Cooking In Thailand
Firstly, If you haven’t been to Thailand put it on the bucket list! For me this trip was probably the best adventure to date. Not only for a food lover but really anyone who just needs to take a back seat from daily stresses and work life. At 25, I know I was about 5 years too late on the whole going to Thailand, but I’m kind of glad I went as an adult without a back pack and sharing a room with 10 other people.
But anyway we are here to talk about food and Thailand offers some of the best food and street food on the planet, also some of the most eye catching if you follow my Snapchat you may have seen some of my market encounters. One of my ‘to dos’ whilst in Phuket was to take a cooking course, they are scattered across the Island waiting for us tourists. Before I left I did some research (apps like yelp and trip advisor- this isn’t sponsored btw) and background on a few courses, mostly ones which seemed less mainstream and touristy spots. And indeed I found it, a small garden at the front of Chef Eing’s very colorful house, with no air con and a constant stream of neighbors popping by for the chat. I choose to learn recipes that are very traditional; green curry, coconut galangal soup and king prawn pad Thai. The cooking process in Thailand is very organic with everything made from scratch, cooking is a huge part of their culture, like the Irish they really love their food. The Thai’s use some sauces and sugars in small amounts, some which are easily substituted- which I have made recommendations for below. I also ended up visiting another cooking demonstration from the Karon tribe where the yellow curry paste recipe comes from.And don’t worry I have taken back countless ideas or fresh salads and fruity desserts to recreate and try make us forget this rain!
They have a few basic (maybe not so basic) ingredients that really adjust into most dishes so stock up with these;
- Turmeric root or powder
- Galangal – try Fallon and Byrne and Asian market.
- Chilies – semi dried red/green
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Black/white peppercorns
- Coconut milk
- Palm sugar – I replaced most of the recipes with coconut sugar or honey and they work just as well
- Shrimp paste – not essential but a lot of recipes call for it- available in Asian markets and larger supermarkets.
- Fish sauce
- Soya Sauce – Tamari Sauce for a gluten free option.
Let’s start with the all important pastes each list serves more than one curry which is 4 small portions, just add a tbsp. at a time and give a taste test, you don’t want it too spicy or maybe you do!
- 1 teaspoon Galangal chopped
- 2 Shallots diced
- 1 lemon grass diced
- 2 tablespoon diced garlic
- 1 tsp Kaffir lime skin or leaves
- 10 big Green chili’s
- 1 tsp white pepper corn
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp shrimp paste-optional
- 4 chicken breast sliced thinly
- 1 large- 1 cm cubed aubergine soaked in water for 20 minutes
- 2 handfuls baby corn thinly sliced.
- tbsp. Fish sauce
- tbsp. Soya sauce
- tbsp. honey/coconut sugar
Place chilies, galangal, lemon grass, garlic, shallots, kaffir limes, shrimp paste, salt and the pepper into a mortar. Pound well until a thick paste like peanut butter is formed. If the ingredients are too dry, add a few drops of cold water. Place the curry paste in a tightly covered container or jar in the refrigerator until it’s time to use it.
- 2 dried red chilies
- 1 fresh lemon grass
- 5 garlic cloves
- 3 shallots
- tbsp. kaffir lime leaves
- tbsp. galangal
- tbsp. turmeric
- pinch of salt
- pinch black peppercorns
- 4 Chicken breast
- or 1 small butternut squash
- 100g diced Pineapple
- Tbsp. Fish sauce
- ½ tbsp. Palm/coconut sugar or honey
- Tbsp. Soya /Tamari
Place chilies, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, kaffir limes, galangal, turmeric, salt and the pepper into a mortar. Pound well until a thick paste like peanut butter is formed. If the ingredients are too dry, add a few drops of cold water. Place the curry paste in a tightly covered container or jar in the refrigerator until it’s time to use it.
- Ok so the making of the curries is very similar you start by adding the coconut milk into a large saucepan and gently bring to boil along with the paste( 1 tbsp), continuously stirring.
- Once the coconut milk is boiling and the paste has dissolved throughout the milk add in the thinly diced chicken/butternut.
- The chicken will begin to whiten around the edges.
- Add the other vegetables.
- Cook until the chicken/butternut is cooked through or for vegetables- tender.
- Add in the fish sauce, soya and sugar or substitue.
- Add in the basil, kaffir lime and put the lid on and remove from the heat, let sit aside for 10 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk into a large saucepan and gently bring to boil along with the paste, continuously stirring.
- Once the coconut milk is boiling and the paste ( 1 tbsp)has dissolved throughout the milk add in the thinly diced chicken or butternut.
- The chicken will begin to whiten around the edges.
- Cook until the chicken/butternut is cooked/tender.
- Add in pineapple and stir.
- Lastly, add in the fish sauce, soya and sugar or substitute.
- Remove from heat and garnish with some basil and diced chili.
- I also added some toasted cashews as a garnish and a bit of crunch!
A traditional soup on ever Thai menu, it’s a nice one to add to your repertoire. The taste is similar to a coconut based curry but much lighter.
Coconut Galangal soup – Tom Ka Gai
- 1 small chicken breast finely sliced
- 250 ml coconut milk- full fat from a can is nicer but regular coconut milk works here too, it’s a little lighter.
- 1’ Galangal root chopped in 5 pieces
- ¼ of a large brown onion chopped
- 1 piece of lemon grass diced
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 shallots crushed
- 6 long mushrooms/ shitake halved
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 1-2 red chilli’s diced
- ½ a tomato sliced in wedges
- 1 tbsp soya sauce
- 1 tbsp tamarind sauce(or lemon juice)
- A pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon palm sugar – I use honey( the hardened part) or coconut sugar
- Pour the coconut milk in a wok and heat slowly, add a pinch of salt and stir well.
- Just as coconut milk is hot add the galangal root, lemongrass, kaffir lime leafs, onion, shallots and wait until boiling ,then put chicken and mushrooms, cook until the chicken is cooked through over medium- high heat.
- Add fish sauce, soya bean sauce, coconut sugar, chilli, tomato. Last add tamarind sauce
P.S when you use lemon juice instead of tamarind sauce only add the lemon juice when the fire is off. Garnish with torn coriander leaf.
I saved the best till last, this was without doubt the best pad Thai I have ever eaten. I would never usually have chosen a pad Thai on a menu… I know I was missing out, but I always felt it was relay carb heavy- and I do love my carbs but still. Learning how to cook this dish from scratch made my realise the correct portions of noodles is actually quiet low, you can judge your portion by grabbing a section of rice noodles(fresh if possible) that fit in between your thumb and index finger when joined.
Fried Noodles with Prawns (or chicken) (Pad Thai Gung)
- 1 handful of rice noodles- rice noodles are available in the Asian markets
- 4 prawns- go for tiger and de shell before use or substitute for chicken.
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 table spoons tofu cut up
- 2 table spoons crushed peanuts
- 1 tablespoon sugar- I used coconut sugar or honey
- 1 table spoon fish sauce
- 1 cup of water
- 5 table spoons tamarind sauce- Asian Market, Fallon and Byrne
- 1-2 shallots cut up
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 small cup cooking oil
- 1 stick of spring onion
- Mix the tamarind ,palm sugar with one cup of water
- Heat a wok until hot, add the cooking oil and fry off the tofu, shallots and prawns then put aside on a plate.
- Place the rice noodles in the wok and add water, tamarind sauce, cook the noodles until the sauce dries up. Next add the fish sauce and sugar( or substitute).
- Put the tofu, shallots and prawns back in the wok with the rice noodles mixture and add half of the peanuts.
- Mix everything well and shove it to one side of the wok.
- Add a little more oil into the wok, and add the whisked eggs along with the fish sauce, cook the eggs until they are about 70% cooked.
- Move the noodle mixture from the side onto the egg.
- Toss in the bean sprouts and spring onion, cook for a further minute to combine well.
- Serve on a plate, sprinkling over the left over peanuts.