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Posts Tagged ‘thai’

Since probably the mid 80’s, Thai cuisine has seen an explosion of popularity, likely due to a booming post-war tourism industry in Southeast Asia. As all popular things do, Thai cuisine was quickly adopted as the trendy go-to cuisine in America, built to excess, and generally ruined. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dish of Pad Thai as much as the next person might. But a vast difference can be found from one pad thai to another. Generally, when seeking out foreign cuisines, look for recipes that aren’t written in english.

Thailand is host to a litany of amazing dishes exemplifying the core four flavors of their cuisine: sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. One thing that people don’t necessarily think about, however (maybe I can’t speak for you, but I’ve really never considered it), is what breakfast looks like in this part of the world. Rice and noodles are all well and good, but when it comes to the most important meal of the day I’ll usually reach for something a bit more familiar.

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Pa Thong Ko are a Thai version of a traditional Chinese-style cruller. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside; They’re almost more similar to the fried bread dough you’d get from a dirty cart at the county fair. Served with coconut jam (which is really a custard), you can see the influence from French colonialism, much the same way that the Banh Mi came about in Vietnam.

According to Thai tradition, the traditional X shaped fritters represent two inseparable lovers, always seen together. In stark contrast, Chinese tradition recounts a tale of two evil men who were put to death in boiling oil.

Pa Thong Ko, adapted from SheSimmers
makes 10-12 fritters

  • Bread Flour*, 260g
  • Active Dry Yeast, 2g
  • Baker’s Ammonia, 2g
  • Alum Powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kosher Salt, 8g
  • Granulated Sugar, 14g
  • Warm Water, 170g (3/4 cup)
  • Vegetable Oil, 1 tablespoon, plus more as needed
  • Baking Powder, 4g

Combine all ingredients except baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and lightly coat top of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and allow to rise 4-5 hours. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust flour over dough. Sprinkle baking powder over dough. Fold and knead about 4 times. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut to desired shapes.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 4-5 inches of vegetable oil to 350F. Fry dough until deep brown and crispy, 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil

*Yes, you can use All-Purpose flour

Sangkhaya (Coconut Jam/Custard)
makes just over 1 cup

  • Egg Yolk, large, 4 each
  • Palm Sugar, 3 tablespoons
  • Granulated Sugar, 5 tablespoons
  • Coconut Milk, full-fat, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • Dried Pandan Leaf**, about 1/4 cup
  • Kosher Salt, 1/8 teaspoon

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously until thick and creamy. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk, pandan and salt in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. While whisking, add 1/3 of the hot coconut milk to the egg yolk mixture. Continue whisking until full incorporated. While whisking, add egg mixture to remaining coconut milk. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking very frequently, until sauce is thick, about 5-8 minutes. Once thick, immediately remove from heat, transfer sauce to a bowl or other container and refrigerate until cooled completely.

**If you can’t find pandan or don’t want to buy it, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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Geng Dtaeng Bpet

I know what you’re probably thinking. No, I didn’t just bash my head into the keyboard to come up with a title. But with a title that hard to pronounce, this week has got to be Thai cuisine! In America at least, Thai cuisine as exploded in popularity in recent years, and for a good reason. From curries, stews and stir-frys to sweet dishes and teas, Thai cuisine share many of the more common aspects of Asian cuisine as a whole, but with enough personality and flair to make it interesting even to those accustomed to the exotic. Similar to other cuisines of Southeast Asia, Thai cuisine relies on lightly prepared dishes using a wide variety of aromatic herbs and vegetables. While known for characteristically spicy dishes, Thai cuisine is known for achieving a balance between sweet, sour, salty and bitter in each dish, as well as in the overall meal. As Australian chef David Thompson describes, from a Western standpoint: “Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it’s a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that’s important, it’s the complexity they delight in.”  In school, I was lucky enough to study Thai cuisine for a few days in a class dedicated to the cuisines of Asia as a whole, and fell in love. It just amazed me that such a vast array of specific ingredients could yield dishes that seemed so simple and un-fussy.  For the 51st week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite dishes from school: Duck Red Curry.

In school, we sauteed curry paste and garlic in oil until aromatic, then added coconut milk to make the sauce. Slowly simmered duck, fresh pineapple, cherry tomatoes and Thai basil make up the actual bulk of the curry. Served over rice or glass noodles, it was my first real experience with curry. It was sweet, but not too sweet. Spicy, but not too spicy. As I later learned is common with Thai cuisine, it balanced every flavor perfectly. I’ve made that recipe a few times before, often substituting chicken for the most expensive and less common duck. Right after thanksgiving though, the supermarket had plenty of ducks in stock, so I knew I had to seize the opportunity. Since I wasd going all the way with the duck, I wanted to look a bit more into the origins of the dish and see if there a traditional recipe would be any different than what I remembered. It turns out that it was quite different, and much more involved. A quick trip to the Thai market a few blocks up the road provided me with everything I needed to create a traditional version of my beloved curry.

duck curry

The biggest difference between this curry and the one that I made in school was the curry paste. In school, we used red curry paste from a jar. Red as a matador’s cape and generically spicy and Asian-ish, I assumed that it was close enough to what a traditional curry paste would be. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For this recipe, I made my own curry paste from dried red chilies, a mix of aromatic roots, vegetables and spices, and Thai shrimp paste. If you don’t know what shrimp paste is, there’s probably a good reason. It’s really only available at specialty markets, and even then it’s not all that common. Shrimp paste is essentially a fermented seasoning made from ground, dried shrimp. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. I honestly don’t have the right words to describe just how putrid it really smells. Maybe if you poured a bottle of fish sauce through a bag of garbage, then boiled it down into a paste. Blech. However gross it was, when mixed with all the other ingredients it wasn’t unbearable. The recipe I was working from said just to grind everything down in a mortar and pestle, which didn’t work very well at all. I ended up chopping it in a food processor, then mincing by hand and then processing again. It still didn’t achieve a paste-y consistency like the jarred version, but it was pretty evenly minced, so I was happy with it. After sitting and marinating for a day or two, the curry paste got fried up in coconut oil until aromatic. The duck was braised in coconut milk, stock, and aromatics overnight, and I used the braising liquid to make the sauce for the curry. A bit of simmering and thickening later, the curry was ready for it’s bulk: braised duck, cherry tomato, Thai basil, and lychees. As opposed to the pineapple I used before, the lychees had a much more subtle flavor and held up much better in the cooking process. After everything was mixed together, it was further seasoned with fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind paste, and garnished with fresh coriander (Cilantro in America). Much to my surprise, this dish tasted almost nothing like what I remembered. As I was making it, I was sceptical because of how far it looked from the dish I made in school. That being said, it was still delicious. The rich brown sauce still had the balance of flavors, but in a totally different configuration. Sweet, but not too sweet. Spicy, but not too spicy. I forgot to pick up noodles, so I served mine over some brown rice. While this recipe is all well and good, it was a bit pricey with so many special ingredients. I think the next time I’m in the mood for curry, I’ll stick to the less traditional version.

Geng Dtaeng Bpet, Braised Duck Red Curry

makes about 1 gallon

for curry paste:

  • Dried Red Chilies, de-seeded and soaked, 40 to 50 each
  • Galangal Root, 175 grams
  • Lemongrass, 450 grams
  • Zest of 3 Limes
  • Shallots, 500 Grams
  • Shallots, roasted, 300 grams
  • Garlic, roasted, 250 grams
  • Shrimp Paste, 25 grams
  • White Peppercorns, 10 grams
  • Cilantro, 7 grams
  • Nutmeg, 2.5 grams
  • Whole Cloves, 5 grams

Grind cloves, peppercorns and nutmeg in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Chop until coarsely chopped. Remove from food processor. Working in batches, chop mixture finely by hand. Return to food processor and process until as fine as possible. Store in an airtight container and let marinate at least 24 hours.

for braised duck:

  • Meat from 1 whole duck
  • Coconut Milk, 2 cans
  • Lemongrass, 1 stalk
  • Galangal Root, 100 grams
  • Cilantro, 1/2 bunch
  • Shallot, chopped, 1 each
  • Garlic, 5 cloves
  • Stock, as needed

Combine all ingredients except stock and let marinate 8-12 hours. Preheat oven to 200F. Pour marinating mixture into a baking dish and add enough stock to cover 3/4 of the way. Cover with foil and cook at 200F for about 8 hours, or until duck falls off the bone. Remove duck from liquid. Strain liquid to remove solids, reserving the liquid.

for final curry:

  • Curry Paste, 1 1/2 cups
  • Coconut Oil, 1 cup
  • Duck Braising Liquid
  • Cherry Tomatoes, halved, 1 pint
  • Lychees*, drained, 1 can
  • Braised duck
  • Thai Basil**, to taste
  • Fish Sauce, to taste
  • Tamarind Paste, to taste
  • Palm Sugar***, to taste
  • Arrowroot Powder or Cornstarch, as needed

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook curry paste in coconut oil until aromatic, about 20 minutes. Add reserved braising liquid and bring to a simmer. Add cherry tomatoes and lychees. Continue to simmer until tomatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add braised duck, and season to taste with thai basil, fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar. Thicken as needed with arrowroot or cornstarch slurry. Serve hot, over rice or noodles.

*If you can’t find lychees, you can substitute fresh or canned pineapple.

**If you can’t find Thai Basil, you can substitute regular basil

***If you can’t find palm sugar, you can substitute brown sugar.

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Peppers! They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors and each has an amazing number of uses.  Whether you prefer things on the milder side with bells and Anaheims, or hot peppers like jalapenos and habaneros, there’s a pepper to suit each taste. Peppers are rated on the Scoville Scale. Named after American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who developed the original method for testing the spiciness of peppers.  Peppers are on the menu for the 33rd week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, and I had just the thing in mind.

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to sample new and different foods as often as I can.  This goes doubly when I go out to eat at a restaurant. I like looking through menus to find their unique and unusual dishes rather than getting a familiar favorite. Right before the 4th of July celebrations this year, I got to go out to Our House in Winooski, Vermont. Specializing in what they dub “twisted comfort food”, the menu takes beloved favorites and gives them a unique twist. The “Three Little Pigs” sandwich is their take on a traditional pulled pork sandwich featuring pulled pork, ham, and bacon, all topped with a sunny-side-up egg. A main feature of their menu is their Twisted Mac: macaroni and cheese live you’ve never seen it before. Of course you can get a dish of the ol’ standby or even create your own combination, their signature mac’s include BLT, Rueben, Buffalo Chicken, jambalaya, and even surf & turf. The one that really caught my eye, however, was their Peanut Butter and Jelly Mac. Orichette pasta tossed with sauteed green grapes and a Thai-style peanut sauce and topped with house-made jalapeno jam. It was too tempting to pass up. When the dish was brought to the table, it didn’t seem to be too out-of-the-ordinary. It looked like what you expect from a restaurant specializing in mac and cheese. But as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The sauce was reminiscent of American pad-thai, but much thicker and creamier. The grapes added a nice burst of sweetness here and there, and the jalapeno jam gave the spiciness that Thai cuisine is known for. It was one of the most interesting dishes I’ve tried in a very long time, simply because I had never even thought to try that combinations of flavors together. For my pepper dish this week, I knew that I wanted to recreate this dish for myself.

macandcheese

Rather than using green grapes, which I actually found to be a little too tart in the original dish, I used red grapes and roasted them until the skin started to blister. To my surprise, this gave the grapes an almost jam-like quality of their own which was really nice. For the sauce, I made a basic bechamel and seasoned it with garlic, ginger, onion, Sriracha, soy sauce and fish sauce, and of course, the peanut butter. I think I could have gone a little bit heavier on the seasonings, but the peanut butter flavor for nicely subdued by everything else, so that was good. The jam wasn’t as spicy as I remember it being at the restaurant, but did have a really nice peppery flavor. The sauce was actually a touch spicier than I had intended, so I think it was good that the jam wasn’t as potent. I don’t  want to be that guy, but I think I prefer my version to the restaurants. While the flavors were pretty much the same, the one at the restaurant seemed really heavy, even for macaroni and cheese. My sauce was a little bit lighter and I used a bit less cheese. That being said though, the resulting food coma was all too familiar.

Peanut Butter Macaroni & Cheese

makes 1 9×13 pan

  • Shell or Orichette Pasta, 1lb
  • Butter, 2 tablespoons
  • Coarse Ground Mustard, 1 teaspoon
  • Sriracha Chili Sauce, 1 teaspoon
  • All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup
  • Whole Milk, 1 quart
  • Ground Ginger, to taste
  • Garlic Powder, to taste
  • Onion Powder, to taste
  • Soy Sauce, to taste
  • Fish Sauce, to taste
  • Cream Cheese, 8 ounces
  • Swiss Cheese, shredded, 6 ounces
  • Red Grapes, about 2 cups
  • Bread Crumbs, as needed

Boil pasta in salted water until tender, about 11 minutes. Drain and toss with oil to prevent sticking. In a large sauce pot, melt butter. Add mustard and Sriracha, whisking to combine. Add flour, whisking to form a roux. Cook roux 10 minutes. Slowly add milk, about 1 cup at a time, until incorporated and mixture begins to thicken, stirring often. Add cheeses and whisk until fully melted. Season to taste with  ginger, garlic, onion, soy, fish sauce and Sriracha. Heat a boiler on high or an oven to 500 degrees. Cut grapes in half and place onto a baking sheet. Cook until skins are blistered and begin to blacken, about 15 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine pasta and sauce and fold in grapes. Transfer to a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Top with jalapeno jam.

Jalapeno Pepper Jam

maked about 3 cups

  • Jalapeno Pepper*, 4 each
  • Green Bell Pepper, seeded, 2 each
  • Lemon Juice, 1/4 cup
  • Cider Vinegar, 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, 3 cups
  • SureJell Fruit Pectin, 1 package

Combine peppers in the bowl of a food processor and process until evenly minced. Combine peppers with lemon, vinegar and sugar in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Return to a boil and add pectin, whisking to combine. Remove from heat and transfer to an airtight container. Let sit overnight to thicken.

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