Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Chocolate popsicle

I needed a chocolate fix and there was no chocolate in the house…eek! There was, however, good quality unsweetened cocoa in the pantry.  I decided to make hot chocolate and give it a whirl in the blender with some ice (it being 80+ degrees outside and all).

Well, I made more than enough super-rich hot chocolate, so I poured the rest in little plastic cups, stuck a half giant straw in each (I just happened to have those big fat straws used for bubble tea lying around), covered with plastic, and placed in the freezer.

I also put a tiny bit of sweet condensed milk on the bottom of the little cups before pouring in the chocolate.  How I love sweet condensed milk.

The popsicles turned out so amazingly rich, chocolaty, and beyond my wildest expectations, that I just had to blog about it.

I basically used what I had on hand, which was good cocoa, milk, and sweet condensed milk.  The sweet condensed milk made the hot chocolate silky and rich, and of course, sweet.  I started with the milk and cocoa over heat and kept adding more cocoa and sweet condensed milk until it was super rich and thick and tasted amazing.  That was it.

How easy is that, for a go-to chocolate fix!

Pad BuabAlthough not the most photogenic of dishes, (made even less so with my lack of food photography skills :)) , it is a delicious and healthy dish, and quite a simple one to make.

I’ve observed many a Thai home cooks and their various personal styles for stir frying, and there is one technique which works well with vegetables such as zucchini and squash.  Some vegetables (mostly leafy ones) are best flash-stir-fried on super high heat usually called “Fai Dang ไฟแดง ” or “red fire.” Chinese broccoli and morning glory (ผักบุ้ง) are wonderful for such technique, which involves stir frying the vegetables in a very hot wok for a very short time.

However, for vegetables such as zucchini and squash, which requires a bit more time to cook and allow flavors of the sauce to penetrate, a different technique is required.  Cooks will stir fry to a point and, deglaze the wok with some water (yes, it is common in Thai cooking to deglaze with water!) and cover the wok with a lid to allow steaming and for flavors to penetrate.

So, that’s the technique we’ll use with this stir fry, a stir fry of zucchini and squash. (Note: This dish is akin to “Pad Buab” in Thailand.  Buab is a similar vegetable to zucchini and squash.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini, cut into approx one sq inch pieces
  • 1 large squash, cut into same size
  • garlic, about 4 cloves chopped
  • oyster sauce, about 2 tbsp
  • fish sauce, about 1 tsp
  • 1 egg
  • oil
  1. Heat wok and add oil.  (For this dish, we won’t rely on a super hot wok since we will stir fry a while until the vegetables are tender.  Medium to medium high heat is fine.)
  2. Stir fry garlic till fragrant.
  3. Add zucchini and squash and stir fry until almost tender.
  4. Add oyster sauce and fish sauce and continue to stir fry.
  5. Add a little water just to deglaze the bottom of the wok and cover the wok with a lid.
  6. After a minute or so, check the tenderness of the zucchini and squash, and also the flavors.  Adjust the flavors if needed.
  7. Push the vegetables to the side of the wok and add an egg.  Wait till it starts to set, then scramble and fold back in the vegetables.
  8. Serve with jasmine rice.

Moo Kratiem Prik Thai

This is another favorite among the lunch crowd in Thailand, and made readily available by food vendors in virtually every street corner. You can find this dish anywhere, and it is indeed simply delicious.

The dish is called Moo Kratiem Prik Thai, that is:

Moo = Pork

Kratiem = garlic

Prik Thai = ground pepper (usually white pepper).

Kai (chicken) and Kung (shrimp) are also popular meats for Kratiem Prik Thai.

As a nation, Thais eat quite a lot of pork, so you will find that dishes from Thai vendors often feature pork as the main protein.

Kratiem Prik Thai is a part of a Thai food category called “Aharn Jahn Deow” or literally “one plate food,” typically a made-to-order stir-fry over white jasmine rice.  It could also be a noodle stir-fry such as Pad Thai, Pad See U, Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles), etc.  I’d go so far as to say that “one-plate-food” is the equivalent of the sandwich in terms of being an all encompassing meal offered up in one ‘package’, so to speak, and often eaten for lunch.

Although not technically street food, the Kratiem Prik Thai isn’t exactly a full sit-down restaurant food either (i.e. a restaurant where we go for dinners with friends and family and order dishes to be eaten family-style).   Most Kratiem Prik Thai is rather eaten at food stalls or lunchtime shops.  It is also a dish Thai home cooks don’t usually make at home.  So, however easy the dish is to make, I never made it until I came to live in the U.S.

There are variations to this dish – some cooks make it dryer, some make it juicier, some use only fish sauce, some only soy sauce (a friend of mine uses only Golden Mountain soy-based seasoning sauce), some a combination of the two, some throw in some oyster sauce.  In essence, this dish should taste salty savory and garlicky with just a hint of spiciness from the ground white pepper.  (Sugar is used only to balance out the other flavors, not to make the dish sweet.)

The following are my basic ingredients for Kratiem Prik Thai.

  • Meat, sliced thin-ish (Pork is most common, followed by shrimp and chicken.)
  • Garlic, minced (I use a couple of cloves per serving.)
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Ground white pepper (White peppercorns grounded to a powdery form – it tastes significantly different than black pepper, and commonly used in Thai cooking.)
  • Cooking oil
  • Cucumbers and tomatoes for garnish

Steps:

  1. Heat wok and add some oil. (In the meantime, I like to mix in a few dashes of soy sauce to the meat to marinate while waiting for the other steps.)
  2. Add garlic and stir-fry till fragrant.
  3. Add the pork and stir-fry till nearly done.
  4. Add a few dashes of fish sauce and soy sauce, and a sprinkle of sugar.
  5. Stir fry till pork is done and add a little water to deglaze the yummy bits from the bottom of the wok.
  6. Taste and adjusting seasoning if needed.
  7. Sprinkle in some white ground pepper.
  8. Serve over jasmine rice.  Garnish with cucumbers and tomatoes.

The perfect condiment for your Kratiem Prik Thai?   Prik Nam Pla of course!

Oh, just in case you were wondering why I have a fork and spoon in the picture…  In Thailand, we eat our rice-based (or even stir-fry noodle) meals with a fork in the left hand and a spoon in the right, using the fork to push food into the spoon and eating out of the spoon.  Give it a try! :)

Michael Jackson

Your talents reached halfway across the globe to the youths of Thailand.

When this music video was first released, my brother and I watched via satellite from our hometown in Thailand.   We giggled at the Thai dance sequence; it was King and I-esque but not bad, really.

Carabao, a Thai band known for writing politically charged lyrics wrote “Thaplang” in the late 1980s, during Thailand’s dispute with the U.S. over a stolen ancient lintel.   The late 1980s was, of course, also the height of Michael Jackson’s career, and he was hugely popular in Thailand.  The chorus of Thaplang translates as follows:

“Take back Michael Jackson.  Give us back our Phra Narai.”

A little background on how this song came about:

Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, an ancient stone temple built during the Khmer Empire, is located in modern day Thailand in the northeastern province of Burirum.  The Pra Narai lintel was stolen from the temple and reappeared at a museum in Chicago.  In the late 1980s, Thailand launched a huge campaign to have the relic returned, and Carabao did their part by writing this song.  The campaign proved successful and Pra Narai is now back in its rightful home at Phanom Rung.

King of Pop, may you rest in peace.  Thank you for working to make this world a better place.  

lemongrass tea

My friend Rui from Brazil introduced me to lemongrass tea a few years ago. We were in the kitchen prepping lemongrass to make Tom Yum and Tom Ka soup. Lemongrass is so cheap in Thailand that cooks typically discard the top bits and use only the bottom, more fragrant, part of the stalk.  My friend nearly passed out when he saw me  throwing away the top part.  He told me that those mild top stems are great for steeping tea.

Nowadays when I buy lemongrass, I clean the stalks and separate the top stems for making tea, and the bottom part for cooking.  And I freeze them for later use.

My favorite way of making lemongrass tea is to add a bit of fresh lemon peel.

A good rule of thumb is to use 3-4 inches of lemongrass per each cup of water.  I usually start out with 4 cups of water, with the corresponding amount of lemongrass.  Bring the lemongrass and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add some lemon peel (I use about 1/2 a lemon or so).  Allow it to steep on low heat until the flavors marry and concentrate to how you like it.

I prefer lemongrass tea on the gentler side (as opposed to ginger tea where I like it super strong).

When the tea is steeped to your liking, just add a little Turbinado sugar to sweeten at the end.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wrap

This was meant to be a rice porridge dish but it quickly morphed into a lettuce wrap. (I was too hungry to wait for the rice.)  Yummy it was (hello Yoda) – and I didn’t miss the rice!

I was in the process of making one of my favorite breakfast dishes, rice porridge on a bed of lettuce with ground meat garlic stir-fry topping.   The stir-fry was a cinch, as stir-fries often are.  The rice porridge, on the other hand, was easy to make (just boil and then simmer rice with tons of water) but took forever to cook to the right consistency.

So, when the stir-fry was done and the lettuce was all washed and ready, I decided to start snacking.  I remember the little lettuce wrap appetizers from Chinese restaurants and decided to make a little wrap to tie myself over until the rice was done.  Lo and behold, one wrap turned into two turned into an entire meal.  By the time I was happily full, the rice was still not done!

I don’t know how the Chinese restaurants make them, but here is the version that transpired from today’s porridge-intended dish.  Since I hadn’t planned on blogging about this, I didn’t measure the ingredients but it is so easy – you just need to taste and adjust as you cook.  The results are super tasty.

Ingredients:

  • ground turkey (or pork, or chicken)
  • garlic, chopped (a generous amount)
  • oyster sauce
  • fish sauce
  • dark sweet soy sauce (you can substitute with regular soy sauce and add a little more sugar to the dish)
  • sugar
  • ground white pepper (or substitute with regular black pepper)
  • lettuce
  • scallions, thinly sliced
  • chili garlic sauce, as a condiment
  1. Heat wok and add oil.
  2. Stir fry garlic till fragrant.
  3. Add ground meat and stir fry until nearly done.
  4. Add a few dashes each of the oyster sauce, fish sauce, and dark sweet soy sauce.  Add a little sugar and ground pepper.  Stir fry till meat is done.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add a little water to make a sauce out of the yummy tidbits stuck to the bottom of the wok.  Stir one last time and you’re done.
  6. Make your lettuce wraps and top with a little scallion and chili garlic sauce.
  7. Enjoy!

Prik Nam Pla

In my recent post on Sriracha, I mentioned a popular condiment called Prik Nam Pla.  The direct translation is chili (“prik”) fish sauce (“nam pla”).

Prepared simply by cutting up bird chilies, adding some fish sauce and a squeeze of lime, Prik Nam Pla is a condiment for rice-based dishes such as fried rice or just white rice with sides. “Sides” in this case is a reference to all stir-fry dishes, soups, curries, etc. that are to be eaten alongside rice. We call these sides “Gub Kao” which literally means “with rice.”  Noodle dishes tend to have their own separate set of condiments (a topic for another post ;)).

Since I grew up observing my mother prepare fresh Prik Nam Pla to accompany our “Gub Kao” each dinnertime, I would highly recommend that you make it fresh as needed (as opposed to making a batch for storage).  It is easy to do so, and it tastes much better that way!

A note on bird chilies:

bird chiliBird Chili (or “Bird’s Eye Chili“) is called “Prik Kee Noo” in Thai.  Prik means chili and Kee Noo means…ready for this?… “mouse droppings.”  I know.  Such an unfortunate name for a poor little chili, but it makes sense, really.  Bird chilies are so tiny that the name is clearly a reference to its size.

Don’t let its size fool you, however.  Bird chilies are one of the hottest chilies, ranking 50,000 – 100,000 in the Scoville heat scale, a notch below the habanero, and much more innocuous looking, size-wise.

You can buy bird chilies in Asian grocery stores.  I pack them in plastic wrap and freeze them in zip-lock bags for later use.

You can substitute bird chilies with other high-heat chilies.  Serranos (quite a bit milder though) would be a decent substitute, and to a lesser extent, habaneros and Scotch bonnets (both much spicier so be careful!). Jalapenos would be an ‘ok’ substitute but I find that it adds too much of a green pepper flavor and not enough heat.

Let’s conclude this post with a heat remedy.  Let’s face it – the sheer satisfaction and endorphin high from eating spicy foods can sometimes be followed by an excruciating burning of the tongue.  Dairy can help cool you down.  However, I find the best and quickest relief comes from, literally, a spoonful of sugar. Works every time.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.