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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