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Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #2

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Note: These classes are no longer offered.

Kasma Loha-unchit’s 4-session Intermediate Thai Cooking Series takes up where her Beginning Thai Cooking Series leaves off. It’s a chance to learn new ingredients, techniques and Thai recipes. This blog is about the second Intermediate Cooking Class.

Roasted Rice Flour

Roasted Rice Flour

I’ve already blogged on the first class in the series:

(Click images to see larger version.)

As always, the class begins with a snack and with an explanation of the recipes.

Although most of the main ingredients were previously introduced in the 4-session Beginning Series, there are more to come in the intermediate classes. In this second class, students learn about roasted rice powder, kaffir lime peels (they’ve already been introduced to the leaves), and shrimp paste (kapi or gkabpi).

New ingredients are covered extensively. When introducing toasted rice powder, kasma shows the students a couple of locally available packages and talks about where to buy them. In the picture above, the package shown to the left is an imported Vietnamese brand; that on the right is a more coarsely ground roasted rice powder that is made locally at a Cambodian market. The products are passed around so that students can taste them. She also goes into how to make the powder, should you be unable to find it or should you want to do so. (You can read how in her article on Roasted Rice Flour – Kao Kua.)

Soaking Red Chillies

Soaking dried red chillies

Roasting Chillies

Roasting dried Thai chillies

In this class, dried chili peppers are an important ingredient in three of the recipes. Kasma explains the two types that will be used this evening and explains how to prepare them: by seeding and soaking in one instance, and by roasting stove-top in another.

Pounding Ingredients

Student using a mortar & pestle

Chilli Paste

Chilli paste in a mortar (with pestle)

Students use the mortar and pestle extensively in this series. Three of the recipes in this class, involve intensive pounding so Kasma goes into the basics of how to go about it. The mortar and pestle are essential tools in Thai cooking: they crush the fibers of herbs and release the essential oils, giving a greater breadth and depth of flavor than can be obtained by using a food processor. You can read Kasma’s blog on The Mortar and Pestle.

After the recipes are explained, students volunteer (or are assigned) to one of the recipes and break into teams to do the preparation. Kasma supervises making sure everything is done correctly.

Cutting & Chopping

Students cutting & chopping

Cutting Lemongrass

Cutting lemongrass

Roasting Galanga

Roasting dried galanga

In this class, dried galanga is used in the Northeastern Chicken salad, after being roasted stovetop in a cast iron pan.

Once the ingredients are prepped, Kasma demonstrates new techniques. For instance, for the Fried Shrimp Cake recipe, there’s a certain way of forming the shrimp cakes and dropping them gently into the oil: although it may feel safer to drop them from a distance, because your hand is further away from the oil, doing that may cause a splash of hot oil whereas sliding the shrimp cake in from just above the oil is actually the safer method. (See slide show, below.)

Observing

Students observing

Of course, there’s the feast at the end of the class.

And after the feast, everyone helps to clean up.

One thing I appreciate about Kasma’s classes is that you learn how to prepare the food in a manner similar to how you cook in your own kitchen. Many cooking classes in Thailand assign a cooking station to each student and have them cook their own individual portion from already prepared ingredients. In Kasma’s class, students do every aspect of the meal preparation, from chopping, roasting and pounding to cooking, eating and clean-up, just as you will at home. Everyone gets to watch the final assembly of every dish, learning how to prepare every dish in the class, rather than just the single dish they’ve worked on.


Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #2

Spicy Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Green Beans (Tod Mon Goong)

Shrimp Cakes

Spicy Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes

I recently read in a cookbook by a famous Thai chef that said “Thais appear to remain ambivalent about [deep-fried foods].” They certainly have a strange way of showing this: you find fried foods everywhere in many forms – fried fish, chicken, duck, pork leg, bananas, other desserts and, of course, Tod Mon – fried fish (or shrimp) cakes. Thais even deep-fry herbs such as Thai basil (as in this dish). Certainly Fried Fish Cakes (Tod Mon) are among the most common and beloved of Thai snacks and appetizers: you see them frying in open-air markets and sidewalks everywhere in the country; they are also found in many restaurants as an appetizer. This class showcases Kasma’s version of Tod Mon; her recipe is really a Tod Mon Pla (Fish Cake) recipe that is made, instead, with shrimp (goong).

Cucumber Relish

Cucumber Relish

It’s a recipe with lots of prep work (see the slide show at the bottom of the page) that produces a bouncy, tasty treat. It is served with:

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Relish

This is a relish that accompanies the Fried Shrimp Cakes and is sweet, sour and salty. It has a refreshing taste that forms a nice contrast to the fried cakes.

Be sure to see our slideshow on Tod Mon Goong below.

Sour Tamarind Curry with Fish and Vegetable (Kaeng Som Pla)

Fish Curry

Sour Tamarind Curry

You may be confused as to why this dish, without coconut milk, is called a “curry.” Actually, there are probably more Thai “curries” without coconut milk than with; for the Thais, the classification of what we translate as curry – kaeng – is really a broader classification. Read Kasma’s blog Thai Curries – Kaeng (or Gkaeng or Gaeng).

This is one of the classic Thai dishes, here in the central Thai version. Kasma’s version is thick from vegetables and broiled, flaked fish in the broth.

Kaeng Som is made in a different version in Southern Thailand and is often called Kaeng Leuang there: you have to get through to Kasma’s Advanced Set G to learn how to make her Southern version, delicious and spicy hot.

You may enjoy the Bangkok Post article ‘Kaeng Som’ A Thai culinary classic by Suthon Sukphisit.

Northeastern-Style Spicy Minced Chicken Salad with Mint and Toasted Rice (Laab Gai or Larb Kai)

Chicken Salad

Northeastern-Style Minced Chicken Salad

Balancing Flavors

Balancing Flavors

Larb (often transliterated as laab and pronounced “lahb”) is one of the two main types of Thai “salads” prevalent in the West. (The other would be yum.) They typically involve chopped (or ground) meat flavored with fish sauce, limes, a bit of sugar (to balance flavors, mainly to bring out the sour of the limes), lots of ground, roasted chillies and roasted rice powder. It’s served with a vegetable platter: you eat the salad with the vegetables to cut the heat.

In Kasma’s classes you learn all about balancing flavors to create authentic Thai tastes. Ingredients such as fish sauce or limes (for instance) can vary brand to brand or batch to batch, so Kasma’s tasting exercises teach you how to work with different ingredients to get the correct Thai harmony of flavors.

You can try out Kasma’s recipe for Northeastern-Style Spicy Minced Chicken Salad (Laab Gai).

Stir-fried Eggplant with Chillies and Thai Basil (Makeua Yao Pad Prik Horapa)

Stir-Fried Eggplant

Stir-Fried Eggplant

I find Asian vegetables so very much more interesting that American vegetables. Thais do wonderful things with eggplants and I love this stir-fried dish. It’s a simple dish, flavored with oyster sauce and fish sauce with just a bit of vinegar added to the end to provide a bit of sour. It’s a wonderful dish and relatively easy to prepare.


Slideshow – Spicy Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Green Beans (Tod Mon Goong)

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Kaffir Lime Leaves
Long Beans
Processing Shrimp 1
Processing Shrimp 3
Ready to Pound
Students Pounding
Pounding Ingredients 1
Pounding Ingredients 2
Mixing Everything
Making Cucumber Relish
Cucumber Relish
Frying Basil
Fried Holy Basil
Fried Holy Basil
Frying Shrimp Cakes 2
Frying Shrimp Cakes 3
Frying Shrimp Cakes 4
Frying Shrimp Cakes 5
Frying Shrimp Cakes 6
Removed Shrimp Cake
Shrimp Cakes 1
Shrimp Cakes 2
Shrimp Cakes 3

Slivered kaffir lime leaves for the Tod Mon Goong

Long beans, cut in thin rounds, provide texture

Processing shrimp in a food processor

Shrimp reduced to a smooth, sticky, gray paste.

The shrimp will be mixed with a paste in a mortar & pestle

Two students using the mortar & pestle

Starting to combine the ground shrimp and the chilli paste

Making a well-blended paste in the mortar & pestle

Finally, all the ingredients are combined in a bowl

Adjusting flavors for the accompanying Cucumber Relish

Cucumber Relish, ready to serve with the Tod Mon Goong

Holy basil (bai kaprao) is fried crispy in a wok

The crispy fried bai kaprao (holy basil) is removed from the wok

Kasma holding a shrimp cake above the wok

Kasma, about to drop a shrimp cake in the hot oil

Shrimp cake successfully dropped into the oil

Three shrimp cakes, puffed up and frying

Turning a shrimp cake over in the hot oil using long chopsticks

A wok full of frying shrimp cakes

Shrimp cakes are placed on a wired implement to drain

Savory Fried Shrimp Cakes (Tod Mon Goong) with Cucumber Relish

Serving of Tod Mon Goong with crispy-fried holy basil

Individual serving of Tod Mon Goong with Cucumber Relish

Kaffir Lime Leaves thumbnail
Long Beans thumbnail
Processing Shrimp 1 thumbnail
Processing Shrimp 3 thumbnail
Ready to Pound thumbnail
Students Pounding thumbnail
Pounding Ingredients 1 thumbnail
Pounding Ingredients 2 thumbnail
Mixing Everything thumbnail
Making Cucumber Relish thumbnail
Cucumber Relish thumbnail
Frying Basil thumbnail
Fried Holy Basil  thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 1 thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 2 thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 3 thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 4 thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 5 thumbnail
Frying Shrimp Cakes 6 thumbnail
Removed Shrimp Cake thumbnail
Shrimp Cakes 1 thumbnail
Shrimp Cakes 2 thumbnail
Shrimp Cakes 3 thumbnail

Don’t miss:

Here are the next Intermediate Class Blogs:

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


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2013

Beginning Thai Cooking With Kasma, Class #4

Michael Babcock, Saturday, September 15th, 2012

This blog is about class #4 in a series of 4 evening classes taught by Kasma Loha-unchit. This final class focuses on noodles and teaches that American favorite – Pad Thai. Kasma, who has been teaching since 1985, introduces 3 of the many varieties of noodles used in Thailand.

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

(Click images to see larger version.)

Thai Snack

Mochi, a snack

When the classes were in the evening, beginning with the second class in the series, Kasma introduced the students to an Asian snack at the start of the class. Because the classes are now taught in the afternoon right after lunch, she no longer serves snacks.This particular snack, mochi with a black sesame seed filling, is a particular favorite. We only know of one place where we can purchase this snack: it’s at the Yuen Hop Noodle Company on Webster Street in Oakland’s Chinatown. Yuen Hop sells freshly made rice noodles, the wider variety called kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) – kway teow (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว) referring to the rice noodle itself, and sen yai (ส้นใหญ่) referring to the size. It’s the sort of noodle called chow fun by the Chinese. Their fresh noodles are amazing – Kasma uses them in all sorts of noodle dishes in this class and in her Advanced cooking classes.

Rice Noodles

Wide rice noodles

This is a package of kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) aka chow fun noodles. In this class, Kasma introduces three different type of noodles (there are many more) for use in the dishes. These particular noodles will be used in the Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles Topped with Chicken and Asian Broccoli Sauce – ก๋วยเตี๋ยวราดหน้า (Kway Teow Rad Nah). These noodles are added direct from the package to the wok.

She’ll also introduce the noodle known in Thai as ba mee (บะหมี่), a thin Chinese egg noodle made from wheat, used in the Garlic Noodles with Barbecued Red Pork (Thai-Style Pasta Salad) – บะหมี่แห้งหมูแดง (Bamee Haeng Moo Daeng). These noodles are cooked in boiling water.

The third type of noodle is the thin dried rice vermicelli called sen mee (ส้นหมี่) that Kasma uses in her “Thai-style” Stir-fried Noodles – ผัดไท (Pad Thai). She soaks the dried rice noodles in cold or lukewarm tap water for 40 minutes to one hour, or until the noodles are limp but still firm to the touch.

Tianjin Vegetables

Tianjin vegetables

Roasting Chillies

Roasting chillies

Kasma introduces other new ingredients in this class, one of which is Tianjin Vegetables – a type of pickled cabbage (basically cabbage fermented with salt) from China, though there is an equivalent version of preserved cabbage made in Thailand. Kasma uses this ingredient in her Garlic Noodles.

She teaches her students how to roast dried chillies in a cast iron skillet; they will subsequently be ground up to be used in Pad Thai and also to fill one of the dishes in a noodle condiment set. In Thailand, all noodles are accompanied by a condiment set, which typically includes sugar (for balancing flavors), green chillies soaked in vinegar (for sour), fish sauce (for salty) and roasted ground chillies. The diner uses the condiment set to balance the flavors to his or her liking. The chillies are roasted with salt in the pan to help mitigate the fumes.

Making Thai Coffee

Making Thai coffee & tea

In addition to the noodles (and cucumber salad), Kasma demonstrates how to make both Thai tea – ชาเย็น (cha yen) – and Thai coffee – โอเลี้ยง (oliang). In Thailand, both of these drinks are made using a “tea sock” – the tea or coffee is put in the “sock,” which has a metal handle, and then hot water is poured through and then steeped to the desired strength. Condensed and evaporated milk are added to finish them off. Thai tea and coffee are often available at noodle shops in Thailand.

We have instructions for making Thai tea elsewhere on the website.

Making Rad Nah

Making Rad Nah

Kasma Stir-fries

Kasma cooks Pad Thai

As with other classes, final cooking is done in front of the whole class. Sometimes a student does the cooking (as in the Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles) to the left; other times, Kasma does the cooking. She usually cooks the Pad Thai herself because there are a couple of tricky points: namely getting the eggs right and making sure the noodles are thoroughly mixed with everything else.

Beginning Thai Series Class #4 Menu

Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles Topped with Chicken and Asian Broccoli Sauce – ก๋วยเตี๋ยวราดหน้า (Kway Teow Rad Nah):

Rad Nah

Rad Nah Noodles

Balancing Flavors

Balancing flavors

I think of this as rice noodles with sauce. It’s a somewhat soupy dish and I like it only if the noodles, the kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) are very, very fresh. It is best when eaten piping hot from the wok and is typically eaten with green chillies pickled in vinegar (as in the picture to the right), which provides a bit of sour to cut the gravy (sauce). Be sure to get both some (soaked) chillies and some of the vinegar.

Garlic Noodles with Barbecued Red Pork (Thai-Style Pasta Salad) – บะหมี่แห้งหมูแดง (Bamee Haeng Moo Daeng):

Garlic Noodles

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles 2

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

I’ve never had this particular dish in Thailand – it’s a recipe of Kasma’s creation. It’s the first noodle dish I ever made. I had been invited to a potluck soon after initially taking the Beginning Series (back in 1992 – 2 decades ago). I decided to bring this dish: it can be served cold or at room temperature and made in advance – perfect for a pot luck. It was the first dish to disappear; people loved it. As the name implies, it has a garlicky flavor – mildly addictive, I would say.

“Thai-style” Stir-fried Noodles – ผัดไท (Pad Thai):

Pad Thai

Pad Thai Noodles

Pad Thai. A whole blog could be written on this noodle. (Actually, Kasma already wrote one: The Origin and Making of Pad Thai.)

This picture of Kasma’s Pad Thai noodles shows the dish plated, and ready to serve. It’s surrounded by limes so that each student can take a lime to squeeze over their portion and add sour flavor. The next picture below shows one individual serving of Pad Thai. Often in Thailand this dish is served accompanied by green onions; the idea is to take a bite of the green onion along with the noodles to add an extra dimension of texture and flavor. They go surprisingly well together.

Pad Thai

Serving of Pad Thai

Many students tell Kasma her version is the best they’ve ever eaten. Often in U.S. restaurants the noodles are softer and mushier whereas in Kasma’s version, they are firm and chewy. She’ll tell students that if they prefer the version from U.S. restaurants, they can make the noodles softer, add ketchup and more sugar.

Check out:

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad – ยำแตงกวา (Yum Taeng Kua): In the United States, I’m not much of a cucumber eater. I find the vegetable not very interesting. The one exception I make is for Kasma’s Thai cucumber salads, such as this one. Add some shallots, serrano peppers, cilantro leaves, vinegar, lime, fish sauce and sugar to cucumbers and it makes them a lot more interesting!


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012