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Archive for April, 2009

Red Bean Shake

The first time I had a red bean shake was during my university days in Bangkok.  A constant mob of students parched from Thailand’s infamous heat and humidity weather cocktail, could be seen surrounding this one popular on-campus drink vendor.  Since there was no real concept of queueing,  in order to get a drink, we had to fight our way through the little crowd, one hand in the air waving cash, while semi-shouting our order (politely of course, we were Thai after all).

The reward was always worth it.

It’s been hot the last few days here in Boston, so I wanted to recreate this sweetly refreshing drink.  I needed to start with the red bean paste, which is available in most Asian marts.  I didn’t feel like using a canned paste, so I decided to make the paste from scratch.  It’s quite simple, but would take a bit of time — low maintenance time however.

Red Bean Paste

Ingredients:
  • Package of red beans (Mine was 400g, a little less than 2 cups.)
  • Sugar (I used turbinado sugar, but white sugar is fine too.)
  • Salt
Steps:
1. Rinse beans, put in a large pot, and cover with plenty of water.  I’d say start with filling it halfway.  (You’ll add more as you go along.)
2. Bring to boil – stir occasionally
3. Bring back down to a simmer
4. After an hour or so, add 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt
5. Continue to let simmer
6. Check back occasionally to stir and monitor the water level.  Taste – adjust sugar level to your taste.  Continue to add water and let simmer until the beans are soft and thickened.  (Mine took quite a few hours.  **Make this on an afternoon when you are staying in and doing things around the house anyway. I find it quite cozy having something simmering away in the kitchen!)
7. Let cool and place in a container to store in the fridge.

Red Bean Shake

Red Bean Shake
  • 1/2 cup of paste
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (Evaporated milk is typically used in these types of drinks in Thailand. Try it with regular milk, soy milk, etc.  A friend of mine even uses coconut milk.  It’s your drink – do it your way!)
  • 5-6 ice cubes (or more, however you like it)

Blend in blender till smooth.  Pour into glass, and (optional) top with a little sweet condensed milk.

Keep a jar of the red bean paste in the fridge.  You can spoon over ice cream (might have to thin it out with some water on low heat), or put in a bowl, add shaved ice, and top with sweet condensed milk for a nice summer treat.

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ba mi haeng

This is one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up in Northern Thailand.

There was a Ba Mi Haeng vendor just around the corner from my childhood home.  It was, of course, a small little mom and pop storefront, and the ‘mom’ vendor was always grumpy, so we took to referring to this shop as the grumpy-faced noodle place (since there really wasn’t a proper shop name – not that I can recall), or “Ba Mi Haeng na gnor.”

I’ve been craving Ba Mi Haeng noodles lately, so I set out to replicate how my favorite shop made it back home.  (It’s a bit of a long-ish post, so please bear with me!)

A little terminology

Ba Mi = wonton noodles

Haeng = dry (When we order noodles in Thailand, we indicate whether we want it with or without broth.  I usually like my Ba Mi without the broth, so “Haeng” it is.)

What’s in the dish?

1. The Noodles – This forms the base of the bowl.  My vendor breaks off a portion of the fresh wonton noodles, puts it in a strainer, briefly blanches the noodles in the giant pot of boiling pork bone broth, and puts it in a bowl.

2. The Wontons – I usually order my Ba Mi with “keow” or wontons, in which case, the vendor throws in a couple of wontons in with the noodles to cook.  Some vendors also fry up their wontons and add one or two to finish the dish.

3. The Meat & Vegetable Toppings:

– Ground Pork

– BBQ Pork Chinese-style (This is similar to the red BBQ pork that is often served as an appetizer in U.S. Chinese restaurants.)

– Yu Choy (A green vegetable similar to Chinese broccoli but sweeter and more tender. You can identify it by its yellow flowers.)

4. Toppings & Condiments

The vendor tops the noodle dish with the following: fish sauce, thin soy sauce, fried crushed garlic, sugar, chopped scallions, chopped pickled radish, and ground white pepper

The vendor also provides the following condiments on the side (Thais are huge on condiments!) : crushed red peppers, ground peanuts, vinegar and peppers (“Prik Nam Som” – more on this later)

Enough background info! How do I make this?

First of all, the ingredients:

1. The Noodles

– Wonton noodles (found in the refrigerated section in Asian grocers)

– Wonton wrappers, Hong Kong style (found in the same section)

2. The Meats

– Ground pork

– Pork bones (Totally optional – this is to make pork bone broth.  Thai noodle vendors always have a huge pot of simmering pork bone broth for cooking the noodles, vegetables, and meats, and also to add as a broth for customers who want noodle soup.  ***For our purpose, plain water is totally fine – and less fussy***.)

– BBQ Pork Chinese-style (I bought these.  No need to make from scratch. Again, fussy. You can also omit altogether, or substitute with Asian meatballs.  You can buy the BBQ Pork from a Chinese grocer or just order an appetizer BBQ pork dish from your local Chinese restaurant.)

3. The Vegetables

– Yu choy

– Scallions

– Garlic

4. The Condiments

– Thin soy sauce (Also called white soy sauce. This is an example what the product looks like.  I’m not associated with this company…just providing examples!  If you don’t have this handy, you can substitute with regular soy sauce)

– Mushroom soy sauce (optional)

– Fish sauce

– Sugar

– Pickled radish (Example here Totally optional.)

– Ground white pepper

– Crushed red peppers

– Ground peanuts

– Vinegar and peppers (“Prik Nam Som” is a condiment for street noodle dishes.  I make it at home by slicing 2-3 jalapeno peppers horizontally and covering it with vinegar to pickle. I store it in a jar in the fridge for times like these!)

– Fried crushed garlic (“Kratiam Jeow” – I usually have this on hand, since my mother fries up a big batch and brings it over when she visits.  I make street noodle dishes quite a lot, so it’s handy to have ready. Kratiam Jeow is super easy to make – just peel a bunch of garlic and pulse in a food processor, then fry in cooking oil until lightly brown.  Watch the heat so that it does not burn. It keeps well in the fridge. )

Finally…preparation

1. Cooking broth/water – If you choose do a pork bone broth, simply bring a couple of pork bones (with some meat and fat attached is best) cover with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and lower to medium heat – a light boill.  I add a few shakes of the thin soy sauce and mushroom soy sauce for a touch of flavor. Keep it simmering like this while you prep the other ingredients.  If you choose water, just put the water to boil and then simmer.

2. Prep the pork – Take about half a pound of ground pork and season with 2 tsp of white soy sauce and another 3 tsp of mushroom soy sauce.  Mix well.  You will use this seasoned ground pork for both the wontons and for the ground pork to top the dish.

3. Prep the wontons – I make 4-5 wontons per serving and try to replicate the style of my vendor.  It’s quite simple.  Take a tiny bit of the seasoned ground pork, I’d say ¼ tsp or less, and place it in the middle of the wonton wrapper.  Then, dip your finger in water, make a circle around the meat, fold diagonally, press, twist and seal all around.  It’s not meant to be pretty.  It’s street food.  😉

Pork Wontons (Keow Moo)

4. Garlic – crush and chop a few cloves and fry in oil, until light brown and crispy but not burnt.  Keep the oil to season the noodles.

5. Cut BBQ Pork in bite-sized strips.

6. Rinse the Yu Choy and cut stems at an angle.

7. Take a handful of the wonton noodles and put in pot of boiling broth/water.  Wait for about a minute and take it out.  Place in a bowl.

8. Season the noodles with a couple of dashes of thin soy sauce, fish sauce to taste (always always taste!). Stir in a little fried garlic (and a bit of its oil)…and keep tasting.

9. Take 4-5 wontons and half of the remaining ground pork (should be a little less than ¼ lb), and put in the boiling broth/water.  Break up the ground pork as it cooks.  After a few minutes, when the pork is cooked, lift the items out and place on top of the noodles.

10. Take the Yu Choy and blanch for a minute in the broth. Place on top of noodles.

11. Place BBQ pork on top of noodles.

12. To finish the dish, add a pinch each of sugar, pickled radish, chopped scallions, and ground white pepper.

13. For condiments – vinegar and pepper (or just vinegar is fine), crushed peanuts, crushed red pepper, sugar, and fish sauce.

I like to start out with my noodles very basically seasoned. As I eat the noodles, I continue to season it with the condiments at hand and customize it as I go along.   Essentially, the last few bites of my noodle dish will taste quite different from the first few bites.  That’s why I adore street noodles so much!

Well, this is quite a long post, but I wanted to explain this dish thoroughly. It’s a reproduction of one of my longtime favorites, and I wanted to do it justice!  You can modify it any way you want to.  There is not a right or wrong recipe here.  Let your taste buds guide you.

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Salmon Carpaccio, Thai-style.  Seems like an interesting experiment.   I love raw fish, especially fatty fish like salmon.  Seafood here in the U.S. is often served on the mild-side, so I find myself craving the big flavors found in Thai seafood dishes.  I also had an amazing lobster carpaccio this weekend in New York, which served as another inspiration for this experiment.  So experiment I did!

I went to our local Japanese grocer to buy sushi-grade salmon, then stopped by my regular grocery store to grab a couple of limes.  The rest of the ingredients I already had at home.

I started out by making the dressing, inspired by Thai seafood dips. Dressing ingredients:

-Garlic

-Lime

-Thai bird chili “Prik Kee Nu” — (Asian grocers carry these.  I freeze them so that I have some on hand at all times.)

-Sugar (white sugar is good, but I used palm sugar for this recipe)

-Fish sauce

-Olive oil, just a little

-Fresh ground black pepper

I pounded a clove of garlic in a mortar and pestle, making sure to pound it to a paste since I didn’t want to bite into chunks of garlic.  I then added a couple of Thai bird chilis and pounded some more.  Then, I added the sugar (maybe half a tablespoon or so) – pounded until well mixed.  Lastly, I added half a lime (the limes I bought were pretty huge with lots of juice), fish sauce – I’d say a little less than a tablespoon, and just a splash of olive oil.  I tasted it, added a bit more of this and that, and tasted some more. (I know this seems vague but this is the nature of Thai cooking — i.e. no real set recipes and a lot of tasting and adjusting.)  I also cut small pieces of salmon and dipped it in the sauce to taste, and adjusting it until I was happy with the flavors.

Now the salmon.  I started by chilling the plate.  Then I cut the salmon, against the grain, into very thin slices.   I arranged them in a circle on the chilled plate, making sure to not overlap (don’t know why – it just looks prettier).   Lastly, I drizzled the dressing over the salmon, covering all the pieces and added ground black pepper.  Just for fun, I snipped a small piece of parsley and placed it in the center.

The experiment turned out quite yummy, I’d say.  Play with it and let me know what you think!  🙂

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