Thai Curry Paste Episode XVI : Easy Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman Curry

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman (1)

I already posted a Massaman recipe, both the massaman curry paste and the curry, a while back, but there is a request to do it with the beef instead of baked chicken. if you really want the recipe to be precise, I can do that.

One thing I want to let you know about Thai recipes. The authentic Thai recipes that have been passing from generation to generation normally do not have proportions of each ingredient. They normally consist of a list of ingredients and a rough method only. The younger generation, the students, are supposed to learn alongside the owner of the recipe to get it right at first, then after that, the student needs to adjust the ingredients on her own.

The Thais do not expect the curry (or literary anything) to be exactly same as last time. You would hear conversation at the dining table that goes like this:

“The Massaman today is rather heavy on the spice. It’s nice and covers the lamb smell pretty good.”

“Oh, the heat on green curry today is extra hot. It made me sweat.” — “Oh really? I used the same amount of chilies, but these are from so and so market, they have the hot ones.”

“The Gaeng Phed is rather watery and not as hot, but it’s good because today is such a hot day. I wouldn’t be be able to eat as much if it was the usual.” — “Oh, I just thought, we don’t have any soup on the table today and grandma has a sore throat and wanted to drink some hot soup, so I made the curry a little thinner.”

These are very typical comments. Every time the curry is cooked for the family members, the ingredients and the method will be adjusted not only to fit the type of meat and vegetables used that day but also to factor in the climate and the health of the family members, too.

The ancient Thai kitchen doesn’t even list a set of measuring cups and spoons as must-need equipment. I do have a hard time trying to give you “Western style” recipes because I have to measure everything I put in, and often have to do it a few times to know the semi-precise amount of each ingredient.

I normally just throw stuff in the mortar or pot without measuring. Once I’m done blogging about each recipe, then I go back to not measuring and estimating the amount of each ingredient again. Why not?

The cook has to make the recipe “livable”, meaning adjustable at all times. Whatever recipe I give you is not set solid in stone. You can adjust many things based on your preference. BUT YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THIS: Even though we can substitute the meat and vegetables to whatever is at hand, when it comes to the curry paste we only adjust the amount of the ingredients and never substitute the ingredients and NEVER SUBSTITUTE ONE TYPE OF CURRY PASTE FOR ANOTHER.

Yes, that means YOU CAN’T JUST USE THE RED CURRY PASTE FOR EVERYTHING THAI…Thank you! This is the reason why I spent the whole year writing about curry pastes, alright?

Okay, back to the amount of liquid in the curry. Definitely you can adjust it. I realize that Westerners love more creamy, thicker curry with less curry paste—the opposite of our thin, light but pungent curry. It’s okay, nothing wrong with that. You just use less water.

In making this recipe I even tried a different brand of coconut milk. I just want to see how I could get the type of coconut milk that has a binding agent to “break”. I’m not going to mention the brand but I will tell you the method.

Let’s start.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 1

Ingredients:

Beef shank  2 pieces, just like in the picture

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman

Potato  about 2 cups if you cut them, or about 3 cups whole small potatoes

Onions  2 large size; cut each one to 8 pieces

Roasted peanuts  1/2 cup

Lime juice  1/4 cup

Tamarind pulp  3-4 tablespoons

Palm sugar  1/4 cup

Fish sauce  1/4 cup

Salt 1 – 1-1/2 teaspoons

Coconut milk  4 cups

Massaman curry paste  1/4 cup (+ 2 tablespoons for the extra flavor if you want. This is optional, of course)

(Optional) White cardamom  4 pieces and 4 leaves

(Optional) Pineapple, half of the pineapple, cut however you like. You can also go back to my earlier Massaman post to see the list of possible fruits to add to the curry, or none at all. Even in Thailand they don’t add fruit anymore, except when they cook the traditional Royal cuisine.

Method:

1) You need to cook the beef first, until it’s tender. I normally cook it in water. Just bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours until you can pierce through the meat without force. You don’t have to cook until it falls off the bone yet. We will be cooking it a little more, like 30-45 minutes, with the curry.

This time I wanted to test the coconut milk, so I did it the traditional way. I boiled the meat with half a cup of coconut milk and just added more water, approximately 3 cups. The water will reduce down later.

To add another dimension of flavor to the meat, add curry paste, about a tablespoon or two, to the pot too, only if you want. You don’t need to stir fry the curry paste as you normally would, because this is going to take a long time to cook anyway.

While the meat is cooking, set the rest of the coconut milk by the stove. The cream should float up to the top.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 5

2) Once the meat is tender, now we’re ready to cook the rest of the massaman. At this point, you should have some coconut oil floating on top of the meat pot.

Skim only the coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk that you set aside, about half a cup, and put in a separate pan. Set the pan over medium heat and add the curry paste, and cook for at least 5 minutes. Read about how to cook the curry paste here.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 2

Make sure that the curry paste doesn’t burn, and keep adding more coconut milk to the edge, stirring often. You can add the coconut oil from the beef pot (skimmed from the top) to the pan too.

3) Once the curry paste is cooked through, add the remaining coconut milk and pour the contents into a pot, and bring it to a boil.

4) Add onion,

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 4

transfer the meat to the curry pot, and include 1 to 2 cups of broth from the meat pot, add salt, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 6

5) Add potatoes, pineapple, peanuts and all the condiments. Bring it back to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer again for another 15-20 minutes.

If the curry is starting to dry up and you want thinner curry, you can add more broth from the meat pot to the curry pot. This is your own preference. I like my curry thin; you might like it thicker and creamier.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman 7

6) Before serving, you need to adjust the taste to your preference, too. You should have oil floating on top of your curry. Cooking the coconut milk this long, it’s going to break. I don’t have as thick a layer as I would with the milk I use often, but I do have some.

Here we go, Massaman with beef shank and delicious bone marrow. You can eat it alone or you can eat it with cooked rice, bread, roti pasta, your choice.

Authentic Thai Beef Shank Massaman (2)


The Authentic Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na : Noodles with Meat and Broccoli in Gravy

Authentic Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na

Happy New Year to all of my readers. I hope you all had a great holiday season. I have had an overwhelming response to my absence in blogging; sorry about that. I’ve been so busy with many things I can’t begin to list them. I didn’t even have time to post pictures  on my Instagram or my Facebook pages.

Anyhow, I will have to manage my time better so I can spare time to blog, which I love to do.

Let’s start the year with a simple dish. It’s my main comfort food, actually. Anytime I stress out and I want to eat Guay Tiew Rad Na. Really, it’s that comforting. Rad Na isn’t as popular among the foreigners compared to Pad See Ew or Pad Kee Mao, even though the ingredients for Rad Na and Pad See Ew are quite similar.

You might not have any idea what I’m talking about. It’s a dish mostly prepared with big, fat rice noodles, Sen Yai (see the description in my “all about noodles” post) and has a thick brown gravy with meat—either chicken, pork, beef or shrimp— and Chinese broccoli, called Gai Lan or Kai Lan, poured all over.

This is a dish that doesn’t photograph well at all. It’s like the Canadian poutine. The photo normally is not going to justify the taste.

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Rad (ราด)= to pour, or sometimes you will see it as Lad (ลาด) = to cover, to lay something over on a flat surface, and it has another double meaning as angled surface, too. The official correct word is to be “Rad”, not Lad, as announced by the Royal Institute of Thailand (ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน). So, I will be using only the correct word here.

The Confusepedia, that popular online user-generated encyclopedia which ANYONE can add their knowledge or ignorance as they wish, has put a spin to the word by listing this dish as “Rat Na”…Ewwwwww…gross beyond belief, isn’t it? Even more ridiculous is they show “Rat na…often pronounced lat na as many Thais substitute the r for an l…” My recommendation is if you don’t really know what you are talking about, help people by withholding the urge to express, and at least keep your denseness to yourself, you know.

This dish isn’t originally Thai. It’s one of the Thai-Chinese dishes. Now, the question is which tribe of the Chinese brought this dish to Thailand. Well, apparently the Teochew Chinese and the Cantonese have to fight over the origin of the dish in Thailand now. I’m going to just sit back and watch. ;)

There are many different styles to cooking the gravy. The original one, or the one my dad would call original (which meant something he ate when he was a child which only nearly a century ago) was the one that used Pak Choy—Chinese Mustard greens or Chinese cabbage—and bamboo shoots with extremely thick gravy, so thick you can use it as glue. Because they would serve it in a banana leaf, they had to make sure that the gravy couldn’t leak out.

I hate that “original Rad Na” but I love this one. I am not a big fan of bamboo shoots, and so not a big fan of extremely thick gravy, quite unappealing indeed. Then we have the Teochew style which used Gai Lan—Chinese Broccoli—with a dark fermented soybean called Tao Jiew Dam (Dam=black) and fish sauce. The gravy would be a nice deep brown color.

I’m not done yet. There are more. The Hong Kong style with  the clean-looking gravy with Gai Lan, and the gravy with oyster sauce and no fermented soy bean. You would be able to find this in the US at some Chinese restaurants. It will be listed as Chow Fun with gravy but sometimes they’re using Bok Choy instead of Gai Lan.

And the last kind that I like the most, the Thai style, which I was told is Cantonese style. It has Gai Lan in flavorful gravy that uses garlic, light fermented soy bean, Tao Jiew Khaw (Khaw=white)

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  2

oyster sauce and fish sauce.  Sometimes they even add an egg, either mixed in the gravy or fried separately and placed on top.

Don’t go, “Who cares? Just give me the recipe already!” with me. The recipe is down below, don’t worry. I just want to make sure that my readers would not be fooled by the info from the “Confusepedia”, alright?

I’m still not done describing it yet. The noodles used in Rad Na are not only the “Sen Yai” or the big fat rice noodles. There is Sen Mee, the rice vermicelli as well. Sen Mee will be used in two styles: one is just stir fried in dark soy sauce and oil just like the Sen Yai. Another is the vermicelli that’s  deep fried dry until the noodles are puffed up and crispy. This type would be called “Mai Fun” in the south of Thailand.

The Chinese broccoli also has two different types as well. “Rad Na Yod Phak ราดหน้ายอดผัก” is the advertises that they would be using the young Gai Lan, which is to ensure that there would be no hard parts. There is a way to fake that if the young Chinese broccoli isn’t available.

If you have a hard time finding Chinese broccoli, you can use regular broccoli. It would be delicious as well. If you want to make the extraordinary Rad Na, you have to understand that there are two important elements.

First is the noodles. You can’t be stingy or afraid to use oil to stir fry. This is one important element. The noodles will have to be brown and burnt in some spots and have some “blisters”, which are the spots where the noodles touched the hot oil in the hot pan and just fluffed up, trying to get crispy but there is not enough oil to get them that far. So the noodles acquire a wonderful semi-puffy, semi-sticky texture, full of the “pan smell” aroma.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Sen Yai

I would encourage you to use lard if you normally use butter and are not afraid of using real animal fat. The latest studies say it’s better for your arteries than processed vegetable oil. I believe that. Lard will give the best aroma to the noodles.

Second is the gravy, of course. Alright, now you understand the character of the dish, so we’re ready to make it.

Ingredients (for 3 servings):

Meat of your choice: chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or mixed seafood 1 lb. (I used thinly sliced beef from the Asian market, the type they sell for making shabu-shabu)

Light soy sauce  2 tablespoons

Broccoli, either Chinese or regular, cut in pieces  about 3-4 cups

Chopped garlic  1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (1 tablespoon for the gravy and another teaspoons for the noodles

(Optional) Fermented light soy bean  1 tablespoon

Dark sweet soy sauce  2 tablespoons

Oyster sauce  2 tablespoons

Seasoning sauce or Fish sauce  2 tablespoons

White pepper  2 tablespoons

(Optional) Sugar 1 tablespoon

Soup stock or water 3 cups

Corn starch or tapioca starch  3-4 tablespoons

Noodles of your choice, as much as you want. I used big fat rice noodles, about 1/2 cup of already separated noodles per person.

Dark soy sauce  1 tablespoon

Oil or lard  2-3 tablespoons for the noodles

Oil for the gravy  2 tablespoons

Method:

1) Marinate the beef with 1 tablespoon of white pepper and 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce. (You can use oyster sauce instead of light soy sauce if you like the flavor)

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  1

2) Cut the vegetables. My secret is keeping the inner stems of the broccoli, either the Chinese broccoli or the regular one works fine. I peel the outside, which is the hard part and not chewable, keeping just the white inner core. Slice them thinly.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  4

If you want the “Yod Pak” style or the young Gai Lan, just pick the leaves and keep the stem for cooking something else and don’t use those leaves near the base ofthe stem.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Gai Lan

3) Separate the noodles,

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  8

 

or soak the vermicelli in cold water if you want to use vermicelli.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  7

 

If you want the fried vermicelli, do nothing.

4) Mix all the condiments together, including the fermented bean paste, but reserve the dark soy sauce for stir frying the noodles.

5) Mix the corn starch with half a cup of water or soup stock.

6) You are now ready for action. I recommend using a cast iron wok if you have one. If not, a regular wok is okay.

At high heat, put 3 tablespoons of oil in the wok, wait until the oil gets hot and add the chopped garlic, flip it around a few time s, then add the noodles and the dark soy sauce.

Now the fun begins. Try your best to separate the noodles so they all touch the oil and sauce, tossing them around the wok fast then stopping, counting to ten, then tossing them around again and then stopping again. Repeat the toss and stop until you see the blisters and burns all over the noodles.

You will need more time with Sen Yai than the vermicelli. Once you see the noodles are ready, then turn off the heat. Put the noodles in a bowl.

If you want to do the deep fried vermicelli, you need a lot of oil in the wok, at the least one to two inches from the bottom of the wok. Heat the oil until hot and near smoking (300º F), separate the dried noodles and drop them in the hot oil a little at a time. Most likely you have to scoop them back out right away. Continue doing it until you get the amount you want.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  15

7) Now the gravy. Heat the wok over medium high heat this time, add oil to the wok and wait until the oil gets hot again before adding the garlic, flipping it around a few times. The garlic doesn’t need to be golden before you add the meat.

Trick for the meat: I used thinly-sliced beef, and I want to cook it so the beef is flat and not so wrinkled. I put the beef slices in the wok one by one and try to lay them flat once they touch the wok. You can try to do this or not—i’ts up to you. It’s not mandatory at all, merely my finicky preference.

(Sorry for the lack of pictures. I was cooking this by myself on high heat so I didn’t even have time to grab the camera.)

Add the remaining soup stock, but do not put the stock that you mixed with the starch in just yet. Add the mixed sauce, heat, then wait until the soup is boiling before you add the vegetables.

I separate the vegetables. I add the stems or the inner cores first,

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  9

then the leaves. I want them to be equally cooked and ready at the same time, which is not possible if I throw all of them in together. So I put in the hard part that will take longer time to cook first, following with the part that takes less time to cook.

Then you wait until the soup starts boiling again and add half of the soup stock mixed with starch, stiring the whole time. If you don’t stir, the starch will become lumpy.

Wait until the gravy reaches a rolling boil again to see the consistency. If the gravy doesn’t become thick enough, add more starch mixing a tablespoon in at a time. The gravy will become thick very fast, so be careful with the amount of starch you add.

Always wait until it reach a rolling boil before adding more starch. Taste test your gravy and adjust it to your preference while you are waiting for the gravy to reach that rolling boil.

Add white pepper at the end.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  12

If you want to serve it family style, you can put the noodles and gravy in two separate bowls and let the guests serve themselves, or you can pour the gravy over the noodles and serve. I don’t like serving them together because if you don’t eat them at that moment, the noodles will get soggy and not be as good, especially the deep fried vermicelli.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  10

Do not forget to serve it with “Poung Phrik“.

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  11

Make sure there is chili in vinegar as a part of it. I served it with fish sauce, sugar, chili in vinegar and dried chili flakes. Of course, white pepper on the side as well.

Enjoy the Rad Na!

Thai Guay Tiew Rad Na, Noodles in gravy with meat and broccoli  18


Thai Noodles Episode V: Authentic Thai Slow Cooked Beef with Noodles, Guay Tiew Neau Toon

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon (3)

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, and I secretly hope that someone used my street fried chicken (Hat Yai fried chicken) recipe to deep-fry a turkey. ;) Well if you did, you deserve a shipment of High Heel Gourmet jam for Christmas. I’m serious. Pictures as proof, please. (My jam has been a source of family fights before; you shouldn’t miss it!)

We are now up to the fifth episode of Thai noodles already. After you’ve been eating so much poultry, it’s time to switch the source of protein, don’t you think? I do. This time I offer an easy recipe for slow-cooked beef with noodles that I actually want to call beef stew, but I’m afraid that it will set the wrong expectation for you.

The Thais won’t eat the thick beef stew with noodles. In fact, there are really no noodle dishes with thick, stew-like broth except for curry with noodles, of which we only have two kinds. One is the Northern Thai Curry Noodles that I already gave you the recipe for. The other one is coming soon.

I blame it on the hot Thai climate that doesn’t make eating hot, thick broth seem appealing. Most of our noodles are in a thin broth. When we have noodles with thick gravy we normally eat them with Kanom Jeen—the rice noodles—more than Guay Tiew. The dish looks and feels more like pasta. Kanom Jeen Sao NamKanom Jeen Nam Ya Tai are good examples.

Back to our slow-cooked beef then. Yes, we are going to make a thin broth full of herb and spice aromas. This dish is good for any time of the day, but especially right after clubbing or a party where you might be drinking and dancing a little too much. Anytime I went out to a club, at the end of the night I always wished I were in Bangkok where I could find a street vendor selling beef noodles, or noodles with dumplings.

How can you identify Guay Tiew Neau Toon on the aroma-filled streets of Bangkok? You will see a pot filled with the slow-cooked beef on the cart. Or after you cook this recipe, you will remember the aromas…mmmmm.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon (4)

I listed a lot of “optional” ingredients because they are actually your own preference. Some vendors might put different spices or herbs, and some just stay with the basics. You can invent your own, but I recommend asking me or some other Thai person nearby first just to see if it is okay to serve it that way.

Don’t just guess at it like Bon Appetit’s recipe developer. Her so-called “Thai Beef Stew with Lemongrass and Noodles” calls for unsweetened coconut flakes…aghhhhhhh. We NEVER use that crap in our Guay Tiew, alright? (Let alone using “reduced-sodium” soy sauce then adding fish sauce. So confusing! That’s like ordering a non-fat mocha with whipped cream. What’s the point of reduced-sodium in a soup base? Can’t you just use less of the regular soy sauce?)

Another violation is carrots. If we want to sweeten our soup base naturally, we will use turnips or onions, but not carrots. Do you know why? Because the carrot is not part of our heritage vegetables. We only started growing them a short time ago. Less than forty years ago carrots were still labeled as “Western vegetables”.

Please don’t just think anything with a combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and coconut flakes all together will be approved by the Thais as “Thai food”. I’m not even talking about what is authentic; if your dish can’t even be accepted as Thai food by the Thai, may be you should respectfully consider dropping the country name from it. (When I say “Thai food” I mean the food that Thai people would cook and serve in their household–I’m not being pretentious.). I can guarantee with all my Thainess that the recipe that was published and labeled as “Thai Beef…blah blah…” mentioned above was SO NOT Thai food. We have our principles in our culinary art and we hope that it will be respected. This is one of the main reasons why I write my blog.

You can always add or subtract the ingredients as you prefer. But if it is far from this recipe, you can call it your own noodles dish; no need to add “Thai” to the name.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 1

Ingredients for the beef and the broth:

Beef shank, about 2 lbs. (Including bones. If you are using some leftover steak bone and or other leftover beef, you can adjust it accordingly. I only used  1lb. of beef shank, and added other stuff.)

Celery stalk   3 stems

Garlic, whole clove  2 tablespoons

Cinnamon stick  1 whole (about 6” long)

Star anise  5 full pieces

White pepper 1 tablespoon

Cilantro root 1 big root or 2 smaller roots (If you can’t find it just use a bunch of cilantro stems. Pick the leaves off to use for garnish.)

Seasoning sauce  1/4 cup (Maggi is just fine)

Salt 1 tablespoon

Rock sugar  3 tablespoons (Or 1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar)

Water  1 gallon

These are acceptable optional ingredients:

Leftover steak bones (I used a T-bone and mutton bone here)

Galangal slices  about 6-8 thin slices

Sichuan (or Szechwan) pepper  1 teaspoon

Dried Shitake mushrooms  1/4 cup

Lemongrass  1 whole stalk or 2 of the tips (You will use the bottom part to make curry paste)

Goji berries  2 tablespoons

Whole white cardamom  2 tablespoons

Pandan leaves  4 whole leaves

These are also the optional ingredients that I didn’t use in mine:

Mace

Nutmeg

Onions (just for the sweetness)

Shallots

Dried orange peels

Ginger

Cilantro

Turnip

Pineapple

Dried fish

Shrimp paste

Method for the beef and the broth:

1) Place all the broth ingredients in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the meat falls off the bones, about 2-3 hours. If the water level drops below all the ingredients, you can add more water, but I didn’t have to add to mine. The broth should be clear, not cloudy. If it is so cloudy, you are using too high a temperature. Reduce the heat next time, but it’s still okay to use what you have now.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 2

2) Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and leave it overnight.

3) The next morning skim all the fat off the top. If some herbs or spices come with it, it’s okay too. We’re about to strain all of them out.

4) Take the meat out of the soup and cut into bite-size pieces.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 3

Strain all the herbs and other ingredients out of the soup,

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 4

keeping the broth and discarding the rest. You can keep the mushrooms in if you like. You should end up with a soup that is brown but semi-transparent or clear, with a full herbs and spices aroma. You can also season the soup to your personal preference, but I keep mine pretty mild tasting.

5) Put the cut-up meat in a separate pot and add broth, just enough to cover the meat. Heat until it reaches a boil, then turn off the heat. You shouldn’t let it simmer any longer, but try to keep it warm for the noodles.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 5

Ingredients for the noodles:

Bean sprouts about 2-3 cups

Green leaf lettuce, cut up in chunks, about 2-3 cups

The broth and slow-cooked beef

(Optional) Beef meat balls (I will give you the recipe next week. Just use the store bought for now.)

(Optional) Sliced beef

Noodles of your choice, as much or as little as you want, or none at all.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon

Accompaniments:

Fried garlic in oil (If you don’t know how to make this, look in Episode II)

Celery leaves, chopped

Cilantro and green onion, chopped up

Fish sauce

Sweet dark soy sauce (You can mix dark soy with molasses if you can’t find it)

Granulated sugar

Crushed fresh chili in vinegar (Sambal Oelek is a good substitute)

Sliced red chili in vinegar

Tang Chai (preserved cabbage, look for it in Episode II if you don’t know what it is)

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 6

Method for making the noodles:

1) Boil a separate pot of water, and also heat the remaining broth that you already strained all the herbs out of.

2) Put chopped green leaf lettuce in a bowl. Once the water reaches a boil, cook the bean sprouts and the noodles, then add them to the bowl.

3) If you like to add meatballs or sliced beef, cook them in the broth and add them to your bowl.

4) Take the slow-cooked beef and add to the bowl.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon (1)

4.1) If you want to eat your noodles soup style, add the broth to the bowl and add the accompaniments, except the sweet dark soy sauce, then season to your preference.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon (2)

4.2) If you want to eat your noodles salad style, add the sweet soy sauce first then add all other accompaniments. Season to your preference.

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 1 (1)

Authentic Thai slow cooked beef with noodles - Guay Tiew Neau Toon 2 (1)

Low carb option: Of course, you can prepare this dish without the noodles. It’s called Gao Lao Neau Toon. Of you can swap the noodles for steamed rice as well.


Thai Street Side Fried Chicken : Gai Tod Hat Yai

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai (1)

If it had not been for a viral video clip done by a teenage girl in Trung, a southern province of Thailand, cursing and complaining about her lost “Niaow Gai”–fried chicken with sticky rice–I would have forgotten about this recipe.

I blogged about a traditional wedding ceremony dish of the Trung province earlier this year, Gin Niaow. But I totally forgot that Songkhla province, the hometown of my parents, also has a recipe that is even more famous and popular, and eaten nationally, not only in the South (the nation I’m mentioning is the Thai nation, of course). That recipe is called “Gai Tod Hat Yai”.

You might already know from the previous post that Gai = chicken, Tod = deep fried and Hat Yai = a city in Songkhla province. It actually is just a fried chicken recipe really, but there is a reason why it’s known and eaten all over the country.

What sets this fried chicken apart from all other fried chicken is the marinade and the much needed accessory: crispy fried shallots…lots of them. Do you remember the Thai Chicken Biryani, Khao Mok Gai? That recipe contained fried shallots too. If you want to guess, it’s safe to assume that this is another Halal-derived recipe. Oh, they do love crispy fried shallots.

There is a large  Islamic population in the south of Thailand, especially in the four southern-most provinces: Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla. Nonetheless, though my families are not Islamic, we do love Halal food. It doesn’t include pork—which we love–but their chicken and beef dishes are to die for.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 22

For those of you who plan to go to Thailand, you should try this type of fried chicken when there. It’s superb, and a much better alternative to KFC (which travelers to Thailand eat when they want “familiar” food). And you don’t have to go all the way to the south to try this. There are vendors on the street selling this type of fried chicken all over the country. If you are cautious about hygiene, ask to buy the one that’s just fresh out of the hot oil, and you will be just fine. The identifier for the “Gai Tod Hat Yai” is the fried shallots, don’t forget that.

The best things to eat with this fried chicken are Som Tam and sticky rice. They are gluten-free, and a healthy choice since you will get the oil supply from the fried chicken. There is no need to add mayo to your salad or butter to your sticky rice to balance the diet.

Let’s see what we need here for the marinade.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 1

Ingredients:

Chicken, cut up in large segments, your choice 3 lb.

Chopped or minced garlic  3 tablespoons

White pepper  3 teaspoons

Coriander powder 1-1/2 teaspoons

Cumin powder  1/2 teaspoon

Salt  1-1/2 teaspoons

Brown sugar 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons)

Oyster sauce (or if you want to go full flavor, use fish sauce) 2 tablespoons

Milk  6 tablespoons

(Optional) Coriander or cilantro root, chopped  1 tablespoon

Rice flour about 1-2 cups. (I don’t recommend rice flour from Bob’s Red Mill brand; it’s too coarse. You need to buy it the right kind at an Asian market but if it is too hard to get, use all-purpose flour.)

Sliced shallots 1-3 cups, depending on how much you like them.

Sticky rice, as much or as little as you want. I used only 1 cup (This is on the lesser side)

Oil for frying, about 4 cups

Method:

1) Mush all dried ingredients together until they become paste. Then mix the paste with milk and oyster sauce.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 2

2) Rub all the sauce onto the chicken pieces, under the skin and all. Marinate at least 3 hours. The longer the better. I would prefer overnight if you have time.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 3

3) While you are waiting for the chicken to be marinated, slice the shallots and spread them on a paper towel to dry them a little.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 4

4) Cook your sticky rice. This is another method I use to cook sticky rice. The proportion between rice and water is 1:1.5 (This also depends on how dry the rice is, it could be as much as 1:2, but you would know later). Put the rice and water in a pot, set it on the stove and cook over high heat until the water is boiling. As soon as the water starts to climb up and overflow the pot, turn the heat down to the lowest level and simmer until all the water absorbs. This usually takes about 13-15 minutes.

Take a rice grain and taste if it is cooked through. If it is, turn off the heat, cover and let the rice sit for another 10 minutes. If it isn’t, add more water (about 1/4 cup per each cup of rice), flip the top part down to the bottom and simmer about 5 minutes more, taste it again. It should be cooked through this time.

Cooking the sticky rice this way, you won’t get the perfect-looking rice grains as with the other method I taught you when I gave you the sticky rice and mango recipe but it’s good enough. It’s good for making sticky rice that you don’t have time to soak beforehand. If you want a perfect-looking sticky rice, use the steaming method.

5) Put oil in the wok over medium heat. We’re first going to fry the sliced shallots that we will then air out to dry. Wait until the oil is hot, about 300ºF – 325ºF, drop the shallots in and increase the heat to medium high.

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You will see the oil bubble all over, so stir the shallots constantly and keep watch. As soon as the shallots have some golden spots, take them all out of the oil right away.

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Don’t worry about how white they seem. Let them sit in the scooper or lay them out on a paper towel.

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This is just the first step. The shallots will get darker

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and darker as they sit.

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In the meantime, drop the heat down to medium again. Wait one or two minutes, the oil temperature should increase, and at the same time the shallots should look light golden. Now, if you’ve taken the shallots out of the mesh scooper, put them back in it.

Don’t put all the shallots in the scooper this time. (I’m telling you not to do it the way I did, alright? Learn from my mistakes!) You don’t want a deep layer of shallots in the scooper, so you may need to do this in two or three steps. Now dip the scooper in the hot oil,

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 10

shaking it just to make sure that all the shallots touch the oil, and then take it out right away. The whole dipping should last no more than 30 seconds. Lay those shallots on the paper towel to absorb the oil.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai

Repeat it if you have shallots left. The shallots should be crispy and look all deep golden after cooling for about two minutes. If they’re a little too dark, you dipped them too long.

6) Now we’re ready to fry the chicken. Put rice flour in a bowl big enough to put the all the chicken pieces in. Roll the chicken pieces in the rice flour and shake off the excess flour. You can use a plastic bag and shake the chicken pieces in the bag if you like that method better.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 16

Heat the oil in the wok over medium heat. Let the oil reach about 350ºF before you put the chicken pieces in. Make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 250ºF. If you put in too many pieces, the oil temperature will drop too low and the chicken will soak up too much oil, so limit the number of pieces to not overload the wok.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 18

Let the chicken fry in hot oil over medium heat. Watch them, and you might want to turn them at least once. It’s even okay to turn them more than once. You will have to fry them at the least 6-7 minutes, so be patient. After about 5 minutes, increase the heat to medium high. If you look at the chicken pieces, you might start seeing the blood seeping out of the chicken. That’s a clue to increase the heat, too.

The best way to gauge if the chicken is done, (I usually listen to the sound and look at the bubble but that’s difficult to explain to anyone), is to pull out your thermometer to track what the exact temperature of the oil is. During the period of frying, the temperature will rise slowly at first and then faster, and when the temperature starts to rise a little faster, that’s when you increase the heat.

We increase the heat to make the batter or the skin crispy. This is called the one-pan method. I usually use this method if I don’t fry that many pieces. But if I have to fry many more pieces, I take the cooked chicken out a little before they’re done and let them sit on the oil absorbent paper until I’m done frying the whole batch. Then I increase the oil temperature to 375ºF and then I put the chicken pieces back in the oil for just one to two minutes, or until the outside turns a deeper shade of golden before I take them out. This is called the two-pans method.

If you ever watch a street vendor in Thailand cooking this fried chicken, you can see how this is done. They might have a gigantic wok that looks just like a witch cauldron: black, filled with dark liquid, bubbling, sizzling, seeming like they have just dropped a strand of phoenix hair in it or maybe a lizard. Then they stir the pot and you will smell the yummy chicken goodness. They keep doing that a few times, then they scoop the chicken pieces out. You’re watching and thinking, alright, after all this, now I get to eat my fried chicken.

Nope. They then dump the chicken pieces into another equally intimidating wok! What the heck? That’s what I mean by the two-pans method of frying. The chicken needs two different sets of temperature to make them crispy on the outside, cooked through and still juicy on the inside.

Thai street side fried chicken, Gai Tod Hat Yai 21

7) Now you are ready to serve the fried chicken, but wait a minute. Don’t forget the Nam Jim. Which one is the one to be used for fried chicken? Of course Nam Jim Gai, Thai Sweet Chilli is the one. Don’t forget to include the fried shallots.

Now you don’t even have to go all the way to Thailand to have this yummy fried chicken, and you don’t have to suspend your hygiene concerns or have to worry about the amount of trans fat you have consumed right after you have sated your hunger. So sink your teeth in the crispy fried chicken, put fried shallots on top of the sticky rice and enjoy the treasure of Hat Yai in your own home.

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Thai Noodles for the Beginner, Episode IV: Chicken Noodles, Guay Tiew Gai

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 1

It’s officially winter, finally. I know that I’m in Southern California which has a very mild winter, but it does get chilly here too, even though our only snow is on the top of the mountains. So I’m craving some hot soup.

After leaving my noodles series for quite a while, like the whole quarter of this year, I think this might be an appropriate time to continue the series.  Thai people eat many different kinds of chicken noodles, starting from clear broth to a dark-colored broth,  to TomYum broth and even curry broth like Khao Soi.

In the winter I just want plain clear broth. Do you remember my last episode of Thai noodles, Guay Tiew Moo? The soup for these chicken noodles will be easier than that one, believe it or not. Also this noodle version is not going to have as many items as Guay Tiew Moo.

So this time you won’t need to recruit as many diners as when you were making the full-spread pork noodles; it’s okay to make these chicken noodles for just two people for a cozy night in. So if you haven’t done so since the end of the Guay Tiew Moo party, it’s time to return the neighbor’s kids that you had borrowed. (Or, even better, return your own brats to them and keep theirs!)

Let’s start then.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 24

Ingredients for the broth (for two):

Chicken breast  1 piece

Chicken drumstick  2 pieces

Cilantro root  1 root

Garlic  4 cloves

White peppercorn  1 tablespoon

Onion 1 bulb (This is just to make the soup taste sweet naturally and add flavor. You can also use daikon root)

(Optional) Ginger root  5 slices

(Optional) Goji berries  1 tablespoon

(Optional) Sweet radish or diakon root, preserved  1 tablespoon

Salt 1 teaspooon

Crystal sugar  3 pieces, or about a teaspoon

Water  8 – 10 cups

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 23

Ingredients for the noodles:

Bean sprouts, about 2-3 cups

Noodles of your choice, as much or as little as you want

Accompaniments: (If you don’t understand these please go back and read the Episode II Everything Else Beyond Noodles. There will be an explanation and pictures.

Fried garlic in oil (If you don’t know how to make this, look in Episode II)

Cilantro and green onion, chopped up

Tung Chai

Fish sauce

Granulated sugar

Limes, cut in wedges (shown in this post how to cut a lime)

Cracked roasted peanuts (I use a food processor or coffee grinder to crush them, but you can use a mortar)

Dried red chili flakes

Red jalapeño in vinegar

White pepper

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 16

Method:

1) Put water in the pot and add the cilantro root, smashed garlic, peppercorns and onion (cut in quarters), and bring to a boil over the high heat.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 22

2) Add the chicken breast and drumsticks to the pot, lowering the heat to medium. If some foam appears on the top, scoop it out. Boil the chicken breast until done, using a fork to pierce through the breast to see the level of doneness.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 21

3) Take only the breast part out of the pot and let it cool.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 18Then use a fork to shred the meat.

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Leave the drumsticks in the pot and continue to simmer so the meat is tender and will fall off the bones.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 19

4) Boil another pot of water to cook the vegetables and noodles. Wait until the water reaches a boil, then cook the bean sprouts separately, usually less than a minute,

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 13

remove, put the bean sprouts in the bowl.

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and then do the noodles.

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5) For salad: (Guay Tiew Gai Hang) Toss the noodles with the fried garlic oil right away to prevent them from sticking to each other.

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Warm the shredded chicken up in the soup pot that is still simmering,

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Then add them to the bowl.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 5

Add the drumstick and accompaniments.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 4

For soup: (Guay Tiew Gai Nam) After adding the shredded chicken and the drumstick, then add the soup to an individual serving bowl.  Add the accompaniments.

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 6

For a low carb option: (Guay Tiew Gai Gao Lao) Don’t bother with the noodles, just use more bean sprouts. Add the shredded chicken, the chicken drumstick (only if you have some left) and the accompaniments. You can have the Gao Lao style (no noodles) with or without the broth.

This is the prequel to Thanksgiving ;) We are starting our poultry executions early, so the chicken won’t have a chance to tell the turkey to flee!

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Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 2


Thai Grilled Beef Salad : Yum Neau Yang

 

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau

I haven’t written a lot about Thai salad in the past. From what I remember so far it’s only been Yum Woon Sen, the bean thread salad and if you count Som Tam and Larb as salad then that’s it. Don’t think that the Thais don’t eat salad; they do. They eat a lot of salad, in fact. I just haven’t gotten to the salad as a series yet.

One reason I think Thai’s variety of salads is still not so well known to the western world yet is…they are usually darn spicy! If you’ve ever been to Thailand and ordered a salad, mistaken that it would be the “salad” you’re used to—a pile of vegetables with dressing—you would either be disappointed because it burned your tongue until you couldn’t taste anything else, or it was nothing at all like what you consider a salad.

Our “Yum”, or Thai salads, are so much different. First of all, there is no oil in our salad dressing. Maybe there will be some coconut milk, or some “Nam Phrik Pao”, the chili jam which is a Thai condiment used in many recipes such as “clams with chili jam sauce”, Tom Yum or Tom kha. And any vegetables, if used, will quickly wilt if you don’t eat them right away.

Second, some Yum or salad dishes might not contain any vegetables, but some do. Look at the recipe for “Glass Noodle Salad” I posted here. The vegetables are only green onion and cilantro But Som Tam has a lot of vegetables in it. It depends.

The Thai have a few different names to call their salads: Yum ยำ, Plah พล่า, Tam ตำ, Larb  ลาบ.  These are all considered salad. And we don’t eat them before the meal, we eat them together with other dishes, and of course steamed rice, which calms the spice down quite a lot.

A traditional Thai full course meal always consisted of every taste: sour, sweet, some yummy fat, and salty. In Thai they would say, Preaw=sour, Wan=sweet, Mun=rich taste, Khem=salty. A full-course menu would have 4-5 different dishes that follow these parameters. These are the meals served at a middle class home all the way up to the royal court, but not at a poor household or a country home.

Unfortunately, this tradition no longer holds in the modern Thai household, and hasn’t for some time. I didn’t grow up with this myself, even though we had at the least 2-3 items on the dining table, but they weren’t all calculated based on this flavor parameter anymore. After I’m done introducing you to many different kinds of Thai foods, I can show you the full-course meal of the Thais in the mid-Rattanakosin era, but I can’t do it now. I mention it so you would understand where is the slot for the salad in the full array of Thai dishes.

Yum is normally in the sour-tasting category, to help break up the richness of fried foods or curries in coconut milk.

This time I’m going to give you a recipe for Yum Neau Yang, or grilled beef salad.

This was a blog reader request. He had eaten Yum Neau at a restaurant in his home town in the US. His expectation of this dish is going to be slightly different than the authentic beef salad.

Why?

As I’ve explained previously, Thai restaurants outside Thailand serve things that cater to their customers’ expectations. If they stay authentic with every dish, their business might have less chance of surviving.

Authentic Yum Neau Yang actually looks more like a strip steak than a salad.

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 10

Wait, I know someone is about to ask if Thai people really eat beef or steak, right?

Of course we do. May be it’s not as often as pork or chicken, but we do eat beef. Our beef is not as premium nor as tender as American beef, so we’ve had to find a way to make it chewable somehow. So we serve beef already cut up. We won’t normally serve food that has to be cut at the table, as I mentioned in Thai eating etiquette.

Why do we call this steak “salad”? Because we toss them with a dressing, and in Thai culinary rules, yum or salad doesn’t have to be vegetable dominant.

Yum Neau is one of the recipes that makes me miss my father. This is another “drunkard dish”. (He drank a bit.) It is very commonly served at bars so people can eat this while they drink. The taste of this dish is so intense even alcohol can’t dull your taste buds enough to not taste it.

The reader who requested this told me that the dish he ate had some cucumber in it, too. Probably because vegetables are cheaper than meat, and restaurants can increase the volume of the dish easily by adding them and, on top of that, the restaurant might be trying to please farang customers who are not used to ordering beef salad and getting a sliced beef strip steak instead.

Well, if any bar in Thailand serves this dish to a customer with cucumber tossed with beef (some here even add tomatoes…aghhhh), that bar would be considered “stingy” and there may never be a re-visit to that bar, or at the least never a re-order. Have you ever seen any drunkard who wants to eat vegetables after getting drunk? I always want to eat noodles in hot broth at the end of a drinking night.

Anyhow, it’s not so wrong to eat this dish with vegetables. Thai people would eat this dish with vegetables, but not toss them in with the salad. They would add the vegetables on the side, so the veggies won’t get soggy from all the condiments. Remember, there is no oil in Thai salad. We like to eat raw vegetables crunchy.

OK, the agreement between you and me is: I am going to give you the authentic recipe for Thai grilled beef salad, but if you are “Mai Rak Dee ไม่รักดี” (go find a translator!…I’m not telling you what I just said) and want to add vegetables, you can do that on your own. (And don’t forget to adjust the amount of the dressing accordingly, too.)

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 8

Ingredients:

Beef (I chose ribeye because I need some fat to make the beef flavorful and tender. You choose what you want.) 8 oz.

Lime juice 3 tablespoons

Fish sauce 2 tablespoons

Sugar (I used granulated sugar, but palm sugar is okay, too) 1 tablespoon

Garlic, sliced thinly 1 clove (or as much as you want)

Shallot or onion sliced thinly 2-3 tablespoons

Lemongrass (Must have, you can’t do without it. If you have the tip part left from making the curry paste, you can use that) slice them thinly or you will be sorry,  2-3 tablespoons

Mint leaves 1 cup

(Optional) Green onion

(Optional) Cilantro

(Optional) Dried chili flakes or fresh chopped up chilis, as much or as little as you want. I would prefer none, but that’s not right.

Decorative or side vegetables:

Your choice, pretty much. I would suggest cucumber and lettuce but decorative is decorative, so I can’t pick your favorite garnish vegetables for you.

Method:

1) Season the beef with salt and pepper.

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2) Grill the beef to your liking.

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 1

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 3

Do not cut the beef yet!

3) Arrange the plate, squeeze the lime, slice the lemongrass, onion and garlic, pick the mint leaves off the stems. There are many things to do so DO NOT TOUCH THE BEEF YET.

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 2

4) Mix the condiments together: fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. This is your dressing. Taste it and adjust it to your personal preference.

5) Okay, the beef must have cooled down by now. You can slice it.

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 4

6) Toss the sliced beef with herbs, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, mint leaves, cilantro,  green onion (if used) and the dressing.

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7) Served it over a bed of lettuce and sliced cucumber (or put them on the side where they belong ;-) )

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8) Finish eating it within an hour of preparation would be best.

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau 7


Fried Pork with Garlic and Pepper Thai Style : Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style 18

Before I have to go on another trip next week, let me give you a recipe that was waiting in my queue for quite some time. This is another simple and easy recipe; it’s called Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai in Thai and it means “fried with garlic and pepper.”

You can find it in ANY Thai restaurant menu. It’s the most basic, delicious and popular dish both for the lunch crowd (buying from the vendors or restaurants) and the home cookers. Todd (ทอด) in Thai means fry or deep fry not stir-fry. Pad (ผัด) is stir-fry. So, you should expect to see some oil, or a lot of oil, here.

The difference between Todd and Pad  or fry and stir-fry is frying cooks the food with the heat from the hot oil. Stir-frying cooks the food with the heat from the wok or pan, and oil is merely used to prevent the food from sticking to the pan surface. Which is why it is safe to assume that frying would use the higher heat and much more oil than stir-frying.

Kratiem, Kratiam, Gratiem or Gratiam all mean garlic.

Phrik-Thai is ground pepper.  Mostly it would be white pepper in Asian cooking, unless it is specified as “black pepper”.

Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai is very popular at the “cook to order” food vendors or restaurants in Thailand.  If you ever visited the country, you probably know this dish. There is no “cook to order” place that doesn’t serve this—it’s the basic of the basic. This is probably second in popularity only to Pad KaProw, about which I already posted.

Thai people are used to eating hot meals, even though our country is darn hot already. We are not at all comfortable with the idea of a cold meal or eating food that is not burning hot from the stove. The tropical climate taught a valuable lesson from generation to generation, which is to survive in a bacteria-filled environment year round requires eating freshly cooked food while it’s hot so the bacteria has no chance to grow and hurt our digestive system. Does that make sense?

We have our own “Fast Food” system that would provide hot food to the hungry souls any time of the day. The first shift is beginning from extremely early morning breakfast,  (Sooo early you have just finished your party night at the club) 4am – 6am. The early morning breakfast, which is about the same time as the monks walking out to accept food from people, 6am – 8am. The late morning snack, 8am-11am. The lunch, 11am – 2 pm. The afternoon snack, 2pm-5pm. The early dinner, 5pm – 8pm. The late dinner, 8pm – midnight. And the late night supper which sometimes casually blends into the extremely early morning breakfast from midnight – 4am.

These are provided mostly by the street vendors, who sell only a few things (and often only one) from their stalls. I don’t really count the restaurants which are mostly open all day long. This is where our culture is different than others. Restaurants in Thailand won’t close from 2:30pm – 5pm like most other countries where the labor is much more expensive. They continue operating from the minute they’re open until they close at night, and same applies in major metropolitan areas.

We basically eat like the hobbits. 4-6 meals in a day is pretty common, even though the Thai won’t count the late morning snack, the afternoon snack or the late night supper as a real “meal”, but it actually is. This is not a handful of nuts or a few stalk of carrots or celery. I actually laugh at the idea of the “snack” in most diet programs. It sounds more like pet food than human food.

Seriously, we snack on something much more enjoyable with much fewer calories, like cut up green mangoes or other sour fruits dipped in a little spicy sugar and salt, or ice cream sandwiches, or grilled sour pork sausage with a lot of vegetables, or meatballs on skewers. Not a handful of some tasteless nuts or vegetables that won’t satisfy you.

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style 11

Enough about the snack or in-between meal. Let’s focus on the main meal in the category of “fast food”. All fast food is essentially a hot meal that is partially pre-cooked or cooked fast after you order, isn’t it? The Thai had fast food long before the first McDonald opened its doors.

The most popular fast food Thai-style is called “Khao Kaeng”. Khao = rice, Kaeng = curry soup. Khao Kaeng basically is a plate of white rice topped with Thai curry. There will be many different pre-cooked foods in pots or trays on display, almost like Panda Express. The food would be several different kinds of curries, stir-fried meat and vegetables, yum or salad, soup, fried meat, steamed curry mousse, fried curry cakes, etc.

As you show up, the vendor would put white rice on a plate. This is standard, then you start pointing at the food items you want to eat. They will pile the foods on top of the rice. You can have one kind or many, up to you. Price is determined by the items you choose. That’s it, you just take your plate, utensils and find a place to sit down, normally in the front of their stalls or carts, and you just eat right there. They also sell them “to go” by putting the food in a plastic bag or box for you to carry them back home. With to-go you have to tell them if want rice or not, because you will likely have a pot at home.

We eat Khao Kaeng for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We don’t really eat it for a snack or supper. I guess it might be too heavy. I never really asked anyone why, because this is just the way it’s been since I was a child. It’s just the norm there. I myself don’t eat at the Khao Kaeng places very often. As you might be able to guess if you’ve followed my blog for a while, it’s because most of the items they sell at the Khao Kaeng places, especially curries, salads or even the stir-fries are spicy and have Thai chili as a part of the ingredients, and I can’t eat that.

I usually opt for the second choice, Guay Tiew, or noodles with or without soup, which usually will be selling at some stall or cart nearby. This is something that is also “cooked to order,” so I can tell them not to put chili in my bowl. There are many different kinds of Guay Tiew, and I am posting the recipes in a series, Thai Noodles. It is up to Episode III now.

Guay Tiew is an all day thing–breakfast, lunch, dinner, and also the late night supper, too.

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style 12

If I don’t want to eat noodles but want to eat rice, I have another choice. This is the real “Cooked to Order,” the third favorite kind of fast food for the Thai. For people who haven’t been to Thailand, you probably wonder what the deal is with these cooked to order restaurants. It is a place where you order simple dishes, mostly steamed rice with stir-fried or fried stuff, that can all be cooked in one wok, because that’s the vendor’s entire cookware, a propane stove and a wok. Maybe if they have a large menu item, they might have another pot, but not elaborate at all. They will cook that dish that you just ordered for you right there while you wait.

What’s served normally is Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai–fried meat with garlic and pepper, Pad Ka Prow–stir fried meat with holy basil, Pad Phrik–stir-fried meat with chili and onion, Khai Jiaow– deep fried omelette Thai style, Khai Dao–deep fried egg,  and many more items, and sometimes other stir fried noodles. All would be done in that one wok or a pot, no other complicated cookware. There are many stalls and restaurants like these all over the country. So, if you are there in Thailand, you should forget about Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s and try our real fast food.

The key with “cooked to order” is the fast cooking time. The faster you cook, the more you can serve, right? Most of the meat and vegetables will be already prepped, cleaned, cut to bite size, and marinated. The ingredients would also be prepped as well. The garlic would already be chopped up, and onion, green onion, cilantro and cucumber would already be sliced to the desired sizes. And all the condiments are close at hand.

This is how we’re going to prepare our Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai. I’m going to give you two different ways of cooking it. The first one is the “Cooked to Order” way, and the second one would be the original way Thai people cook the meat for Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, which is the way it would still done at home and at the “Khao Kaeng” style vendors.

What’s the difference?

With the original Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai we would fry the meat in bigger pieces, which takes a longer time to cook, but the benefit is you get the meat to brown nicely on the outside while still tender on the inside. The browning agent is sugar, which is caramelized and glazed over the meat. The garlic also gets cooked to the crispy stage. If you know your stove and know how big you should cut the pieces of meat to cook them through at the same time it takes to perfectly crisp the garlic, you can open a restaurant (I don’t know how yet myself!) This original one is served with the meat sliced to bite size after it is cooked, rather than before.

As I mentioned before, “cooked to order” is a business that depends on how fast they can cook. So they slice the meat into small pieces, hence a shorter cooking time. How do they get it brown? Dark soy sauce. How do they imitate the caramelized sugar glaze? Sweet, dark soy sauce, which contains molasses. That is how two methods differ.

Ingredients:

Meat of your choice (I used pork) cut to bite size 300-320g (10-12oz.)

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I would recommend picking the meat with some fat content in it, or the end product could be tough.

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Garlic 1 whole bulb

Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon

Fish sauce 2 tablespoon (If you like it salty 3 tablespoon)

Oyster sauce 1 teaspoon

Sugar 1-2 teaspoons

Cilantro sprig for garnish

Sweet dark soy sauce 1 tablespoon (You can substitute with 2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of molasses)

Oil about 2-4 tablespoons

THERE IS NO FLOUR OR STARCH IN THIS DISH, and I’ve never seen anyone use SALT! So if you want authentic fried meat with garlic and pepper Thai-style, keep your starch and salt locked up somewhere and bring out the fish sauce (The neighbors will get used to this someday, believe me. They will stop asking what is that “smell” from your kitchen eventually.)

Method:

1) Marinate the meat by putting ALL of the condiments and pepper together, minus the garlic. This is the time when you can taste-test it. Do it and adjust the taste to your preference before you put the meat in.

2) Now you have to actually put the meat into the sauce!

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3) Now we will deal with garlic. First you take the hard shell off the garlic bulb. I recommend using California organic garlic from Gilroy. As you might know, most of the garlic sold in the US comes either from China or from California. I think it’s reasonable to avoid the Chinese grown garlic since it could be the imitation garlic. You never know!

Ok, we’ve made sure that we have the REAL garlic. Now we’re going to smash it.

I hope you have a cleaver. If you don’t, then a big, heavy knife should do the job. If you still don’t have that…mannnn…are you really cooking with a Swiss army knife or what? Alright, if you can’t even get a big and heavy knife, then use a bottle, a pestle, or a rolling pin wrapped up in plastic wrap. You don’t want your pies to smell like garlic, I reckon. But if you somehow have a mortar and pestle but don’t have a big, heavy knife, I so want to kick your ass for the wrong priorities in your kitchen life, unless you are wearing your underwear outside your jeans too. In that case, fly to my house, I will be cook Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai for you ;)

Smash the garlic with the flat part of the cleaver,

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or whatever pathetic tools you can find that suit the job.  Smash them together skin and all, pick the tough skin out if you wish, but leave the thin ones in. You might want to roughly chop it a little, too. Did I mention a cleaver is the perfect tool for this job?

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4) Scoop up about one tablespoon of roughly chopped garlic and put it in with the marinated meat, and save the rest.

5) Let the mixture sit for a while; 30 minutes should be minimum. The whole night if you want. You should steam your rice while you’re waiting, because the rest of this only takes less than 5 minutes.

WE WILL BE COOKING THIS ONE PLATE AT A TIME, SO DIVIDE THE MEAT IN PORTIONS BEFORE YOU START. Also, read all of the next steps through before start cooking.

6) Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Remember I told you what the difference is between Todd and Pad. (If you missed this part, go back to the 3rd paragraph. You probably didn’t do well in school, I can tell.) DON’T BE STINGY WITH YOUR OIL! We are not making a stir-fry here. This is truly a fried dish, so get used to the idea of oil. There will be leftover oil from this batch that you can use with the next batch, too.

7) Blast the heat to the highest and wait until the oil gets hot, then first put HALF of the rest of the smashed garlic in the hot oil. Flip them around. This is called “Jiaow” or frying something in oil while tossing it around.

8) This is a very critical step—you have to watch it carefully. Once the garlic gets slightly golden, you have to drop the meat in right away. It should take only half a minute at the most before the garlic is ready, and only take another 10 seconds for it to be ruined like this:

This is actually beyond golden! The perfectly golden one would turn in to this as soon as I grab my camera so imagine a few second back!

This is actually beyond golden! The perfectly golden one would turn into this as soon as I grabbed my camera, so imagine a few seconds back!

No, you are not going to grab your camera to take pictures, or even let your eyes get anywhere else but watching the wok, or your Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai would look like this at the end. This is not good. The garlic will be bitter!

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style

9) Toss the meat around the pan very quickly,

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This is the one that I managed to drop the meat in on time, but you can see that the garlic on the edge is starting to brown…

making sure that it’s all cooked with no pink left on the outside. By the time the meat is cooked, the garlic should be crispy but not burned (at least you would hope for that).

10) Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat up from the oil and place it over steamed rice. Garnish with the cilantro.

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11) You are now ready to make another batch. Add another tablespoon of oil before you start the new batch. After you’re done with the final batch, discard all the oil.

If you want to make a fried omelette to eat with this, the omelette will be the first thing you fry, even before the garlic, and if you want to make two servings, made the omelette first for both.

Thai omelette

Do not forget to add more oil for the omelette. If you want to fry an egg or an omelette made from one egg, you would need about 2-3 tablespoons of oil (and will have some left in the wok, of course.)

I taught this method to a Chinese friend. He burnt the garlic again and again until he came up with a new method. He fried the garlic first until it was golden, then scooped it up and saved it in a cup, then he fried the pork and added the fried garlic back to the pork later. You can try that if you want, but believe me, after a few tries, you can master this.

That’s Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, the “cooked to order” version. I will give you another version that I like better because I’m used to this version more. This is how my nanny and the cook at my house would make it for me. What’s the difference? This version fries the pork in bigger chunks and doesn’t use the dark soy to give it color. As I mentioned, the brownish color is from the sugar that got caramelized in the process. Can you imagine the flavor?

Ingredients:

With this version it is even more critical to pick meat with some fat just to keep the meat tender and juicy. I would suggest the shoulder or country rib for  pork, and ribeye, skirt steak or flank steak for the beef (the prime grade would be better, also).

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And if you insist on making this with chicken, dark meat would be my choice, but you can use the breast meat too. It will be drier, but you should be used to the dryness anyway if you prefer breast meat.

Meat of your choice (I still used pork) 300-325g (10-12oz.)

Garlic 1 whole bulb

Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon

Fish sauce 3 tablespoons

Oyster sauce 1 tablespoon

Sugar 1 tablespoon

Oil for frying 4 tablespoons

Method:

1) Cut the meat to about 2”x3”x.5” size and marinate them.

2) Peel and smash the garlic (read the #3 of the above method) scoop up about 2 tablespoons and put it in the marinade.

3) Leave the meat to marinate at least 1 hour to overnight.

4) Put oil in the wok and set it over medium high heat, wait until the oil is hot and then put all of the meat in.

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5) Drop the heat down to medium and watch until the edges get slightly brown, then flip the meat.

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6) Fry until the meat cooks through the inside. You can flip it over a few more times. Increase the heat toward the end to brown it slightly more.

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7) Use a slotted spoon to get the meat out of the hot oil; set aside.

8) Add the rest of the smashed garlic to the hot oil, fry until it’s golden, scoop it up and put it over the fried meat. You can slice the meat before serving and garnish with cilantro. And then it’s time for everyone to eat!

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