If someone asks me whether I am a pie girl or a cake girl, the answer would certainly be pie. I rarely eat cake. The buttercream frosting was the real turn off for me, until I discovered many different kind of cakes and frosting, and that helped, but I still like pies, tarts and pastries more than cake.
When I eat cake, I also like a fluffy, light cake more than a heavier, creamier one. I also prefer cake with a lot of fruits or nuts in it. I know I know it’s not a pie, it’s a cake, but I just can’t help it. I can let red velvet and chocolate cakes slip through the crack in my mind barrier somehow, but my red velvet version is also very fruity. I might even give you the recipe later if I feel like eating it or making it.
I only have a handful of cake recipes that my friends really like, among countless numbers of pie recipes. One of them is mango passionfruit cake, the one I’m making today. I happen to know a company in Orange County, CA who imports specialty produce, called Frieda’s. In Southern California, you can find Frieda’s produce at Sprouts, Vons/Pavilions, Ralphs, and Albertsons. Nationally, their produce is available in many retailers and through Amazon. You can contact Frieda’s to see if they can ship their products directly to you.
Right now I have beautiful New Zealand passionfruit from Frieda’s. They’re perfect. How can you tell which passionfruit is good? The best are smooth-skinned and feel heavy. You probably mostly see passionfruit that are light and wrinkly. If you can’t find anything better, those aren’t terrible, but the ones I like to use are heavier and wrinkle free or just one dimple. Passionfruit that was picked and kept for a while will lose the juice inside (I don’t know how), and thus get lighter and develop wrinkles on the skin. It normally tastes more sour too by that point. The fresh one still has a hint of sweetness that the older one has lost. I’m not talking about women here even though it sounds like I am, but this is passionfruit, lighter when it gets older, not heavier, right?
Start by cutting the passionfruit in half, then scoop all the beautiful seeds and the membrane around the seeds and collect them all in a sieve. Then you to stir and squish them against the sieve until you get the most juice out of all the seeds and the membranes. From a dozen passionfruit, I’ll get around 2/3 cup juice.
You will need 4 components to compose the cake:
1) The sponge cake
2) The passionfruit syrup to brush on the cake
3) The mango, cut in cubes
4) The yogurt whipped cream frosting
5) The mango passion fruit jelly topping
First you make the cake. This is a very easy sponge cake.
1.1) Ingredients for the cake
Granulated sugar 90-105 g (I only used 90g)
Salt 1/8 teaspoon
All Purpose Flour 85 g
Corn Starch 10 g
Melted butter 35 g
1.2) Method for the cake
1.2.1) Beat the eggs with sugar and salt with a whisk until white and fluffy; mine took about 5 minutes. You can tell by the color. It should be nearly white and have expanded about three times or more. With 3 eggs, you will get about 3 quarts. I doubled up the recipe
1.2.2) Mix the flour and corn starch together, then melt the butter in the microwave about 15-25 seconds and set aside. Turn the oven to 350ºF. If you have convection oven, start with 350ºF and no convection at first. Line a baking tray with a baking sheet. I used a quarter sheet pan 13”x9”x1” with one portion of the recipe and half sheet baking pan for doubled portion. You can use 11”x11” or 12”x10” if that’s what you have.
1.2.3) Add the flour mixture into the eggs, using a spatula to mix. I add 1/3 of the flour mixture in the eggs and mix well before adding another 1/3, mixing well again, and then I mix in the rest of the flour. Try to mix them fast with as few strokes as possible.
1.2.4) Add the melted butter and mix as fast as possible, still making sure the mixture is smooth and well-combined.
1.2.5) Pour the mixture in the pan, and bake for 10-12 minutes. I used the convection oven, so I turned on the fan and reduced the temperature to 325ºF. I baked mine for 12 minutes.
1.2.6) Take it out of the oven and let it cool on the rack.
While we’re waiting for the cake to cool down, we make the passionfruit juice gel.
2.1) Ingredients for the passionfruit syrup
Passionfruit juice 1/3 cups (If you didn’t get fresh passionfruit, you can use frozen juice)
Sugar 3-5 tablespoons (tasting it to see if you need the fourth and fifth teaspoons)
2.2) Method for passionfruit syrup
Just mix it and heat it in the microwave (1 minute) or cook it over medium heat until it bubble.
3) The cubed mangoes We have to cut up the mango. I used about 5 champagne mangoes, cutting them in cubes about 1/2” in size. We’ll need about 2 cups of cut-up mangoes.
The mango quality is as important as the cake, because we use a lot of them. You have to pick the sweet and soft ones. I used champagne mangoes because they’re sweeter, but in Australia I had calypso mango, which looks like a Mexican mango here in the US, red and slightly round and big. But the calypso mangoes in Australia were soft, ripe and sweet; I think the Mexican mangoes sold in the US aren’t picked at the right time because I really have a hard time ripening them. I can never find soft ones in the store, and once I get them soft at home, they’re never sweet.
Champagne mangoes are smaller and more oval in shape sometime they are referred to as “Yellow Mango”. This is completely opposite from the passionfruit. You have to wait until they wrinkled and soft.
4.1) Ingredients for the whipped yogurt frosting
Heavy cream 16 oz.
Greek yogurt 12 oz.
Sugar 100 g.
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Gelatin 1 teaspoon
Water 2 tablespoon
4.2) Method for the whipped yogurt frosting
4.2.1) Bloom the gelatin in room temperature water (meaning put the gelatin powder in the water and let it sit until it expands and absorbs all the water). Try to dissolve every bit of the gelatin grain, though you won’t be able to do it, I’m pretty sure. So put the (almost completely) bloomed gelatin with one-two tablespoons of yogurt in the microwave for a minute and see if it dissolves. If not, keep putting it back in for 30 seconds at a time and stir until it’s all dissolved. Let it rest.
4.2.2) Whip the heavy cream with sugar until it has hard peaks and is really firm (just short of the cream splitting and turning into butter.) This is to prevent the frosting from sliding off the sides of the cake. If you don’t whip it enough, you will get soft, runny frosting.
4.2.3) Add the rest of the yogurt, whip the contents for 30 seconds, then add the gelatin by pouring it in in a thin stream, while still running the whisk at a low speed to prevent the gelatin from clumping when it touches the colder temperature.
4.2.4) If you are not ready to assemble the cake, keep the cream in the refrigerator.
5.1) Ingredients for Mango – Passionfruit jelly You can make this after you assemble the cake and you don’t need this for the cake in the jars.
Mango puree 2/3 cup
Passionfruit juice 1/3 cup
Sugar 1/3-1/2 cup
Gelatin 1 teaspoon
Water 2 tablespoons
Salt 1/8 teaspoon
5.2) Method for Mango – Passionfruit jelly
1) Bloom the gelatin in room temperature water.
2) Combine all the ingredients and about half of the sugar in a small pot and set it over low heat on the stove, stirring constantly with a whisk until it’s all dissolved and smooth. TASTE it to see if you like it. It should be sweet with a tang of passionfruit. Do not make it so sweet unless you really prefer it that way.
3) Let it bubble, and then turn off the heat right away. Let it cool off a little. When you eventually pour it on the cake, it should be near room temperature. Stir every once in a while to prevent a gelatin skin forming on the cooling surface.
Assemble the cake
Now you have all the components ready, and we’re ready to built the cake. I have to tell you that I’m not a great cake assemble girl nor an expert cake decorator. As I told you before, if someone ever asked, “cake vs. pie”, I would consider myself a pie girl. I don’t like dry cake and I particularly don’t like butter cream or fondant. You will never find recipes for typical cakes in my blog because I don’t normally make them. I like to make more interesting cakes, like ginger molasses cake, bloody red velvet cake (using blood oranges) with cream cheese frosting, etc…(not really etcetera…only a few more recipes besides that!)
Sponge cake is considered a “healthier” version of cake because the ratio of flour to eggs is really low, meaning that it has more protein than the usual pound cake that has a lot of butter. Most cakes where the recipe tells you to “cream the butter with sugar before adding the egg” usually has much more fat and flour content than a sponge cake. The drawback with sponge cake is the dryness, but you can fix it with syrup. Sorry, I can’t tell if your cake that you “pour the flour mix out of the box, then add milk and egg…” is healthy or not. I normally do not consider that a “cake”, but rather a chemical mixture that yields an end product with a cake-like texture after baking.
Furthermore, I add low-on-fat Greek yogurt to the frosting along with a lot of fruit. Do you know where am I going with this? Breakfast cake! Yes, I am eating this cake for breakfast Complete nutrition for your most important meal of the day. Carbs from sugar and flour, fat from cream and butter, protein from eggs and yogurt , fiber from fruit. What else do you need?
So, how to build this cake?
6) Architecture of the cake
6.1) Cut the cake into 3 pieces.
6.2) Put your first piece on a plate or sheet of cardboard and brush the whole piece with 1/3 of the passionfruit syrup.
6.3) Put about 2 tablespoons of whipped yogurt frosting on the cake, and spread it all over the piece about 1/4” thick. I didn’t do this step and thought that I should, so the mango would have something to stick to and the frosting can filled in between the mango pieces better.
6.3) Evenly distribute 1 cup of cubed mango on the cake.
6.5) Put more whipped yogurt frosting on top of the mango, spread it and make sure that it goes in the space in between the pieces of mango. At the end you should have frosting about 1/4” thick above the mangoes.
6.6) Put the second piece of cake on top of the frosting and brush with passionfruit syrup. Repeat the process from #6.3-#6.6.
6.7) Add the third piece of cake, and before you go around on the third loop, remember that you should have used up all the mangoes and syrup. If you don’t remember, call the closest person to you and get your brain checked out ASAP.
6.8) Look around and you will find the rest of the frosting and the jelly. Put the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Try your best to smooth it into a rectangular shape. Do all of this really fast and then put the cake in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
My first version of the frosting didn’t really set beautifully because I used too little gelatin, so I fixed the problem with ladyfinger cookies. I just put them all around the cake to hold the frosting together. If encounter the same problem, you can use my solution. If you follow this recipe closely, you shouldn’t need this trick, but you might if you didn’t beat the whip cream to the highest peaks. So the solution is still useful.
If you do have runny frosting, you can let the cake sit in the fridge longer than half an hour so the frosting will set further. The gelatin will do the work for you. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. If, after 4 hours in the fridge, your frosting still runny, you are beyond help. Go buy the ladyfingers.
6.9) While you wait for the cake to set, do not forget the jelly; keep it at room temperature and stir occasionally. Once your cake is set, bring it out and smooth all the frosting one more time.
6.10) Pour your Mango – Passionfruit jelly over the top of the cake and let it flow to the sides.
6.11) Put the cake back in the fridge for another 30 minutes to let the jelly set.
This is another cake I made with the same cake and frosting but different fruits and syrup. I cut the mangoes when they were not ripen enough and of course too sour so, I change the passionfruit syrup to raspberry coulis and add blue berries and black berries. I just want to show you that if you do the frosting right, you can use the pastry bag with decorating head to pretend that you are a cake decorator and do this.
6.12) The cake is now ready–why wait? Cut it!
6.13) I also put these cakes in mason jars as an alternative. Why not? It makes it easier to take it with you to eat as breakfast. Do I need to tell you what to do to assemble the cake in a jar?
Thanks to Nok, Nittayaporn Ek and Aum, from VanillaOrchid (Sorry Aum’s recipe is in Thai) who introduced me to the sponge cake recipe from the Tartine Bakery cookbook that I already had a copy of at home!
Mango season! It’s the time of the year I LOVE. At least now I can get my mango fix. Even though mangoes here are much less varied than in Thailand, it’s better than nothing at all.
I’ve gotten several requests about how to cook the sticky rice that is normally served with mangoes in Thailand, and also here. You know, this is a food combination that I totally disagreed with since my childhood all the way until now.
Don’t get me wrong. I love mangoes. And I love the sweet, sticky rice, called “Khao Niaow Moon” or “Khao Niao Mun” in Thai. But putting them together isn’t the way to eat them for me. I want to eat them separately, one at a time. This is my personal opinion and I’m not forcing it on anyone (like I do with my curry recipes!) I feel that the sweet, sticky rice makes the mango tangy for no good reason if I eat them together. If I eat the mango alone the mango is sweet like fruit, you know, not like sugar. Then the sticky rice, which has sugar content in it, and of course no matter how little sugar I put in the sticky rice, the sweetness of sugar still overpowers the natural sweetness of the mango and emphasizes the hint of tang in the mango that isn’t so obvious at first.
Okay, making sticky rice is another simple recipe, but of course I have a way to complicate the issue, as always. I like my food “PERFECT”, not just edible, so I cook all my food in a certain way. This is what the old Thais, who are punctilious about detail, love. There are not so many of them left these days, but luckily I learned from a few before they left the surface of this earth. This is what it called “Pra Neet” in Thai, or meticulous in English. This used to be a quality that we sought after in a cook, not reject because we must rush through our day so we can, errr, watch TV or connect with people on Facebook!
I’m meticulous about how to cook the sticky rice. So If you already know how to cook sticky rice the way you like, you can skip the next four paragraphs and go right to the ingredients.
How do I cook my sticky rice? I steam it, but soak my sticky rice at least 3 hours to over night before I do that. I’ve cooked sticky rice in a pot or rice cooker too but the result didn’t come out as beautiful as steaming, the traditional way.
First you wash the rice. You need to forget about rinsing out the vitamins and focus on getting rid of the dirt, bugs and other impurities that come with rice, so you REALLY wash it throughly. Then you just let it soak in enough water. (Take your first break, sipping some wine.)
I use different tools to cook the rice depending on how much I have to cook. This is the traditional “Huad” or “Huat”. It’s just a bamboo basket that fits on top of a tall pot with the dimple near the top. This dimple helps hold the “Huad” quite well and the tall pot so I can fill it with a lot of water.
If I cook for only 2-4 people, I use a sieve. Okay, this is how I do it. This is the tool, the pot with a steamer insert. I don’t like to use a pasta pot because the perforated insert pot for the pasta goes down way too low. You can use an Asian steamer if you have one. The whole steamer set or just the bamboo one that sits on top of the wok both work perfectly.
This is how I put my soaked sticky rice inside the steamer pot. I used the sieve inserted into the steamer part. You can also use 3 layers of cheese cloth instead of the sieve.
I will cook the sticky rice for 20 minutes, turning it over after the first 10 minutes. I turn the rice over by flipping it in sieve, so the top part is now on the bottom and the bottom is now on top. This way all grain will be cooked evenly. I will also do this with the sticky rice in the Huad as well.
Once you know how to cook a perfect sticky rice, we can proceed further to the second part, which is to “Moon” the sticky rice. Wait, hang on to your belt for now! It’s not what you think. “Moon” or “Mun” the sticky rice. “Moon” in Thai means a heap, a mound; to pile up, to heap; or to mix. So we just simply mix the coconut milk into the sticky rice.
Ingredients (for one or two servings)
Sticky rice (dry) 1/2 cup
Coconut milk 1/3-1/2 cup
Organic granulated sugar (you can smell the aroma as soon as you open the bag, yummm…) 2-3 tablespoons
Sea salt 1/8-1/4 teaspoon
1) Cook the sticky rice (see above method or any method of your own)
2) While the rice is cooking, mix the rest of the ingredients together and microwave them for 30 seconds to one minute, but don’t let it boil. This is just to melt the granulated sugar and bring the mixture to a slightly warmer temperature. Don’t let the temperature pass over 120 degrees. It will make the grains of sticky rice too swollen and mushy and not as pretty. Leave it at room temperature and wait for the rice to be cooked. You need to do this BEFORE the sticky rice is cooked.
3) As SOON as the sticky rice is cooked, put it all in a bowl and pour the coconut milk mixture over it RIGHT AWAY. Stir until the sticky rice is all coated with the coconut milk mixture, then cover and let the sticky rice grains absorb the coconut milk. Leave it for 20 minutes.
Don’t worry if it looks soupy at first. It should be. The coconut milk will be absorbed and dry afterward.
I have to admit it that I didn’t always do it the way I’m telling you, which is the way that I had been taught. My grandma and my aunts always told me to pour coconut milk over the sticky rice but I sometimes did the opposite. I put my sticky rice right in the coconut milk bowl, so I didn’t have to find another bowl to put the cooked sticky rice into and then pour the coconut milk mixture over it, and avoided washing two bowls later.
Well, the old people had their reason, because they didn’t normally measure ingredients. They would just approximate everything. Thai cooking, or I dare say Asian cooking, isn’t about precision. They do everything based on their experience. My grandmother could be cooking a whole sack of sticky rice, 25 kg (55lb.), which was about half a bathtub full of finished product. She was only eyeballing all the measurements! So, she would pour the coconut milk over the cooked rice just to see how much she would need. I perfected the recipe by measuring all the ingredients so I don’t have to teach you the eyeball method.
1) Q: After 20 minutes the rice is still quite soupy. What do I do?
A: Use the sieve again. Pour the entire contents into the sieve, placing a bowl underneath it first, silly…so the coconut milk won’t be all over your counter top, and you can save the coconut milk. It’s delicious.
Look at the grains of the sticky rice. If they are all transparent, then it’s good to go, meaning that the sticky rice has absorbed all the coconut milk that it can. Don’t worry if there is excess coconut milk. You probably have sticky rice that doesn’t absorb as much coconut milk. Relax, you’ve done everything right. Leave it in the sieve until you drain off all the excess coconut milk. Then you can use it as normal.
But if the sticky rice grains are not transparent and there is excess coconut milk, you probably either have “too cold” coconut milk or you dropped the sticky rice in when it was too cold. You can try to warm it up by putting the whole bowl in the steamer again for another 5 minutes, or microwaving it for one to two minutes.
The real problem is the rice grains didn’t absorb enough coconut milk. Taste and see if you want to eat it this way. If not, then make another batch. If you are using a plug-in steamer, sometimes they are not hot enough. Adding more water into the steamer would probably help. That’s the reason why I didn’t use the electric steamer that I have—too small. You’ll find a bigger electric steamer seems to give the rice grain a more even temperature and thus steams the sticky rice more evenly.
If your coconut milk is too cold (lower than 85 degrees) the hot rice will lose its temperature very quickly and won’t fully absorb the coconut milk too.
2) Q: I don’t have the sweet-arse time to soak the sticky rice for three frigging hours, excuse me!
A: Then you have to eat less perfect sticky rice, but it’s still edible.
These are four possible ways to do it, Impatient One!
1) Soak the sticky rice in hot water for 5-10 minutes while you are waiting for the water to boil.
2) If you don’t even have that 5-10 minutes, then put the darn rice in the steamer anyway and keep pouring hot water over the rice every 5 minutes, and also stir the rice in the sieve after you pour the water over. Then steam for 25 minutes instead of 20.
3) Cook the sticky rice in the microwave. Rice : Water ratio should be 1:1; cover the container, put on high one or two minutes until the water reaches the boiling stage. As soon as it does, lower the power to half right away. Cook for another five minutes, take it out and stir, then put it back in at 50% power for another 5 minutes. See if it’s cooked. if it’s not fully cooked yet then repeat the microwave process with 50% power, 2 minutes in each round, checking after each round.
4) Cook the sticky rice in a pot with a 1:1 rice : water ratio. Heat the entire contents until it reaches a boil and lower the heat to the lowest possible level, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the rice is cooked. If the rice still not fully cooked but the water is all gone, then add about a tablespoon and cook for another 2 minutes. Check if it is cooked. If not then add more water but do it one tablespoon at a time.
Sticky rice will cook these various ways, but it won’t be as tender or look as perfect. But you get to eat them in a shorter time…Good luck being so busy!
3) Q: The rice grains have a hard center, most of them.
A: The rice is not cooked. You should have noticed this before you put the rice in the coconut milk mixture. But if you are too late, heat the whole thing up over the stove, wait until it boils, lower the heat, simmer for up to five minutes. Turn off the heat, let it cool down.
You need to know that doing the reverse cooking of the sticky rice would result in expanded rice grain sticky rice. Thai people would turn their nose up at your sticky rice…haha…We normally would use that batch to make other desserts, like sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, filling the middle part with banana or taro and grilling or steaming the package. We don’t dare present that inferior sticky rice on its own.
4) Q: My sticky rice is not soupy but still wet.
A: No way to cure it now. Put less coconut milk next time with the same amount of rice. Check to make sure that your rice grains are transparent though, because if they’re not then read the Q#1 answer. Your rice probably didn’t absorb enough coconut milk.
5) Q: My sticky rice looks mushy like rice pudding rather than beautiful, well-defined grains like the one from the restaurant.
A: You either overcooked your rice, or your coconut milk mixture is too hot. Use less time to cook your rice. Make sure that the rice grains look well-defined and still in perfect shape. The best sticky rice should be tender all the way through in every grain, with the rice grains still maintaining their shape, not split open or swollen too much. If your coconut milk temperature is too hot, the perfect rice grains will continue cooking and might expand until mushy too. So be very careful next time.
I WARNED YOU THAT I’M PERNICKETY! So if you have any questions about your sticky rice, feel free to ask.
Now that you’ve got perfect sticky rice, peel and dice your mango and eat.
If you want to know the authentic Thai version, there is a salty coconut milk sauce to pour on top, too.
Ingredients for coconut milk salty sauce
Coconut milk 1/4 cup
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Rice flour 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Roasted Mung bean shelled and halved 1 teaspoon
1) Mix all of the ingredients and heat over the stove top or in microwave. Stir often so the rice flour will not get lumpy. Cook until it bubbles, then turn off the heat.
2) Pour it over the sticky rice and sprinkle with the roasted Mung bean.
If you keep fooling around, I’m going to eat all the mangoes now!
If I were a slot machine, I think I’d be considered “hot” right now, because I keep giving the top hit recipes this month. Kaeng Khiao Wan was just posted earlier this month. Then Pad See Ew just last week. I was supposed to post a recipe for mango sticky rice this week. However, I had just come home from a trip, bought a box of mangoes and they were not ripe to the point where I could use them yet, so that recipe had to wait. But this week is another Thai food top hit again so don’t worry about sticky rice and mango, you will get the recipe soon enough.
Tom Yum Goong is voted one of the most delicious and most favorite dishes among both foreigners and Thais. It always in the top ten list of not only most delicious but also most famous and most popular foods in the world as well. Tom Yum is one type of soup in Thailand. It consists of soup stock with herbs, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf and a choice of meat and vegetables. In this case the choice of meat will be “goong”= shrimp. The soup is normally seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and chilies. There are also optional add-ons, such as Nam Phrik Pao (chili jam), and sometimes milk or even coconut milk.
Tom Yum is widely eaten all over the country. Some of you who know how to make Tom Kha Soup might ask how the two soups are different. The difference is Tom Kha is a thick soup with a coconut base and heavy on young galangal for the herb, but Tom Yum originally was a clear broth with lemongrass as the lead herb, followed with kaffir lime leaf, and the galangal would be less prominent in this soup. The biggest difference for me is Tom Yam is so hot and spicy and Tom Kha is milder.
When I was a kid growing up in Bangkok, Tom Kha didn’t have Nam Phrik Pao in it and also had no chilies floating on top to scare me away. Very different from Tom Yam, in which I can smell the chilies from far away. And once I got a closer look, the bowl of soup was just as intimidating with red color that I thought was chilies, but it was in fact oil from the Nam Phrik Pao (the versatile Thai chili jam), and the real “torpedo”, whole chili pods, crushed lightly to break the skin, floating all over the surface of the bowl.
I started to develop a taste for Tom Yum when I requested the cook at my house make Tom Yum without chili for me. It was so refreshing; just a clear, herb-filled broth, seasoned with fish sauce and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Did you know that if you put shrimp in Tom Yum then squeeze fresh lime juice in the broth, the acid in the lime juice will make the soup foggy? Ha ha, it was child play at the dining table to stir the soup, making it all foggy and then waiting for the “fog” to settle down at the bottom of the bowl. It was the best way to relieve the boredom from the “adult” conversation! I think that also made me like Tom Yum Goong.
Another time that made me LOVE Tom Yum was when I went camping with my dad on one of his so-called “hunting trips”, that was not really a “hunting” trip because he never shot a thing, but we were at least going in the jungle with a hunter as a guide. Before we left for the trip, the hunter would gather lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and galangal, and put them in his backpack. He would turn to me and say, “We will be eating Tom Yum tonight and I will make sure you get one without chili.” That was good enough for me.
We would walk walk walk until my legs were so tired, then we finally stopped. That’s when the fun began. They raised a campsite and then went “hunting” for something to eat. I would be playing around the campsite with my dad. The “hunting team” would come back with either fish, birds, or some other kind of small animals. Then the hunter and the sherpas would start cooking. Of course he would make Tom Yum.
His Tom Yum was so simple. I was watching closely. He heated a pot of coconut water, from coconuts just cut down from a nearby tree, bring it to a boil, then throw the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and a few slices of galangal in, then wait until it boiled again and would then throw in the chopped-up birds that they caught, having already plucked and gutted them. Once it boiled again he would add salt and fresh young coconut and young tamarind tips fresh-picked from a tree, and chopped-up Ma Dan fruit (both add the sour taste to the soup in place of lime juice). When it reached another boil, then he would scoop some of the soup into one of the bowls, which were only coconut shells cut in half, and hand it to me right before the sherpa added a handful of chopped chilies into the pot. It was so delicious!
Enough blabbing; now we’re going to really cook it. I’m going to tell you how to cook both the clear broth and the creamy Tom Yum. First, we have to gather the ingredients. I have to say this again since I’m the recipe Nazi: if you can’t find these ingredients—lemongrass (fresh only), kaffir lime leaves (fresh is preferable but dried is still acceptable), galangal (fresh or dry but NOT powdered, and not ginger)—then don’t make Tom Yum from scratch. You will have a better chance making Tom Yum from a pre-mix, either Knorr Tom Yum bouillons, or Tom Yum premixed in the jar.
Ingredients (for two)
4 full stalks of lemongrass (you can set one aside to cut diagonally for floating in the soup); I got mine from Frieda’s
5-6 Kaffir lime leaves
Galangal, peeled and sliced thinly, 4-5 pieces, if the diameter of the sliced chips are over 1 1/2”. If they’re smaller slice some more. (I used the small size so I used 7-8 slices)
Shrimp or prawns with head and shell 1lb. (I used prawns size #2-4, so I only needed 3)
Mushrooms 8 oz. (less if you don’t like mushrooms that much)
2-3 limes (You might not need ALL of the juice but be well prepared, just in case you need more)
Fish sauce 2 tablespoons
Water or soup stock (vegetable or chicken — up to you) 6 cups to start, with 1 more in reserve
Salt, as needed (I used 2 teaspoons)
Green onion, cut about 1/4” long, 2 tablespoons
Cilantro, cut about 1/2” long, (saving the top leaves for garnish) 2 tablespoons
5-6 pods of green or red Thai Chilies; I also got these from Frieda’s too. They are so fresh and smell just like Thai chilies should, and worst yet, same heat level too. My husband proved it. This is as needed basis…since I CAN’T eat them there are NONE in my bowl…and ALL go to my hubby, the spicy Farang in the family
NOTE: The size of the shrimp is normally on the package. If you don’t know about this, the number on the shrimp package describes how many shrimp per pound. It goes like this:
Extra small #61/70 would average 65 shrimp (with head and shell included) to make a whole pound.
Small #51/60 average 55 shrimp/lb.
Medium #41/50 average 45 shrimp/lb.
Medium large #36/40 average 38 shrimp/lb.
Large #31/35 average 33 shrimp/lb.
Extra large #26/30 average 28 shrimp/lb.
Jumbo #21/25 average 23 shrimp/lb.
Extra jumbo #16/20 average 18 shrimp/lb.
Then it goes to the “colossal” shrimp size;
Colossal #U/15 average 14 shrimp/lb.
Extra Colossal #U/12 average 10 shrimp/lb.
Super Colossal #U/10 average 7 shrimp/lb.
The next larger sizes are no longer called shrimp in the US; they call them “prawns”! So confusing to the Aussies, who call every size prawn, isn’t it? I don’t remember how the British describe shrimp or prawns, so share with me if you know.
The prawn is the really large size, starting from #2-4, 4-6, and 6-8,using the same measurement concept.
Nam Phrik Pao 3-4 teaspoons
Milk or Coconut milk 1/2 cup
Tomatoes 2-4 medium size, quartered
Young coconut flesh (I used it because I happened to have it)
Rock sugar 2-4 crystals (Just to eliminate the slightly unpalatable taste from the herbs, not enough to make the taste sweeter)
1) If you are using the big size prawns like me, peel them but leave the heads intact. De-vein the prawns and keep all the shells.
If you are using shrimp (smaller-sized prawns), pull the heads off along with the shells and save them, also then deveining them. Set them aside.
2) Boil the stock or water; we need about 6 cups here. Once the water boils add the shrimp/prawn shells, and over the course of cooking, add water or stock as needed.
3) While you wait for the soup to re-boil, crush the lemongrass along the stalks and cut them down to fit the size of your pot. Peel the galangal and slice it thinly. Now tear the kaffir lime leaves but I keep the stem to keep them attached. Tie all of them into a bouquet garni so you don’t have to chase after them later. I sliced half of the lemongrass diagonally too but continue reading to see when I put them in the soup.
I don’t like to leave all of these herbs in my soup once it’s in the bowl because my Farang husband, who eats while watching TV, usually ends up chewing on them and complaining…so I scoop them out before serving. A girl needs some peace while watching the show.
4) The water should be back to boiling now, so drop the bouquet garni in the pot and let it come back to a boil again, then lower the heat and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.
5) Season the soup. I previously explained the trick to seasoning Thai soup, which should have a combination of salty, sweet and sour, in the Tom Kha recipe. Go read it in Method #5 also, but I’m going to tell you again here:
5.1) Add the saltiness first. In this case we add fish sauce, then some salt if the fish sauce isn’t enough. You can use all fish sauce if you enjoy the fishy smell, but I usually use salt to add saltiness and fish sauce just for the flavor. Once you get the right saltiness, then drop the crystal sugar into the pot. THIS IS NOT FOR SWEET TASTE. It’s just to eliminate the bitter taste of the herbs (and we put the herbs in to eliminate the fishy smell of the shrimp…we wouldn’t have to bother with all of this if we only ate boiled water!)
5.2) TASTE the soup! Yes, we have to test the waters See if you need any more salt. No, we do not put the lime juice in just yet. Be patient!
6) Take ALL the shrimp shells out, but leave the bouquet garni (I warned you to tie them well, otherwise you have to chase them around and fish them out from shrimp shells pile…not fun.)
7) Increase the heat to high again. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, young coconut and the prawns or shrimp.
If you want your Tom Yum to be quite hot and spicy, you can add chilies right now, but if you want it somewhat spicy but don’t want it to kill your guests or family members, WAIT! To make it even spicier, crush the chilies before you add them in.
8) Let it come back to a boil, then turn off the heat right away. Now add Nam Phrik Pao, crushed chilies, lime juice, and if you want to use milk or coconut milk to make it creamy, you add it right now. Before you serve, garnish with green onion and cilantro.
9) If I have to tell you what else to do after this (eating!)…your Tom Yum probably doesn’t smell good enough. Go back to the beginning and start over :-p heehee…
Several ways to enjoy your Tom Yum Koong:
- Eat it with white rice and Khai Jiaow, the Thai style deep fried omlette
- Cook noodles of your choice and add them to the soup, and maybe throw in a soft-boiled egg
- Eat it plain (Have a lot of tissues on the side so you can blow your nose whenever the chilies get to you. You’re in your own home, right?)
I know a lot of my friends are going “Bingo!” with this post, and maybe it’s the same for you. I’ve gotten several requests for my “Pad See Ew” recipe, but I didn’t feel like this was something so special that it needed its own post. It’s so SIMPLE. It’s beyond simple. To me it’s like posting a recipe for a hotdog!
Okay, what is Pad See Ew, you might ask. It’s a big fat rice noodle stir fried in sweet soy sauce with meat, egg and vegetables. (I’m starting to feel ashamed…already. Am I really doing this?) Pad = stir fried (You better know this word by NOW.), See Ew = Soy sauce. There are so many See-Ew, I know, but this is the sweet, dark, sticky one.
There are several spelling of Pad See Ew, Pad Si Io (Wikipedia uses this one), Pad Si Ew or even Pad See You (I know that’s kinda weird!). They are all pronounced close to the real Thai name so we understand what you’re talking about but the English name is not quite the full name of the dish. It only means “stir-fry with soy sauce”. The dish you know so well here actually has an official (full) name “Guay Tiew Sen Yai Pad See Ew” in Thai. Because just the words Pad See Ew alone can be “Khao Pad See Ew”, or rice stir-fried with soy sauce, “Sen Mhee Pad See Ew”, which is rice vermicelli stir-fried with soy sauce, or this “Guay Tiew Pad See Ew” or “Sen Yai Pad See Ew” (both short names are fully understandable the same as the long full name), the big fat rice noodle stir-fried with soy sauce that you already know and love. If you simply order “Pad See Ew” in Thailand, the wait staff might ask you what would you want to stir-fry. So, now you’ll know what to say to get the dish you want.
Traditionally Guay Tiew Pad See Ew would be made with pork and Gai Lan–Chinese broccoli–only. There were no other options, but nowadays it is served with choices of chicken, beef, pork and shrimp or tofu for vegetarian. I haven’t seen the choice for other vegetables yet. It remains only Chinese broccoli, but here in the US some Thai restaurants substitute regular broccoli for the Chinese broccoli.
The noodle is the big fat rice noodle, as I mentioned before. You can find this at any Asian market. You might have to buy the whole bag which will be good for four servings. The noodles also might come uncut. In that case you just have to slice them out to the width you like. Then you have to separate the noodles from the bulk into single strands. It’s not that difficult. Just lay the chunk of cut noodles onto its side, letting the flat side stand diagonally from the board and you can just “unravel” or “unwrap” them.
Since you’re already making a trip to the Asian market, you might as well look for Gai Lan, or Chinese broccoli, too. (Unless you want to use regular broccoli.) Also get the “Dark Sweet Soy Sauce”, it you don’t already have it in your cupboard. Fish sauce is going to give this dish the familiar flavor that I’m used too, but if you don’t like the fishy smell, light soy sauce will be fine. Vegetarians, you should already know that you are NOT going to use fish sauce. Asian fish sauce isn’t just “fish-flavoring sauce”; it’s made from real fishes.
Ingredients (for one serving. You will be making it one portion at a time like the PadThai. An attempt to make more than 1.5 portion, would yield quite ugly result. Remember we need the SPACE in the wok to “stir fry” or else it wouldn’t be “stir” fry but it would be “stuck” fry.)
Big fat rice noodles 1/4 of a whole package; separate each strand
Chinese Broccoli: skin the leaves from the stems and then cut the stem portion diagonally in thin slices, and then chop the leaves in half and keep them separate 1 cup (packed)
Meat of your choice or tofu for vegan or vegetarian, sliced about 1/4” thick 1/3-1/2 cup (I use chicken this time. I told you I don’t normally eat this. I made it for my husband and friends who requested chicken.)
Chopped garlic 1 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon (I normally use only 2 teaspoons)
Vegetable oil or lard 3-4 tablespoons (depends on your type of the wok)
Dark sweet soy sauce 3-6 tablespoons
Fish sauce or light soy sauce 2-4 tablespoons
White pepper 1 teaspoon
1) Before you cut up the vegetables or separate the noodles, slice the meat and marinate it in the soy sauce mixed with fish sauce. You can put all of the two sauces together. Don’t worry, we will use ALL of it in the cooking later, and if you don’t have enough left, there are more in the bottles.
Marinate the meat 10-15 minutes, just about the time you would need to cut up the broccoli, separate the noodles and chop the garlic.
2) Separate the noodles.
3) Cut the vegetables and chop the garlic
4) Heat the wok over HIGH heat, the highest your stove can do, and add 1 tablespoon of oil and all the garlic. Stir fry until the garlic is near golden.
5) Add the meat to the wok but reserve the leftover sauce. Stir fry until the meat is fully cooked.
6) Add the noodles to the wok and pour all the leftover sauce onto the noodles. Stir fry, make sure that the noodles are completely coated with the sauce. You can easily see this by the color. If you need more sauce, go ahead and pour it right out of the bottle. If it all gets too dry, you can add more oil. In this step you will be stir frying for a while over high heat.
7) Push the noodles to one side and add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the middle of the wok and crack the egg into it. Smear it really quickly just to break the yolk and mix it with the egg white. Flip the noodles back on top of the egg. Let it sit for 10 seconds and then start moving the whole thing around again. Remember the whole time that we are at the peak of the heat from the stove. Keep things moving to prevent them from burning unless I said to let it sit.
Let the noodles sit still for 10 seconds and then flip them around again to get the noodles to brown a little bit at the bottom of the pan. This adds flavor to the noodles. These “white” noodles aren’t going to match up to the flavor the street vendors in Thailand achieve, but will be very close. You will know when it’s ready when most of the noodles get small burn spots.
8) Now add the stems of the broccoli to the wok first, keeping everything moving around the wok. Fry until the stems are cooked, then add the leaves to the pan. Toss them with the noodles. You are almost done here, and can taste the noodles if you haven’t done it all along, to see if you like the flavor or want to add more of either sauce. Turn off the heat when you see the Chinese broccoli leaves start to wilt.
9) Add the white pepper to the noodles. You can toss them again or not—it’s up to you. You might want to put dried chili flakes, granulated sugar, sliced chilis in vinegar and fish sauce in little cups, so you can adjust the taste later as you eat.
Alright guys…here you go: Pad See Ew is officially on my blog! Enjoy.
Just in time for the Thai New Year festival, Songkran, we will finally make a pot of Kaeng Khiao Wan after fooling around with other stuff. Your curry paste is ready…homemade or not…it’ll be fine either way.
Once you have that most important ingredient, then the rest is easy. You just go search your fridge and find one choice of protein and one choice of vegetable. And no, I’m not limiting you to just one of each, but you need to have at least one. I put two kinds of meat and three kinds of vegetables in my curry, and no one has given me a citation yet.
This is YOUR choice and your preference. I would recommend ingredients readily at hand or whatever is in season at the time. I’ve made a fish curry with squash blossoms, venison with tomatoes, tofu with mushrooms, shrimp with asparagus and tomatoes, pork with kubocha pumpkin, chicken with guava. Anything you can imagine; be bold and experiment.
Traditionally, you will see chicken curry with Thai eggplant, beef curry with pea eggplant, fish ball curry with fingerroot and Thai eggplant the most. Eggplants appear most often because they are readily available in Thailand and so tasty when they’ve soaked up the curry. Eat your curry over fluffy white jasmine rice. Ummm, just writing about it makes me hungry. I’m going to make a sample pot with beef shank and Thai eggplant. I also happened to have kabocha squash left over in the fridge from making pasta (that I ate with green curry with shrimp and tomatoes) the other day. So, I’m going to put them in the curry too.
I use the beef shank in the curry because it tolerates the cooking and simmering very well. It makes the the normally tougher cut tender. Just simmer them and they will come out melting in your mouth.
Let’s gather ingredients! Keep in mind that the amounts of each ingredient are only guidelines and can be adjusted base on your preference.
Green curry paste 3-6 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you want; I used about 4 tablespoons
Beef shank or other kind of protein–chicken, shrimp, fish, tofu, etc. trimmed and cut about 1 1/2 inch thick, 1 lb.
Coconut cream 2 cups I use the brand Aroy-D
Thai basil, pick only the leaves, discard the stems 1/2 cup
Fish sauce 2 tablespoons
Coconut palm sugar 1 tablespoon
Salt as needed
Note: Green curry paste is the one we made from the recipe I gave you last time. If you use a pre-made curry paste I don’t know the strength of the paste so be cautious, if you don’t want your curry to be too hot. You can stir-fry the entire amount you expected to use, but add it to the pot of curry a little at a time, starting at 2 tablespoons, and you taste it as you add to adjust to the right amount.
Coconut cream is preferably fresh squeezed but if you don’t want to make that effort, skip the next four paragraphs and go buy coconut milk or coconut cream in the can or box. It’s okay too. I just want to add this so people who want to take the time and do it just like in Thailand would know how.
If you can get your hands on coconut–either dried and shredded, frozen shredded, frozen cut in pieces or whole coconut–then you can squeeze your own coconut milk. The proper fresh coconut for coconut milk is at least half an inch thick inside the shell. If you already have one in pieces, check to see how hard it is It should be hard and firm, not thin and flimsy. The firmness should be about the same as Granny Smith apple. You should be able to slice the pieces thinly and they still hold stiff, not letting gravity get the best of them.
Why am I so fussy? Because if you get coconut that’s too young, you won’t get thick enough coconut milk. If you have frozen shredded coconut or dried shredded coconut, you really can’t tell much about it. I can tell because I have seen them all at every stage. I can tell you that most shredded coconut is good enough.
OK, once we eliminate the under-age candidate, then we’re ready to squeeze. The coconut flesh needs to be shredded or grated. We are going to use the blender method. You at least own a food processor or blender, right? That will be our tool. In Thailand we would just go buy fresh grated coconut from the market (We call it Ma Praw Khood), add warm water and squeeze. Here I just put pieces of coconut in the food processor and let the machine shred them for me. You can add a little liquid but if your machine can operate without it, you don’t have to. Once you get the shredded coconut, add very warm water to it. You can boil water and mix the boiling water with room temperature water with 1:1 portion. Add water just to the level of covering the shredded coconut and let it sit for at least five minutes. Then get a mesh colander or cheesecloth. Strain the contents through the mesh and start squeezing the wet shredded coconut (of course you save ALL the liquid). Repeat the process again at least 2 times with the same shredded coconut but keep the coconut milk all separate in separate bowls. These are call Ka Ti Sod in Thai.
For dried shredded coconut, as long as it is not sweetened or baked, you can use it. Soak it in warm water until it comes back to life again, then put it in a blender with water, give it a swirl. You don’t need to puree it, though. Then follow the instructions above.
Let the coconut milk you just made sit in peace without any disturbance for at least 10 minutes in a warm place, or until it separates into two layers that you can obviously see. The top part is the coconut cream or Hua Ka Ti. You should skim all of it if possible, save it in a bowl together. You can see that from three bowls, you can get the most coconut cream from the first bowl and the rest are less and less content of the cream. Keep the rest of the content that I would call it “skimmed coconut milk” in English but the Thai would call it Hang Ka Ti. You can put the “skimmed coconut milk” all in one container but separate from the coconut cream. The coconut cream might need to be mixed with these coconut skimmed milk later.
This is the part that you have to read through at least once before you start, and you might want to refer back to it during the cooking.
In the picture I cooked the curry paste using a wok and then transferred the curry into a pot. You don’t need to do the same. You can start cooking in the pot so you don’t need to clean both the wok and the pot. I just like to make my husband wash a lot of pans. ;-p
1) Cook 1/2 of your coconut cream over medium-high heat until it starts to break. You will see a layer of film start to form.
Think of coconut milk like milk and coconut cream like heavy cream. It acts the same way. With store-bought coconut milk, place it in warm place for a while, and the cream should float to the top and you can skim it. When you buy a can of coconut milk, you might see it already separated if you don’t shake the can before opening. BUT Some coconut milk contains additives or emulsifier that keep the coconut milk from separating. That foreign additive could be flour, starch, Guar Gum or something else that I don’t know. In that case, the coconut milk will not separate under any circumstance. That’s the reason why I specify the brand of the coconut milk I used. I’m not trying to collect the advertising revenue but it’s the brand I’ve found that could split when I cook!
For people using the coconut milk that will never separate even though you threaten that it’s the end of the world, then you should add the coconut oil while you stir fry the curry paste. I normally don’t use the cold press, expensive, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil, but just regular coconut oil but if you can’t find it, virgin coconut oil is better than vegetable oil, but you have to pay the virgin surcharge. Mix about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (depend of how much oil you want on top of your curry) with 1/2 cup of coconut cream, heating it until the mixture is bubbling.
Most of my Thai cooking guru friends (who really are legend of the Thai cooks) asked me to warn you that DO NOT USE THE VEGETABLE OIL, OLIVE OIL OR ANY OTHER FOREIGN OIL to cook the curry as most recipes on the internet would tell you. I totally agree.
When you heat the coconut cream (cream not milk remember that), the contents will start to break. You can see the fat separate from the cream. Why do I have to do that? Because the curry paste needs to be cooked at a higher temperature in order to release the aromas. If you cook it in just coconut milk, you’re just boiling it and never get the full flavor out of the curry. We need to stir fry or “Pad” the curry paste.
2) Add the curry paste to the bubbling coconut cream that already has some coconut oil mix in (either from the heat until the cream breaks or from mixing it in directly since you can’t get the coconut milk to break) and lower the heat to medium. Stir-fry the curry paste and keep it bubbling. Keep adding more coconut milk or coconut cream to the EDGE of the pot or wok to prevent the paste from drying and burning.
This process will give your house the pungent smell of the Far East. You might sneeze a few times. That’s normal. However, if your co-worker sneezes the NEXT DAY when you toss your hair or just simply walk by, then that’s a problem. You might need to install a new vent in your kitchen! You should cook the curry paste for at least two to three minutes. I usually go slightly longer (never use the stop watch to see how long it is exactly…sorry…I will next time).
The curry paste needs to be cooked throughly or it will make your pot of curry bitter. I cook it until I see the coconut milk break even more. (See both bottom pictures, left and right above)
In this step I let the coconut cream break into oil even more just to get color. A good Thai curry will have some colorful oil floating on top. How much of the oil depends on you. I like very little oil so I won’t let it break so much. A friend of mine likes a lot of oil on top (like a quarter inch thick), so he has to let it cook much longer. Also when you eventually add more coconut milk to the entire curry, the coconut milk (or actually the cream) will break even more. So, be prepare to get more oil. If you want to cook it longer, keep adding the coconut cream to the content to prevent it from burning.
This oil on top of the curry shows how well you know how to cook the curry. If your curry looks “dull”, meaning no oil on top, you don’t know how to make the curry the right way and this is what this second step is all about.
NOTE: If you are not sure how much curry past you want to use, cook a lot of curry paste and set some of it aside for now.
3) Once you cook the curry paste, then you are ready for the meat. Add the meat of your choice to the cooked curry paste and coconut cream. This step is just like searing the meat before you stew it, but use less heat to prevent the curry paste from burning…no biggie! Once you are done searing the meat, if you cooked the curry paste in a wok like me, you should now transfer it to a pot.
I chose the beef shank, which needs a long time to cook. I transfer the meat and cooked curry paste to the pot and add the water or the skimmed-coconut milk to cover the meat. Bring it to boil and simmer for at least 2 hours until the meat is tender. If you use chicken or seafood you don’t need to do this. I used water or skimmed coconut milk because I have to cook the meat for a long time and I don’t want the coconut cream to break, because at the end I would get a pot of thin curry with thick green oil on top.
NOTE: If you chose to use shrimp or other seafoods, save the shrimp to the end so it won’t overcook.
4) Once the meat is tender, you can add more coconut cream and vegetables.
Cooking a pot of curry is the same as stir-frying; you have to know the cooking time of each ingredient needs and arrange them in order to make sure that EVERYTHING finishes cooking together perfectly at the end. You don’t put eggplant in the pot before meat that needs to be cooked for a long time, for example.
I put kabocha squash in first and waited until it was nearly cooked, then added the eggplants. If you haven’t already seasoned the curry, now you can do so. The curry should be salty with a hint of sweetness, but not too sweet. I don’t put more than two tablespoons of fish sauce and season it with salt instead of fish sauce. If you don’t mind the flavor of the fish sauce, you can add more. Everything is up to your preference, including the thickness of the curry.
I like my curry very thin but flavorful. My husband likes it very creamy. So, I reserve some coconut cream on the side and add it to his bowl when I serve it. There is no right or wrong with a bowl of curry. Everything is up to your personal taste. In Thailand you will find most of the curries are thinner and way spicier than the curries served at Thai restaurants here. My friend went to live in Thailand for nearly two years, came back and told me he never have a bowl of good curry there because he likes his curry thick, no-oil-on-top and very mild curry (almost like a white, thick soup in the bowl) of which Thai people would not even consider that a “curry” yet. It’s all personal.
Now both vegetables should be perfectly cooked by the time I’m done seasoning the curry and have turned off the heat.
5) Add the Thai basil leave AFTER you turn off the heat. That basil is very sensitive to heat, so just the left over heat from the curry is enough to wilt the basil.
I allow you to eat the curry you had just made now…enjoy!
I think green curry is the best-known curry in Thai cuisine, although I personally think Massaman and Panang are quite famous on their own, to the point where I don’t even know which one is the close second. But rest assured, if you haven’t reached the point where you’re ready to barf curry before the year end (because I will be giving you recipe after recipe of curries through out the year), I will give you a medal, accept your “Thainess” and appoint you an official “adopted Thai peep”. How is that?
This is the second curry that I learned to make while I was growing up. We made it ourselves because it contains fresh chilies and it doesn’t taste as fresh if you buy the pre-made curry paste. My grandmother and my aunt always said I could buy pre-made curry paste if I wanted to, but there are three curry pastes (the Thai call them “Khrueang Kaeng” เครื่องแกง or “Nam Phrik Kaeng” น้ำพริกแกง, which is shortened to “Phrik Kaeng” พริกแกง these days) that I shouldn’t buy: one is the sour curry, Kaeng Som แกงส้ม, two is the green curry, Kaeng Khiao Wan แกงเขียวหวาน, and the last and the most important to the Southern Thai people, the yellow sour curry, Kaeng Lueang แกงเหลือง. The flavor of these three curries relies upon the freshness of the ingredients and shouldn’t be used even the next day (though I found it still acceptable).
The green curry has an official name in Thai called “Kaeng Khiao Wan”, meaning “The sweet green soup”. Kaeng=soup, Khiao=green, Wan=sweet. It is a misunderstanding even among the Thai that this curry should be sweeter than most because its name mentions sweetness…WRONG! The sweetness or “Wan” referred to in the Thai name is in reference to the color, not the taste. The correct place to apply the sweet concept is to the color green. The color should be peaceful, mild, dreamy, creamy, sweet green. So you’re making a savory, mild green soup, but not a sweet soup. In fact, this is the most spicy, the hottest Thai curry because it contains fresh chilis, unlike all other curries, which will use dried chilies.
The source of the green color comes from the fresh green chilis and NOT ANY OTHER FOREIGN GREEN LEAVES, as I mentioned earlier in my “What It’s Not?” blog on Thai curry. If you desperately need to make your curry look greener (as is true in my case because I can’t put so much chili in my curry paste or in my digestive tract,) I do use chili leaves or Thai basil leaves to help pop the color green up a bit. Remember you SHOULDN’T put those leaves in the curry paste itself but should puree them with water and then strain the leaves out, keeping the green water and adding it to the curry right before you turn off the heat.
Why add at the end? Because those leaves are so sensitive to heat they will change color as soon as it touches them. And if you cook them too long they turn brown. This is also the reason why we don’t add them to the curry paste, which has to be cooked for so long. Also, a curry paste that contained these leaves would not store very long.
This post is going to be quite detailed about each ingredient and how to properly prepare them. I’m not going to do this in every curry post, so it’s going to serve as a basic guide for all the other curry recipes on my blog.
Get to know the ingredients.
Lemongrass: This is an ingredient that is now available throughout the country now that Gourmet Garden started putting lemongrass in a tube. Or you can find it in the fresh herb section in the supermarket. This makes cooking truly authentic Thai food quite accessible. I’ve seen it in many major cities. Also Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, and Bristol Farms in California, and the Whole Foods in most major cities in the US carries it too. I hope it will soon be available in the regular supermarkets all over the country. If you can’t find it in the market, you also can buy it online now. Temple of Thai, Amazon or Importfood.com carries it.
I know I can’t use Rhode Island as a gauge for the whole US, but in my mind (the mind of a girl from Bangkok, you know, might be drastically different than a normal American girl’s) Rhode Island, the state where my French Canadian-descent husband came from, is so suburban. It’s borderline country. I’m only waiting to see a cow crossing the highway to classify any town in the state as real “country”. If there is only a chicken or turkey crossing the road, the state is only borderline country. Anyhow if I can find lemongrass at Whole Foods in Rhode Island, I believe that you can find it somewhere in your town. If worst come to worst, buy the puree in the tube from the Gourmet Garden. (Just make sure you DON’T follow their PadThai recipe. It’s one of the WORST stir-fried noodle attempts at PadThai.)
The part of lemongrass that we use in Thai curry paste is only the part that has the purple rings, about 3-4 inches above the root. When you buy them long like in this picture, you can only use half or 1/3 of the stem. Do not discard the tops–we can still use them in many other things, like Tom Yum soup, Tom Kha soup, salad, etc., so save them. Lemongrass is really hard so you want to slice it thinly, making it much easier to puree either in the blender or with a mortar and pistle. And if you can’t find lemongrass, then you are NOT going to make true Thai curry paste using any substitution.
Galangal: This is not that easy to find but not too hard since Asian groceries usually carry it. If you can’t find an Asian grocery in your town, try Temple of Thai, or Importfood.com. It is a root of plants in “Zingiberaceae“ family, same as ginger, but it looks somewhat different than ginger.
And it tastes drasticaly different than ginger. You almost never eat galangal raw like you eat ginger. It taste rather bitter, the texture is woody, and gives quite an earthy, citrus-y aroma instead of fresh, crunchy, sweet, and spicy like ginger. The older galangal has a more woody texture. If I were in Thailand I would prefer the older galangal for the curry paste and the younger one for the galangal soup or Tom Kha recipe, which I already posted here. Since I’m here and galangal isn’t that that easy to find, I take it both old and young. (Like my men!) It is also sold pre-sliced and frozen. I’ll use that if I can’t find the fresh one.
Galangal is called “Kha” in Thailand. So now you know and I hope you will NEVER substitute galangal for ginger (called “Khing”) in any recipe, especially in Tom Kha soup. I’ve found a lot of recipes out there on the internet claiming to be a “Thai Tom Kha soup”, but they used ginger as substitute for galangal. Sorry, people, we don’t call a coconut soup boiled with ginger “Tom Kha” when it’s missing the “Kha”, alright? I hope you shouldn’t be offended by THAT fact and please, stop calling it by the wrong name. If you want to, call it Tom Khing without adding the word Thai, then we won’t bitch about it, even though that dish DOESN’T even exist!
What should you do if you can’t find fresh or frozen galangal root? DON’T MAKE THE CURRY PASTE UNTIL YOU CAN FIND IT. Buy the pre-made curry paste for now. Remember, we’re making the Thai curry paste so it will taste fresh and better than the “pre-made in the can” one. If you can’t make it better, why sweat?
Garlic: I shouldn’t have to explain much about this herb. One note about the source: I had been using the pre-peeled garlic in a package, available in most Asian markets. I seriously suspect this garlic is imported from China! I had a hard time making a beautiful golden fried garlic with it and so I started using California garlic that I have to peel myself and voila…there was the golden crispy fried garlic I wanted. I don’t know if it was because the garlic in the package was a different species or they peeled them many days before I purchased it (don’t forget the packing and shipping time too) or you don’t even know what’s going onto that garlic in China. Simple solution: I stopped using it.
Shallot: Use small bulbs. They are more pungent. And try your best NOT to substitute with onion. Okay, the problem with onion is just the milder aroma, so you have to use a lot of them in order to get it to balance. The more you use onion the sweeter your curry will be and it would be a nightmare to grind them in a mortar with the pestle because it will splash right in your face and eyes. Also, the curry come out smelling more like Indian curry. If you’re somehow resourceful enough to find galangal and lemongrass but can’t find shallots, you’re just giving up too easily!
Cilantro (coriander) root: This is a hard one to find. I can’t even bribe anyone at the market here to save them for me because they get their cilantro with the root already chopped off. So nowadays I buy the frozen cilantro (coriander) root that is imported from Thailand. If you ask your local produce grocer to save you the roots, they might do it for you. I used to ask the Mexican markets in San Francisco and Las Vegas to save them for me. They will sell them to you cheap but the way they come usually looks like a pile of dirt that you have to sort through. You will have to wash the dirt off over and over again. Then use bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to clean them in the last washing round, then use a knife to scrape the skin off the roots, then cut them to a small pieces.
I even heard of someone growing their own cilantro to get the root. I admire this person a great deal. If I could find a place to turn my black thumbs in for new green thumbs, I would start doing that too. If you really can’t find it, use the cilantro stems, the part nearest the root, not longer than two inches up. The higher you go on the cilantro stem, the more it loses the earthy pungency and enters the greeny arena, so you don’t want to use that.
If you don’t have the root and need to substitute with the stem, use the same amount that the recipe calls for. Do not increase the quantity because you’ll also add the green leafy smell to it, too.
Kaffir Lime Zest: Out of all ingredients, this will be the most difficult one to find! Yeah, like the formers are already easy…I’m sorry, guys. These are ingredients that are so easy to find in Thailand. I would say, other than garlic and shallot, the rest of the ingredients already grow in the back yard of my urban home in Bangkok, including Kaffir lime!
I usually buy imported whole Kaffir lime frozen from the Thai market but you can try Temple of Thai or Importfood, but they are not in season right now. You can buy them in season and peel the zest and freeze them to use all year long. Occasionally I’m lucky and my tiny Kaffir lime tree at home gave me fruit. It’s just not enough to make curry paste all year long. My witch (bitch) magic isn’t strong enough to make my Kaffir lime tree grow faster for my abuse or yield more fruit. It has been four years since I planted it but it’s not even my height (not tall) yet. I’d be lucky to harvest 2-3 fruits in a year. These are from my tree but I left them on the tree too long. They turned yellow but it’s okay; I only use the zest.
This one where I’ll allow you to use regular lime zest mix with the Kaffir lime leaf (which is easier to find) in this proportion; lime zest : Kaffir lime leaves, 2:1, starting with half the amount of zest as the zest called for in my recipe. (In other words, if I use 1 teaspoon Kaffir lime zest, then you would use 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest and add 1/4 teaspoon of Kaffir lime leaf, chopped finely.) When you peel the Kaffir lime to get the zest, try to get only the green part and not the white part. The white part is bitter. Do the same with regular lime zest.
Shrimp paste: This is a very important ingredient. Without it, it’s not Thai curry. It is the source of the umami flavor. To the people who weren’t born eating Thai food all the time, it smells like fermented rotten seafood, but it smells so good to me! All of the curry ingredients are intended to cover up the smell of the meat in the curry. If the meat is beef (considered the strongest smell), then we add more spice such as coriander seed, and cumin too (I will talk about that spice later). If the protein is fish, then we add more lemongrass and galangal just to cover up the fishy smell.
You might already have a question in your mind, “Why the hell does she put the stink bomb in there? If all the herbs and spices are just to cover up the meat’s strong smell, adding shrimp paste defeats the purpose!”…Well as I said before, not to the Thai. The shrimp paste is to “round up” all the aromas and add the umami taste to the paste and to the finished curry. Originally when the Indian curry came to Southeast Asia, the curry paste didn’t include shrimp paste, but the Southeast Asians couldn’t resist adding this familiar taste to the curry, as you will see later when I give you a Massaman curry paste recipe. Massaman curry is the oldest type of curry paste and also the closest to the original Indian curry.
Shrimp paste has many different brands and origins. You can buy them form these same place I keep sending you to, Temple of Thai or Importfood. I’m used to the type that is made with small shrimp from a province near the sea in the far south of Thailand–Songkhla–where my parents were from. I love the shrimp paste from there the most, but it’s also the one I’m most used to. That’s the only shrimp paste known in my and most of my relatives’ households (Most of them are from that same province). But I can’t buy it in the US since they don’t export it. They barely make enough for the local people there. I can hardly find it in Bangkok. I have to go visit my relatives down in Songkhla and buy it there and carry it to the US. I normally carry at least a pound or two into the country.
Once a long time ago at LAX, the customs officer noticed the fishy smell from my luggage and asked if he could take a look at what was inside. Of course, I let him search though 5 pounds of dried shrimp, 5 pounds of dried fish, a pound or two of salted fish (equally stinky as the shrimp paste), marinated fish stomach (Tai-Pla ไตปลา), and a full 2 pounds of shrimp paste! I warned him, but he didn’t listen to me. I normally wrap the packages with many layers of plastic bags and foil to protect my clothing from the pungent aromas, and that was a red flag to the customs officer. He needed to see what was inside. As layer after layer of the wrapping materials were peeled, the stronger and stronger smell came out…whifffff…the officer face didn’t look too good. I bet he was close to throwing up, but he was persistent. Okay…go ahead. You want me to open the containers to dig around inside them, too? Sure.
Hahahaha, at the end of the search session, he was looking sick. Well, I warned him at every step. There was only ONE reason why I wrapped my packages REALLY tight in MANY layers. That’s the first clue, man. He even asked if I planned to SELL the goods I brought. Hell NOOOOO! NO ONE could offer me enough to sell those precious goods…I was about to explain that, but then I saw he had only asked to fill in his form, and he actually didn’t really want to talk or let any more of the fishy stink go any deeper into his nostrils. I think he rememberำก that experience for a long time.
The pictures below show you the difference between my favorite kind, regular Songkhla shrimp paste, and the best Rayong shrimp paste (Rayong is another province in the East that makes good shrimp paste. This is the kind that you can find in Bangkok.) and the shrimp paste by Pantainorasingh brand that you can find here in the US. This brand adds MSG to the shrimp paste! I normally don’t buy any shrimp paste in the US, but someone gave me this and it sat in my pantry for a while.
Before use, you should wrap the shrimp paste in foil, or banana leaf if you can find it, and set it on the grill or on the stove to cook it first.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute the shrimp paste with Vegemite or Marmite, using the same measured portion.
Once you know all of the ingredients, now we can put together the curry paste. The proportions I give you here are just a guideline. It all can be varied base on your taste and the meat choice you use. I vary the amount of the ingredients all the time. They are all FULLY FLEXIBLE, meaning you can add or subtract many ingredients as you prefer (The add on list is down below and don’t forget the “What it’s not”). There are only fives ingredients that you can’t completely eliminate Green Chilies, Lemongrass, Galangal, Shallot, Garlic, Shrimp Paste. Other than that you can even eliminate some hard to find ingredients completely and the curry still taste ok to the Thais.
Example of how I altered the ingredients: When I have a cold, I double the shallots portion. When I make fish curry, I double the lemongrass and add slightly more garlic and galangal and a teaspoon of turmeric, too (Southern style green curry). When I make beef curry I double the spices, cumin and coriander seeds or even a pinch of nutmeg or mace are welcome in this case. If I cook for people who will go out to a club later, I reduce the garlic. You can get rid off the Kaffir lime zest and cilantro root completely and the result will still be alright. I suspected that my aunt’s green curry that I liked so much had absolutely no spices, coriander seeds and cumin, but turmeric was a regular ingredient in all her curries. Green curry that has turmeric blends well with all kind of fish and seafoods.
I also listed the potential additions down below, in case you want to explore. This is the perfect recipe for me for the basic chicken curry. Once I grind them to a paste, I then smell the blend of the ingredient and adjust the amount to get the balance but it’s probably impossible for you to do so. I suggest you at least make this recipe once, so you would know how it suppose to smell like. Then you can try and adjust the amount of ingredients to your preference later.
Galangal root, sliced thinly or chopped, 1 tablespoon
Lemongrass, sliced thinly 2 tablespoons
Garlic, sliced 6 tablespoons
Shallots, sliced 5 tablespoons
3 serrano chiles
4 large green jalapeno chilies, seeded
Coriander root chopped 1 teaspoon
Kaffir lime zest 1 teaspoon
Salt 1 teaspoon
Shrimp paste, roasted 1 teaspoon
White Peppercorns 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander seed, roasted 1 teaspoon
Cumin roasted 1 teaspoon
Coconut oil, vegetable oil, or coconut milk if you are going to use a food processor or blender.
There are two methods that I used to make a paste out of these roots and seeds that don’t at first look like they would turn into a paste that easily.
1) First is using the blender, either Vitamix (the best because you don’t have to add a lot of liquid to make it blend), a Cusinart, which is the one I expect to be the same as what you might have in your kitchen, or any blender that you can crush ice with. You can use both the traditional tall blender or a food processor. The tall blender that you use to make margaritas will require more liquid to process (unless you use a Vitamix). I normally use that for the curry paste for Kaeng, or the soup kind, so I can add more liquid to help the grinding. I use coconut cream as the liquid with this green curry paste, if I want to cook the whole dish right away. You might need up to half a cup or more for this curry but I never use more than half a cup with my Cusinart. You might have to help it a little by turning the bottom up to the top and using the “ice crush” button sometimes.
If I want to keep it longer and store it outside the fridge, I recommend using a Vitamix or food processor which required less liquid to process. With a Vitamix I don’t use any liquid for the green curry but use 1/4 cup of liquid at the most for the other curry paste. Vitamix grinds really fast, under 5 minutes, you get the very smooth curry paste, so it’s worth half a grand (or more). If you don’t have a Vitamix, that’s alright, most food processors will do the job at 1/10 the price, but it will take longer. I usually grind it in the food processor for 10 minutes and finish it in the blender. The food processor take less liquid to move the ingredients around and chop them finely, but to make them all smooth, I have to transfer it to the blender and might have to add a little more liquid to it.
If you use this method, grind the spices, coriander seeds, cumin and white pepper, in the coffee grinder first would make it easier to make your curry paste smooth. (Keep the coffee grinder to use solely to grind spices, do not use it to grind coffee after. No matter how through you clean your coffee grinder after this, the smell will stick and will ruin your coffee.)
Then add everything in together and start grinding. Stop the machine every two minutes to let the the machine motor rest to prevent overheating. I use coconut oil as liquid so it mimics the traditional process. I also cook the curry paste in that oil before packing it while it’s still hot in a clean jar, and then process the jar in boiling water just like the way I do when finishing jam jars.
2) The second method is to traditionally grind the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. In the picture below are two different kind of mortars. The granite one is the ONLY one for making the curry paste. If you have the terra-cotta one that came with the wooden pestle, you will not be able to make a good curry paste with it, or your curry paste will be very coarse, which my aunt would snobbishly call “country style”, despite the fact that SHE was the one living in the country.
This method is a little more complicated because there is a specific order for putting the ingredients in the mortar. This doesn’t affect the flavor, but just protects your eyes from curry splash and makes the grinding process less painful.
This is the method refined by me. You grind everything to a paste together unless I say to do it separately.
1) Grind white pepper, Coriander seeds and Cumin together, then set aside. If you don’t want to use mortar, you can use a coffee grinder.
2) Chop the chilies and grind them separately, and set aside. This is the ingredient that would hurt you the most so keep it separate and we will bring it back in at the last step.
3) Now we’re ready to make the paste. Lemongrass is the hardest one to grind so it goes in first with salt, which will help you mush the lemongrass easier. Grind them to a paste.
4) With the lemongrass paste in the mortar, add thinly sliced or chopped Galangal root to the lemongrass and salt paste and grind them all into a paste.
5) Add garlic and grind them to a paste.
6) Add shallots and the pre-ground dry spices together from Step 1 and grind them into a paste.
7) Add shrimp paste and the chili paste that we ground and set aside earlier, mix them well using pestle.
There are a few ingredients not previously mentioned that are acceptable in the green curry paste. Here is the list.
Turmeric: This is also another root in “Zingiberaceae“ family but completely different than galangal or ginger. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I used this root in the rib satay recipe (and all satay) and Khao Soi or Chiangmai curry noodles recipe before. The root gives a yellow color. It’s a very common ingredient in any southern curry.
If you make any fish or seafood green curry, you can add this root in to your curry paste. Your curry will be less light green (keaw-wan) and slightly yellowish-green.
Mace: Some people use this in their curry, usually with beef curry.
Nutmeg: Same as Mace. Do you know that Mace and Nutmeg are from the same source? Mace is the membrane surrounding the nutmeg. They smell quite similar but I think the mace aroma is slightly sweeter.
Cinnamon: If you want to use it, use just a pinch. It also goes well with beef curry.
In the next episode I will tech you how to COOK the curry paste and the whole pot of curry.
Making your own Thai curry isn’t that complicated to me, but I realize it is so complicated to a non-Thai who didn’t grow up eating those curries so often. Just the ingredients list alone can throw people off. I even have a hard time with some of the ingredients myself.
The reason that I’ve started writing about curry paste is because I’ve seen so many recipes on the internet that are have showed up labeled “Thai curry,” either, red, green, yellow, even Panang or Massaman, but very rarely do they have the “correct” ingredients for the paste itself.
A long, long time ago, when I had my first website back in 1998, I put up a table of various Thai curry paste ingredients. Within a month, I received a phone call from my web hosting provider who gave me only two options, to 1) upgrade my hosting service plan so they can move my site to a higher traffic server, which meant paying a higher monthly fee, or 2) taking the Thai curry recipes down, since it had clogged all the traffic to the shared server where my site was hosted. I only even had a website because I was a web designer and I just wanted to have a place to host my portfolio—it wasn’t even about cooking!
I posted some of my recipes hidden behind my portfolio for the same reason I have this blog, just to share my recipes with my friends. Also, it was still years before the first blog ever emerged. This is before social media ever was born, so my friends were all tangible people who I could give hugs to and see their faces and also hand them a piece of paper that cost me only a few pennies apiece, compared to an extra $120 per month on top of the $29.99/month that I was already paying to host my website. That would have been nearly $1,500/year leaking from my already thin wallet, with no revenue possibility. So you can guess which choice I took. I have to admit, that incident left a bitter after-taste from that day on; I’ve been reluctant to post my curry paste recipes up on the internet ever since. Several hundred hits in a day and over 10 thousand hits in a month was way beyond my expectation. This was when polo.com didn’t even exist yet. (Yeah, I was working on their first site two full years later.)
Nearly fifteen years later, here I am, about to do the same thing again. I’m older, wiser and braver this time (grin). Or, to be exact, I have more money to upgrade my site this time around, if I ever need to.
Before we get our hands burned from capsicum, let me rant a little here, would you mind? The thing I would rant about has actually become the motivation to crack the shell that I was hidden behind. It’s called a rude awakening. I never searched curry paste recipes on the internet–I have my own. So I NEVER knew how screwed up the classic Thai curry had become in the past 15 years (or longer).
Would you still call it Pomodoro sauce if you made it with peaches and not tomatoes? Or tiramisu if it was made with cream cheese and not mascarpone? Would you call an apple pie “apple pie” if you substituted pears for the apples? If you substituted a crepe for the tortilla, would it still be a burrito?…Then why the hell do people still call the shit they put together “THAI curry paste” when the ingredients are not remotely close to the authentic ones?…Yes, I’m pissed. Drop the name “THAI” from that green gruesome paste, yellow mud or red yuck you’ve made, or call it “Thai inspired”, but to call it Thai curry paste, we have a fundamental problem here.
Let’s start with “What it’s not” so you know to eliminate these ingredients from your paste. Also, if you see some know-it-all website that claims these ingredients are a part of Thai curry, you can forget that site and never go back. I found that a lot of well known sites advise you to substitute the hard-to-find ingredients with something easier to find. I will also give you that choice of substitution but when I say “NO SUBSTITUTION”, please, follow. After all, you can make your “altered curry paste” anytime once you learn how to make the authentic one, right?
There are three steps in the process of making Thai curry.
Step 1) The curry paste: This is the one we are discussing right now.
Step 2) Cooking the curry paste, either with coconut milk or without, and then seasoning it.
Step 3) Adding the choice of meats and vegetables that you put into the curry itself.
The “What it’s not” that I’m talking about is the first part, the making of the curry paste, because after you’ve got the paste then the rest is not that critical. You can use ingredients at hand.
These are the staple ingredients for the curry paste that CANNOT be substituted:
Galangal root (If anyone tells you to use ginger root to substitute the galangal root, RUN. That’s all I can say.)
Lemongrass (Don’t even try to find a substitute. There is NONE!)
And these are ingredients that might be slightly altered:
Cilantro root: can be substituted with the cilantro stem near the root but NOT THE LEAVES!
Chili: I put it under ‘can be substituted’ because you can opt for the less-heat end of the spectrum. Thai chili is far hotter than most. I can’t even eat them. I know how to make curry paste so well because I can’t eat the ready-made curry paste that they sell in the market in Thailand since I can’t take so much intense capsicum. I just found out not so long ago that I’m allergic to the chili and the strongest degree is the Thai chilis. I wish I had known this before hundreds of bouts of diarrhea or an upset digestive system throughout my life. I substitute all Thai chili with California chili or New Mexico chili just for the color and flavor but not the heat. I pick much less hot chili for the green curry too.
Shrimp paste: If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute the shrimp paste in the recipe with Vegemite or Marmite.
Kaffir Lime zest: This is the hardest item to find outside of Thailand but I manage to find it. If you really really can’t find it (but you have to try really hard first), you can substitute with lime zest and kaffir lime leaf. The portion of it is really minuscule but very important.
So WHAT IT’S NOT supposed to be in the curry paste?
- No Ketchup or tomato paste. Sorry, not ever…the umami taste comes from the shrimp paste. The red color comes from chili. I would never suggest shrimp paste as a substitute for tomato in Pomodoro sauce or on your hamburger, so keep the ketchup and tomato paste away from my mortar and pestle.
- No Carrots: Yellow or orange color in the yellow curry are from “Turmeric root”, not carrot.
- No Cilantro: Yes, you read it right. No cilantro except the root. It’s not salsa. The green color in green curry is from the green chili. My green curry that I made here isn’t really that green because I didn’t put enough chili to make it green but it taste just fine. If you’re so desperate to make the curry look green, then add green color made from chili leaves or basil (Puree the leaves with water and discard the leaves. Add the green water when you cook the curry in step 2.)
- No Bell Pepper in any color: If you so want to eat bell peppers, add them to the curry in step 3 but not the curry paste.
- No Green Onion: NOT EVER…Gosh, so gross! If you want to follow the “Do it yourself” recipe that uses green onion, cilantro, ginger root, lime juice and THE WHOLE POD of cardamom to make green curry paste so much, go ahead, but don’t call it Thai curry paste and please, don’t serve the curry to the Thais. They would barf! I was just reading that recipe and couldn’t eat anything for a while, couldn’t stop imagining how bad the taste would be…disgusting!
- No Peanut Butter: For some reason, Americans in general think that Thai people have turned raindrops into peanuts and put them all over our food. You know that’s not true, right? I so hope that you do. Keep cautious and don’t believe that darn myth, would you? And also DON’T just add peanuts or peanut butter to any dish and call it “Thai food”! Don’t make me yell at you, alright?
- No Sriracha sauce: We will be using dry red chilis, not fresh.
- No Lime juice: I don’t get it why people feel the need to put lime juice in curry paste? You want to make it a paste and not a bowl of soup, right? When I saw it, I was stunned. What the heck?
- No onion: This is not Indian curry, guys. Shallots are so easy to find nowadays, so the days when you could substitute onions for shallots are OVER!
- No Sambal chili: For the same reason as no Sriracha sauce.
- No Thai Basil or any other basil: NOT in the curry paste. We add this after we finish Step 3, not in Step 1. Thai basil gets rotten so easily that you couldn’t keep your curry paste very long. Also if you add it to your green curry paste it will turn brown when you cook the paste.
Now that we’re on the same page, the first recipe in the next blog (believe me, I’m trying my best to put up a blog once a week, but when I fail I hope you forgive me) will be for “Authentic Thai Green Curry paste”.
From Melbourne now back to Sydney. I actually arrived in Sydney first and went to Melbourne last, but I liked “Red Spice Road” the most so I wanted to blog about it first I have to admit that actually Red Spice Road isn’t my top most favorite restaurant in Australia but I’ve been told by my Aussie friends not to blog about my most favorite place, “Pie Face” Well, if you really want to know about the joint then tell me in the comments. I will pull myself together to write about that for you!
Glass is the restaurant I’m writing about this time. It’s a fancy restaurant at the Hilton hotel in Sydney. I was so in love with the taste of natural ingredients that showed true in every dish I tasted. The most unfortunate thing about living in America is we rarely get to taste foods that were picked or harvested at the right time. I’m not talking about right for the farmers but the right time with respect to the optimum quality of the produce. Do you know that if you pick fruits too young, they will NEVER ripen to their fullest, sweetest, most flavorful potential? The peaches, nectarines, plums in the supermarket are great examples. You can buy them and leave them to ripen for a long time and they never get ripe, and then they’re rotten.
So outside America is when I get to taste fruit that was picked and almost fully ripe at the market. I get to taste seafood, meat that still has some freshly-killed sweetness (I know it sounds quite barbaric, but it’s true) instead of eating something “previously frozen” that already lost it sweetness with the blood that seeped out when thawed. Foods here in the US often tastes like dead food to me…there is no trace of life left in them. OK I should stop talking about it, or the vampire hunters will come after me next.
Back to Glass. We enjoyed the chef’s creativity and the company, our lovely hosts, equally. I have to say that the lamb chops were the best of the whole trip.
WHERE: Glass Brasserie
Hilton Sydney Hotel, 488 George Street, Sydney, Australia 2000, Level 2
Tel: (02) 9265-6068
WHO: Luke Mangan
WHEN: Opened everyday for dinner but only serve lunch during the weekday. Also served Hilton breakfast everyday but those are not by chef Luke.
Lunch Monday – Friday 12pm – 3pm Close Saturday – Sunday
Dinner Everyday, Monday – Sunday, 6pm – late
HOW: Call or book it through website
WHAT: Since I did steal the menu this time (I was so busy chatting with our lovely host, you know), so I don’t remember the detail of the dishes. I will just post the pictures. The menu change regularly anyway.
Per Se Caviar (Spain) Sturgeon with classic garnishes
I don’t think I’m a big fan of a corn-fed beef anymore.
I’ve been waiting to share my favorite restaurant in Melbourne with you. Yes, yes, yes, Australia, and the restaurants in Nice and New York City and many other places too. I either have to blog every day for a month or you have to stop requesting recipes for a while. Australia was the latest trip so I still remember what I had, so let’s start from there.
Aussies are so lucky, they have all this great produce that was picked at the just right time, and nice meats there as well. I ate fruits from the supermarket (one great thing about Australian supermarkets, they tell you where the produce came from) and LOVED them. There wasn’t only a lot of tropical fruit but also a lot of Asian ingredients. I don’t know the percentage of Asian population there, but it seems to be easier to find ingredients to make Asian food from scratch and also a lot of pre-mixed offered. Plus there are Asian restaurants are on every corner.
Red Spice Road is one of the “Asian Fusion” restaurants. On their website, they claim to be a “SouthEast Asian-style dining” place, but don’t believe the advertising. On the menu you can find not only Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese and maybe even Laotian, Burmese and Cambodian (I have to admit that I’m not so familiar with their cuisines as much as the first four), but also Chinese, Indian, and there might be more. However, each dish has been “creatively modified”. Even though the traditional dishes are recognizable, the mysterious aura of creativity peaked my interest and I wanted to try ALL of them. Unfortunately, I can only carry one stomach while I travel, you know, so that was my only disappointment with the restaurant.
WHERE: Red Spice Road
27 McKillop St., Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone no. (03).9603.1601
There is another location at QV Melbourne, 31-37 Artemis Lane QV, Melbourne, VIC 3000. This one is right in the QV Building. I almost got to eat there but the day I decided to go, they closed for their employee holiday party. Sad story, very, very sad indeed.
Phone no. (03).8660.6300
WHO: John McLeay
McKillop St. Open Monday – Saturday
Lunch 12 − 3pm, Dinner 5pm – late (but not too late) Saturday 6pm – late
QV Building Open every day
Lunch 12 − 3pm
Dinner 5pm – late (but not too late) Saturday, Sunday 6pm – late
Check their website for exact hours http://redspiceroad.com/
HOW: Walk in or make reservation either call or book on their website
The menu here seems to change quite often so don’t be married to these samples I offer. Explore and experiment but check with the waitstaffs regarding how spicy it would be. I recommend twice-cooked lamb ribs…eat them for me….(sobbing)…until I get back there again.
Watermelon with Sticky Duck and Cashew Relish
This is the can’t-miss dish that makes us want to go back there again. Twice-cooked lamb ribs. My guess that it’s the “Chilli Salt Lamb Ribs with Pineapple Tamarind Dipping Sauce”.
Fried fishes with snake beans and basil that was too spicy for me.
The vegetable salad in curry that was so much milder and taste like Indian food…yummy
Black sticky rice and mango but I’m so use to the real Thai style sticky rice and mango so this dish is just good.