Friday, February 17, 2012

My Day Learning to Cook Thai Food

Before spending this last month in Thailand, I always claimed to like Thai food, although what I knew of it was really quite minimal. Spicy (but, hey, let's not go crazy: not Thai spicy), fresh, pungent. I knew a few dishes I liked, I knew the flavors I was fond of but I didn't really feel confident that I could ever cook Thai food (a tom ka gai seasoning packet once left me with cooking ennui). Now, a month here, I know I like Thai food and I didn't want to leave with knowing how to replicate some of my favorite dishes. Lucky for me, I ran across a trifold pamphlet for a local cooking course, Sabai Sabai, so I signed up for a one-day, four-dish, one-on-one session.

I arrived promptly at 9 on the morning of February 15th and immediately Ton whisked us off to the market to buy our day's supplies.
We didn't buy or use these tomatoes but I couldn't resist taking a picture of their pink perfection. 
The curry paste station. Alas, there is no way to differentiate the different curry pastes by sight alone (except green, of course).
The "number one spicy" pepper, to its left is number two, and on the right is number three which is what was used in my dishes. Ton taught me the rule of thumb that the smaller the pepper, the spicier it is.
Prepping all the ingredients and learning about various herbs and roots too. (Galangal! Kafir lime leaves! Cilantro root! Those are the flavors I've loved all along.) 
Pulverizing some "number three spicy" pepper with Thai garlic. Ton taught me to keep my hand over the mortar just so in order to avoid getting pepper juice spraying onto my face or, worse yet, into my eye. As it was, the juice on my hand burned for right about 24 hours. 
Thank you, Ton, for one of my favorite experiences in almost 9 months of traveling.

Tom Yum Goong (Shrimp), 2 servings

-600 ml water, bring to rapid boil

-5 kafir lime leaves (peeled from center stem, halving them)
-2 spicy chilis, smashed with broad side of knife
-5 cloves garlic, smashed (as above)
-tomato, quartered (firm, tart tomato)
-1/3 c. galangal root, sliced
-2 stalks lemongrass, sliced
-2 pieces of cilantro root, smashed and sliced into 2 to 3 pieces
-2 shallots, peeled and smashed

Boil for about 3 minutes until tomato skins begin to peel away.
(If making tom yum gai, add sliced chicken at this time.)

-1 c. mushrooms (quartered or halved, depending on size)

Boil until mushrooms begin to soften

-1 tsp sugar
-2 T. fish sauce
-2 tsp chili oil/paste
-juice of 1 lime (about 1 T.)
(stir, allow flavors to combine, taste and refine as necessary at this point)

-1 to 1.5 c of whole shrimp, allow to cook about halfway (approximately 45 seconds)

add (and immediately turn off heat):
-1/4 c of cilantro
-one large green onion, sliced



EcoGrrl said...

one of my favorite stories of your travels as well :)

SuzyMay said...

Yes I will be attempting that recipe someday as it sounds yummy! And hope to try a class out when in Thailand!

Carole said...

Lovely post. You might be interested in this post I did on Thai fish sauce.