Thai cuisine is known for its balance of five fundamental flavors in each dish or the overall meal - hot ( spicy ), sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Although popularly considered as a single cuisine, Thai food is really better described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern ( or Isan ), Central and Southern. Southern curries, for example, tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, while northeastern dishes often include lime juice.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste is the most common of all the curry pastes. It is used widely in many dishes that you are familiar with such as tod mun and satay. Red curry paste is a mixture of dry chili pepper, shallot, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, cilantro root, peppercorn, coriander, salt, shrimp paste and kaffir lime zest.
Green Curry Paste
Green curry paste has the exact ingredients as the red one with the exception of the dried chili pepper. Fresh green pepper is substituted.
Yellow Curry Paste
Yellow curry comes from Southern Thailand and is similar to red or green curry, but it is made with yellow peppers and turmeric.

Recipe: Masaman Curry

2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup potato
1 tablespoon masaman curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 lb beef
1 tablespoon tamarind
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup cashew
2 pinches cardamom
2 leaves bay leaf
Peel and cut up potatoes into big chunks, 1" x 1" x 1". Cut up beef and onion into the same size. You can substitute chicken or lamb for beef, if you like. Heat coconut milk and masaman curry paste in a pot over medium to low heat and stir. Break up the paste and mix well with coconut milk. Stir constantly to keep the mixture from sticking. When you see the red oil bubbling up (about 5 minutes), add the meat and stir to cover the meat with curry. Add half a cup of water or enough cover all the meat. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for potatoes, onion and cashew. Stew for 1/2 hour or until beef is getting tender. Add potatoes, onion and cashews. Let simmer for 20 minutes more. The liquid should be reduced and you should be able to see some chunks. But, if the liquid is very low, add more water.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Herbs and Spices

A popular flavoring, only the tender middle of lemongrass stalks should be used. It is a main ingredient for favorite Tom yum soup.
Thai sweet Basil

Thai sweet basil is the most common. This has purplish stems, green leaves and an aniseed aroma and flavour. It is aromatic and is used in curries, soups and stir-fries, as well as sometimes being served as an accompaniment to “Nam Prik”.
Holy Basil

Is either red or green with slightly pointed, variegated leaves, Holy basil is used in stir-fries and fish dishes.

A rhizome with a hot peppery flavor. Young pale galangal can be eaten in pieces; older redder pieces are best used in curry pastes.
A rhizome like ginger and galangal. In Thailand turmeric comes in white and yellow varieties. The yellow type is often referred to as red and is used fresh in curry pastes. Dried, it adds a yellow colour to curries, particularly Northern “khao sawy”. The white type is often eaten raw as a vegetable accompaniment to “nam prik”.
We can use every part of the plant: the stems are used for flavoring; the leaves in stir-fries, soups and noodle dishes; and as a garnish, the seeds for spice paste and the roots are used, too.
Mint has been used in many Thai dishes especially salad (Yum) such as Beef salad (Yum nua), Chicken salad (Larb gai) because it has a fresh and aroma.
Crushed garlic, cilantro root and pepper is the foundation of many dishes in Thailand even the dipping sauce. It is an essential ingredient in the famous Thai curry pastes, also.
A rhizome of a tropical plant which is sold in “hands". Fresh young ginger should have a smooth, pinkish beige skin and be firm and juicy. As it ages, the skin toughens and the flesh becomes more fibrous. Avoid old ginger which is wrinkled as it will be tough.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
This kaffir lime leaves are synonymous with Thai cooking, the leaves are torn or finely shredded and used in soups, especially Tom yum soups and Panang curry.
Curry Powder
Usually bough ready made in Thailand as it is not widely used except in a few stir-fries, marinades, sauces ,curry puffs, and yellow curry.
Coriander Seeds
The round seeds of the coriander plant have a spicy aroma and are used in some curry pastes, especially those that are Indian style.
A round white variety of cardamom is used in Indian or Muslim-influenced curries such as massaman.
Cumin Seeds
These have a peppery, slightly bitter flavor and are used in some curry pastes, available whole or ground.
Chinese Keys
A rhizome with skinny fingers that hang down like a bunch of keys. Has a peppery flavor which normally used in a red curry or stir-fried catfish with red curry paste (pad ped pla duk).

Recipe: Pad Thai

1 pack dried rice stick noodles or "sen lek"
1/2 cup dried shrimp
1/2 cup baked tofu cut into small strips
1/2 cup ground peanut
1 cup fresh beansprouts
1/2 cup chives cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound chicken meat cut into small bite-sized pieces
6 eggs
2 teaspoons pepper powder
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons smashed garlic
2 tablespoons smashed onion
1/2 cup of water
Soak the rice stick noodles in tepid water for roughly 15 minutes. Then cut the noodles into 4-inch pieces. Strain the noodles, then set them aside.
Using a large skillet (preferably a wok) heat the vegetable oil and add in the garlic, onion and tofu.
After stirring for 2 minutes, add in the dry shrimp, and stir. Then, one at a time add in the peanuts, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, pepper and chicken, stirring the mixture the entire time.
Add the eggs and continue to stir the mixture. Then add in 1/2 cup of water.
Add the noodles, and be sure to stir! The noodles tend to burn if not continuously stirred.
Check to see if the taste of the dish is suitable to you, if not, then add in either fish sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), or soy sauce (salty). Here is where a matter of preference comes into play.
The final step is to add in the bean sprouts and chives, just before turning off the burner.
Pad Thai is normally garnished with a heaping portion of uncooked beansprouts on the side as well as a sprig of cilantro on top.

Recipe: Panang Curry

2 pounds meat (beef, chicken or pork)
1 can coconut milk
8 oz panang curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons kafir lime leaves (cut into shreds)
2 red bell pepper cut in 8 wedges
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
Cut your meat into bite sized cubes. Using a medium to large skillet, pan fry the meat until it is almost done, then remove it and set it aside.
Using medium heat, add in four tablespoons of coconut milk, and let it come to a boil.
Add in 2-3 tablespoons of curry paste.
Put the meat back in, and stir until the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Add in half of the remainder of coconut milk. Keep stirring.
Add the fish sauce and the sugar.
Add in the rest of the coconut milk.
When the coconut milk thickens, add in the basil leaves, red bell pepper and lime leaves.
Give it a taste. You may need to add in more fish sauce or sugar depending on your preference.

Recipe: Tom Yum Goong

2 quarts chicken broth
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced on a bias in 2-inch pieces
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 piece fresh galangal or ginger, sliced
2 red chilies, sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 can straw mushrooms, rinsed and halved
1 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails on
2 limes, juiced
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Bring the stock to the boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and chilies. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth. Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar, and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 8 minutes until they turn pink.
Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, green onions, and cilantro. Taste for salt and spices; you should have an equal balance of spicy, salty, and sour. It's a good idea to tell your guest's that the lemongrass and lime leaves are for flavor only and should be avoided when eating the soup.

Recipe: Green Curry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut in 8 wedges
1 green bell pepper, cut in 8 wedges
1 stalk lemongrass, white bulb only
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, recipe follows
2 kaffir lime leaves
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts,
cut in 1 inch strips
(You can change it to shrimp, beef or pork if you want)
Sea salt
1 lime, juiced
Fresh Thai basil leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges, for garnish
Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. Saute the onion and green peppers for 3 minutes to soften. Split the piece of lemongrass down the middle and whack it with the flat side of a knife to open the flavor. Add the lemongrass, ginger, curry paste and lime leaves to the skillet and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken broth. Lay the chicken pieces in the mixture to poach; add a pinch of salt. Stir together and simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze in the lime juice and shower with basil and cilantro; serve in dinner bowls with lime wedges.
Green Curry Paste2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
8 fresh green chilis
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Small handful of fresh cilantro sprigs
2-inch piece galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 lemon grass stalks, white part only, coarsely chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste
1/2 cup water
Heat the coriander, cumin seeds, and peppercorns in a small dry skillet for 2 minutes until fragrant. Put the seeds in a clean coffee grinder or spice mill and buzz the spices to a powder. Put the spice blend and remaining ingredients in a food processor, and pulse to combine. Pour in the water to help grind everything down into a paste.

Sunday, December 31, 2006