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Thai Recipes

03 June 2009

Tod Mun Pla - Thai Fish Cakes

Tod-Mun-Pla

Australians have a love affair with Thai food. Thai restaurants are everywhere and range from tiny eateries to fine-dining establishments. I even go as far as saying that some of the food rivals the offerings of Thailand’s best kitchens.

Thai food in Australia, like Indian food in England, has been unconditionally embraced. Twenty years ago, in Australia, the most common Asian appetizer would have been the spring roll. While I have no scientific data to prove it, my strong hunch is that Australians eat twice as many tod mun pla (Thai fish cakes) than spring rolls.

In spite of my strong Thai heritage I had never, until recently, attempted to make this popular entrée (appetizers in North America). It seemed like a hassle. I didn’t own a food processor and I didn’t feel like making fish paste with my tiny mortar and pestle. I recently bought a food processor and my excuse vanished. And I’m very glad it did.

You can use pretty much any fish. I used basa, a fresh water fish with firm, white flesh. The fish is first blended into a sticky paste with an egg, to bind the mixture, red curry paste, cornstarch or tapioca flour and fish sauce. The paste is then mixed with fragrant kaffir lime leaves and sweet snake beans. It's best to dampen your hands with a little water before rolling the fish cake balls as the mixture is really sticky.

A tip on the kaffir leaves -- I usually buy them with a specific recipe in mind and I only use several at a time. To keep them fresh, simply place them in a small ziplock plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until you need to use them. They don't need to be defrosted either. Just pop them straight into whatever dish you're cooking.

Continue reading "Tod Mun Pla - Thai Fish Cakes" »

13 January 2009

Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo

Thai-Crab-Fried-Rice2

I'm quite late in starting this year with this being my first post for 2009. A belated Happy New Year everyone!

Living in Vancouver I am treated to an abundance of fresh seafood and I am spoiled for choice. The cold, pristine waters of the West Coast offer up unmatched seafood and that says a lot coming from Australia, which some would argue has the best seafood in the world. While Australian seafood is fantastic, seafood on the West Coast is also fantastic but much less expensive.

The jewel in the West Coast seafood crown is crab -- in this case Dungeness Crab.

The sweet, succulent crab is the perfect addition to Thai fried rice. I have to admit I'm a bit of a fried rice snob. It's usually Thai-style or nothing. While the dish is very easy to make, Thais just seem to have a knack for frying the rice perfectly. The trick is to use cold, day-old steamed Jasmine rice. This helps the grains keep their shape while absorbing the flavours.

Thai fried rice has a delicious yet subtle burnt flavour. This is from the hot wok that it's fried in. And that's the other trick, to get the best results, you need to fry the rice in a wok, over a gas flame and quickly.

Continue reading "Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo" »

09 November 2008

Thai Beef Massaman Curry

Beef-Massaman-Curry

Rasa Malaysia is one of my favourite blogs. I have been clicking on her award-winning photography and mouth-watering recipes for years. It is no exaggeration that Bee (who is Rasa Malaysia) is one of my inspirations and reasons for starting Taste Buddies in June 2007.

Since then, Bee and I have become blog-buddies. Today, I am very proud to tell you that she has asked me to be a guest writer on Rasa Malaysia.

Since I am half Thai and spent many years growing up there, Bee asked me to make a Thai dish.

Hailing from Southern Thailand, near Bee's homeland of Malaysia, comes the Massaman Curry. Literally "Muslim Curry", the dish was born from the Arab spice merchants who settled in the region a thousand years ago.

To read more about Gaeng Massaman, and to see the recipe, please visit Rasa Malaysia.

12 July 2008

Khao Tom Mad: Sweet Sticky Rice Parcels

Kaotommad1

Khao Tom Mad is a Thai street food made of sweet sticky rice cakes filled with banana, black beans and then steamed in banana leaf parcels. It's often confused with Khao Tom Mad. The difference between them is that the latter is not pre-cooked in coconut milk and therefore lasts longer without refrigeration.

There are over 20 different types of bananas in Thailand with the smaller, sweeter red bananas used in recipes such as this one.

Khao Tom Mad can be found in street markets all over Thailand. Eaten both as a sweet snack or as a meal in itself, the parcels are often given to monks as food offerings at the beginning of Buddhist lent (Khao Phansa). This marks the start of the three-month monsoon season; a time where the monks retreat to monasteries and concentrate on Buddhist teachings.

To make Khao Tom Mad, the sticky rice is first boiled with a mixture of coconut milk and sugar in the same way that a risotto is cooked -- slowly with the liquid added a little at a time until it's absorbed. The rice has to be stirred constantly so that it doesn't burn. Once the rice is cooked, it is molded into a little cake filled with banana and black beans. Finally, it is wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed. 

Steaming the cooked rice doesn't make it soggy. Instead it binds the rice together and makes it almost smooth. The steaming softens the banana, infusing the rice with its sweet scent.

I can't remember when I first ate Khao Tom Mad, but I've probably been eating it since I was around three. And since it's been with me my whole life, I didn't mind standing at the stove for 45 minutes patiently ladling the coconut milk into the rice.

Continue reading "Khao Tom Mad: Sweet Sticky Rice Parcels" »

21 May 2008

Thai-style Okra Tempura

Friedokra_2

Okra is the pod of a tropical perennial of the Mallow family. It is thought to have originated in the mountainous regions of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia. 

The earliest account of okra was in the early 1200s by a Spanish Moor traveling in Eygpt who witnessed the tender pod being eaten.

Since then okra has spread across the world where it is eaten today in Europe, South East Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas.

Okra is known by a variety of names including 'lady fingers', 'Bhindi', 'Bamieh' and 'Gumbo'. It is high in fibre and contains vitamins A, C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

The versatile little pod can be used in a variety of ways. Here are just a few I found in my research:

  • It is cooked in soups, stews, battered, fried, dried, grilled or steamed
  • It is used as thickening agent for soups
  • It is ground into a fine powder and added to food such as cous cous to stop the grains from sticking
  • Its seeds can be pressed to make good quality oil and are also high in protein
  • Mature, dried okra seeds were ground and used as a coffee substitute in Central America, Africa and parts of Asia

I fried my okra in a light batter made of plain flour, tapioca flour (starch), soda water and baking soda. The okra was accommpanied by a Thai nam pla prik sauce consisting of fish sauce (nam pla), fresh bird chilis, coriander, lime juice and a little sugar.

I battered about four okra at a time and then placed them in the hot sunflower oil where I cooked them for 1-2 minutes until they were just starting to turn golden. The quick frying retains the okra's delicious crunch while still heating it up enough to make it tender.   

Continue reading "Thai-style Okra Tempura" »

06 May 2008

Thai Red Curry Mussels

Steamedmussels

I made these mussels a few nights ago with my homemade red curry paste.

The alchemy of the fragrant curry paste, coconut milk and the sweet, salty mussel liquor stimulated all of my senses.

This recipe was very simple to make. It was just a case of heating up the curry paste in a saucepan, adding coconut milk, bringing it to a simmer and then popping in the mussels, which took about five minutes to cook.

Even if you don't make your own curry paste, you can just substitute a commercial brand which will still be good. However, as I said in my last post, once you do make your own, you'll never look back!

Continue reading "Thai Red Curry Mussels" »

01 May 2008

Homemade red curry paste: I'll never go back

Redcurrypaste1

In my recent Thai Green Curry post, I was ashamed to admit that even though I'm half Thai, I had never attempted to make my own curry paste.

Well I finally did it and now I'm left wondering why I didn't try it earlier. The result was quite spectacular and I'm not sure I'll be able to eat the store-bought paste again.

It wasn't the easiest thing to do however that being said, it also wasn't too laborious. I even used my small mortar and pestle to do the job. As you can see in the photo above there are still some small flecks of chili which didn't grind down but it was fine.

It took me about 40 minutes to make the paste. I had to wear my ski goggles during the pounding so as not to get blinded by the juice of 15 or so chilis.  I highly recommend this. Wear sunglasses if you have to.

Ok, let's start with the smell. It was intoxicating. The pulverizing of the Makrut lime skin, lemongrass and galangal with shallots and a mixture of dried and fresh red chilis, released the most incredible, pungent aroma.

Now just to give you a quick run down on some of the ingredients, a Makrut lime is recognisable by its knobbly skin. It has a lovely fragrance, similar to that of a grapefruit. Galangal is a rhizome, similar to ginger, however it has a much sweeter aroma. Asian shallots are small and red with brown skin. For this recipe only the white part of the lemongrass is used as this is the most fragrant and fresh part.

Continue reading "Homemade red curry paste: I'll never go back" »

19 April 2008

Thai Green Curry

Thaigreencurry2_2

One of my goals for 2008 is to start making my own curry paste. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never attempted to do so.  I think it's a combination of not having a large enough mortar and pestle and also just being lazy.

Until I do so, I'll continue to use the excellent Namjai brand green curry paste.

When making a green curry, it is important to try to use Thai sweet basil (pictured below) as it imparts a distinct aniseed-like aroma into the curry. The basil is recognisable by its purple stem and flowers.

Thaibasil

I also add Thai green peppercorns (Prik Thai), which add a sharp bite to the fragant flavours. The next ingredient is a small Thai eggplant called  Ma-kheua Phraw. Even though it soaks up the flavour of the curry, it's still quite bitter but delicious nonetheless. If I can't find any of these little eggplants I usually just substitute them with the large purple variety.

I usually use chicken, however pork, white fish or prawns work really well in this dish.

The curry can be served with rice, although I usually eat it with rice noodles which are readily available in Asian food stores.

Continue reading "Thai Green Curry" »

10 April 2008

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango

Kaoniewmamuang1_2

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango, or Kao Niew Mamuang, is undoubtedly my favourite Thai Dessert.

Its fragrant simplicity is timeless. I have loved it since I was a little girl living in Bangkok and will still try to eat it at least once a day when I am visiting Thailand. A bit much, I know, but nothing beats the Kao Niew Mamuang made by Bangkok street vendors.

Sticky rice is made using a long grain glutionus rice. It needs to be soaked overnight prior to cooking. I use my Thai sticky rice steamer to cook it.

The sticky rice is then mixed with coconut milk that's been boiled with sugar and salt and then topped with ripe mango and toasted sesame seeds.

To prepare the rice, I first wash and drain it after its been soaking. I then wrap it in cheese cloth and place it in the bamboo steamer basket. Next, I cover the rice parcel and steam it for 25 minutes or until the grains are chewy and pop in your mouth. This steaming process can also be done in a normal steamer if need be but the rice has to be wrapped in cheesecloth so it's easier to handle.

The next step will follow in the recipe, however, an important thing to remember which my dad told me, was not to follow the recipe too closely when preparing the coconut milk mixture. He advises to have 3/4 of a cup of sugar on standby but not to neccessarily throw it all in at once in case it's too sweet for your liking. Do it to taste and find the perfect balance for you.

Continue reading "Thai Sticky Rice with Mango" »

01 March 2008

A Spicy Thai Salad: Yum Woon Sen Gai

Yumwoonsen_thai

Yum Woon Sen, is a Thai bean thread noodle salad that is often served with either prawns or ground chicken. The 'dressing' is made up of the usual Thai ingredients, naam pla (fish sauce), lime juice and lemon grass. I also added lots of coriander (cilantro) and mint to my recipe. The salad can be eaten warm or cold.

The noodles are made of mung bean or potato starch and are also known as 'cellophane' noodles because of their clear appearance. They only need about a minute in boiling water and they're done.

I also used mushrooms which I call 'mouse ears' but are actually known as 'Cloud Ears'.  My mum used to call them 'mouse ears' when, during my childhood, we lived in Bangkok.

The black fungus is commonly used in Chinese cooking. They look exactly like large, crinkly mouse ears and have a lovely, rubbery sort of crunch to them. While they don't have much flavour themselves, 'Cloud Ears' absorb whatever flavours they are exposed to; so in this case it was a mixture of salty, sour and spicy.

Anyway, I didn't realise they weren't called 'mouse ears' until the other day when I sent Nic out to buy them. When he arrived at the Asian grocer, and was greeted with nervous looks from the shopkeeper, he called me, suggesting that perhaps 'Cloud Ears' was what I was looking for. An internet search confirmed that he was right and I had fallen victim to another of my mother's deceptions. It's a deception, however, which I intend to perpetuate.

Continue reading "A Spicy Thai Salad: Yum Woon Sen Gai" »

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