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Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #2

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

For nearly 35 years Kasma Loha-unchit taught a beginning series of 4 Thai cooking classes several times a year. This is my blog on the second of those four classes, exploring how the classes took place and what delicious Thai dishes were served. Kasma retired from teaching the classes in 2020.

I’ve also blogged on the other three classes in this series:

Kasma Teaching

Kasma goes over recipes

Just as with the first class in the series series, this class began with Kasma going over the recipes and introducing any new ingredients or techniques in the recipes. This class included 4 very popular Thai dishes and introduced new ingredients and more cooking techniques so there was lots to discuss. This introduction often included passing ingredients around so that students could handle and smell them. Questions were encouraged.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Prepping Food

Students prepping ingredients

Students at Work

Cutting banana leaves

After Kasma finished the recipe introduction, students were divided into teams to work on the individual recipes. They chopped and minced, plucked basil leaves and did all of the prep work for the recipe they were working on. This class included Haw Moek, the popular fish curry dish that is served in banana leaf baskets, so Kasma spent some time demonstrating how to cut the banana leaves and then how to fold them into the basket; then each student made their own basket, to be filled later.

Adding Lard

Adding lard to season a wok

Seasoning Wok

Seasoning a wok

In this second session, Kasma also went over the process of how to season a wok. Kasma’s preferred woks are round-bottom, spun steel woks of a reasonably heavy gauge; carbon steel woks are an acceptable substitute. She prefers the kind with two metal “ears,” finding that the woks with a single long wooden handle are too unstable. Just as with cast iron, spun steel woks have to be “seasoned” before use. After the machine coating on a new wok is removed, Kasma heats the wok on high heat and then spreads it with lard (the absolute best fat for seasoning a wok), which is baked into the steel and provides a protective covering. Kasma’s classes were filled with practical demonstrations and information of this type. (For more information about woks, start with Kasma’s article on Using your Wok.)

Student Stir-fries

Student stir-frying vegetables

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat

The last part of the class was taken up with cooking the prepped recipes and (of course!) eating. Kasma’s class were set up so that everyone could watch the final food cooking. The cooking was done sometimes by Kasma and often by students, under her supervision. She usually would ask for a volunteer: it was a great opportunity to have a master cook coach you how to cook delicious Thai food.

Of course, the best part of the class was the feast at the end. Unlike many cooking classes, here you got a full meal, not just a small tasting of each dish.

Beginning Thai Series Class #2 Menu

Hot & Sour Soup

Hot & Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Prawn Soup – ต้มยำกุ้ง (Tom Yum Goong): Hot & Sour Soup (Tom Yum) is one the best known Thai soups. In Thailand you can get a tom yum based soup with many things: from shrimp to crispy-fried fish. Kasma’s version uses shrimp and is just as described – hot (spicy) and sour;  the heat is from chillies and the sour is from lime juice  with lemon grass and galanga providing an herbal background. Delicious!

You can see Kasma’s recipe here: Hot and Sour Prawn Soup – (Tom Yum Goong)

How Moek Pla

Red Curried Fish Mousse

Curried Mousse of Red Snapper in Banana Leaf Cups – ห่อหมกปลา (How Moek Pla): Haw Moek is another quintessential Thai dish, though other countries (such as Cambodia) have their own versions. In some restaurants they have mixed seafood Haw Moek, sometimes served in hollowed-out young coconuts but it is more usual to see this dish steamed in banana-leaf baskets, such as we see here. This is a dish that, in Thailand, you’ll find both in the markets, where people buy them as “take-out,” and in restaurants. Kasma’s version here uses fresh red snapper. As you can see, it’s a dish that presents very well. Another advantage is that you can prepare it in advance and then re-heat it prior to serving. In planning a Thai meal, it’s good to have some dishes like this so you don’t have too many stir-fries right before the meal.

Basil Chicken

Basil Chicken

Spicy Basil Chicken – ผัดกะเพราหไก่ (Pad Kaprao Gai): Anything cooked pad kaprao (stir-fried with holy basil) is another essential Thai dish. In Thailand this dish is often served as a one-dish meal over rice, sometimes with a (crispy) fried egg on top. Kasma’s version uses ground chicken, for convenience: in Thailand, often chicken meat would be cut into very small pieces, nearly the equivalent of ground meat. Personally, I prefer this dish using pork and cooked very, very spicy/hot. (See my blog on Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao.) The recipe as taught here in class is infinitely variable: you can make it with nearly any meat or seafood.

Kasma’s recipe from this class is available online as Spicy Basil Chicken – Gai Pad Kaprao. One of my favorite ways to make it is as Basil Salmon.

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

Stir-fried Broccoli with Thai Oyster Sauce – บรอคโคลี่ผัดน้ำมันหอย (Broccoli Pad Nam Man Hoi): I find that Asian cuisines are miles ahead of us when it comes to vegetables. Walking through Asian markets I always see a plethora of fresh greens, previously unknown to me (before meeting Kasma, that is). This recipe is what I think of as The Universal Vegetable Recipe. A deceptively easy dish, the main ingredient is Thai oyster sauce; it can be adapted to virtually any vegetable you desire. In class, Kasma makes it with broccoli; it’s the one way I like broccoli. This recipe also got me enjoying cauliflower for the first time in my life.

I think of this recipe as The Universal Vegetable Recipe.


Written by Michael Babcock, August 2012 & May 2020