Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thai Cooking Class!

One of my favorite experiences in Thailand was a wonderful cooking class I took in Kanchanaburi. I was staying at a guesthouse run by two friendly women named Apple and Noi. In addition to taking care of the finances of the establishment, Noi also taught a cooking course that was popular enough to get a mention in Lonely Planet's guidebook for Thailand. So I definitely could not pass up the chance to learn how to cook from a local chef!

Luckily for us, the cooking class took place in Apple and Noi's new guesthouse location (still undergoing construction) right by the river! So gorgeous!

Our open-air kitchen area

According to Noi, this is a list of staple ingredients you should always have in your kitchen for cooking Thai food:
  • Light oil - canola, peanut, vegetable, sunflower, or corn oil are appropriate, but NOT olive oil!
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Fish sauce - both salty and sweet
  • Rice stick noodles
  • Egg noodles
  • Curry paste - you can rewrap the leftover portion and put it in the freezer
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Sugar
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Chili powder
  • Lime juice
Our tray of sauces and spices

To your cooking stations!

And now for the recipes I learned ... please note that these portions are good for one or two people, depending on how big an appetite you have!

The test for a good French restaurant is their creme brulee. For Italian, it's the bruschetta. For Mediterranean, it's the hummus. For Thai places, it's the pad thai. I learned that authentic pad thai should be slightly sweet with a spicy kick. Here's the recipe Noi gave us.

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 100 grams of rice noodles
  • 80 grams of beans sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons of chives
  • 2-3 tablespoons of grated carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of pickled radish
  • 1 tablespoon of finely sliced shallots or red onions
  • 150-250 grams of finely sliced meat (chicken, pork, or beef)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • Chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed peanuts
  • Lime juice
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your pan on low heat.
  2. Soak the rice noodles in cold water for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add in the shallots and stir fry for about 5-8 seconds until you can smell them.
  4. Add the meat and cook it about 60%, then put it off to the side. Let the oil fall back into the center of your pan.
  5. Crack the egg into your pan, break the yolk with your spatula, and stir slightly so you get a mix of egg white and yolk frying together.
  6. Add the pickled radish to the egg and fry for about 30 seconds.
  7. Add the meat back into the pan. When the meat is about 80% cooked, add in the rice noodles with 1/2 a cup of water.
  8. Double the heat on your stove. Separate the noodles, and cook until they start sticking slightly to the pan. Lower the heat.
  9. Add in the tamarind sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and a dash of chili powder.
  10. Continue mixing everything together in your pan. Let the meat absorb all the flavors.
  11. Add in the veggies (bean sprouts, carrots, chives) and cook them for about one minute. Lower the heat again.
  12. Add in the crushed peanuts and 2-3 drops of lime juice. Stir everything together one final time.
I found that the trickiest part was getting the right consistency for the rice noodles. Too little water in the pan, and the noodles would stick to your pan and risk burning. Too much water, and the noodles would not retain that yummy chewy texture. Just by observing us, Noi could tell exactly how our noodles would turn out. That woman is amazing.

My finished pad thai. I still have to work on the texture of those noodles!

Massaman curry originally came from India, but this is the Thai version. This curry is special because, if made properly, it has four different tastes going at the same time -- sweet, spicy, sour, and salty.

  • 8-12 pieces of boiled, cut potatoes (Note: You can substitute squash or carrots.)
  • 5 pieces of pumpkin
  • 200-300 grams of beef (Note: You can substitute other meat.)
  • 1 onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of massaman curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 250 mL of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, brown sugar, or cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of ground peanuts or cashews
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • Salt
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your pan on low heat.
  2. Add the curry paste, onions, and a pinch of salt into your pan. Stir fry together until the onions soften. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water when the curry paste starts drying.
  3. Add in the potatoes and pumpkin. Stir together.
  4. Add in the coconut milk and let it sit -- don't stir it. Turn the heat on high.
  5. Add in the sugar, tamarind sauce, and crushed peanuts.
  6. Let the mixture cook in your pan, and only stir it once in awhile. If there's burning, add some more water.
  7. After a few minutes, add in the meat. After the coconut milk comes to a boil, add in the fish sauce.
  8. Let the mixture cook until the sauce is thick and creamy. And voila, you're done!
This dish really gave me a run for my money. I was starting to go a little crazy between watching the heat and the water and the curry sauce. Yikes!

My finished curry ... and it tasted pretty darn good too!

For our last dish, Noi taught us to make a simple vegetable stir fry with a subtle ginger flavor. Delish!

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 2 baby corn, sliced diagonally
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • A quarter of an onion
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • A couple pieces of black fungus (Note: Soak for at least 30 minutes before cooking.)
  • 2 tablespoons of scallions
  • 3 tablespoons of ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of soya bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoon of sugar
  • 200-300 grams of meat or tofu (we used tofu in the class)
  • 1 tablespoon of shallots, sliced
  • Black pepper
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your pan on low heat. Stir fry the ginger, then the shallots, until you can smell them.
  2. Add in the meat or tofu, with a pinch of black pepper. Stir fry together.
  3. When the meat or tofu is partially cooked, add in the dark soy sauce. Then add in the oyster sauce and soya bean paste.
  4. Lower the heat. Add 1/2 a cup of water and stir.
  5. Add the corn, onions, carrots, mushrooms, black fungus, and shallots. Stir fry together.
  6. Add in the light soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar.
  7. Stir fry until the vegetables are cooked.
  8. Add in the scallions and stir again.
After all our hard work cooking, we sat down to lunch and sampled our dishes. Really not bad, for first-timers! I really have to thank Noi for a great class. Not only was she an amazing chef, but she was the most feminist woman I met while in Thailand. Unlike most Thai women, she didn't buy into the traditional mentality that women needed to depend on men to survive in society. And with her successful guesthouse business, cooking course, and culinary skills, I would say she's better off than a lot of men in that country.

Well, this is the last of my Thailand posts, as well as the last of my entries from my Southeast Asia trip. Next time -- some long overdue photos from Uva Enoteca, a cozy Italian wine bar that's quickly made a name for itself in San Francisco.


Erica said...

OOohh. So when are you going to cook pad thai for us!!? :) Your dish looks super pro!

The scenery looks so lovely. Ah vacation. Ah traveling...

You know what else is an indication of a good French restaurant? The cheese. MMmmm.

Helen U. said...

Dammit, thanks for making me crave some pad thai. =P I'm drooling over here! DROOLING!

The Wobbly Elephant said...

Ohh nice! Great skill to obtain! Hope to get a sample of it in the near future. =D

Annie said...

Wow awesome!! Ive been loving these Thailand posts!! =) I'm going to try these dishes one day.

Did you travel by yourself through Thailand? Guided tour? How is the weather over there right now?

Was thinking of going in Dec but that fell through!

taste tester said...

Hehe I guess one day I'll have to make a Thai feast for y'all.

foodhoe said...

wow, what a great classroom! The recipes look pretty easy and the finished products look delicious. That looks like a really nice place to stay too.

Anonymous said...

If you like Thai cooking try this site
It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.