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Five Thai Noodle Dishes – Beyond Pad Thai

Michael Babcock, Friday, August 15th, 2014

There are many fabulous noodle dishes in Thailand that, in my opinion, put Pad Thai to shame. In this blog I mention just five of the fabulous variety of noodles found in the Kingdom (of Thailand). I’m picking five that I quite enjoy.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Hot and Spicy Drunkard’s Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Ground Pork, Thai Chillies and Holy Basil – Kuay Tiow Pad Kee Mao

Drunkard's Noodles

Drunkard’s Noodles

I think this is probably my very favorite noodle dish. I talked about it in an earlier blog – Current Top Ten Thai Dishes. Of all the versions I’ve had, I prefer Kasma’s (pictured to the left). She makes it with delicious fresh chow fun noodles (kuay tiow sen yai, in Thai), lots of Thai chillis, holy basil, garlic and pastured pork from Riverdog farms. The result is a very spicy, tasty dish. It has to be spicy to live up to its name: the dish is called “drunkard’s noodles” (and not “drunken noodles”) because it is so spicy-hot that you need to keep drinking to cool the mouth.

Kasma teaches this recipe in the Weekend Series Advanced Set I-4. She teaches a similar dish – Drunkard’s Stir-Fried Mung Bean Sheet Noodles with Shrimp and Cuttlefish (Kuay Tiow Sianghai Pad Kee Mao) – in Advanced Set G-3.

Sukhothai-Style Dry Hot-and-Sour Rice Noodles – Kuay Tiow Haeng Sukhothai

Sukhothai Noodles}

Sukhothai-Style Noodles

Sukhothai Noodles

Sukhothai-Style Noodles

This is just a marvelous noodle dish – hot, sour and sweet. It’s full of various textures (pork cracklings, peanuts, egg, more) and flavors. It’s the only noodle dish I know that is served with a dollop of palm sugar that you mix up with the noodles. Before eating, everything is mixed together to make a tasty treat.

The picture above left is from Kasma’s class where it’s a real favorite. She teaches this recipe in the Weekend Series Advanced Set F-4 and the above right picture is from a noodle shop in Sukhothai.

To see more pictures of this dish, check out our Facebook Album on Sukhothai-style Noodles. You may need to be logged in.

Roast Duck Noodles – Ba Mee Haeng Ped

Roast Duck Noodles

Roast Duck Noodles

This may be the noodle dish that I order the most in Thailand. The picture to the right shows a bowl from what was my favorite duck noodle shop in Thong Lo, now, unfortunately, no longer in business. (See my blog Thong Lo Duck Noodles). It’s a simple dish: basically, roast duck, egg-noodles (ba mee) and some greens. What makes it so delicious is the simplicity, the succulent roast duck (somehow so much better in Thailand), the egg noodles and the way that you spice the dish yourself. In Thailand, noodles typically are served with a Thai Condiment Set consisting of various ingredients so that you can add salty, sweet, sour and spicy, essentially creating your own favorite flavor grouping. I like these duck noodles with a sour chilli sauce for the sour, a bit of fish sauce, a generous serving of dried, roasted chilli powder and a bit of sugar to bring it all together. Delicious!

Stewed Beef Rice Noodles – “Boat Noodles” – Kuay Tiow Reua

Beef Noodles

Stewed Beef Noodles

No blog on delicious Thai noodle dishes would be complete without including a soup noodle, such as this one. The version pictured is from one of Kasma’s Thai cooking classes; she teaches this recipe in the Weekend Series Advanced Set C-1. I do love a good bowl of beef noodle soup with many kinds of beef: stewed beef, beef tendon, raw beef quickly cooked before serving and (often) beef dumplings or tripe. It’s stewed for many hours to make a nourishing bone broth. I prefer it with the same chow fun (kuay tiow sen yai) noodles used in the Drunkard’s Noodles above, though you can often order it with other kinds of noodles, such as thin rice noodles. It’s often served as Kasma serves it, with a hot chilli sauce made from various red peppers, garlic, lime, vinegar, fish sauce and sugar.

Fermented Rice Vermicelli – Khanom Jeen

Khanom Jeen Namya

Khanom Jeen Namya

Making Khanom Jeen

Making Khanom Jeen

I wanted to include khanom jeen because this possibly is the only noodle common in Thailand that does not originate with the Chinese and is indigenous to SE Asia. According to an article in the Thai magazine Krua (meaning “kitchen”) khanom jeen originated among the Mon ethnic group, who introduced them to different SE Asian cultures. The Mon called them kanawm jin. They’re known to be made and eaten in the Ayuthaya era (15th to 18th century) and it’s possible Thais have been eating them since the 8th to 11th centuries (when the Mon empire ruled much of present-day SE Asia).

These noodles have a delicious, chewy texture made from older rice (rather than “new crop”). It’s a fermented noodle: the rice is soaked for many days, then kneaded by hand, pounded and then left to sit for 3 days. It’s eventually extruded into boiling water (see above right) and afterwards placed in cold water and rolled into skeins (as in the picture below right).

The picture above right shows the extrusion process at a noodle shop called Ko Joi in Krabi; we’re lucky enough to eat there every time we visit Krabi. Be sure to see my next blog on Ko Joi at the start of next month.

The picture above left shows Southern-Style Rice Vermicelli Topped with Spicy Fish Namya Curry Sauce (Khanom Jeen Namya Pak Tai) from Wang Derm restaurant in Nakhon Si Thammarat. It’s a dish that Kasma teaches in the Weekend Series Advanced Set E-2.

Khanom Jeen Namya

Khanom Jeen Namya

Khanom Jeen

Khanom Jeen in Khorat

Above left is another version of Khanom Jeen Namya, the Southern-Style Rice Vermicelli with Spicy Fish Curry Sauce. This version is from Ko Joi in Krabi, where they make their own noodles. It’s been mixed together with some of the pickled cucumbers that are served with the noodles.

Above Right is a typical khanom jeen stall at Khorat Market in Northeastern Thailand. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the skeins of khanom jeen noodles. Here you choose one of the curries or sauces in the containers in front to be served over the noodles and then add in some of the vegetables in the very front row.


If you want to learn to cook delicious Thai noodle dishes yourself, come take a Thai Cooking Class from Kasma. Nearly every series has at least a few noodle dishes.

Don’t take my word about the number of noodle dishes in Thailand: check out my earlier blog: Thai Noodles – An Amazing Variety.

And for some perspective on Pad Thai, check out Kasma’s blog: Pad Thai: The Origin and Making of Pad Thai.

More Blogs on Noodles


Written by Michael Babcock, August 2014

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #3

Michael Babcock, Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Note: These classes are no longer offered.

Kasma Loha-unchit has been teaching Thai cooking in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1985. This blog looks at the third class in her 4-session Intermediate Thai Cooking Series, sequel to the Beginning Thai Series (also 4 classes).

I’ve already blogged on the first two classes in the series:

Student Stir-Fries

A student stir-fries as Kasma watches

Kasma’s classes at their best are very much like a group of friends coming together to cook. By the 3rd intermediate class, people are getting to know each other and are more comfortable together. By this class they’ve gotten used to the class format of breaking into groups and taking a recipe from start to finish. If they’re not hooked on Thai food before this class (most people are), this class is bound to do so!

(Click images to see larger version.)

This class also mirrors what will happen in most advanced classes. One of the recipes is typically a snack (in this class it’s Miang Kam – Tasty Leaf-wrapped tidbits) and another recipe is a Thai dessert. I know no place in America other than by going through all of Kasma’s classes where you will get such a complete introduction to various Thai foods and desserts in particular. The food in this class is also trending to spicier than before.

Bai Cha Plu - Wild Pepper Leaf

One of the strengths of Kasma’s classes is introducing Asian ingredients that are generally unknown to us westerners. In this class the Tasty Leaf-Wrapped Tidbits (Miang Kam) traditionally uses a leaf called bai cha plu – piper sarmentosum – the wild pepper leaf. Since we can find it in local markets, Kasma uses it in the class alongside her usual substitute, spinach leaves. Strangely enough nearly all writers about Thai food (including famous ones who should know better) misidentify this leaf as “betel leaf,” which is  bai plu – piper betel. See Kasma’s blog Miang Kam uses Bai Cha Plu NOT Betel Leaf (Bai Plu)

In this class, Kasma also introduces fresh water chestnut, used in the Tapioca Pudding. Most students have only tasted canned water chestnuts: the fresh one is fresher, crunchier with a natural sweetness.

Chopping Ingredients}

Chopping ingredients for a paste

Prepared Ingredients

Prepared ingredients (paste on right)

In the Intermediate and then Advanced classes, Kasma shows how the same ingredients can be combined in a multitude of ways to make different dishes. In this class, the students learn how to use the mortar & pestle to make a curry paste (Panaeng Curry) from scratch. They learn a delicious stir-fry, which also uses the mortar and pestle to make a paste to be used in the stir-fry. In later classes students get to learn Thai dishes that virtually can not be found in this country elsewhere; some classes will focus on regional cuisine. Kasma estimates that the restaurants in the United States probably offer around 5% of the dishes available in Thailand: in her Advanced Classes, you get to sample a large number of that other 95%.

Fresh Water Chestnuts

Peeling fresh water chestnuts

Stir-frying

Stir-frying can be fun!


Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #2

Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits)

Miang Kam

Miang Kam - Tasty Tidbits

Assembling Miang Kam 1

Assembling Miang Kam 1

Miang is a Thai word used to describe a whole class of leaf-wrapped food. Kasma has a cookbook (written in Thai) that consists only of various miang that you can make. Miang Kam has to be one of the all time best appetizers anywhere in the world: tasty and fun to assemble. It consists of a number of ingredients cut into pea-sized pieces (these are the tidbits), which are wrapped up in a green leaf: in Thailand they use bai cha plu (see above) but you can substitute with any leafy green – Kasma prefers Spinach when she can’t get bai cha plu locally. (We are lucky enough to have 3 or 4 local markets that often carry the leaf.)

Assembling Miang Kam 2

Assembling Miang Kam 2

In Kasma’s recipe the tidbits are all arranged on a plate so that each person can assemble their own snack. Once each of all of the ingredients are placed on the leaf, a dab or two of sauce is added and the leaf is folded to enclose everything. Then, and this is critical, the entire leaf with all of the tidbits is popped, whole, into the mouth. The magic of the snack is the interaction of all the different ingredients: when done right you get a burst of flavors that light up the entire palate: description can not do it justice.

Miang Kam 2

Assembled Tasty Tidbits

Miang Kam a common snack in Thailand, both at restaurants, where it is often served as Kasma serves it in class, and as a street food, where it is often sold pre-wrapped so that the buyer can just pop it right in his or her mouth.

Kasma’s version is my all-time favorite. There are no less than 10 different ingredients to wrap up in the leaf, including one that I’ve never seen in Thailand – crispy rice pieces – which adds a crunchy texture. Most of the Miang Kam I’ve had in Thailand has had anywhere from 4 to 6 or 7 ingredients.

Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua)

Panaeng Beef Curry

Panaeng Beef Curry

Kasma’s version of Panaeng Beef Curry is another dish that I prefer over anything I’ve eaten in Thailand: partly because of the beef. In Thailand the beef is not as good as in the United States; in Thailand, for this dish, beef is typically cooked well-done in coconut milk for at least an hour before being added to the curry. Kasma’s version uses skirt steak, which she cooks rare: it comes out tender and tasty.

This is a dry curry using coconut milk where the curry sauce barely coats the meat. The beef version of this dish is especially tasty because it uses several roasted spices: the roasting gives a different and delicious dimension to the dish. In introducing the recipe, Kasma goes over using different meats: when making the dish with chicken, the spices are not roasted; for pork, they are just lightly roasted. Roasted garlic and shallots add another dimension lacking in most other coconut-based curries.

Be sure to view the slide show below.

Spicy Southern-style Stir-fried Shrimp and Squid (Pad Ped Goong/Pla Meuk)

Stir-frying in Wok

Preparing the dish

Seafood Dish

Spicy Stir-fried Shrimp & Squid

Given its name, you would expect this dish to be spicy-hot; and it is. It uses a simple paste, made using the stone mortar and pestle, that includes lemon grass, galanga, garlic, cilantro roots and chilli peppers. Kasma uses both Serrano and Thai chillies in the dish. Sliced shallots are added to provide a different texture along with their distinctive taste. It can be made with any seafood; Kasma uses cuttlefish and shrimp. It’s spicy and somewhat sour and salty. A delicious dish.

Tapioca Pudding with Water Chestnuts and Coconut Cream (Ta-koh Sakoo)

Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding with Water Chestnuts

This recipe is a kanom wan (sweet snack). Growing up in America, tapioca pudding was an unappetizing confection that deserved the name “Fish Eyes and Glue.” This dessert is another story. It uses small tapioca pearls in a sweet syrup. What makes it so delicious is the addition of a coconut cream sauce that is both sweet and salty: it is the combination of flavors that takes the dish out of the merely mundane and into the spectacular. Served warm, it softly melts in your mouth with the saltiness accentuating and off-setting the sweet. It is truly comfort food!

You can read Michael’s blog on Thai (Sweet) Snacks – (Kanom Wan)


Making Panaeng Curry – A Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Roasting Chillies
Roasting Coriander Seeds
Roasted Coriander Seeds
Grinding Spices
Toasten Oven
Shallots & Garlic
Shrimp Paste
Roasting Shrimp Paste
Roasted Shrimp Paste
Smelling Shrimp Paste
Pounding
Making a Paste
Paste with Chillies
Pounded Curry Paste
Cutting Meat
Meat Close-up
Heating Coconut Cream
Adding Paste
Cooking Paste
Cooked Curry Paste
Adding the Meat
Cooking the Meat
Adding Thai Basil
Panaeng Curry Cooking
Panaeng Curry Team
Panaeng Beef Curry
Close-up of Panaeng Curry

Roasting chillies, stove-top

Roasting coriander seeds in a iron skillet

Roasted coriander seeds - Panaeng Curry uses roasted spices

Grinding spices in the "coffee" grinder

Roasting shallots and garlic in a toaster oven

Roasted shallots and garlic, ready for pounding into a paste

Shrimp paste (kapi) is wrapped in a banana leaf

The shrimp paste (kapi) is then roasted over a flame

Roasted shrimp paste (kapi) - ready for pounding

Shrimp paste (kapi) is quite fragrant!

Beginning to make the curry paste with a stone mortar & pestle

The curry paste is progressing

The curry paste with pounded chillies, almost ready

Pounded Panaeng Curry paste, ready for cooking

Cutting the skirt steak for the Panaeng Curry

Close-up of cutting beef against the grain

Heating coconut cream for frying the curry paste

Adding the curry paste to the coconut cream

Cooking the curry paste in the coconut cream

The curry paste is cooked until it is aromatic

Adding the skirt steak to the curry paste & coconut cream mixture

The beef is lightly cooked in the paste mixture

Thai Basil and slivered kaffir lime leaves are added to the pot

The Thai basil has wilted: almost finished!

The 4 members of the Panaeng Curry team

Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua)

A close up of the Panaeng Curry, ready to eat

Roasting Chillies thumbnail
Roasting Coriander Seeds thumbnail
Roasted Coriander Seeds thumbnail
Grinding Spices thumbnail
Toaster Oven thumbnail
Shallots & Garlic thumbnail
Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Roasting Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Roasted Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Smelling Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Pounding thumbnail
Making a Paste thumbnail
Paste with Chillies thumbnail
Pounded Curry Paste thumbnail
Cutting Meat thumbnail
Meat Close-up thumbnail
Heating Coconut Cream thumbnail
Adding Paste thumbnail
Cooking Paste thumbnail
Cooked Curry Paste  thumbnail
Adding the Meat thumbnail
Cooking the Meat thumbnail
Adding Thai Basil thumbnail
Panaeng Curry Cooking thumbnail
Panaeng Curry Team thumbnail
Panaeng Beef Curry thumbnail
Close-up of Panaeng Curry thumbnail

Don’t miss:

Here is the next Intermediate Class Blogs:

I’ve already blogged on Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series:


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2013

Beef Noodle Soup

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Fragrant Beef Noodle Soup Warms the Tummy and Home on Cold Days

Now that cold weather has descended upon us, devouring a steaming bowl of fragrant, stewed beef noodle soup is especially satisfying. Not that I stay away from such delicious comfort food other times of year, it is a favorite one-dish meal and snack even in the tropical heat of Asia.

Beef noodle soup

Beef noodle soup

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Each Southeast Asian culture has its favorite noodle dishes. The Vietnamese are fond of their pho, the Thai of their gkuay dtiow reua (“boat noodles”), and the Malaysians their laksa. These noodle dishes share similar roots – they are Chinese in origin, introduced by immigrants from different parts of China who settled in the region several generations ago. Their descendants continue to run the noodle shops that abound in many Southeast Asian cities, or hawk countless bowls from push-cart stalls and paddle boats, adding color and aroma to the sidewalks and canals of the Orient.

Removing the beef from the pot

Removing the beef from the pot

The common origin explains why many noodle dishes of different Southeast Asian cultures are suspiciously similar in look and taste. This certainly is true of beef noodle soup. The Vietnamese pho is not much different from the Thai gkuay dtiow reua, or the Cantonese beef noodles you get in Chinatown noodle shops.

There are essentially two kinds of beef noodle soup – one with clearer broth and a cleaner taste and the other with a darker, richer and heartier broth. The latter is what I prefer for the colder seasons of the year because of its warming qualities.

Beef tendon

Beef tendon

I like to stew the beef for my noodle soup with a multitude of herbs and spices, adding a fragrant aroma that is not only inviting to the appetite but turns the concoction into something of a preventative medicinal broth. And because a good, hearty broth is produced by simmering the beef over very low heat for a number of hours, the making of it warms and perfumes the home just as much as the finished soup is warming to the tummy and the soul.

Asians like a variety of textures in their food and prefer to stew beef that is laced with tendons. Well-tenderized tendons give a contrasting gelatinous texture to the chewier meat. Many westerners are leery about eating tendon; they often mistake it for fat and think it is bad for their health. Yet, they do not realize that this same tendon is the basic stuff that jello is made out of, and it certainly is not fatty.

Preparing the beef

Preparing the beef

For my stewed beef soup, I like to use a whole shank because it is attached by large tendons to the muscles and bone. It is readily available from Asian markets with a meat counter. I simmer it whole until the entire shank is tender. This takes about three to four hours. The slower the cooking, the sweeter and more flavorful the broth.

For further contrast of texture and flavor, tripe may be added to the stewing pot. Fresh steak slices, lightly cooked to medium rare, and beef meat balls also frequently accompany the stewed beef on the noodles. The latter is available in the refrigerated compartments of Asian markets. They have a similar elastic texture to fish balls, but are a darker grayish color.

Beef noodle soup, bowl #2

Beef noodle soup, bowl #2

The favorite noodles served in beef soup is fresh rice noodles – the same kind used for Chinese “chow fun”. Available in most Asian markets, they come in dense two-pound packages. Be sure to separate the noodles into individual strands before using, or else you will have one big lump in your soup.

The soup is served with bean sprouts and lettuce either already wilted in the broth, or separately on a side dish for dunking into the soup as each person wishes. The Vietnamese like to add sprigs of mint and basil to the side dish for bites of refreshing herbal flavors.

Finally, each partaker at a noodle meal can spice the soup any way he or she wishes with chile sauces, fish sauce and other condiments laid out on the table. Bottled sauces, such as Chinese chile sauce with garlic or Sriracha hot sauce, are available from most Asian stores. I prefer to make my own with fresh chiles as in the recipe that follows.

Check out Kasma’s recipe for:


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, December 2009.