Your disappearing blogger has returned! I was busy with family members visiting, which I enjoyed a great deal, so I didn’t write a blog or respond to any comments–I pretended like my blog didn’t exist. Now they’re all gone, and I guess I can stop pretending.
April is the month that Thai people travel the most, like the November and December months here, because they have a long time off.
Have I ever told you about the Thai New Year Festival called “Songkran”? It’s April 13rd – 15th of every year. That is a long holiday in Thailand, 3 days can turn into five, seven or even nine days if you combine it with the personal time off days.
This is a water festival because it is the hottest month of the year. The seniors, (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) would have their hands showered by the juniors. Friends would throw water at each other. Strangers would get water thrown at them. If the water is clean, usually no one gets mad. You kinda appreciate the cool splash.
Songkarn was originally assigned the date based on the moon calendar. It is the first day of the waxing moon, or the first waxing crescent of the fifth month (See the Lunar phases here). Since 1889, Thailand had changed and used the solar calendar instead of the lunar calendar. April 1st was used as our New Year’s Day until 1941, the year we changed our New Year day to January 1st, just to comply with the rest of the world. However, regardless of what the official New Year’s is, Thai people continue celebrate Songkran. I was so lucky that I got to celebrate Songkran with my family this year.
There is no such thing as an endless party, so here I am back blogging! Since I have been ignoring recipe requests for a month, I’m going to start fulfilling them one by one. The first one is this, the most popular dish for farang, the sweet and sour stir fry with pineapple. This is a dish that I would make as a side dish for a dinner party if I’m not familiar with my guests’ palettes. It’s sure to be good for everyone.
I don’t make this to eat at home by myself. I don’t normally like this dish. I can find ten other ways to cook with pineapple that are more interesting to me. Kanom Jeen Sao Nam, Red curry with roast duck, Massaman curry or just simple pineapple Kaeng Kua with shrimp all are more appealing to me.
Anyhow, this is a dish that I made for my husband instead of salad when he wanted a light dinner. It’s light, tasty, healthy and delicious.
I hope you realize by now that pineapple in a tropical climate is so abundant. Some spas in Thailand even make a body scrub with it. I used to use pineapple to soften the soles of my feet by just cutting it in half lengthwise and scooping some of the meat out (to make body scrub) and putting my feet in the hollow space. How indulgent, you might say, but this is a fruit that is comparable to an apple in the US. It didn’t cost me $7 a pop, more like 10 cents/lb. or 6 baht/kg (exchange rate as of now is 32 baht to 1 US dollar).
At my house we eat sweet and sour stir fry, officially called “Pad Priew Wan” in Thai (Pad=stir-fry, Prew=sour, Wan=sweet), when we bought a pineapple and happened to get a sour one. Or if we were half lucky we got a sweet top but sour at the bottom.
Which side is the top which side is the bottom?
Pineapple is a very confusing plant and so is the fruit. The top is the stem part—the part that has no green fluffy thingy. (Sometime you get the big round stem attached but most of the time the stem is cut level to the fruit)–and the bottom is actually the floret part with the bunch of spiky green leaf-like petals (but not leaves) attached. Did you know that pineapple sticks the bottom part of its fruit up in the air and has the stem down at the bottom connected to the plant on the ground? That’s how confusing it is!
If you try the whole piece of pineapple cut lengthwise and you start from the top end, you would think this is not a good pineapple because it gets sourer and sourer, but if you started from the bottom, you would think this is a good one because the next bite is sweeter and sweeter.
So if we got a pineapple that was sweet at the top but sour at the bottom, the bottom would be cut to use for cooking and the top will be eaten raw for a dessert fruit.
Also this is one of the recipes where I use ketchup. It is quite rare that Thai cooking calls for ketchup. The original recipe doesn’t use ketchup at all, but uses a lot of tomatoes instead. You can go for that option if you are in mid-summer and have a lot of tomatoes. I like to use ketchup because it gives me a nice red sauce and the vegetables will still be crunchy without looking so wilted.
Choice of protein is very wide open: fish, shrimp, pork, beef, chicken, scallops or tofu. If I use fish fillets, I usually toss them in flour and lightly fry them before I put them in the stir-fry so they don’t break apart while I toss them around with all the other vegetables. If I use a whole fish, it would be fried separately then topped with the stir fried vegetables and sauce. The others I just do in a quick marinade with tapioca starch and oyster sauce.
I’m also not very strict with the amount of each ingredients. You can add or subtract however you prefer. This is how I like mine, but after you get how to cook it, you might change it without hurting the recipe.
Ingredients (for two)
Meat of your choice, sliced or diced 1/2 cup (I used sliced chicken)
Cubed pineapple 1 cup
Cut-up tomato 1/2 cup
Cucumber cut into sticks about 2” long 1/2 cup
Cut-up onion 1/2 cup
Chopped garlic 1 teaspoon
Cut-up bell pepper 1/2 cup (If you like it spicy, you can add jalapeño pepper, too)
Ketchup 1/4 cup
Light soy sauce 1/4 cup
Sugar 2 tablespoons
Vinegar 1 tablespoon
Water approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup
Oil 1 – 2 tablespoons
White pepper 1/4 teaspoon
Ingredients for marinade
Tapioca starch 1/2 teaspoon
Oyster sauce 1 – 2 tablespoons
1) First thing, cut up and marinate the meat with tapioca starch and oyster sauce. Let sit while you cut up and prep the rest of the ingredients. You might have to spend some time cutting up the pineapple.
2) Put oil in the wok over high heat, add chopped garlic and onion.
Stir-fry until the onions are semi-cooked (not translucent yet) and the garlic is nearly golden.
3) Add the meat
and stir-fry them quickly until they are about 75% cooked.
**If you are using seafood or fish you will put your seafood in the stir-fry after you put the pineapple, not now.
4) Add tomatoes and bell peppers, stir-fry them until they’re soft (half to one minute)
5) Add cucumber, pineapple and all the condiments together with about two tablespoons of water. Stir-fry until they’re cooked,
then adjust the amount of sauce by adding more water.
6) You are now ready to serve. Do not forget the white pepper.