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Details of Thai Cooking – Jughandle’s Fat Farm

My previous posts on Thai cooking were an attempt to generate interest in what in reality is a very mysterious and complex cuisine.  I in no way intend to belittle or reduce this beautiful and ancient cuisine into a simple fast food that anyone can make on their first try with American ingredients.

No doubt many Thai dish recipes look simple and have few ingredients making them seem easy.  Yes, anyone can slap together even a complex recipe and possibly even manage an edible result.

But, but, but, are we really looking for “edible”?  Most food, even “fast food” is edible.  If we are going to take the time to learn an ancient cuisine in order to enjoy the depths, subtleties and nuances of amazing flavor profiles that can be achieved in a properly prepared Thai dish….  Shouldn’t we learn as much as we can about the process?  I think, YES!

The key to great, consistent, to-die-for, Thai food is two fold:

  1. High quality authentic ingredients.
  2. Flawless execution of preparatory technique

History

Think about it.  The bulk of all Thai food is prepared by street cooks that have been making the dishes for generations with local ingredients.  That is why Thai cooks can make it look so easy.

Pok Pok the Book

Pok Pok

By Andy Ricker and J J Goode

I have been fortunate enough to stumble upon  the writings of a man who has done the bulk of the leg work for us.  His name is Andy Ricker. His new book, Pok Pok, is the exact type of instructive cook book that one can learn from.  The detail and breath of explanation is astonishing.  I haven’t been able to put it down since it arrived.

The book has fabulous pictures of, not only the food, but the ingredients.  Mr. Ricker describes in detail, how the process works and what the food “should” taste like.

Pok Pok the Restaurant

Not only are Mr. Ricker’s details of Thai food preparation and results, fantastic, but how he arrived at this point makes a captivating story.  Mr. Ricker derives the name Pok Pok from the sound made by the mortar and pestle as the cook crushes and combines the meal’s ingredients.

The first Pok Pok was opened in Portland Oregon in 2005. There are now 7 Pok Pok restaurants, 2 Whiskey Soda Lounges and 1 Sen Yai, which recently closed.  It served mostly rice and noodle dishes and cocktails.

Sen Yai Noodles

Sen Yai Noodles

 

Yes, they are all dives and dive bars, even the one in New York.

Pok Pok NY

Pok Pok New York

But as this next picture shows, they are very popular…

Line to get in

Pok Pok New York line

The Mortar and Pestle

Mortar and Pestle

Granite Mortar and Pestle

I was wrong that the mortar and pestle could be replaced by a blender or food processor.  The blender or food processor cuts and slices the food while the Mortar and Pestle crushes the food releasing essential oils and liquids then blending them into one.  There is no substitution. – jughandle

Thai cooks use two different types of Mortar and Pestles. Granite and Clay.  The heavy granite one is used mainly for pounding ingredients into pastes.  The Clay mortar (also wood is acceptable) is deeper and cone shaped used to make the dishes such as papaya salad.  Andy Ricker’s book Pok Pok goes into great detail when to use which mortar, how to use them and what results you should achieve.

Essential Ingredients

Rice – Khao

The center piece of all meals is rice.  Usually jasmine or sticky rice.  The only exception would be meals served with noodles.

Rice has been the center of Thai cooking for centuries.  Even though the dishes don’t name rice, it is implied that rice will be there.  Rice is one of the balance points of each dish.  Remember that Thai cooking is all about balance.  The ying and yang, sweet and sour, hot and cold, soft and crunchy.  “Rice doesn’t provide a complement of flavor as much as it completes the flavor” – Andy Ricker.

 

 

Let’s Thai Won On – Easy Thai Food

What is Thai Cuisine?

According to Wikipedia “Thai Cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Balance, detail, and variety are of paramount significance to Thai chefs.

Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.

Thai chef McDang  characterizes Thai food as demonstrating “intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor”, in addition to great care being given to the food’s appearance, smell and context.  Australian chef David Thompson, an expert on Thai food, observes, that unlike many other cuisines,  Thai cooking rejects simplicity and is about “the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish”.

In 2017, seven of Thailand’s popular dishes appeared on the list of the “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers’ Pick)”— a worldwide online poll of 35,000 people by CNN Travel. Thailand had more dishes on the list than any other country. They were: tom yam goong (4th), pad Thai (5th), som tam (6th), massaman curry (10th), green curry (19th), Thai fried rice (24th) and moo nam tok (36th).

Sounds good to me.  Let us learn a little about the food. – jughandle

Things to Remember

Balance is the KEY to all Thai Food.  Some dishes feature, salty, spicy, sour or sweet flavors, but they don’t overwhelm, they are balanced.  Think sweet and sour, spicy and sweet etc.

Thai

Thai Food

The current list of the “World’s  Top 50 Most Delicious Foods” from CNN travel, has Massaman Curry #10 so we will start with that.

Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry ranks #10

Chicken Massaman Curry

This curry, which can also use beef, is flavored with tamarind and coconut milk, is ready in under an hour. Serve it over plain white rice.

Chicken Massaman Curry Recipe

Tom Yum Goong

Checking in at #4 in the CNN Travel Top 50 world’s dishes is Tom Yum Goong.  This Thai staple is full of shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal (ginger) and kaffir lime leaves. Usually swimming in coconut milk and cream, this hearty soup combines the top four of Thai flavors: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

Thai food

Tom Yum Goong Recipe

Som Tam

Som Tam is Green Papaya Salad.  CNN Travel ranks this dish 46th of its 50 top dishes world wide.

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) is the #1 most popular salad in Thailand and is especially loved by Thai women. It’s low in calories and fat, but very high in taste and eating satisfaction, helping you stay slim. This salad recipe is crunchy and delicious.  It can be served as a side dish/appetizer, or as the main course. Cooked shrimp or crab meat can be added (or cashews if vegetarian), or try eating it as they do in Thailand: with a bowl of sticky rice. ENJOY!

Som Tam

Thai Som Tam

Som Tam Recipe

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is translated as stir-fried noodles. The best Pad Thai dishes are served as street food.  Pad Thai can be eaten with seafood or chicken, or as a veggie dish.  Pad Thai is NOT spicy, it has a more sweet and sour flavor.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

pad Thai Recipe

Thai fried rice

Thai fried rice is another staple of Thai cooking.  You can order fried rice anywhere.  It can also be ordered with just about any protein.  The meal usually includes either chicken, shrimp, crab or beef. Together with egg, garlic, onions and a delicious seasoning this is an easy go-to meal that can be found at most street vendors.

Fried Rice

Thai Fried Rice

Thai Fried Rice Recipe

Nam Tok Moo

(  Sliced grilled pork salad )

pork salad

Sliced grilled pork salad

This is meat version or Nam Tok Moo.  It is made out of rare grilled pork to allow the juices to run together with the beef blood when its thinly sliced  It is then dressed with ground roasted rice, ground dried chillies, fish sauce, lime juice, shallots and mint. The name means “waterfall pork” which is how liquid runs though the meat while it’s sliced. In Thailand this dish is served and eaten with sticky rice and raw vegetables.

This is another must try dish especially when it made into the list of CNN Go’s World’s 50 most delicious foods in 2011

Nam Tok Moo Recipe

Baking Soda vs Baking Powder, what’s the difference – Jughandle’s Fat Farm

Baking Soda vs Baking Powder, what’s the difference?  When should we use one over the other?  Are there any other uses for either, than baking or cooking?

If you are a serious cook, you should be able to rattle off the answers to those questions instantly.

Baking is more of a science than an art.  Chemistry and exact proportions are very important to achieving a quality finished product consistently.

Dough Rising

The holes are formed by the expansion of CO2 as the dough rises and sets.

Baking Soda

Sodium bicarbonate, sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, bicarbonate, and bicarb are all names for the same thing – NaHCO

It is a salt made up of sodium and bicarbonate molecules.  For a more in-depth explanation and chemistry, go to Wikipedia.  Sodium Bi-carbonate is used for many things but since our many focus is cooking, let us look at that first.

the leavening difference

without and with

Cooking

In cooking Sodium bi-carbonate is called Baking Soda.  By providing CO2, its primary use is as a leavening agent in batters and dough such as pancakes and breads, but is also used to crisp up the batter in fried foods.  Baking soda is very alkaline and in too large a quantity can leave sodium carbonate, which has a bitter or soapy taste.

What you need to remember is that Baking Soda releases CO2, carbon dioxide gas, that causes the batter or dough to rise by expanding within the lattice like structure of protein, known as gluten, in the dough.  The gluten traps the CO2 gas as it forms to make the bread or batter rise. 

Ok, now dig deeper and recall a little high school chemistry.  Baking Soda, aka: Sodium Bi-carbonate, is a base.  A base will decompose in the presence of of heat, starting at 180 deg F, but give up only half of its its CO2 leaving, proportionately, more of its bitter, soapy flavor, relative to the gas, in the final product.

You may also recall that a base and an acid have a strong chemical reaction.  In the case of Baking Soda, if you also use an acid such as a phosphate, cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa vinegar or even a sourdough batter, you can create a reaction that will release much more of its CO2. Remember that unlike batter or dough that has no acid, which will only rise when CO2 is released at 180 deg when baking.  When your acid and baking soda are mixed the reaction will start immediately and you will need to hurry and start the cooking.

Additionally

You might find useful the fact that when adding baking soda to your coating for fried foods, your crust will be more crispy.  The reason for the crispiness is that the emerging CO2 leaves passages for steam to escape from the food not only keeping the breading from being soggy but also preventing the crust from being blown off during cooking.

Baking Powder

Let us now consider, baking powder.  Not the stuff with a thousand uses that you put open in the refrig, but the powder in a round can that that said
“Double Acting” on it.

Baking powder generally contains around 30% sodium bicarbonate combined with calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminium phosphate  or cream of tartar, which are activated by adding water, not needing acid.  Having both the Baking Soda and other additives make it “double acting”.

While baking soda is alkaline; the acid used in baking powder helps to avoid the metallic, bitter, soapy taste when the chemical change during baking creates sodium carbonate.

Tipsbulletin.com

Tips bulletin is a very informative site that gives tips on all sorts of different topics.  The following are excerpts from their 50+ Amazing Uses of Baking Soda

1. Clean Your Bathtub

Bathtub Cleaner Recipe

  • Baking soda (1/2 Cup)
  • Coarse salt (1 Tbsp)
  • Dish soap (1 Tbsp)
A safe and effective way to wash your bathtub, sink, and surrounding tile is by sprinkling a light layer of baking soda on a clean, damp sponge and scrubbing the tub as usual. Thoroughly rinse the bathtub and wipe it dry with a clean towel.

Baking soda also works well to clean fiberglass and glossy tiles. For extra cleaning power, you can make a paste with the baking soda for a deep-down clean.

9. Clean Furniture

Baking soda is an excellent product if you need to clean or remove marks from painted furniture or walls. Apply baking soda to a clean damp rag or sponge and lightly rub the area that you need to clean.

Baking soda works especially well to clean patio furniture. Using a clean, dry cloth, remove the residue from the furniture or wall. This method will even work for removing crayon marks from your walls and furniture.

17. Natural Fruit and Vegetable Scrub

Even if you buy organic produce, it is important to make sure to wash your fruits and veggies before consuming them. Not only can this get rid of any pesticides that may have seen use during the growing of the produce, but it can remove bacteria from your food.

Baking Soda Uses: Keeps Produce Fresh

You can make a natural produce cleaner by adding one teaspoon of baking powder to one tablespoon water. The paste is an excellent way to get rid of unwanted bacteria and pesticides from your produce.

23. Extinguish Grease Fires

If you encounter a minor grease fire in your kitchen, you can use baking soda to put it out quickly. Pouring baking soda on the fire will instantly stifle the flames. When the baking soda is heated, it discharges carbon dioxide and produces water.

The carbon dioxide doesn’t support combustion like oxygen. It smothers the fire, allowing the water that has formed to cool the fire to below the temperature needed for ignition.

31. Deodorize Recycling Bin

You can make sure your recycling bin doesn’t smell by adding baking soda to the top of the container every time you add to the container.

You can also clean the recycle bin with baking soda after it is empty. Place some baking soda on a damp sponge and wipe down the inside of the recycle bin, followed by a thorough rinse with warm water.

And many others – Check it out – Jughandle

Sugar

I’ve touched on sugar, mostly brown sugar,  in the past “Pantry 101 – Baking and Spices 6-12”  but we got a question from Debbie in California asking what is the difference between  cane sugar, corn sugar, and beet sugar, so we’ll go into depth to answer that question here.

Sugar

Wikipedia defines sugar as:

Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucroselactose, and fructose,[1] characterized by a sweet flavor. In food, sugars refer to all monosaccharides and disaccharides present in food, but excludes polyols,[2] while in its singular form, sugar normally refers to sucrose, which in its fully refined (or free sugar) form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet, though is present in natural form in many carbohydrates. Other free sugars are used in industrial food preparation, but are usually known by more specific names—glucosefructose or fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Currently, Brazil has the highest per capita production of sugar.[3] 

Cane Sugar

C&H’s web site says this about cane sugar:

“How Cane Sugar is Better (or, Why cane sugar can't be beet)

Not all sugars are created equal. Lots of us have been brought up thinking that all sugars are—well—pretty much the same, and that the kind of sugar we use won’t make much difference. Even today, most people don’t know that some grocery stores carry two different kinds of sugar: cane sugar and beet sugar. Pure Cane Sugar, the kind C&H uses exclusively, is refined from sugarcane plants. The first cultivated sugar crop, sugarcane is grown above ground, nurtured in fresh tropical breezes under warm sunshine. Beet sugar, found in some store brands and in other makers that often don’t specify the source, is extracted from beets grown underground as a root crop. Cane sugar contains trace minerals that are different from those in beet sugar, and it’s these minerals that many experts say make cane sugar preferable to use. As professional bakers have long noticed, cane sugar has a low melting-point, absorbs fewer extraneous and undesirable odors, blends easily and is less likely to foam up. And that can be very important when you’re caramelizing a syrup, making a delicate glaze, baking a delicious meringue, or simmering your family’s favorite jam recipe.”

Brands

Domino Sugar, Dixie Crystal and C&H are all cane sugar and say so on the label
Holly Sugar, which acquired Spreckles, is beet sugar

Beet Sugar

Chemically identical to cane sugar 99.05 percent.  But that .05 percent makes a big difference when cooking.  Beets are harvested in the fall and are usually grown much further from the processing plant than sugar cane, requiring a higher transportation cost.  Beets are a root vegetable and more processing is required to clean them and separate the greens.  Also important to note is that beets are a rotational crop while sugar cane is a mono crop.  Rotational crops require 4 times as much land to grow as mono crops.  To learn more about how beets are turned into sugar go here.  For all practical purposes the only difference between beet and cane sugar may be how they react to heat.

Corn Sugar

Corn sugar aka corn syrup.  Yes, just like the corn syrup in your pantry.  Now, the difference is that corn syrup has no fructose as opposed to cane sugar or beet sugar.  Table sugar, composed of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, is from sugar beets or sugar cane.    For a lot of reasons I won’t get into now, but can be found in the movie “King Corn“, corn syrup is much cheaper to produce than cane or beet sugar, but it doesn’t taste the same. In step the scientists to “fix” that problem.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Scientists found a way to chemically alter corn syrup to create a cheap liquid sugar by adding fructose, hence the name high fructose corn syrup.  The corn syrup is high in fructose relative to other corn syrup, not to sugar.  HFCS-55 has a similar fructose ratio to honey and is composed of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose and is used in soft drinks.  There is also a HFCS-45, which is less sweet than sugar and HFCS-55 and is used in many baked goods, jams, jellies, and cereals. HFCS-45 contains 45 percent fructose and 55 percent glucose.  It is widely believed that because HFCS has been chemically altered that the body doesn’t react to it in the same way as sugar, but that has yet to be proven.

Conclusion

Many believe that caramel made with beet sugar will crystallize and never form caramel where cane sugar works well. Cane sugar on a creme brulee caramelizes while beet sugar burns.  Some cooks believe that making boiled icing with beet sugar is a mess.  If the package of sugar doesn’t say cane, it’s beet.  Some brands mix the two.

 

Happy baking and keep on Farming you Fat Farmers- Jughandle

How to Carve a Halloween Pumpkin

How to Carve a Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving has developed from a fun thing to do at Halloween to a competitive art.

Ideas

There are as many ideas as there are pumpkins.  “The limit is only your imagination”, as the creative types like to say.  The following are pictures to help inspire.

Southern Living Idea

From Southern Living – https://www.southernliving.com

Seasonal designs

Seasonal designs are unique

How to make a pumpkin cooler

Or try something more traditional

More Picture Ideas

25th Anniversary Party Cake
This is a cake we made for a 25th anniversary party. It is a yellow cake with white butter cream icing, covered in white and silver fondant with a royal icing bow on top and gum paste bows and ribbons on the bottom. Designed to serve 150 people. This actually was a very successful cake with few problems because yellow cake is naturally dense and it could easily hold the weight of the small cake on top. The only caution here is about the royal icing bow on top.
protect-the-bow

Gum paste bow with temporary supports

This type of bow is very fragile and should be supported with tissue when transporting. Make sure you have a bag of royal icing to re-attach any broken loops that occurred along the way. The dragees (small silver dots on the fondant) are great to cover any minor problems with the fondant.

.

Finished Product

Finished Cake

Cake Recipes – when to make it yourself, when to buy it made, and when to use a box mix
Types of Cake – yellow, chocolate, white, red velvet, cheese cake, carrot cake
Structure – supports, framework, columns, wire, wood, plastic, steel
Types of frosting– fondant, butter-cream, royal, gum paste, cream cheese, glaze, poured fondant
Decorations– pre-made, gum paste, fondant, royal icing, piped butter-cream
Fondant– white, chocolate, marshmallow, poured
Butter-cream Recipes and Problems – cooked, with eggs, with out eggs, no cook
To Freeze or not to Freeze – fresh or frozen
When to refrigerate
When to deliver the cake
How to deliver the cake
How NOT to transport the cake
What to do on site at the event and what not to do
How to fix disasters – and you will have disasters
Why you can’t prevent disasters 
I know there will be more, but that is a good start.

Cake, fondant, weddings, special events

I am frustrated in my efforts to create the perfect cake.  Yes, I know, perfection is a lofty goal, but the finished product can be a hell of a lot better than most we amateurs – and even professionals, turn out.  I call myself an amateur, because that is exactly what I am.  My wife and I made (I use the past tense because we have retired from the stress of the cake making business) cakes for special events that our friends and family have, and we didn’t make money in the process.  We watched every “cake challenge”, “Ace of Cakes” and any other show that broadcasts cake making events and contests.  REAL secrets of how to bake, decorate and deliver a cake to an event are never full explained. I intend to revel those secrets, eventually, in this blog.
Your Cake – And Eat it Too!

Trials and tales of an amateur cake “Expert”.  Things you can’t learn about making cakes from watching TV or reading books

This will be a series of posts all relating to making CAKE

Scratch or Box?

 This post is bound to be controversial. Some purist will insist that your cake should be completely scratch made. Sure, that’s a nice thought but unless your cake is a small cake and you don’t have to spend a lot of time on the decoration you will have other priorities than impressing people with your ability to read a recipe. First you have to determine what purpose you are making the cake in the first place. Here is how we do it:
Wedding cake: We feel that a wedding cake should make a statement. The brides statement, what ever that may be. So you need to make a cake that will be nicely designed, impressive to look at and it must taste good too.
Show Cake: A show cake can be anything from a cake you make for a contest to a cake that you know no one will eat much of. Here the priority is what the cake looks like, not what it tastes like. DSC_6465  Brandons logThats it. There are no other choices, so let’s break that down. In order for a cake to be large enough to serve over 150 people it needs to have a structure. That structure can be anything from a wooden form to metal bracing. The simplest structure to hold a multi tiered cake is simple wooden or plastic dowels that are pushed through the cake to support the layer above it. Or you can watch one of the TV shows and see the elaborate frames they use to support their “show” cake. Ahh, now we are getting to the point I want to make. While you are watching those TV shows, notice that the cake they use is extremely dense. When I say dense, I mean that they can stand on the cake. Also notice that these very same cakes are made in a shallow sheet pan and then cut out with a cookie cutter type of device, to the shape needed. The reason the cake is thin is to make it firm and strong. You CAN NOT make a cake that tastes good that way. At least I haven’t figured out how.So ask yourself, how can they stack cake 3 feet tall without the sides sagging or even crumbling and have the cake not taste like cardboard? They CAN’T! Period. So you have to make the choice I posed above. If you would like your cake to look impressive and taste good then you must be very creative in your cake design. Plus, all conditions must be perfect, which they NEVER are. Remember that a good tasting cake is moist, soft and never dry.Our method: We design the cake to any shape and specs that the bride and groom want, but we try to find a way to achieve that look and still deliver a cake that will be completely eaten by their guests. We do it by making box cakes. Yes, box cakes. Go to the store and buy what ever flavor box cake your customer wants and then make it in your kitchen. We have tried lots of different scratch recipes, but none of them taste as good or are as moist as a box cake. We still put the wet ingredients in, so really all you are buying is the flour, baking powder, sugar and coloring. You still add the water or milk, oil or butter and the whole eggs or egg whites. You still mix it, you still pour it in the pan of your choice and you still cook the thing until it is done. Which, by the way, never is what the back of the box says.Tricks of the trade: There are tricks you can use to improve the work-ability of your cake with out hurting the taste. In fact, these tricks often improve the taste.1) Cook in 2″ thick cake pans, greased, floured and the bottom lined with parchment paper, filled 3/4 full of batter, allowing the cake to rise above the pan in order to be leveled. Cook the cake until the side of the cake separates from the pan about an 1/8th of an inch, no mater if you are cooking a 16″ square cake or a 4″ round. If you do that, your center will be done and will be firmer.

2) Always let your cake cool in the pan on a rack until you can easily handle it without gloves. The longer the cake sits out the firmer the crumbs will become. But if you wait too long the cake will stick to the pan and you will have to warm the bottom to get it to release.

3) after turning the cake out on to a elevated drying rack you can let it sit for up to 12 hours. In fact you should let it sit for at least 8 hours. The texture of the cake will improve and you will be able to handle the cake more easily. Chocolate cake is the easiest to work with because it has lots of fat and whole eggs to bind it together. White cake and Red Velvet are the hardest cakes to work with, because they are so soft. We call this stage the staling stage. The cake doesn’t really get stale, but it becomes more of a unit. After the staling stage, place the cake on at least a 1/4′ foam board and level the top with either a knife or a cake saw and then wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. Freeze each layer over night or for at least 4 hours. Amazingly, freezing vastly improves the texture of the cake. We then remove the cake from the freezer and bring it to almost room temperature before using a cake saw to cut it in half. Ice with what ever you want between the layers and continue to build the cake.

Our cakes, soft and moist, are almost always eaten completely. The cake in the picture below is one of our wedding cakes. It is 4 – 4″ layers of white cake with white buttercream icing covered in white fondant. We used 48 cake mixes, 72 pounds of confectioners sugar, 2 gals of Crisco, a pint of vanilla and 12 dozen egg whites.  Problematic conditions were overcome. The bride was happy that the cake was almost completely eaten by the more than 300 guests.

Brandon-Sherinda-wedding-cake

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