Last night we had a Thai feast in the park. Albeit a peasant feast but a feast nonetheless. On the menu was Gai Yang, Som Dum and Kao Niew which translates to BBQ Chicken, Green Papaya Salad and Sticky Rice. These dishes come from the Issan region in North Eastern Thailand; the poorest part of the country, and are considered to be peasant food.
Peasant food or not, I love it and whenever I am back in Thailand, I go to a famous little Gai Yang restaurant in Bangkok just to eat these dishes. I don't even think the restaurant has a name, so to get there you have to jump in a taxi and say 'Runahan Gai Yang, Soi Aree' (BBQ Chicken restaurant on Aree Street) and the taxi drivers know where to go.
Sticky rice is a staple in the Issan region and it is steamed in large woven baskets such as this one...
We bought this device at South China Seas Trading Co. at the Granville Island Market for a mere $16. No more mental binges about Kao Niew as I can finally make the real thing!
To prepare the Sticky Rice you need to soak it overnight in a bowl of water. You then drain it and wrap it in Cheese Cloth.
Meanwhile, fill the urn with water about 3/4 of the way up the side and then bring it to the boil with the basket in it. Put the rice wrapped in cheese cloth in the basket and cover it with a small lid from a pot. Steam it for 30 minutes and then carefully take the rice out and test it. The rice should be chewy. When serving it make sure you keep it covered as it can dry out quickly.
In terms of cooking order, I made the Kao Niew last as it needs to be piping hot and moist, so keep that in mind.
Gai Yang - BBQ Chicken Recipe
* The chicken has to be marinated overnight
2 Chicken Breasts, 4 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 4 wingettes (organic and free range)
3 Garlic Cloves
5 cm piece of Ginger
1 Stalk of Lemongrass
2 tbs Fish Sauce
2-3 tbs Sweet Dark Soy Sauce (Kecap manis) *this is essential for the marinade
1 tsp Ground White Pepper
Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping
Som Dum - Green Papaya Salad Recipe
Som Dum is usually pounded in a large pestle and mortar but since I only have a small one, I just sliced the Papaya and put it in a large plastic bowl. I still used the pestle and this worked fine. Issan Som Dum sometimes uses 'boo' -- small black crabs for extra saltiness so I used a small amount of shrimp paste as a substitute.
1 green papaya
4 red bird chilis
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
1 handful of small dried shrimps
5 cherry tomatoes
- Skin the papaya and finely slice it. This preparation part is the most laborious of all this meal. It took me an hour!
- Place the papaya in a large plastic bowl. Set aside.
- Crush the garlic with skin on with a pestle and mortar. Add the whole red chilis and keep crushing for about a minute.
- Now add the juice from one lemon and the fish sauce. Add the sugar and grind for about 30 seconds.
- Add this mix to the papaya and throw in the lemon skin as well.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and dried shrimps to the bowl and start to pound all the ingredients with your pestle. The pounding bruises the papaya and lets it soak up the lemon and Naam Pla sauce mix.
- Once it is ready, discard the lemon skin and serve.
Enjoy the Issan feast!