I took the question straight to my biochemist sister who gave me a scientific paper to read.

    Roughly, raw coconut milk consists of coconut oil, protein and water. In its natural state and at room temperature (think tropical island), the protein acts as an emulsifier, keeping the coconut milk looking homogenous. An emulsifier bonds oil with a protein in the milk. When coconut milk is heated up, the protein changes its shape and ability to react with water and oil, which is what scientists call ‘denaturing of the protein’. The protein releases oil and water and contracts into a tight chain. These contracted protein chains are visible as the white specks or curds. The curds can clump and get bigger if not stirred.

  • posted on 1/30/2013

    Vegetarian Tom Yum Hed Recipe

    vegetarian tom yum hed recipe

    This spicy tom yum soup is not just for vegetarians. The clear broth soup is thick with flavor and spices. The lime juice perks up the soup, it's so refreshing. The aroma of lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves made my kitchen and the whole house smell so good.

    One word of caution about eating any tom yum, don't eat the lemongrass or galangal even though they are often served with the soup. They are there to flavor the soup. The kaffir lime leaves do the same job but they're chewable. Most people go for the mushrooms and the broth.

  • posted on 1/15/2013

    Roti Recipe

    roti recipe

    Every year, I take a trip to Thailand to visit my family and friends. Some relatives and friends look the same year after year and some have gone through food in Thailand.

    When I was growing up there was only one style of sweet roti and the vendors were South Asian immigrants. This style has the stretched dough spiraling into a round, flower-like shape, then flattened into a round disk. This roti is fried in oil with a small piece of margarine. When the roti is golden brown, the vendor places it on paper, drizzles some sweetened condensed milk and sprinkles some sugar on top and rolls it up. This roti is soft with a few crunchy spots and is very sweet. Off you go, eating warm, sweet roti, walking the streets of Bangkok.

    About 10 years ago, I noticed that I could get a super crispy roti at a mall. Street food gone high end? Then I started to see them everywhere. The vendors are no longer just immigrants but everybody and anybody who can make roti. I like the super crispy roti as much as my childhood roti. The super crispy roti has the same dough but stretched dough goes directly into hot oil. The increased surface area is exposed to hot oil, resulting in even more crunchy crispiness.

    The evolution of roti didn't stop there. I can now get fillings in my roti. Just like Thai cooks took over the original rotis from the Indians, the fillings show the their assimilation of other foreign foods. The fillings now range from bananas to strawberry jam, to the Italian Nuttela. Even simple cheese was not even enough, so now you can find pizza toppings.

    When you're in Thailand, stop at a roti stand and enjoy a warm roti with a long history. In the meantime, let's make it at home.

  • posted on 1/8/2013

    Salted Crab

    salted crab

    Finding salted crab in a freezer section at an Asian market is as exciting as seeing snow falling in June. Because salted crab is hard to find, when I saw  salted crab on a recent visit to the grocery, Som Tum, Salted Crab Chili Sauce and Green Mango Salad with Salted Crab flashed through my mind. I think of my mother's delicious Green Mango Salad with Salted Crab.

    Salted crab is made from 2 types of crab, freshwater crab (ปูนา ) and mangrove tree crab (ปูแสม). Fresh water crab is commonly found on rice paddy fields. Mangrove crab lives in brackish water in mangrove forests. As the name suggests, the crab climbs on mangrove tree when high tide comes in. Both types of crab look very similar with blackish shell and sometimes reddish or purplish claws. The trapezoid shaped shell is about 1 1/2” x 2”.

    When I was a kid there was always a health concern about eating salted crab. It could give you a stomach trouble and worse, parasites. My mother boils it first before using it in som tum. You can also microwave or boil it for 5 minutes. The parasites only live on freshwater crab, not the mangrove tree crab. Since salted crab is made from both types of crab, please cook the crab before using. I also like to boil it to tone down the saltiness and get the beautiful reddish shell. This doesn't degrade the taste in any way.

  • posted on 1/7/2013

    Som Tum Recipe

    som tum recipe

    When I made the Som Tum Thai with Salted Crab for this recipe, I only took a bite to check the recipe and gave the rest to my friend (picture on the right). The next morning, I was still haunted by how great it was. So, I decided I had to make it for lunch, so it would stop popping up in my mind.

    In half an hour, I was sitting and devouring a new batch of Som Tum. It was so good. I love how the heat and the sweet and sour play against one another. The salted crab added an extra dimension and a distinct flavor to som tum. The crunchiness and the creaminess of roasted peanuts ...It was like war in my mouth. It was hot but I couldn’t stop eating. A bite of warm sticky rice contrasts and calms down the sharp flavors in my mouth. At the same time, I wondered and thanked whoever made this dish for the first time. Did they know how wonderful the flavors have come together?

    Hopefully, by doing this recipe and having enjoyed som tum, it will stop haunting me. But I know I'll be hearing 'It's baaaack!' soon.

  • posted on 12/28/2012

    Roast Duck Curry Recipe

    roast duck curry recipe

    Roast Duck Curry can change your life; it happened to our neighbors. Pierre and his family moved from France to next door and I made roast duck curry for them. That was just a start: we became good friends and Pierre fell in love with Thai food. A couple years later, after moving back to France, they moved to Thailand where they still live and love the food.

    In the pantheon of Thai dishes, Roast Duck Curry fits a place high above the curries you normally get at restaurants. You definitely won't see a pot of duck curry sitting on a street food vendor's cart. The price of a roast duck is 3 times that of the chicken. The duck makes for a rich flavor and the dish looks fancy. That being said, I often use this dish to recycle left over roast duck.

  • posted on 12/19/2012

    Vegetarian Chili Paste Recipe

    vegetarian chili paste recipe

    Vegetarian Chili Paste is a versatile hot sauce that we put on the table and add to Thai food and Mexican food. The roasted heat and the balance of sweet, sour and salty are the key flavors of this chili paste. This is also a sauce that I add to my noodle soup to get extra zing.

    I often make a big jar that will last me a month. This makes a good gift for a vegetarian (or anyone else) who loves hot food.

  • posted on 12/11/2012

    Roast Duck

    roast duck

    Roast ducks seem to be universally hung by the neck. A neat row of roast ducks in a display window looks the same and tastes comparable in Bangkok and in the US.

    Roast ducks are sold whole or in half. In the US, half a duck will set you back $7 while the whole duck is $15. In Thailand, a whole duck ranges from 400 baht to 700 baht, depending on whether it's a sidewalk vendor or a well known restaurant. With current exchange rate, that puts a duck in Thailand at $14 to $23. That's pretty expensive considering the minimum daily wage is 300 baht.

    When you're visiting Thailand, you have to try roast ducks. You'll find the ducks have less fat and more tender meat than US ducks.  So, when I visit Thailand, a roast duck at MK Restaurant is on my to-eat list.

  • posted on 12/7/2012

    Pa Ord Noodle Restaurant Review

    With over 80,000 Thais living in Los Angeles, ThaiTown and its vicinity are crowded with Thai restaurants. How do you spot a good one? By a good one, for me, it means that the food is either as good or better than what I can cook at home.

    When I run down to LA, trying a new Thai restaurant is something I look forward to. It’s often a hit or miss. The misses are usually restaurants that cater to most American palates’.  These, I try to avoid. The hits are worth my trip. The trick is knowing how to spot winners.

  • posted on 11/28/2012

    Gai Kua Kem Recipe

    gai kua kem recipe

    When I was growing up, after Chinese New Year, the question was what to do with the chicken used in making offerings to ancestors. Now, the question is what to do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

    A dish commonly made from the offered chicken is salted chicken. Each household spices it a little differently with salt, soy sauce, garlic and/or ginger. My grandmother would chop up the chicken with bones still attached into bite size pieces. She'd fry up the chicken and season it with salt. The salted chicken was kept in the kitchen to be eaten for several days to come. I often sneaked in and grabbed a few pieces because it was so delicious...crunchy and salty. This chicken would make you forget potato chips.

    After Thanksgiving, my leftover turkey with just the dark meat that is hard to carve becomes something delicious. I boil the turkey until the meat falls off the bones. Then I turn the meat into turkey chips...sort of.