Thai Cooking


After three and a half weeks of rice and noodles I’m happy to be back in my own kitchen. I discovered the Thai kitchen, sometimes even in the mornings, and I started to appreciate spicy food. In times the tears were running down my face and I felt the flames shooting through my throat but it was all for the good, I’m spicy proof now; a chili doesn’t scare me anymore.

Most of the ingredients were new to me and I couldn’t get myself to taste everything but I felt quite a hero already when ordering frog clay pot, and preserved eggs (eggs marinated in bull urine). After this adventures lunch I thought a safe carrot cake was well deserved. You can imagine the horror when I found some worms/caterpillars in this steamed and carrot flavored mushy cake.

At first we tried to avoid eating from the thousands of road eateries that have their restaurant on the back of their motorcycle, no refrigerator or running water. But after a while we became careless, like with the anti mosquito spray, and luckily our sensitive European/Israeli stomachs didn’t complain.

We also found out that the cheaper the food, the better it is. When a place starts to be pretentious or cater to westerners it hurts the taste. Three times we craved European food so much that we sat in an overpriced Italian restaurant and twice it was a disaster. Let Thai cooks cook Thai food not pizza.

We had a fabulous cook on the live aboard diving boat in the Similan Islands. She cooked some amazing dishes but when she tried to make us something European on New Year’s Eve, with the best intentions, we were somewhat disappointed and missed her Thai cooking art right away.

A Thai market is something different. Fresh fish is very important on the coast but also sweet water fish is on the menu. The fish are crammed in small buckets with just enough water to keep them wet. Crabs are tied alive, sitting neatly in a row waiting for a buyer.

Even though pork is on every menu, some of the small road restaurants didn’t have anything besides pork, even the candy is layered with fluffy pork on top, still we didn’t see any life pig. Plenty of chicken running around, cow’s next to the road but not one pig? They do appear in pieces on the market so it’s probably just not a popular pet.

The Thai kitchen doesn’t have any use for an oven; food is prepared in a wok, steamed or fried. Fish generally comes fried or prepared on the bbq and they don’t believe in preparing it shortly to keep the meat juicy, deep frying is the preferred method.

They don’t see the point in vegetarianism either; all dishes come with some type of meat or fish.

I really don’t mean to be negative about Thai cooking, I ate some beautiful curries and papaya salads. The fruit juices are heavenly and also the simple steamy soups are a delight but there are a couple of things I missed.

For one, there was no bread! There is no bread in the Thai kitchen! The same for cheese; I didn’t eat any type of cheese for three and a half weeks. To make the trio complete: wine. The little wine there is, is relatively expensive and there is of course no wine culture. Of course you can find everything when you search well, especially in the touristic places.

I did find out that the Thai kitchen is relatively easy when you are in possession of the right ingredients. The challenge back home is to find ingredients like pickled radishes, Thai coriander; tiny green eggplant the size of a pea, tamarind/chili paste, keffar lime leafs and so on.  So I’m on a mission, I didn’t make any Thai food yet but I better start soon now the memory of it is still fresh.

The pictures below are from some of the dishes I made on the Thai cooking Farm. It was a very nice course. Like most cooking schools around, we went to the local market where they explained about some of the key ingredients.

On the farm every person had his or her own cooking station and we made all the dishes ourselves from scratch. Our teacher first gave an explanation about the dish, then he gave away all the tips and tricks while cooking it ones himself. After this little show we had to  copy him and eat it all. I had a nice group of people, there were nice conversations at the table and at the end we were brought home by car because we couldn’t walk anymore after 6 courses.

Santorini, Greece!

Santorini, our second destination, is a different story than Naxos. Everyone knows the pictures of the sunsets and the white house’s on the edge of the cliff with the blue roofs. Well, that’s how it’s like, just like in the picture, really beautiful.

We ate the most beautiful Santorini fava (split peas) and a delicious garlic spicy tzatziki.

 

Tstock. Who would have thought that an ordinary split pea could make such a nice mezze.

Fava

Yellow split peas

Finely chopped onion

Finely chopped garlic

Pepper, salt

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Boil the peas with the onion and garlic in chicken stock until soft and squashy. Be aware that it doesn’t cook dry because the peas will soak up the stock and they inflate. Also try not to use to much stock so you don’t have to strain the peas in the end, you lose lot’s of flavor by doing that. Mix in the lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and salt. Serve warm with a little onion on the side.

 

 stuffed tomatoes.

 

Stuffed tomatoes

Ripe but firm tomatoes (2 pp)

Rice, long grain or short (I made it with long but ate it in the restaurant with short, both were good)

Onion

Garlic

Olive oil

Dille

Parsley

Basil

Oregano

Pepper salt

Raisins and pine nuts (optional)

Small pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Cook the rice and strain. Cut the onion and garlic fine and bake in a skillet with olive oil until soft (you can add the raisins and nuts if you use them). Now go wild with the herbs, it should be well flavored, it is nice if you have fresh herbs but you can replace most of them with their dried variant if you have nothing else. For the quantities you should really use your taste buds.

Cut the head of the tomato and spoon out the seeds, keep aside. Brush the tomato with oil, fill them with the rice and place on a baking sheet. Put a spoonful of the tomato juice on top and place the head back on the tomato.

Bake in the oven on low temperature (150-160C) until nice and warm. Don’t leave it in the oven to long because the tomato would become to soft and falls apart.

 

Naxos, Greece!

If there is a heaven I hope it looks like Naxos.

It was a long way to get there, three and a half hour by plain (just a day before the eruption in Iceland) an hour by bus and six hours by boat but all uncomfort is forgotten as soon as you set foot on the island. It’s a nice chaos when the people, cars, trucks who go off the boat meet the ones who try to get on in the middle. It seems so unorganized but somehow it works so who cares. We arrived at night and were welcomed by the lights of the city and masses of nightshades. Our host dropped us of at our little apartment with view to the sea and a little island with a massive ancient doorpost just before the coast, and invited us for a coffee in the morning.

The view from our apartment

Every island has its own specialties and Naxos is famous for its potatoes (of which they order the baby potatoes to grow with from Holland), it’s citron liquor, wild oregano, sausages.

our breakfast….

Unfortunately I was to early for the figs, the fig trees grow absolutely everywhere on the island but the fruits were not yet ripe. The island is maybe not famous for it’s bread but compared to Santorini or Athens it was quit special! The baker sold it to me with the dough dried on his hands, if I would have been more awake I maybe had remembered to ask which flour he used. I went to the bakery and cheese shop, vegetable shop every morning to get us breakfast which we ate in the sun in front of our apartment.

The Greeks are very nice hosts and they give something every time you  make an order. Is it not a little bowl of chips next to your ouzo or a glass of water next to your coffee then it is raki or a dessert at the end of the meal.

It doesn’t take long to discover what the most famous drink in the country is…. It’s not ouzo, it’s frappe. Everywhere you look, either when people are sitting on a terrace or when they are working, they have a cold coffee close by. Every place sells it and even in the most deserted villages we visited you could count on the classic picture of some local old man sitting in the shade enjoying a frappe. It didn’t take my boyfriend long to adopt this habit, he blended right in.

Of course we brought some coffee with us and recreated the drink at home. We have been arguing about if the nestle instant coffee they sell in Greece has a special taste and is different from the one they sell in Holland. My boyfriend thinks its something special, I think it was just the sun that added the special flavor.

Frappe

nestle instant coffee

milk (optional)

sugar (optional)

Dissolve a tablespoon of coffee in half a cup of water, add half a cup of milk, some sugar to taste and mix it for a couple of minutes until it becomes creamy (best to use half full milk) add some ice cubes and a straw. I think it would also be nice to mix it all up in the blender including the ice cubes but I did not see this version in Greece.

If you, like me, have trouble to pick what you want to order from the menu because you want to try it all but your stomach is to small, order the mixed starter/mezzes. We did this in one restaurant and it was the best choice we could have made. In one try we got to taste, dolmas, keftedes, courgette cookies, squid, eggplant dip, tzatziki, salad and fried cheese. There was no room left for a second dish, the Greek like their portions big.

My heart cried when I had to leave the island I fell in love with it, it was such a relaxing and great stay but there was a boat waiting for us to bring us to Santorini.

We did learn from the previous trip that you better take a picnic if you want to eat something on the boat because Goody’s (the local Mc Donalds) isn’t exactly all that.

Caribbean Night

 

Sun Cocktail

I was completely free styling with this one but it immediately brought the sun back into the house.

1 part limocello

1 part white rum

1 part fresh lime juice

4 parts fruity aromatic white whine

Mix everything together, decorate with a slice of lime, clothes your eyes and taste the sun.

Salad with smoked chicken and yogurt

2 hands full Baby leaf salad

2 tomatoes

½ red onion

½ red capsicum

2 tablespoons Turkish yogurt

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 smoked chicken breast

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon fresh coriander

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 peach

1 handful cashew nuts

Pepper and salt

Cut the chicken, onion, garlic, coriander and parsley small. Mix it together with the yogurt, lime juice, pepper and salt.

Cut the tomatoes and the peach, wash and dry the salad and mix it together. Put the chicken with yogurt in the middle of the salad and decorate with the nuts.

Bacon Rice

½ red onion

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

200 gram bacon in cubes

½ red capsicum

1 carrot

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 stock cube

1 cup brown rice

Water

Pepper salt

Cut the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum. Warm oil in a deep pan and sauté the onion and the carrot after a couple of minutes add the garlic and the capsicum, sauté for 5-7 more minutes on medium high fire. Add the bacon and the tomato paste and bake everything together for another 5 minutes. Keep stirring so the tomato won’t stick to the pan. Add the rice, cover it in the sauce and add the stock cube and water up to 2 cm above the rice. Cook until the rice is ready, check if there is enough water, if the water evaporated before the rice is done, add some more water.

Serve with nice Caribbean music and a sun cocktail.

 

Kitchen madness

I will introduce the lemons first.

preserved lemons

 

Preserved lemons

Lemons

Coarse see salt

Rosemary

Red Chili

Lemon Juice

Olive oil

I had a small jar so I used 3 lemons; you can use as many lemons as you can fit into your own jar. They have to fit in tight.

preserved lemons2

Sterilize your jar by filling it up with cooking water, the top as well, and leave it for a couple of minute. Now empty the jar, don’t burn your hands, and let it dry by itself. Don’t wipe it otherwise you have to start over.

Cut the lemon in from the base down up to 1 cm from the other end. Now turn the lemon around, and turn it around its axe one quarter and make the same cut. You will end up with two deep cuts at both ends of the lemon and they will stay attached like this. Fill the cuts with coarse see salt and cram them in the jar nicely together. Close the jar and put it away for a week.

This is what I’ll be doing next week:

Press the lemons hard to squeeze out as much juice as possible add rosemary, chili and lemon juice of an equal amount of lemons as there are lemons in your jar. End with a thin layer of olive oil, seal the jar and leave it in a cool place for at least 4 weeks, the longer you don’t touch them the more flavorful they’ll become.

You can add other herbs and spices instead of the rosemary and chili like coriander seeds for example.

lemons in a jar