The Basic Thai Dipping Sauce: Nam Jim (Nam Pla Phrik, Nam Jim Gai, Nam Jim Jaew and Nam Jim Seafood)Posted: March 29, 2014
Talking about Thai eating culture without mentioning the traditional dipping sauce is quite incomplete. We have an eating culture that by design caters to everyone’s palette. We’re actually not a food Nazis like many other countries’ food cultures. And no, I don’t count myself in with my peers. I am a semi recipe Nazi ;) heehee.
That’s may be one of the reasons why, even when our culinary heritage has been ruined left and right by someone who “claims to know” Thai food either by visiting our country decades ago or because they “eat Thai food at least once a week, if not more”, we still let them do it without importing an elephant in to step on them.
We do adjust a dish’s taste to suit everyone’s palette, with the sauce as the primary adjuster, and we have “Poung Phrik, พวงพริก”, a set of condiments and seasonings, on the table as a secondary adjuster. If you’ve ever been in a noodle shop in Thailand, you might be familiar with this set of four seasonings: ground dried red chili flakes (Phrik Pon), granulated sugar, fish sauce and chilies in vinegar.
This set of condiments on the table might vary depending on the type of food they serve in that particular restaurant. For a pork noodle restaurant, for example, the fish sauce might be in a bottle on the table and one of the quartet is replaced with crushed roasted peanuts. For a boat noodle shop, the sliced red chilies in vinegar might turn into crushed red chilies with garlic in vinegar or, worse yet, crushed yellow chilies in vinegar, (boasted as the hottest…and it is!)
The “one dish” shop or the “made to order” kind of food (usually serving drunken noodles, Pad See Ew, or rice topped with an omelette, or rice topped with some stir fried meat and holy basil) would replace the fish sauce with “Nam Pla Phrik”, the fish sauce with slice bird’s eye chilies and lime juice.
The “Khao Soi” shop will have the red chili flakes stir-fried in oil instead of the dried red chili flakes. I’m only scratching the surface of the “Poung Phrik” culture here. (Please, look down below for the Thai translation in the Glossary)
We don’t believe that the chef, regardless of how many Michelin stars he/she has received in the past, would cook EVERY DISH to please everyone’s palette, especially the level of heat from chili. Most French chefs who come to Thailand can’t help but get mad at the Thai customers who always ask for “more sauce on the side, please”. Can you imagine the frustration for the chef? If they weren’t bald to start with, they would have pulled their hair out until they’re bald by the end anyway.
Their hair will start to grow back when they understand about the “Poung Phrik Culture”. By the way, Thai don’t consider that they have Poung Phrik Culture. It’s the sarcastic name used by my favorite pastry chef, who’s Thai but makes all the pastries in her shop, “Let Them Eat Cake”, with the traditional French method, which is very specific about all the ingredients and sauce quantities. She gets so frustrated with Thai customers who keep asking her to “customize” their orders, that she coined the phrase Poung Phrik Culture, to describe their behavior. (Ahem, they are eating dessert, for Christ’s sake! Just eat it!)
I will tell you the varieties of “Poung Phrik” when I write the blog about the various noodles served in Thailand, which I plan to post later this year once I’m done with the curry paste posts.
Why do I say that Nam Jim is the “premium” dipping sauce? It’s not premium by the ingredients, but by virtue of the fact that the sauce is made just for the dish. Thai like a variety of tastes: salty, sour, sweet and spicy. If the food only offers one or two accents, Nam Jim or Nam Chim is going to cover all the rest. Nam Jim sauces are mostly a combination of all the four tastes.
Nam Jim could be a make-it or break-it for a restaurant business in Thailand, believe it or not. If you’ve ever seen a restaurant row in any beach city and one restaurant has many more customers than the others, you can suspect that the popular one serves a better Nam Jim, because barbecued seafoods don’t need much more than fresh seafood to start and a good dipping sauce. That’s how important Nam Jim is in Thai cuisine.
So, let’s introduce you to “Nam Jim”, the Thai dipping sauce. The first and most popular is the “Nam Pla Phrik”. As you may know, Nam Pla is fish sauce and Phrik is chili. This is not difficult to guess what’s in it. The unpronounced ingredient is lime juice.
Ingredients for Nam Pla Phrik
Fish sauce 1-2 tablespoons
Lime juice 2-4 teaspoons
Bird’s-eye chili, sliced or crushed (depending on how you want to eat them) 1-10 pods
The amount of chili used depends on the size of the chili and how spicy you like it. The one sold in Thailand is small, about 1” long with 1/4” in diameter or smaller (That’s the killer chili, so be careful.) The type they sell here is about 1 1/2”- 3” long with 3/8” in diameter. I only use…(err, if I ever use it at all) ONE!
You just mix them all together. Yield is between 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup
Nam Pla Phrik is the most common “Nam Jim”. you can add this to an omelette, stir fried meat with holy basil (Pad Ka Praw), stir fried meat with onion and chili (Pad Phrik), Pad See Ew, Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao), Fried fish and many, many more.
I would say this is good for the stir-fried dishes (but not limited to) because it adds the salty and sour taste together with the spicy or hot from the chili. Some people want it just for the sake of having it nearby with every meal.
The next one is also very popular outside the country. This is the famous “Nam Jim Gai” or “Nam Jim Kai” (I prefer to use “Gai” for the chicken and “Kai” or “Khai” for the egg. The pronunciation is quite similar so I have to differentiate them in my karaoke Thai here). The sauce is for grilled chicken, but it is actually widely known as Thai sweet chili sauce.
I was so surprised to discover this sauce in a sealed tiny plastic disposable container (like a mini jam container) as part of the multiple sauces, butter and jam offering on the table in the South Pacific! I’ve found it again in south of France, too.
It is a versatile dipping sauce for grilled meat and fried food. It also can be mixed with crushed peanuts and cucumber, like the sauce I used for Tod Mun. The sauce in my last post, Thai grilled chicken, Gai Yang, is also another appropriate dish for this sauce.
This type of sauce is supposed to be thick and syrupy, with flakes of fresh red chili floating in it. You can choose the level of spice by selecting the type of the chili and adding the seeds and membrane, or not (seeds and membrane are where the heat resides most in the chili pod, but the shell also contains some heat as well).
Of course, my option for seeds and membrane is NONE.
You can make a bigger batch, put it in a jar or bottle and store it in the fridge. Normally you might see the chili floating on the top. That’s why you have to shake the bottle before use.
Some people will put corn starch or tapioca starch in it to settle the chili flakes. I found that awful! I won’t do it. I just boil the contents down if I want a thicker syrup. This set of ingredients are for small portions, about half a cup. I normally make a big batch and store it in the fridge for use the whole year.
Ingredients for Nam Jim Gai (Thai Sweet Chili Sauce)
Fresh red (only red) chili I used the red Jalapeño chili and take all the seeds and membrane out. 3 pods, chopped
Fresh garlic, crushed or minced 1 teaspoon
Pickled garlic, chopped 2 tablespoons
Brine in the pickled garlic jar 1 – 2 tablespoons
Vinegar 1/2 cup
Granulated sugar 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
Salt 1 teaspoon
Method for Nam Jim Gai
1) Crush the chilis and garlic in a food processor
2) Put vinegar, sugar and salt in a pot and bring it to a boil
3) Add the crushed red chilis and garlic and bring it back to a boil.
Let it boil for a while until the contents are reduced and the chilies are all cooked. Takes about 2-5 minutes depending on the total volume of liquid in the batch.
4) Store in clean jars.
Another Nam Jim for grilled chicken I mentioned in the last blog is “Nam Jim Jaew”, the hot, sour and spicy dipping sauce for grilled meat and sticky rice. This is a Northeastern versatile dipping sauce. The sourness of the sauce is from tamarind pulp. The chili is ground dried chili flakes. I also add a pinch of sugar just to substitute for the MSG, which is normally added to the sauce.
The other difference in this dipping sauce is it has toasted rice and green onion in it, too. This is the sauce that you make as you need and never make too much of it.
Ingredients for Nam Jim Jaew
Tamarind pulp 1-1/2 tablespoons
Fish sauce 2 tablespoons
Ground red chili, or dried red chili flakes for the less spicy version, 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon (as much or as little as you prefer, actually)
Palm sugar 1/4 teaspoon
Toasted rice 1/4 teaspoon – 2 teaspoons can be added (the more toasted rice the thicker the sauce would be)
Chopped green onion 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Simple method again, just mix them all together.
Another Nam Jim that I consider “basic” is “Nam Jim Seafood”, or some might call it “Nam Jim Pae Sa”. This is the dipping sauce for seafood: grilled or steamed fish, shrimp, crabs and all mollusks.
This is the dipping sauce that I carefully carry in my purse (wrapped with muti-layered paper towels and plastic bags) when I go to any seafood restaurants that don’t offer any more than butter for dipping the seafood. I wish in the future this dipping sauce might become so popular I don’t have to carry it around myself. It’s not fun if it leaks. Regardless of how expensive my purse might be, it’s done after the incident!
I sometimes sell my used brand name purses on Ebay when I’m done with them and am ready to buy a new one, but the new one is so expensive I offset it with the money from my old used purse. Once I listed one of the premium purses for sale with the remark that I once leaked a sauce in it but it had been cleaned by the store. The potential buyer asked what the ingredients of the sauce were. I told her.
She wrote, “Fish sauce and garlic? OMG how dare you sell it and hope that anyone would buy it!”…What’s a beeyotch…but she was half right because I had spent $150 to clean the frigging smell out of the darn bag. Heed this warning: if you need to put the dipping sauce in your purse, doubling the plastic bag helps!
Ingredients for Nam Jim Seafood
Fish sauce 1 tablespoon
Lime juice 1 tablespoon
Garlic, minced 1 teaspoon
Cilantro stems, minced 2 teaspoons
(Optional) Granulated sugar a pinch, or 1/2 teaspoon
(Optional) Crushed fresh green chili (jalapeño or bird’s-eye) 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Simple method: mix them all together. This is the sauce that you make as you go and never make too much, too.
It’s taken me so long to write about this. One of the reasons why I hesitate to post about Thai Barbecue Chicken is there are countless number of recipes for this dish. Every region has at least a few, not just one, and I seriously didn’t want to make this another series. Also, I don’t know which one is my favorite because I like fried chicken more than barbecue chicken.
If you ask me what is my family recipe, I don’t have one. Barbecue chicken is considered a “street food” in my household. It is either a street or train station food item. If we wanted it, we bought it from a vendor nearby, so we never really made it at home.
When I was young, at the train station you would see vendors carrying trays of food and other necessities such as monkey balm (for mosquito bites), inhaler for train motion sickness and of course several food items. Barbecue chicken is the most desirable because they would cook it at a stall not so far from the train station.
The smell of the grilled chicken traveled so far out we could smell it as we approached the station. The sweet, pungent aroma would make your mouth water! The quartered or half chickens would be spread out and sandwiched in between bamboo holders, bright with yellow color, and the smell of garlic, turmeric and fish sauce would engulf the whole train station.
Later in life (still young, haha…a few decades ago) I encountered a very famous “new” method to grill the chicken, “Gai Ob Fang”, which grills the chicken using hay instead of charcoal. (Gai=Chicken, Ob=roasted or bake, Fang=Straw) The principle was almost like “beer can chicken” except that the heat source was burning straw. As some of you already know, straw gives out higher heat than charcoal, but also burns very quickly.
Here is the method: sit a chicken on a bottle containing some random liquid for stability and also flavor from the vapor (not recommended to use a high alcohol content liquid like most hard liquor, unless you want to do “explosive chicken”), then cover the chicken with a fire-resistant container (like a clean plant pot), then the whole container is covered with a lot of straw. The straw is lit and burned until the fire dies down. When the container cools off, theoretically, the chicken should be perfectly cooked inside.
I hope you don’t expect my dad or me to ever try this at home. We lived in a Third World country, by Western standards, but our city home was the same as you guys’ city homes here, and less open area surrounding it compared to you folks who live the suburbs or countryside. We couldn’t do that at home unless we wanted to burn our house down to claim the fire insurance!
So, assuming that my experience with roasted chicken is more as a buyer than a chef, you might forgive me for this not-so-knowledgable post. At least I can make a mean dipping sauce, which is equally as important as the chicken (especially to the Thai).
The requisite of any barbecue chicken is the marinade as much as the method of cooking. My typical marinade is very simple: garlic, pepper, cilantro root or stem (no leaves), salt, sugar and, optionally, turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, chili sauce, honey, galangal and paprika or chili.
This time my method of cooking is oven-roasted. I actually got the tip from my designer, a Mr.Go. He not only designed my new logo but is also an excellent cook. He roasts the chicken using high heat, 400ºF, continuously for an hour and a half. (My usual is 350ºF for 40 minutes, rest outside covered with foil for 15 minutes, and put back in again at 400ºF for another 15 minutes.) His method yield a nicely-roasted chicken with crispy skin, which I love.
Okay, let’s see what the ingredients are for the marinade.
One whole chicken about 3.4 – 4 lb.
Garlic 1/4 cup
Pepper 1-2 tablespoons (either white or black–I used white)
Cilantro stem, chopped about 1/2 cup
Turmeric 1-2 tablespoons (depends on the strength of your turmeric; you can use turmeric powder if you can’t find fresh, 2 teaspoons)
Salt 1 teaspoon (If you are not going to use fish sauce or oyster sauce, add more salt)
Sugar 1-2 tablespoons
(Optional) Fish sauce or soy sauce 2 tablespoons
(Optional) Oyster sauce 2 tablespoons
1) You need to clean the chicken and the first messy part is to stick your hands underneath the chicken skin and separate the skin from the flesh. Please, do not take the skin entirely off at this point.
I taught my friend about how to marinate a chicken and he thought, “What’s the point of keeping the skin on when you don’t eat it? Plus you need to marinate the flesh, not the skin.” Then he ripped ALL the skin off, proudly announced that he found the solution for the “messy process”. The result was a dried-up roasted chicken!
2) Put all the ingredients (EXCEPT the chicken!) in the food processor or blender and puree them. I used a mortar and pestle this time (so time consuming, and I got an herbal facial spa as a result!)
3) Carefully put the marinade inside the chicken, underneath the chicken skin and over the skin. Then let the chicken sit there for at least 3 hours or more.
4) You can either do it like I did, using an upright chicken roaster or just put the chicken on a rack. The upright tends to work better on a barbecue grill. I used it in the oven, resulting in a darker top (but also crispier skin). I think using a rack and laying the chicken on its side and flipping it would work better for the oven.
Warm up the oven to 400ºF.
Put the chicken in (I used convection as well) for 55 minutes. Brush or spray the skin with vegetable oil about half way through, about 25-30 minutes after the chicken went in.
After you pull it out, poke the thigh and see if the juice runs out clear. If it is, then you are done. If you use a thermometer, insert it into the breast part and thigh part like I did (LOL–my kitchen experimental lab; I just wanted to know how long I needed to cook the chicken this way), the thermometer should read 155ºF in the breast part and 140 in the thigh Pull the chicken out of the oven and let it rest. Amazingly, the temperature in the breast will continue to go higher to 160ºF, and the thigh will go up to 155ºF.
I let it rest until the temperature drops a little and cut the thighs and legs off to put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
5) Cut and serve with “Nam Jim Gai”, or sweet chili sauce, and “Nam Jim Jaew”, or spicy and sour dipping sauce. Please come back to visit next week I will give a recipe for Nam Jim.
and Larb with raw salmon.
After so many easy recipes, I think it’s time to bring you back to Thai curry paste. I still have many in store for you. This one is another very popular curry among the farangs, too. Remember I told you in the very first episode that I’m not going to call Thai curry by the color but I’m going to use the Thai names, because a lot of curries have the same color due to the same base ingredients.
Using only color to call each curry is like calling all the Asians “Yellow” or call all the European “white”. No, I can’t discriminate against the Thai curries that way. Unfortunately, this curry that known is to most Westerners by the name “yellow curry” is called “Kaeng Kari” or “Kaeng Garee” in Thai.
What is so “unfortunate” about it?
Pronounce the name: Garee…Kari…Curry. Do you get it? The name of this curry actually is “Curry”! Haha…
If you try to order “Yellow Curry” at a restaurant in Thailand, you might end up getting the “Southern Sour Curry” instead of this “Yellow Curry”, because to the Thais there is another curry that they call by the color.
Remember the Sour curry that I posted in the past, Kaeng Som that has two meanings, sour curry or orange curry. There is a similar curry, with water base but the southern people use turmeric in the curry paste which makes the curry so yellow. (Don’t worry I will get to that later) They call that curry Kaeng Lueang (lueang=yellow).
This Kaeng Garee was very strongly influenced by Indian curry. You can tell from the ingredients of the curry paste. Normally, other than shrimp paste and dried spices, Thai curry paste ingredients don’t need to be cooked. If you remember the Chiang Mai Curry Noodles, Khao Soi, that is one of the curries that has a strong influence from Islamic Chinese; the ginger, galangal and even shallots are cooked before you can make the paste.
Kaeng Garee has ginger in the curry paste, cooked ginger and also cooked galangal too. Some households might even cook the garlic and shallots, but I like them uncooked. Also there are a lot of spices in it too: coriander seeds, cumin seeds and black cardamom. Some family recipes would also include fenugreek, cinnamon or mace, but I don’t use them.
I don’t usually like to eat Kaeng Garee as much as all the others curries. I probably cook this curry once every few years. Not a lot of people get to eat my Kaeng Garee but they get to eat my Guay Tiew Kaeng, which uses the same curry paste. You will get that recipe when I start writing about the variety of noodles in Thai cuisine later this year.
I’m giving you two ways of making the curry paste. One is my more typical, created by adding more ingredients to the Kaeng Kua curry paste, and the other is made from scratch.
Ingredients for curry paste using Kaeng Kua curry paste as a base (for 2)
Kaeng Kua curry paste 1/4 cups
Shallots, sliced (roasted is optional) 1 tablespoon
Garlic, sliced (roasted is optional) 1 teaspoon
Roasted Galangal, sliced or chopped 1 teaspoon
Roasted Ginger sliced or chopped 2 tablespoons
Roasted Coriander seeds 1 tablespoon
Roasted Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon
Roasted Black Cardamon 3 pods
Curry powder 2 teaspoons
Ingredients for curry paste from scratch
Dried red chilies (I used Anaheim pepper or California chili) 4 pods
Lemongrass, sliced 2 tablespoons
Shallots, sliced (roasted is optional) 3 tablespoons
Garlic, sliced (roasted is optional) 2 tablespoons
Roasted Galangal, sliced or chopped 1 tablespoon
Roasted Ginger, sliced or chopped 2 tablespoons
Roasted Coriander seeds 1 tablespoon
Roasted Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon
Roasted Black Cardamon 3 pods
Curry powder 2 teaspoons
Roasted Shrimp paste 1 teaspoon
Salt 1 teaspoon
1) For the one using Kaeng Kua curry paste, mush all the ingredients as I explained in the post about advanced Thai curry paste.
2) For the one from scratch I explain in detail in the post about green curry paste, Kaeng Khiao Wan.
Ingredients for the curry
Chicken or beef 1 lb. (Half a kilo)
Coconut milk 2 cups
Water 1 – 1–1/2 cups
Potatoes, cubed, about 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” size 1-2 cups
Onions, quartered 1 – 2 cups
Kaeng Garee curry paste 1/3 – 1/2 cup
Fish sauce 2 – 4 tablespoons
Palm sugar 1 – 2 tablespoons
1) Cook the curry paste with coconut milk (See this post about how to cook the curry paste)
2) Add the meat and cook until it seared on the outside.
3) Add more coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. If your meat is beef, don’t add the coconut milk yet, just add only water and continue cooking until the beef is near the tenderness you prefer first before you move to the next step. It would take about one hour or more with beef but only take about twenty minutes to half an hour for the chicken.
4) Add the onion and potato and start seasoning the curry. I have a bad habit of overcooking the potato. You should be careful about how done the potatoes are. The longer you cook, the more the potato breaks down and the starch from potato will bind the coconut milk and the coconut oil back together again.
The result is the “gloss” of the coconut oil that resulted from carefully cooking the curry paste until the coconut milk “breaks” would be gone. Of course, the curry will still taste good, but you won’t get the look of the authentic curry.
5) Adjust the taste while you wait for the potatoes and onions to be cooked.
6) If you really want to serve authentic Kaeng Garee, serve it with cucumber salad, A-Jad.
Do you like to eat fish? I love to eat all types of fish, but my husband isn’t a big fan, even though it’s good for him. But I understand. I’ve been told since I was six years old that liver is good for me, and I still don’t like eating it, except foie-gras!
So when he eats out and has a steak, which is his favorite but it’s not good for his health, I have to come up with some fish menu to counter the artery-clogging effect of the beef.
I have many favorite ways of eating fish: sushi, fish tartare, anchovy-style, smoked, and many other raw fish or pickle fish preparations. I have to admit that I actually don’t like cooked fish as much as raw, except the cooked fish in Thai cuisine.
Thailand is so abundant with fish: salt water, fresh water even brackish water fish. Fish are in the rice fields, in the sewage, in the canals, rivers, ponds, almost everywhere that has water. Thai people have a saying about the abundance in the region, which is “There’s always fish in the water and rice in the field.” (ในน้ำมีปลาในนามีข้าว)
Thai people have many different ways of cooking fish: fried, steamed, grilled, stewed, in curry sauce, fish cake, fish mousse, fried then stir-fried, steamed then deep fried, etc. It’s so easy to think of a way to cook fish in Thai cooking that it might be more difficult to find a cooking method that the Thais haven’t already used to cook fish.
Well, to try to cook fish Thai-style for my husband is also a problem, because the Thais like to cook the WHOLE fish and my hubby doesn’t like any fish looking at him from a serving plate. It does take some getting used to. I’ve practiced since I was a kid. My dad used to tell me,“Eat the fish’s eyeballs before anyone else gets to them. It will make you very, very smart.” Thanks Dad! I’m now smart enough NOT to pick the eyeballs out and chew on those unbreakable little beads.
So the fish has to be cleaned and decapitated, but I still want the skin on so he can get the OMEGA 3 from the fish oil, which is mostly in the fat layer underneath the skin. I ended up picking a frozen, wild caught, sockeye salmon from Trader Joe’s for this mission. The mission had a dual purpose, as I also have a friend who wants me to suggest ingredients from a “regular” market (not my exotic Asian favorites). I’m trying my best here.
This recipe is also one that is very simple, for those of you clamoring for something less complicated. It can also be prepared for a vegan, by substituting the fish with tofu and substituting the fish sauce with soy sauce.
Ingredients (for 2)
Fish of your choice, 2 pieces, or one whole fish of approximately 1 lb. (A block of tofu for a vegan or vegetarian)
A head of garlic or chopped fresh garlic, about 2 tablespoons or, if you are crazy for garlic like me, 1/4 cup
Fish sauce 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (soy sauce for vegan)
3 Limes (DO NOT USE THAT LIME JUICE IN THE GREEN PLASTIC BOTTLE…YUCK! FYI, that’s not pure lime juice.) You should squeeze the juice fresh, about 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
Brown sugar 2 teaspoons
Cilantro, chopped, about 1/2 cup (or as little or as much as you want)
Ginger, minced 2 tablespoons (If you are using whole fish, just slice it)
(Optional) Fresh bird’s-eye chilies, as much as you can handle
(Optional) Lemongrass, minced 2 tablespoons (also use whole stalk if you cook a whole fish)
(Optional) Kaffir lime leaves 2 leaves, minced
(Optional) Oil for frying
1) Squeeze juice from all three limes. This is something I never mention before: the “Thai way” of cutting a lime. You might be surprised. We don’t normally use a juicer to juice the lime. We don’t cut a lime into 2 pieces in the middle and juice it, because it’s harder to squeeze lime that way. Limes in general are hard to squeeze because of the small size, thick skin and dense flesh, and also they have that middle part that makes juicing the lime halves quite unpleasant.
Serious Thai cooks will gauge another cook by watching him cut the lime and juice it. If you cut them in half, oh oh…I hope you are not applying for a cook position, because you won’t get it ;)
How to do it, then?
First, cut it ALONG SIDE the core but slightly off-center. (Basically, slice around the stem end of the lime.)
Then the second cut is lengthwise, but still avoiding the center and slicing to the side.
The third cut is to get rid off the center.
Last, completely cut just the core or the center off the little sliver of the last piece.
Here we go. Now, you are ready to squeeze the juice. Try it and let me know if it is easier to juice the lime this way. Most, or I can even say ALL, Thai cooks would cut limes this way automatically. I’m so used to it sometimes I don’t even think about it, until I cook with a non-Thai and I’m surprised when they don’t cut limes the way I do.
2) Rub the fish with the mixture of minced ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. I used a mortar to mush all of them together. These herbs will help eliminate the “fishy smell”.
Rub them on the skin side too. (It won’t penetrate through the skin to the flesh but it flavors the skin, as you will discover later.)
But, if you are using a WHOLE FISH, just slice the ginger root, bruise the lemongrass, and tear the kaffir lime leaves and stuff all of them inside the fish, slicing the fish open first along the bottom if it wasn’t already done when the fish was cleaned.
3) Mix the dressing, using the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Then, right before pouring it over the fish, add the chopped cilantro.
4) This is the recipe I adapted from the original Thai recipe where you steam the whole fish first and then pour the dressing over.
I doubted my husband would be okay with steamed salmon. It has too strong of a fish smell when cooked. So I decided to pan fry it. Remember why I want to make him eat fish, right? And my husband doesn’t eat fish skin, either. So the way I can get the fish oil past his nose is to fry the pieces with the skin-side down and let the heat do the work. While the piece of fish fries, the layer of oil underneath the skin will melt and penetrate through the flesh, making the fish moist and full of Omega 3.
And how do I get rid of the skin? I just use a regular pan to fry the fish, not non-stick. The skin will stick to the bottom of the pan and the piece of fish will easily lift off the pan, leaving the skin. How’s that?
Okay, first things first, put oil in the pan, about one to two tablespoons for this size piece, wait until the oil gets hot and put the fish in the pan, skin side up with herb marinade and all.
Cook at medium heat about one minute, then flip the skin side down.
Once the skin is down on the pan, you can add a little more oil or tilt the pan so the oil touches the skin. This side you cook a little while longer than the other side. I approximate about 3-4 minutes, until the skin is crispy. You can easily separate the skin from the flesh by using a spatula (preferably a very thin one) and lifting the piece of the fish off. The skin will already be adhering to the pan so just lift whatever you can, and this is the result. The skin was left behind firmly attached to the pan, and the flesh that is now full of fish oil is going to go inside my hubby.
For the vegan or vegetarian, you just steam the block of tofu or pan fry it and pour the dressing over. It’s delicious too.
5) Put it on the plate. You can cook vegetables and put them as a bed like I do, or just serve with white rice without vegetables. Pour the dressing over the fish.
6) I LOVE the skin, so I cook mine differently. I use a non-stick pan to cook my piece of fish.
I repeat the same process from #4 on a different pan.
While I was waiting for my piece to be cooked, I just lifted the crispy skin off the other pan and snacked on it. It’s delicious!
7) I put my piece of salmon on a plate and my dressing is different than his too, because I’m crazy for garlic but I don’t eat chili. This is mine.
My husband, the fish-hater, reassured me that this way the darn cooked fish is “edible”!
Have you ever walked the streets of Bangkok and almost fallen into an open manhole because the heavy smoke from the street vendors almost blinded you (These are a real foreigner trap. Who wants a dry victim? We love sauce!), but you didn’t really care because the smoke smelled so good?
If the smoke came from the vendor who was selling some meat on a skewer with sticky rice, that’s the item I’m blogging about this week: Moo Ping, or grilled pork on a skewer. (Moo=Pork, Pink=Grill)
Moo Ping vendors usually sell throughout the day, but you will find them the most in the morning and late afternoon. I would eat it for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Not so much because they are my favorite food, but because I can’t resist their smell while the vendor cooks them!
Moo Ping would make a good finger-food for your Oscar party.
Ingredients: (All of these are approximate portions; you need to taste and adjust to your preference, as I did)
Cilantro root, chopped 1 teaspoon (use 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stem if you can’t find the root; don’t use the leaf)
Garlic, chopped 1 tablespoon
White pepper, whole 2 teaspoons, or ground, 1 teaspoon (black pepper is okay too)
Pork butt or shoulder, sliced, about 3/16” – 1/4” thick, 1 lb.
Oyster sauce 1 tablespoon
Dark sweet soy sauce 1 tablespoon (Or mix 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce with 1/2 tablespoon of molasses)
Maggi seasoning sauce 1 tablespoon
Honey 1 tablespoon (or brown sugar)
(Optional) Condensed Milk 2 tablespoons
Coconut milk 1/4 cup
(Optional) Charcoal to grill
(Optional) Cooked sticky rice 1/2 – 1 cup full
1) You need to make a Thai trio first by pounding the cilantro root, pepper
and garlic together (in that order) in a mortar,
or mince all of them using a garlic press. In total you should have about one full or overflowing tablespoon.
Don’t be confused. I use this trio in Thai cooking all the time, so I made a lot of it, but I didn’t use all of it just for this grilled pork.
2) Mix the condiments, honey, condensed milk and the Thai trio together, blending them well. This is the marinade sauce.
Please note that the coconut milk is not a part of the marinade.
3) String pieces of pork onto the bamboo skewers. Don’t put too many pieces on. Approximately half of the short skewer, 7”, is about right.
4) Dip each skewer in the marinade and put them in a container or a bag. You need to marinate them for at least 2-3 hours. I marinate them overnight.
5) Now it’s time to cook them. I hope you know how to start a charcoal grill. I actually don’t :( I could read the charcoal bag, or just get married. A one-night stand probably could have worked, too, but I wanted to be secure that I could grill anytime I wanted, so I married a grillmaster!
My husband has a nice monster grill that uses propane, but the skewers are so small that I don’t see the point of using the intimidating grill for the task, plus real charcoal gives a much better flavor. So, introducing the picnic grill! (This thing cost under $30)
You have to either brush the pork with the coconut milk or dip the whole piece in it before you put the skewers on the grill.
Try your best to control the fire so it’s not so high; medium high is the best. Check to see if they’re cooked on one side, then turn. Don’t just take photographs and let them burn like you know who, with the obvious proof right here!
6) Serve with sticky rice.
My husbanditor has been pushing me to write a recipe for “Easy Pad Thai” or “Pad Thai for Beginners” for so long, like a year or even longer, even though I had already written an authentic PadThai recipe in 3 episode here. I kinda don’t want that to be the story of our marriage, but unfortunately I have my own STANDARDS, you know. I don’t want to write anything that could jeopardize the integrity of my national cuisine any further than it has already been ruined by so many pseudo-experts.
Part of my mission is to rescue authentic Thai cuisine from those know-it-all people, who know nearly nothing about Thai heritage, cuisine or culture. I’m salvaging my nation’s heritage plate by plate by giving you the true authentic recipes, and hopefully you will be able to follow my recipe as closely as possible and be able to re-create your favorite Thai dishes in your very own kitchens. (Of course, once in a while I will give you my own invented recipes, too. I don’t eat Thai food every day, and I don’t expect anyone would unless you lived there in Thailand.)
My standard is simple: I won’t post any recipe that real Thais wouldn’t eat! When I cut down ingredients or substitute something in the original ingredient list, it would still be edible by the Thais. So, for me to look at the Pad Thai recipe and try to “simplify” it, it’s impossible, because I wouldn’t call the lesser dish PadThai, and I wouldn’t eat that for sure. Even though I’m cooking and writing a blog about a dish, I don’t just toss the finished product away. We eat it for lunch or dinner, or serve it to our guests here at my house, meaning a real Thai will be eating the dish too!
When I made fresh spring rolls, I bought crabmeat but only used half for the spring rolls. Once you open a container of crabmeat, you want to use it up within a few days at the most. It doesn’t keep very well. So naturally I made a typical Thai dish called “Sen Chan Pad Poo”, just to get rid of the leftover crab.
This was back in January, and I took pictures and all, just in case. My husband LOVED the dish so much, he did something he doesn’t ever do. He took the leftovers to eat for lunch at work! He actually called the dish “Crab PadThai” instead of the real Thai name that might mislead people to think he’s eating something with “Poo” in the name.
It never registered in my mind until he pushed again for an “Easy PadThai” recipe and I remembered this “Crab Pad Thai”. So here we go; I can produce a recipe that requires less ingredients than the typical PadThai, hence “simpler”, still delicious and you can serve this dish to your fussy Thai friends without fear that they will have to run to the bathroom and barf.
Sen Chan is a type of rice noodles or rice sticks. “Chan” is the abbreviated name from Chantaboon or Chantaburi by the current official name. It is a province on the east coast of Thailand, claiming to be the first province who produced the rice sticks or the best quality rice noodles; stretchy, chewy and won’t fall apart in a soup. “Sen” is just the unit name of the noodles or the pronoun of the noodles.
Pad=stir fry (If you have been following my blog, you probably know this word by now). Poo=The imitation Prime Minister of Thailand…Haha…No, I’m kidding. Our first female Prime Minister of Thailand’s nickname is Poo because she is so bad and never really governs the country herself. She gained the position and runs the country with the assistance and orders from her brother, the most corrupt man on earth, who puts Ferdinand Marcos (The Filipinos’ ultra-corrupt president) to shame.
OK. I should leave Thailand political issues only for my Facebook personal wall. Let’s try it again; “Poo=crab”. That’s better, isn’t it?
Sen Chan Pad Poo is simply rice noodles stir-fried with crab meat. With the same set of vegetables used in PadThai, no doubt that might make people assume that it is a PadThai variation. I wrote about it in Episode III of the PadThai Trilogy two years ago.
It does have its own “foundation” that’s different than salted turnip, dried shrimp, tofu and shallots. Even though it contains shallots, they are mushed up with dried chilies and garlic, so the flavor of the dish is quite different.
I personally don’t consider this dish PadThai, but everyone else, even the Thais, would, so I’m not going to go against the grain on this one. It uses fewer ingredients, so I’ll just assume that this is an “Easy PadThai” version. And it uses no egg. Also, you can substitute crab with shrimp, if you want. And if you add cracked peanuts you will get something so yummy and really close to authentic PadThai.
If you prefer not using PadThai sauce pre-made in a jar or bottle, you can go back to my older post “Authentic Pad Thai” to see how to make PadThai sauce, because we use the same sauce here.
Ingredients (serves 2)
For the paste:
Dried red chilies, cut and soak in room temperature water, 1/2 cup or 3-4 pods of California or New Mexico Chilie (Anaheim pepper). You can use higher heat factor chillies, too. This is up to your level of capsicum tolerance.
Garlic 4 cloves or 1 tablespoon, sliced
Shallot 2 heads or 3 tablespoons, sliced
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
For the stir fried noodles:
Fresh thin rice noodles 1-1/2 cups or half a bag, or soak dried rice sticks in room temperature water until they get soft and then measure these soaked noodles
The paste, made from the ingredients above approximately 1/4 cup, or what you made from the above list
Crabmeat 1/2 – 1 cup, or as much as you want
PadThai sauce (follow the recipe here or buy the pre-made sauce) 1/4 cup
Water 1/4 – 1/2 cup (depends on how dry or how wet your noodles are and how thick or thin your sauce is)
Mung bean sprouts 1-1/2 cups (reserve 1/2 cup for serving)
Garlic Chives, cut in about 1 1/2” lengths, 1 cup (reserve the bottom part to eat fresh)
Oil 2 – 4 tablespoons (depends on your wok)
For the paste, using a food processor of blender:
Put everything in the food processor and push that button. Let the machine run until everything turns into a fine paste. Add water if you need it to keep everything moving.
For the paste, using a mortar and pestle:
1) Start with the chilies and salt, put them in first and grind them until they become a fine paste.
2) Add the shallots, grind them until fine.
3) Add the garlic, grind until fine.
For the noodles:
1) Sort your crabmeat, keeping the big lumps separate, at least 1/4 cup. You don’t want those to break into small pieces.
2) Set the wok over high heat and add oil to the wok. I used 2 tablespoons with my non-stick wok. If I used cast iron, I would use 3 tablespoons.
3) Add the paste to the wok and stir-fry until fragrant.
4) Add the small bits and pieces of crab to the wok and flip it around a few times.
5) Add the noodles to the wok,
then add PadThai sauce and about 2 tablespoons of water to the wok too, tossing the noodles with all the sauce and liquid. Add more water if you see the noodles are getting dry and not cooking yet. Don’t add too much water at once, the noodles will stick together in a big lump, which is not good because the sauce can’t coat the noodles.
Some of the ingredient amounts I gave you are just approximate. Add more if you need it. If your PadThai sauce is very thin, add more sauce and reduce the amount of water. If your PadThai sauce is too thick, add more water and taste-test it to get the right balance before you add more sauce.
If you put in too much water when you were making the paste, use less water to stir-fry the noodles.
Of course, you can add more oil if you see the noodles start to stick together, but make sure you don’t add to much. No one wants oily PadThai.
6) Once all the noodles are coated with sauce, add the reserved chunks of crabmeat to the wok, flip it around a little, then turn off the heat.
7) Add the vegetables, bean sprouts and garlic chives to the wok, using the leftover heat to cook the vegetables.
8) Plate the noodles, garnish with more raw bean sprouts and the bottom parts of the garlic chives. Add crush peanuts on the side, if you want them, and also a wedge of lime.
9) Stop complaining that the recipe is still too complicated and eat your Sen Chan Pad Poo or it will get cold.
Here we go, your Easy PadThai recipe!
Have you ever experimented with ingredients that don’t seem to belong with each other but once you put them together, it’s just amazing?
With this dish at first I was just copying the tuna tartare served at a Japanese restaurant here in Los Angeles. I was making it with tomatoes and raw tuna, but I actually don’t like tuna that much for two reasons. First is the sustainability issue with tuna that has been overfished for decades until some species are already been endangered. I don’t want that to happen.
Second, I don’t like the taste and texture of tuna that much. I might like toro, tuna belly, as sushi, but that’s about it. I don’t see the reason why I should continue eating a fish that I don’t really care for the taste of when that fish is already endangered! So, I substituted the tuna in tuna tartare with salmon. Now we’re talking!
I enjoy my “Salmon Tartare” with tomatoes as much as the tuna version. In fact, the type of fish in this dish is secondary, but the smooth and tender salmon changed the texture of the tartare. Raw salmon, as you may know, is fattier than tuna and that gives you that silky texture in your mouth. Sometimes I even peel the tomatoes just to match the texture.
Then one day I had to substitute another ingredient for one of my friends who is allergic to tomatoes. So I used mango instead. I thought the color was amazing, very bright and colorful, yellow mango, orange salmon and green onion, until I slapped on the mayo. Wow, I was just scratching the surface of the depth of this dish. As soon as I put the whole combination in my mouth, pow…it was AMAZING!
The tang and sweetness of the mango, and the smooth and silky texture of the salmon that contrasts so well with the crispy fried wonton chips that almost melt in your mouth, all the dressing that blends together, the crunchiness of the tiny caviar that bursts like a little surprise in each bite, the creamy mayo mixed with salty soy sauce, the hint of pickle ginger that feels like a breeze of freshness that lightens up the whole combination, the wasabi that takes the hint of fishiness out of the salmon and substitutes it with a charge into your sinuses to finish off the bite…PERFECT is an understatement here.
And, most of all, this is an EASY recipe, especially compared to most of the ones on my blog. Yeah, I’ve heard the complaints…I’m trying to post that type of recipe more often, but unfortunately even though they’re simple or easy to me, who knew and grew up with those weird Thai ingredients, they might not be that simple to you, if you can’t get the ingredients as easily as I do.
10-12 pieces of wonton skins, cut into four squares
Oil (for frying) about 1 cup
Sushi grade salmon meat, cut into 1/2″ cubes, 1 cup
Mango cut into cubes about the same size as the salmon 1 cup
Chopped pickled ginger (the same kind you would eat with sushi) 1 tablespoon
Green onion, sliced 3 tablespoons
Wasabi 1 teaspoon
Soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Mayonaise 2 tablespoons
Flying fish roe or caviar 1 tablespoon
1) Put oil in a wok over high heat
2) Drop the cut wonton skin in the hot oil only a few at a time and soon as they crisp in about 15 seconds, take them out right away.
Of course, you can buy chips, but naturally I have to make some part of this difficult and do it myself.
1) Mix everything together and blend well. Do the taste test, adjusting it to your preference.
2) Put the mix in a nice bowl
3) Arrange the chips on a nice plate
Well, steps 2 and 3 are really just a joke, because I already ate half, while you were standing around waiting!
Thai Curry Paste Episode XIII: Southern Chicken Curry with Yellow Sticky Rice for Valentine’s DinnerPosted: February 8, 2014
It’s getting close to Valentine’s Day again. In the past two years, I was trying to give an idea for a simple recipe for the Valentine’s dinner that you can cook at home, so you can avoid a crowded evening with a set menu at a restaurant.
The first year I created this blog I offered the recipe for Chicken Milanese and orange in syrup, for dessert. Last year was pineapple fried rice with pineapple panna cotta. You can also do an easy meal like Chicken with tarragon and bake pears too. Anyway, this year I will give you another recipe. This recipe has a long history that’s quite romantic because it is the meal that traditionally would be eaten a wedding ceremony.
I actually didn’t come up with this recipe by myself nor decide on my own to post it. It’s actually one of the requests from a friend of mine who went and renewed her vows in Thailand last year. She and her husband did it UNDERWATER! Yes, you read it right, an underwater wedding can be done around Valentine’s day under the beautiful emerald-colored water in the Andaman Sea, at a province in the south part of Thailand named “Trung”.
Trang is a province south of Krabi. If you can locate Phuket, that is the island on the tip of Pang Nga province, south of Pang Nga on land is Krabi province, then Trang. This is the west side of Thailand’s south coast facing the Andaman Sea. If you only know the eastern side of Thailand south coast, Kho Samui is an island in Surat Thani province floating in the gulf of Thailand. South of Surat Thani is Nakhon Si Thammarat province, further south is Patthalung province, then east of Patthalung is Trang.
My friend took a road trip from Krabi heading down to Satun to go to Tarutao National Marine Park. On the way, they passed by Trang and it happened to be during the Valentines day. There is a group of people, always the same group, in Trang, who have been arranging this “underwater wedding” ceremony for 18 years in a row.
She joined the wedding just to renew her vows with her husband, since they were both dreaming about doing the underwater wedding for so long. (Who wasn’t? It would be my perfect wedding, mumble jumble through my vows, so no one can hold me to them!) And it was their 10th anniversary too.
During the ceremony they were served the traditional southern dish for weddings, sticky rice with chicken curry. They loved it so much, they wanted to make it again for their anniversary this year. So my friend made that request and I thought it would be cool to share the recipe on my blog as my traditional Anti – Valentine’s dinner post, offering a simple home-cooked meal.
The southern Thailand tradition for weddings, especially with the Islamic community, is to serve sticky rice at a wedding ceremony. They call that “Gin Niaow”. (Gin=eat, Niaow=sticky but in this case it’s shorted from Khao Niaow=sticky rice)
Gin Niaow is often used to refer to the actual wedding ceremony in the far south of Thailand, where the Islamic community is huge, especially in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwas, Trang, Satun and Songkhla. In those provinces, when someone asks a dating couple, “When will you Gin Niaow?” (เมื่อไหร่จะได้กินเหนียว) they’re not really asking when will you eat sticky rice, but when will you get married.
Sticky rice has a hidden meaning in the “Gin Niaow”. It’s a superstition that it will make the marriage last, or the couple would stick together like sticky rice. Good analogy, isn’t it? (Too bad I never did that in any of my marriages!) Thai style is we happily drag any life events to compare with food!
The sticky rice is cooked the same way you cook the sticky rice to eat with mango that I already posted as a recipe. Khao Niaow Moon eaten with the chicken curry this time is also sweet, but less sweet than mango with sticky rice, and it’s YELLOW!
Haha…I’m sure someone already thought, saffron…beep…wrong. The yellow color in the sticky rice is from turmeric root. I will give you the ingredients for the yellow rice, but you have to go back and visit my old post here, “Authentic Sticky Rice with Mango: Khao Niaow Ma Muang” to get the method of how to make sticky rice, Khao Niaow Moon.
Please, visit the link I provided if you really want the sticky rice beautifully done and NOT have it come out like rice pudding, like the way “ABOUT Something I don’t Know But Want To Write.com” would tell you to!
Ingredients for Sticky Rice (for 2 person)
Sticky rice (dry) 1 cup
Coconut milk 3/4 cup
Sugar 3 tablespoons
Salt 3/4 teaspoon
(Optional) Fresh turmeric, minced 1 teaspoon, or turmeric powder
1) Soak the rice with the turmeric overnight.
2) Follow the method of making Khao Niaow Moon here.
Next is to make the chicken curry. I have two recipes for curry paste. One is my family recipe, which is so simple—four ingredients in the paste. The other is the curry paste that they normally use in Trang province. You can try both.
There is one ingredient that I want to explain to you. This new thing is called “Som Khag” in Thai, but it is known by “Garcinia Cambogia” in English. There are also many other names. Kudampuli is also the Indian name of this fruit.
Why do I want to talk about this?
Because I use it in the curry.
This is a type of citrus growing in the South of Thailand. It is very sour, and even its sour taste is quite different. You can buy this at an Indian market if your town has one. Ask for it by the name Kudampuli. It should look dark and dry, just like this:
You can also order it from Amazon, but you have to search with name Kudampuli, and not Garcinia Cambogia, or you will get something in capsule claiming to help you lose weight, which you will never lose if you continue to consume the same amount of food with the same amount of exercise.
If you can’t find it, then use tamarind pulp as the second choice, or citrus juice if you really, really can’t find either.
Ingredients #1 My aunt’s recipe for simple curry paste
Dried chili, a handful
Garlic, another handful
Salt, a teaspoon
Tumeric, one root about 2 inches long (I’ve got mine from Wholefoods)
Shrimp paste 1 teaspoon
1) Soak the chilies first in room temperature water.
2) Then you are ready to make curry paste. I only made about half a cup so I pounded them together in the mortar in this order: chili and salt, grind together until fine.
Then add garlic, pound until smooth, add chopped up turmeric root, pound them again until smooth.
then add shrimp paste. This is the finished curry paste.
Ingredients #2 The modified curry paste
Kaeng Kua curry paste (I already provided the recipe, just click on the link, or you can buy pre-made curry paste) 1/3 – 1/2 cup
Fresh turmeric root, chopped 2 tablespoon (or turmeric powder)
Garlic, chopped 1 -2 tablespoon
Cumin roasted 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander seeds, roasted 1 teaspoon
White cardamom, roasted with the seeds removed from the pod, 1/2 teaspoon
1) Just pound them like I explained in this advance curry paste post until you get a smooth curry paste.
Or using this “Easy curry paste”
Kaeng Kua curry paste 1/4 cup
Massaman curry paste 2 tablespoons
If you have both of them in your fridge, then add
Turmeric root, chopped 2 tablespoon
Ingredients for the curry:
Chicken, cut the way you want to eat 2 cups
Curry paste 1/3 – 1/2 cup
Coconut milk 2 cups
Fish sauce 3 tablespoons
Palm sugar 1/4 cup
Kudampuli (can be substituted with tamarind pulp) 1/4 cup
Kaffir lime leaves
1) Cook the coconut cream until it breaks (refer to my old curry cooking method here)
2) Add curry paste with coconut cream, cook until fragrant
3) Add chicken and cook until the outside is cooked
4) Add more coconut cream and Kudampuli
5) Add the seasoning and taste test, then let the curry simmer for another 10-15 minutes so the Kudampuli releases its sour taste. The longer you simmer the sourer you will get. Taste the curry again and adjust the taste to your preference.
6) Put in kaffir lime leaves and let it boil a few more minutes before serving.
Since this is the special Valentine post, I should also give you at least a choice for dessert, too. This is also in the same theme with “Gin Niaow”. The custard with sticky rice. This used to be my favorite dessert when I was a kid. The custard is made with eggs, coconut milk and palm sugar, then cooked by steaming in the steamer. This custard is called “Sung Khaya” or “Sang Khaya” (สังขยา) and together with the sticky rice the dessert is called “Khao Niaow Sung Khaya”. The texture of the custard is not going to be smooth as silk, like the caramel custard you know.
Steaming the egg with high heat causes the custard to be porous all over and oh boy, it goes so well with the Khao Nieow Moon. So, if you want to make dessert together with the yellow sticky rice, you can soak them separately. This time I use the forbidden rice instead of the regular sticky rice.
Black sticky rice takes twice as long to cook and you really have to soak it overnight beforehand.
Ingredients for the black sticky rice
Black sticky rice or forbidden rice 1/2 cup
Coconut cream 1/3 cup
Granulated sugar 3 tablespoons
Salt 1/4 tablespoon
1) Same as the method here but you need to steam to cook the black sticky rice at least 40-50 minutes and flip it 3-4 times, around every 10 minutes.
2) The coconut milk has to be hot, too, so warm it up in the microwave or boil it before you put black sticky rice in.
3) As soon as the rice cooked (you can taste to see if it cook through first), then add the warm coconut milk to the sticky rice and cover for half an hour.
Ingredients for the custard:
Coconut milk 50 g
Palm sugar 50 g
Pandan leaves, 1 leaf
1) Set the steamer over high heat and start steaming the water.
2) While you wait for the steamer to reach a rolling boil, put everything together in a bowl and use your hand (just one) to squeeze the Pandan leaf and mix all the ingredients together.
2) Strain them through a sieve, putting the contents in a bowl.
3) The steamer should be ready. Put the bowl in the steamer and make sure that the water is at rolling boil for 20 minutes.
4) Turn off the heat and remove the custard right away.
5) Serve over black sticky rice.
I hope you are happy about not having to sit in a restaurant with many other couples, saving your special night out for some other night.
Happy Valentine’s day!
Happy Chinese New Year! For people who don’t know, it was on January 31st this year.
I’m filling another request here. Chicken with cashew nuts is one of my all-time favorites, as it is for my husband. It’s a simple dish that’s become a staple for the Thais and the farangs both. The ingredients are easy to find all over the world. When I was traveling a lot and staying at people’s homes instead of hotels, I considered this to be a very simple dish that I could make for my hosts.
This is NOT an original Thai dish. It’s from the Sichuan Chinese dish called “Kung Pao Chicken”! Does that sound familiar? The Thai just changed the nuts from peanuts to cashew nuts.
I don’t have the clear history of the dish. When did it migrate to Thailand? How did it divorce the peanut and marry the cashew? I just know that the Gai Pad Med is now a well respected immigrant that already has a Thai name and lost the trace to its origin. WE took over!
The names Gai Pad Med or Gai Pad Med Ma Muang are the abbreviated versions of the full Thai name for this dish, “Gai Pad Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan” (ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์) or another way of spelling with the same pronunciation “Gai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan”! (Gai=chicken, Pad=stir fry, Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan=cashew nut) Please, leave the name alone out of respect. Remember that there is a Hawaiian fish named “Humuhumunukunukuapuaa” existing in this world that would make the name “Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan” feel kinda short and pronounceable!
I actually don’t like to order this dish at a restaurant, unless it is a very, very good restaurant and I know they can make this dish better than me. The reason is because I don’t like “Gai” Pad Med Ma Muang but I like “Neau” Pad Med Ma Muang more (Neau=beef). And if you ever visited Thailand, you know the questionable quality of their beef!
My husband used to order a steak once in a while when we were in Thailand. He craved it, you know, just like I craved rice or noodles. My sister and I would totally pray for him to get a decent piece of beef and hope that they didn’t cook the h*** out of it. Result? Failure about 85% of the time. Thai people are not known to have good quality beef and they’ll always cook it well done even if you ordered medium rare! I would tell the waiter just to let the beef pass near the fire–don’t let it touch the grill–and I still get medium! The medium steak is the same texture as the sole of a sneaker, imagine the well done steak….That’s right, the texture of a work boot.
So I never order this dish with beef in Thailand but I would make this dish with beef when I’m in the US, though. Just stir fry organic beef, nothing fancy, and you get a nice tender and juicy meat. This is not a complicated dish, but to make it exactly like the way they serve it in Thailand, you might have to do multiple steps in cooking.
The first thing is the cashews. You can use already roasted cashew nuts to save one step. If you use the raw cashew nuts, you need to fry them before you stir fry them!
Next is the dry chili and the meat. Both of them need to be cooked before cooking!…haha…No, don’t blame it on the Thais. This is the Chinese method. You need to fry the chiles until they turn deep red, fragrant and crispy.
To cook the meat, there are two different ways. The way I like–and it is the original way–you have to fry the meat, coated with tempura or all purpose flour first. This is to make sure that the meat (chicken or beef) can absorb or hold the sauce. The flour will absorb the sauce better than the meat alone, and the added benefit is the meat will retain the juice and not leak it into the wok when cooked again. This is what makes the chicken taste so good.
You don’t absolutely need to pre-fry them if you concerned about your oil intake. It won’t be as good, but it’s your choice.
After you fry the cashews, chilies and meat, then you will stir fry them again with the sauce.
Chicken or beef, cut in small pieces, 1 cup (Use tofu if you are Vegetarian or Vegan)
Cashew nuts 3/4 – 1 cup
Onion, 1 whole onion peeled and cut up into 16 sections
Dried red chili, as much as you want
Scallions or green onions 3 – 4 whole stem (stalk?) cut to 2 inches long
Chopped garlic 1- 2 teaspoons
(Optional) All purpose flour or tempura flour as needed
Oyster sauce 1/4 cup (Use Mushroom soy sauce for Vegan and if you like, add a teaspoon of Vegemite for umami taste)
Light soy sauce 2 tablespoons
Sweet soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Sugar 2 tablespoons
Sesame oil 1 teaspoon (approximately)
White pepper 1/2 teaspoon (approximately)
Oil about 1 – 1 1/2 cup
1) Mix all the sauce, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce, light soy sauce and sugar together.
2) Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper to the meat, then dust them with flour, if you chose to pre-fry them.
3) Add oil to the wok and set the heat to medium high. Once the oil reaches the medium high heat, add the raw cashew nuts first, then lower the heat to medium and fry them until brown.
It will take a while, be patient and don’t rush it, stir often. If you use the big whole cashew (I use medium size), you can drop the heat even lower than medium. I use medium heat so the cashew nuts are cooked all the way to the inside. If you are using roasted cashews, you don’t need to fry them.
Once the cashew nuts are golden, take them out of the wok and lay them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and let the nuts cool. They will be crunchy once they’ve cooled down.
4) Next is to fry the chilies, making sure that they are all a deep red, fragrant and crunchy. Once they touch the heat, they will expand to full round pods, keep the heat at medium or lower and be very careful, the chili pod can burst.
I like Puya chilies the most for this, but you can try Thai chilies if you want it spicier. Take them out and put them on a paper towel to drain some oil out and cool them down. If the chili pods are too big, once they cooled down, you will need to cut them. Also remove some seeds if you don’t want extra spicy.
5) Increase the heat up to high and fry the floured meat.
Fry quickly, only until the flour is golden on the outside. You don’t need to cook them through at this stage.
6) Take oil out of the wok, leaving only 2 tablespoons. Add chopped garlic and toss it around the pan for 30 seconds with the heat still on high.
7) Then add the cut onions.
This is my favorite part of the dish. Yes, you heard right. I LOVE the sweetness of the cooked onion. How much you should cook them? Until they are slightly translucent but not soft. Think of the texture of the onion inside onion rings (I would say Fleming’s onion rings are the best example). This will take only a minute or two.
8) Add the fried meat, fried chilies and fried cashew nuts to the wok. Pour the mixed sauce over them and stir fry until the sauce coats all of the meat. With chicken, continue to stir fry until the meat is cooked through, but with beef you can stop as soon as you see the sauce coats the meat all over.
9) Turn off the heat. Add green onions and fold them in a few times. The left over heat will take care of cooking them further. Drizzle with some sesame oil and shake the white pepper on top. Serve with jasmine rice or, in the case of my husband, just a fork.
This week my blog is about a drink. (Hey, there’s first time for everything.) I’ve actually been holding this one back for a long time now. I hope my friends didn’t get discouraged—I couldn’t find enough information and history about this, so I put it in the back of my mind for quite a while.
If you ever been to a Thai restaurant, I bet you must have ordered a “Thai Iced Tea” at least once, right? It’s the best antidote for the heat of Thai chili. Hence, it’s a perfect drink to pair with the spicy dishes.
I was searching, asking around, Googling, Yahooing—both in Thai and English—to find out about the history of Thai Ice Tea, the magical orange drink that is so well-loved, and found NOTHING! So frustrating!
I’ve known this orange tea all my life, but I never knew why it was orange, where it came from, how it was grown, etc…This failure can make me lose my erection, you know. No, don’t remind me that I don’t have anything to erect! It’s that same feeling of loss—no discount!
I haven’t drunk Thai tea myself for a long time, but I make Thai tea for my guests quite often. I haven’t been able to handle caffeine for longer than 10 years now because I developed insomnia, and five years ago I also was diagnosed with osteoporosis, so caffeine is clearly my enemy.
Anyhow, that’s not going to stop me from making Thai tea for my friends or cooking with Thai tea. Let’s start with the little knowledge I have about this orange drink.
What exactly is Thai tea?
First of all, it is Thai black tea leaves mixed with food coloring (FD&C Yellow #6).
Do you know exactly what Black Tea is?
It is the large and older tea leaves that have been picked, dried, rolled and abused until the leaves are torn and bruised, and then left to oxidize or ferment, then dried completely before being packaged. Some additives could be added like, in the case of Thai tea, flavors and colors.
Let’s start from the flavor first. The flavor in Thai tea is similar to the flavor of “Dok Nom Maew”, translated as “cat nipple flowers”, or the official English name “Siamensis”, (which sounds like a Thai girl having her period) or by the scientific name “Rauwenhoffia Siamensis Scheff.” This is a true tropical flower that in the old times Thai people extracted the oil from to use in many desserts. These days the synthetic flavors are all over the markets in Thailand, almost as easy to find as vanilla extract, but to find the flower itself is really difficult. You would probably have to go outside of the Bangkok city area to find it.
This is a quite common flavor in Thailand. It’s s no wonder people keep putting vanilla in tea leaves, but you don’t get the same flavor. It’s not quite vanilla or jasmine, but something in that zone. Frankly, I don’t know if they really put flavoring in the tea leaves. It just smells like it to me. (Floppppp…)
The color of the Thai tea before the coloring is added is already red. In China or Korea, black tea is called “red tea” because the color of the tea produced from this type of tea will be red to dark red, instead of brownish yellow like regular green tea. Even though “red tea” in the Western world refers to African Rooibos, Asians don’t care. I guess the Chinese and Koreans called their black tea red tea way before the Westerners called rooibos tea by the same name. I have no idea about the real history (again…flopppppp).
Some old document that I found said that Thai tea used the Assamese plant and was called the “Assam Tea”, which explains why the color is such bright red and the flavors are quite different than regular black tea. These days, all tea leaves grown in Thailand are from the highlands in the north, so they are not from the Assammese plants. Maybe that’s why the color was added. This is just my assumption, not any scientific fact. Remember, I lost my erection over this…FLOPPPPPPPP!
Alright, alright, I need to relax and get over this and focus more on the question: How to make the Thai tea?
First you need to buy a bag of Thai tea leaves. I have never been successful with any other type of tea. Once you’ve got your Thai tea leaves, then you need to NOT follow the instructions on the side of the bag! Trust me on this. I bought three loose-leaf bags and one instant tea in pre-packaged bags.
On one bag, Asian Chef brand, it called the product “Cha Thai” and claimed to be “The best Thai Tea”. The instruction on the bag said to use 2 teaspoons (4g) with 1 cup of boiling water, 200-240cc. Ahem…totally cow dung! Weakest Thai tea ever!
Another bag, “Pantai Norasingh” brand, called the product “Thai Tea Mix”. The instruction said to use 4 tablespoons of the tea mix with 1 cup of boiling water! Yikes, the cup was almost full with the tea leaves alone. Once you add the water, the whole thing turns into MUD.
My regular brand is the “Chicken Brand”, which calls the product “Cha Thai”. This brand has no instructions at all!…Great!
I mentioned that I bought another one in a box, AC brand, with all the tea leaves already in bags, each bag containing about two teaspoons. The instructions said to use one quart of water and 4-5 bags of tea, roughly estimated at one cup per 2 teaspoons or one bag.
These are all NOT how I would make my Thai tea.
Before I tell you how to make a perfect Thai tea, let me explain the many ways you can drink Thai tea.
1) Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea that you already know and love, with milk or cream and sugar over ice. Actually, it’s usually made with sweet condensed milk.
2) Cha Ron – Hot Thai tea with milk.
3) Cha Dum Yen – Thai tea with sugar, no milk, over ice.
4) Cha Ma Naw – Thai tea with sugar and lime but no milk.
5) Cha Khai Mook – Thai tea #3 with tapioca beads or boba.
6) Cha Nom Khai Mook – Thai tea #1 with tapioca beads.
7) Cha Chuck – Thai tea prepared with a special method, making it more fragrant by adding more oxygen into the tea. The vendor has to pour the tea from one container to another many, many times. The way this is done is by holding one container about 3-4 feet above the other and pouring. They usually pour about 20-40 times in 5 minutes.
Cha=Tea, Yen=Cold, Ron=Hot, Dum=Black, Ma Naw=Lime, Khai Mook=Pearl, Nom=Milk, Chuck=Pulling
Alright, now here is my personal method. I’m not that picky about the brand of Thai tea. This is the same method I used with ALL three brands:
1 cup of water (temperature between 195-210 F) 8 oz.
2 tablespoons of Thai tea
2-4 tablespoons of sweet condensed milk (I use organic sweet condensed milk from Trader Joe’s in the squeeze bottle)
Milk, Sugar, Cream, Lime or Lemon
Method for Cha Yen #1
1) Put the tea leaves in a tea bag or tea strainer.
2) Pour hot water over and steep for 5 minutes. If you steep more than five minutes, you get a bitter tea. If you steep less than five minutes, you get a weak tea. (Okay, that’s kind of obvious, but I’m trying to give you the best timing.)
3) Strain the tea leaves out.
4) Put the sweet condensed milk (or sugar) in a cup and pour the tea over; stir until well-mixed. (see Note #2)
5) Serve over ice cubes.
You can add more milk or cream on top too, but we NEVER add coconut milk on top…Eewwwwww…gross! Please, don’t think that Thai people use coconut milk in place of milk in everything. Thai kids grew up on real milk, just like the rest of the world, okay?
For Cha Dam Yen #3
Follow steps 1-3
4) Put 2-3 tablespoons of sugar at the bottom of the cup and pour the hot tea over, stir until well-mixed. (see Note #3)
5) Serve over ice cubes.
For Cha Ma Naw #4
1) Make Cha Dam Yen and add a tablesoon of lime or lemon juice
1) Before you add hot water to the tea leaves, wash the tea leaves first by adding room temperature water to the leaves and let sit for a minute or two, then pour the water out. This will wash all the dirt off and prepare the leaves for the best situation to release their flavor.
2) I don’t like overly sweet tea, so I use only 2 tablespoons of sweet condensed milk, but I’ve found that my friends like it sweeter than I do since they’re used to the tea made by the vendors in Thailand, or made by the Thai restaurants here in the US. I use 3 tablespoons for my friends, and for the sweet-tooth types you could go for 4 tablespoons, but taste it first before you add the last tablespoon of sweet condensed milk.
3) Using sugar, I use 2 tablespoons and it is already sweet–very sweet–but over ice, I can tolerate it. Three tablespoons is a little overkill, but for a sweet-tooth, go for it. But don’t forget to taste it before you add more sugar than 2 tablespoons.
4) After you make the first round, you can still use the tea leaves to make more tea out of it. I would add 50-60% more tea leaves to make another round, just to get the same strength tea.
And now, just to make up for my impotence—not knowing the origin of the Thai tea—I am giving you a recipe for Thai tea brownies. I hope this will make you very happy.
Ingredients for the brownies:
Thai tea leaves 45 g (weight BEFORE washing. Remember, you need to wash and soak the leaves with room temperature water for 1-2 minutes AFTER you weigh them) about 1/2 cup
Water 100 g
Milk 100 g
Heavy cream 100 g
2 eggs at room temperature
Granulated sugar 125 g
Butter 85 g
Salt 2 g
Baking soda 1 teaspoon
All purpose flour 40g
Roasted chestnuts, already peeled 100 g
Ingredients for the topping:
Cream cheese 110 g
White chocolate 110 g
1 egg at room temperature
All purpose flour 25 g
Method: (Read this carefully. The topping and the brownie mix are prepared so that they are both ready to be baked at the same time.)
1) Put the tea leaves, water, milk and cream together in a pan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for a few minutes and then let it steep for another 5 minutes. Strain the leaves out with the strainer, making sure you get at least 110 g of liquid. If not, squeeze or add a bit of hot water to the mix and squeeze again. Set aside.
If you have a large tea bag, you can stuff the washed tea leaves in the bag and boil the whole bag like this. This way you can squeeze, push, punch and abuse the bag. I get a stronger tea this way, but you are welcome to add more tea leaves if you don’t have a bag.
2) Melt the blond chocolate and butter together in a microwave.
Do it in an increments of 30 seconds until they are all melted. You can use a double boiler if you like.
3) Mix the flour, salt and baking soda together.
4) Cut the chestnuts into big pieces.
5) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F
6) (This is the topping part) Melt the white chocolate in a microwave. At the same time, fluff the cream cheese in the mixing bowl, using the paddle head attachment.
7) Once the white chocolate is melted, add it to the bowl and mix until fully blended.
8) Add an egg, mix well.
9) Add 25 g flour, mix well and put aside; these steps 6-9 are your topping.
10) Now, for the brownie mix, put the eggs and sugar together in the mixer and use the wire whisk head to beat the mixture at high speed until it’s light and fluffy. When you lift the wire whisk off the bowl the mixture should run down like a ribbon.
11) Change the mixture head back to the paddle and start pouring the mixture from #1 to the mix. Mix until they are well-blended (30-45 seconds).
12) Add mixture from #2 in the mixing bowl, mix (30-45 seconds).
13) Add mixture from #3 in the mixing bowl, mix until it’s all well-blended.
14) Pour the brownie mixture in a 9”x9” lined pan.
15) Add the chestnuts to the mixture in the pan. Make sure that the chestnuts are spread evenly over the surface.
16) Pour the topping mix on top of the brownie mix and chestnuts…
and use a toothpick to make a swirl pattern.
17) Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Test it by inserting toothpick in the middle of it. If the toothpick comes out clear and dry, then it’s done. Cool it in the pan on a rack.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: I’m still developing this recipe. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s already delicious, so I thought I would share with you now! Here are some variations to consider:
1) Sugar issue: If you following my blog for a while, you might already know that I don’t like my dessert sweet. In fact, I wouldn’t mind, if my dessert is “salty”!…Sorry, I’m kinda upside down that way.
Therefore, this is not a very sweet brownie. You can add more sugar to the brownie mix, up to 150 g, instead of the 125 g that I suggested. My friends reported that 165 g is a little too much, but this is up to your taste.
2) Flour issue: You can also add more flour, up to 60 or even 75 g to the brownie batter, if you like a more cake-like texture.
3) Butter issue: You can reduce the amount of butter to 65 g if you have that health issue.
4) If you don’t like chestnuts, you don’t need to put them in. I made one without chestnuts before and it was still delicious.
5) Since this recipe has a lot of eggs to help the brownies “fluff”, you need to be careful AFTER you add the oil (butter, chocolate) in the mix because oil deflates the bubbles that the egg trapped. Work quickly, measuring and planning ahead, or your brownies will be very dense.