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Fried Foods in Thailand

Michael Babcock, Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Fried foods are found all over Thailand – as street food and in restaurants – in great variety and abundance. One of my first impressions traveling in Thailand over 2 decades ago was how skillful Thais are at frying food and how popular fried foods seem to be. This blog looks at and celebrates the Thai frying expertise.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Frying Fish Cakes

Frying Fish Cakes

Fried Foods

Fried foods at market

Thais are very inventive with their frying and it seems that they will fry just about anything: seafood of all kinds (shrimp, fish, squid), meats (pork in many forms, duck, chicken), kanom (bananas, bread, dumplings), appetizers (shrimp and fish cakes) and even leafy vegetables (such as holy basil – bai kaprao). We’ve even come across Fried Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Tod) while traveling in the northeast. Thais fry foods so well: the foods seldom taste oily or greasy at all. On one of Kasma’s small-group trips to Thailand, one of the tour members went into a MacDonalds in Chiang Mai: his main take-away was how much better the fried foods were there compared to those in the U.S. When a famous Thai chef says that “. . .Thais appear to remain ambivalent about it [deep-frying]. . .” I wonder if we’re talking about the same cuisine and people.

The Thai word for fry is ทอด – tod (pronounced “tawd”), as distinct from ผัด – pad – which means “stir-fry.” ทอด (tod) can refer to food that has been deep-fried or pan-fried. Everything shown in this article was deep-fried.

One only has to walk through a Thai market or anywhere that street food is being made or to look at the menu at most restaurants to realize that Thais love fried foods: you see them everywhere. They even fry leafy green herbs and vegetables. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves in celebrating the variety of fried foods that Thais enjoy.

Remember, these are only a few of the fried dishes available in Thailand. (I’ve included them all in a Slideshow of Thai Fried Foods at the bottom of the page.)

Fried Fish

I’ll start with fried fish – one of the most common fried foods. There are at least dozens of different fried fish recipes in Thai cuisine, including many whole fried fish. The first time I had a whole fried fish in Thailand, typically prepared so that it was quite crispy, I loved it: you could eat virtually the entire fish, including fins and most of the bones. The crispy, crunchy feel in the mouth seemed to be an integral part of the whole experience. There was no oily feel at all – the fish might have been broiled crispy. It was quite clear that Thais know their frying.

Fried Whole Fish 1

Fried Lemongrass Fish

Fried Whole Fish 2

Fried Snakehead Fish

I’ve heard many westerners (and 1 Thai) who thought that the typical crispy-fried fish was “over-cooked.” All of the Thais I know would disagree: they love the way the fish is cooked so that it’s crunchy and crispy and they devour nearly the whole plate (only the spine and a few other bones remain) with great gusto and enjoyment. I’ve had too many deep fried dishes in Thailand that were not cooked as crispy as the typical fried whole fish to believe that cooking fish in this manner is anything but a culinary choice based on preference.

The fish shown above left also includes fried lemongrass and fried kaffir lime leaves.

You may enjoy Kasma’s blog on How to Fry a Crispy Fish Thai Style. Scroll down on that page to see a Slideshow of Some Crispy Fried Fish Dishes with a dozen other whole fried fish dishes.

Fish Appetizer

Miang Pla

Turmeric Fried Fish

Turmeric Fried Fish

The picture above left shows a popular appetizer – Miang Pla – Tidbits with Fish Wrapped in a Leaf. Kasma has an entire Thai cookbook (in Thai) of miang – dishes with tidbits – of which the best known is undoubtedly Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits). This dish is essentially Miang Kam with the addition of fried fish. In Thailand a wild pepper leaf (bai cha plu), not betal leaf, is the leaf of choice; you take a bit of the fish, a little bit of each of the other ingredients, add a dab of sauce and pop the whole thing into your mouth for an explosion of flavors.

Above right we see Turmeric Fried Fish – Pla Tod Kamin – made from small fish that are fried (and eaten) whole. In addition to the fish, chopped garlic and turmeric are crispy fried to be served on top of the fish.

Fried Sour Fish

Fried Sour Fish

Choo Chee Fish

Choo Chee Fish

Although it sometimes seems as if the most popular way to fry fish is as an entire fish, it is also fried in chunks. To the right we see a dish popular in the northeast (in Isan, or Isaan) – Pla Som (Northeastern-style Soured fish). In this recipe, fish is cut into fillets or chunks, mixed together with salt and garlic and left out to ferment until it sours. After this, the fish is crispy fried and served, often with fried garlic or shallots (more fried food!), as shown above. In the dish above right, the chunks of fish are fried and then cooked with a spicy choo chee curry sauce. Delicious.

Fried Fish

Fried fish dish

How much do Thais love fried fish? To the left is a simple dish you’ll come across at just about any Thai market or kao kaeng (rice-curry) shop, such as Raan Nong Pun in between Ayuthaya and Sukhothai on Asian Highway 1. Fish is skinned, butterflied open, salted and partially dried in the sun; it is then fried crispy and eaten with rice. It is cooked crispy and simply like this because people love it this way. Many times when I’ve been eating with a table of Thais, this was the first dish to be devoured.

Fried Fish Curry

Sour (Fried) Fish Curry

Crispy Catfish Salad

Crisped Catfish Salad

Fried fish is also used as an ingredient in soups and curries. To the upper left we see Sour Tamarind Curry with Fish and Vegetable (Kaeng Som Pla). For this dish, taken from Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class, #2, fish filets are cut into chunks, deep-fried and then added to the soup. The dish could also be made with smaller, whole-fried fish: on our travels in Thailand we often have a Hot-and-Sour Fish Soup (Tom Yum Pla) made with whole, smaller-sized fried fish.

No survey of Thai fried foods is complete without including Crisped Catfish Salad with Sour Green Mango and Peanuts or Cashews (Yum Pla Doog Foo). For this dish, a whole catfish is grilled until cooked through; it is then torn into shreds and the shreds are deep-fried until crispy and used in a salad, such as the one above right. There is a similar salad that shreds roasted duck and fries it as the basis for a salad. This is not a dish for anyone ambivalent about fried foods. The peanuts (or cashews) in the dish are fried as well.

Pork, Chicken, Duck

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Pork Ribs

Fried Soured Pork Ribs

To the left above you see one of my very favorite fried foods – Fried Pork Leg (Ka Moo Tod). In this recipe, skin-on pork leg is first stewed with flavorful spices until it is tender; it is then deep-fried to get a caramelized, tasty outside to complement the succulent, tasty inside. It is served with a dipping sauce or two (to the lower left in the above photo) and often with pickled ginger. We now find it all over Thailand, from Korat (as above), to Trang, to Bangkok to Ayuthaya. Sometimes the pork leg is smoked (prior to frying) adding another flavor dimension.

The Northern Fried Soured Pork Ribs (Naem See Krohng) from Chiang Mai pictured above is another widely available fried pork dish. First pork ribs are fermented until sour and then they are deep fried. They are then served with a number of different items: peanuts (often fried, as well), ginger, Thai chillies and shallots. You pop the rib plus the other items of your choice into the mouth and eat them together.

Fried Pork Skin

Fried Pork Skin

Crispy Fried Duck

Crispy Fried Duck

One item that is found in most of the markets is fried pork skin, such as that shown above left, where it is served with a Northern-pork-based dipping sauce – Nam Prik Ong. Another fried pork dish is Crisp-Fried Seasoned Pork (Moo Tod Kreuang Tod), where pork steaks or cutlets are marinated, “breaded”, then fried, then cut into bite-sized pieces and eaten with a dipping sauce. There’s also an Isan dish – Crisp-Fried Northeastern-Style Hot-and-Sour Chopped Pork Patties with Aromatic Herbs and Toasted Rice (Lahb Moo Tod) – with fried pork patties. There’s also fried sour sausage – naem tod – which is shown further on in the blog.

On the right above is Crispy Duck on a Bed of Shrimp Chips and Crisped Greens Served with Spicy Plum and Toasted Sesame Sauce (Ped Lon). This is actually a tri-fecta of deep fried items, with fried shrimp chips and crispy-fried greens in addition to the duck. This picture is taken from one of Kasma’s advanced Thai cooking classes.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Fried Turmeric Chicken

Fried Turmeric Chicken

Lately I seem to run across Fried Chicken in all of the markets, northern, central or southern. The delicious looking golden-fried chicken above is from outside of the Crystal Pool in Krabi. Most of the street-food chicken is similar in appearance: golden and crispy. Fried chicken in Thailand is some of the best I’ve ever had: one reason is that most of the chicken is deep-fried in palm oil. Also, the taste of the chickens in Thailand is better: when Kasma was developing this recipe for an advanced class, she found that the type of chicken made all the difference – the big-breasted chickens found in American supermarkets just do not fry up as tasty.

In restaurants, you’ll often find fried chicken such as that in the above right picture: Crispy-Fried Turmeric Chicken (Gai Tod Kamin) from Bai Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son. After the chicken is fried, the various pieces are chopped into bite-sized pieces and served with a sweet-and-sour chilli sauce, such as that on the plate, and often some accompanying vegetables. You can see that the chicken is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside (click the picture for a larger image).

Vegetables

Thai frying enjoyment and expertise is not limited to the animal kingdom: they also are adept at creating delicious fried vegetables.

Eggplant Salad

Fried Eggplant Salad

Fried Greens Salad

Fried Greens Salad

To the upper left is a salad at Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok that uses long eggplants fried in batter as the main ingredient: it is quite delicious.

To the right, crispy fried greens (Kasma uses pak boong – morning glory – in her recipe) are pretty much the whole salad with the addition of a tart, sweet and hot pork sauce poured over it (Kasma’s version of this recipe uses shrimp): it is crunchy, spicy and delicious. The fried vegetable does not taste greasy or oily.

Fried Sausage

Fried Sausage in Fried Taro Basket

Taro Fritters

Taro Fritters

The picture on the left shows Fried Sour Sausage (Naem Tod). I’ve included it here under vegetables because the fried sausage is resting in an edible basket made from crispy-fried taro. It’s a fun dish: you get to eat the basket as well as the sausage.

Next to to it on the right we see Crunchy Taro Fritters, Served with Sweet-and-Sour Dipping Sauce (Peuak Tod). In addition to making taro fritters, you often see fried taro chips in the markets; they come in two varieties, sweetened and un-sweetened.

Cha Om Salad

Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad

Fried Crab

Fried Soft-shell Crab

Is there another cuisine where fried leafy greens or herbs can form such an essential part of a dish? The Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad (Yum Cha-Om Krob) above left is from A. Mallika Restaurant in Bangkok. Cha-Om is part of the acacia family – see Kasma’s blog: Cha-Om – A Delicious and Nutritious Tropical Acacia. The fried vegetable is topped with a yum-type salad, in this case pork and squid with a sour-salty-sweet-spicy hot sauce.

Holy basil (bai kaprao) is the leafy green I’ve seen crispy-fried most often. Above right it accompanies a Fried Soft-shell Crab dish at our favorite Pranburi restaurant – Sunni’s Restaurant; the soft-shell crabs are deep-fried as well. The same restaurant makes a Stir-Fried Basil Crab (Neua Poo Pad Kaprao) that also uses deep-fried holy basil. Crispy-fried basil is also often served with Fish Cakes (Tod Man) and we’ve also seen it in the Crispy Fried Duck above. I’ve also seen fried kaffir lime leaves on a number of dishes.

Other Fried Ingredients

It’s not enough to have dishes where fried foods are the main attraction: there are also various other fried items that provide an accent or an accompaniment to various Thai dishes.

Bitter Melon Salad

Bitter Melon Salad

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Fried cashews are found in many salads, such as the Yum Mara (Bitter Melon Salad) above left. They also form the main ingredient of a spicy, limy Cashew Salad (Yum Med Mamuang).

Both salads above feature fried shallots, as do many yum-type salads. It’s hard to describe how delicious this ingredient is: the frying seems to accentuate the sweetness of the shallots. Yummy.

The Eggplant Salad above also uses crispy fried shallots.

Crispy Rice Salad

Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad

Fried Fish

Fried Fish with Fried Chillies

Fried peanuts are an ingredient that frequently accompanies certain dishes, such as fried naem sausage or ribs, where it is eaten with the sausage (along with ginger and Thai chillies). Above left we see them with the Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad  (Yum Naem Kao Tod) from Ton Kreuang Restaurant in Bangkok; the base of the salad is cooked rice, which is mixed with various ingredients, including a chilli paste, formed into rounded balls and deep fried until the outside is brown and crispy.

Both of the above pictures feature fried dried red chillies. You are meant to bite off a bit of the fried chilli to go with some of the salad or fish: it provides added heat, flavor and texture.

Dried chillies, in the form of dried red pepper flakes, are also fried in oil along with a bit of salt to make a chilli-oil that is served with Kao SoiNorthern Style Curry Noodles.

Street Food

Fried foods are found at pretty much every open-air market or street-food scene in Thailand. You’ll typically find many woks bubbling away with oil.

Fried Dough

Fried Dough

Fried Rice Snacks

Fried Rice Cake Snacks

Fried Dough, such as that above left from the Sukhothai Market is fairly common, particularly in the morning at breakfast time.

Fried Rice Cakes such as the ones above right from the Sunday market in Nakhon Si Thammarat are also fairly common. The swirls most visible on the green rice cakes (they are green from pandanas leaf – bai toey) is palm sugar, to add a bit of sweetness. (The purple color on the other rice cakes comes from butterfly pea flower.)

Fried Shrimp

Fried Shrimp

Fried Fish Skin

Fried Fish Skin

Another common market food consists of small, fried shrimp  in batter, such as the picture above left from the Takua Pa Market.

Fried Fish Skin, such as that shown above right, is one of the tastiest fried snacks. Click on the picture  from the  market at Wat Yai Chaimongkhon in Ayuthaya – in the larger version you’ll see that there are several different kinds of fried fish skin, varying in size and texture. The fried fish skin is sold with one or two different dipping sauces as accompaniments. Kasma always buys a few varieties for her tour-group members to taste: often skeptical at first (“You want us to eat fish skin?!”), they usually eat up everything she buys.

Fried Insects

Fried insects

Fried Naem Sausage

Fried Naem Sour Sausage

I was somewhat surprised the first time I tried fried insects: they are actually pretty tasty. In much of the world, insects are a legitimate food; after all, they contain fair amounts of protein and fat. The variety of insects shown to the left are from the market at Nakhon Pathom and as you can see (click on the image for a larger version) there are many different varieties: all fried.

I’m including the Fried Naem Sausage (seen above right) here, though this picture is from the restaurant Kaeng Ron Baan Suan in Chiang Mai, because it is often found as a street food. You select any of the other items on the plate (chilli, ginger, fried peanuts, cabbage) and pop them in your mouth with a piece of sausage. When you buy it on the street, you get a log bamboo stick, which you use to spear a sausage bite, with the accoutrements in an accompanying plastic bag.

Appetizers

In the fried fish section above, the dish Miang Pla is often served as an appetizer; also the Fried Naem Sour Sausage directly above.

Fish Cakes

Fried Fish Cakes

Shrimp Cakes

Fried Shrimp Cakes

If I was told that Fried Fish cakes (Tod Man Pla) are the most popular appetizer in Thailand, I would not be surprised. You see them everywhere: in nearly every market (I could have included this is the Street Food section above) and in many restaurants. These are nearly always served with the sweet dipping sauce shown in the picture above left and a cucumber relish/salad, which is not pictured. This photo was taken at Don Wai Market in Nakhon Pathom province; The very first picture in this blog shows a young woman frying these fish cakes at the same market.

The second photo (to the right) shows another type of Tod Man, which is fried after being “breaded.” It is Tod Man Goong – Fried Shrimp Cakes – from the restaurant at Koh Poda in Krabi province. These are served with just a sweet dipping sauce.

Tod Man is characterized by a rather “bouncy” texture.

Fried Noodles

Glazed Crispy Noodles

Shrimp Toast

Fried Shrimp Toast

The above left picture shows Glazed Crispy Noodles – Mee Krob – from Kasma’s First Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. Thin rice sticks (a type of noodle – sen mee in Thai) are fried until golden and crispy at the edges and then crumbled in a bowl and coated with a sweet sauce (also slightly sour and salty). It is typically served with egg shreds, slivered red chillies, bean sprouts, garlic chives or green onions, to help cut any oiliness left on the noodles. In restaurants this dish is often too sweet for my taste.

The second picture shows Crispy Shrimp Toast, Served with Cucumber Relish – Kanom Pang Na Goong – from Trang. In this recipe, a shrimp mixture made from ground shrimp, more like a paste really, is spread over bread and then deep-fried until brown. Kasma’s version uses both shrimp and crab and is served with a sweet-and-sour plum sauce; in the version above right, it is served with a slightly sweet cucumber relish. There’s also Crispy Pork Toast and Crispy Crab Toast.

Fried Won Ton

Fried Won Ton

Fish Sausage

Fried Fish Sausage

Another appetizer, above left, from Ubon Ratchathani, is Crispy Fried Won Ton. I include it here even though won ton are really more Chinese than Thai.

I’ve included the second picture because I love the presentation. it shows Deep-fried Fish Sausage presented in-between the (fried) fish head and tail; it comes with the sour/spicy dipping sauce shown on the plate to the upper right. We had this at the restaurant Kai Mook in Mae Hong Son.

Desserts

Fried Bananas

Fried Bananas

Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried Bananas – Kluay Tod – are one of the most common street foods. It is also a fairly common dessert in restaurants. The picture above left actually is from the Mae Sa Resort above Chiang Mai: it’s a bit puffier than most of its street-food variety counterparts. You’ll also find fried banana chips in nearly any market or kanom shop.

The second picture is from a  market at Wat Yai Chaimongkhon in Ayuthaya. It shows Fried Peanut Crunch (Tua Tod Paen), a tasty fried kanom that you’ll see in some of the markets around the country. They are slightly sweet (not overly so), crunchy and tasty.


Slideshow of Thai Fried Foods

As you watch this, reflect on the fact that you are seeing a fraction of the fried dishes available in Thailand.

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

Fried Foods
Fried Whole Fish 1
Fried Whole Fish 2
Fish Appetizer
Turmeric Fried Fish
Fried Sour Fish
Choo Chee Fish
Fried Fish
Fried Fish Curry
Crispy Catfish Salad
Fried Pork Leg
Fried Pork Ribs
Fried Pork Skin
Crispy Fried Duck
Fried Chicken
Fried Turmeric Chicken
Fried Eggplant Salad
Fried Greens Salad
Fried Sausage
Taro Fritters
Cha Om Salad
Fried Crab
Bitter Melon Salad
Roasted Eggplant Salad
Crispy Rice Salad
Fried Fish
Fried Dough
Fried Rice Cake Snacks
Fried Shrimp
Fried Fish Skin
Fried Insects
Fried Naem Sausage
Fish Cakes
Shrimp Cakes
Fried Noodles
Shrimp Toast
Fried Won Ton
Fish Sausage
Fried Bananas
Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried shrimp and chicken at Worarat market in Chiang Mai

Fried Lemongrass Fish from Chiang Mai

Fried Snakehead Fish at Bai Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

A fish appetizer - Miang Pla - from Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok

Turmeric Fried Fish - Pla Tod Kamin - served with crispy-fried garlic and turmeric

Fried Sour Fish - Pla Som Tod - from Nong Kai

Fried Choo Chee Fish from Sukhothai

Fish, salted, partially sun-dried and then fried

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

Crisped Catfish Salad with Sour Green Mango and Peanuts (Yam Pla Doog Foo)

Fried Pork Leg (Ka Moo Tod) from Korat

Northern Fried Soured Pork Ribs (Naem See Krohng)

Fried Pork Skin with Dipping Sauce

Crispy Duck on a Bed of Shrimp Chips and Crisped Greens (Ped Lon)

Fried Chicken - Gai Tod - from the Crystal Pool in Krabi

Fried Turmeric Chicken - Gai Tod Kamin - from Bai Fern in Mae Hong Son

(Fried) Eggplant Salad - Yam Makeua Yao - at Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok

Fried Greens Salad at Kao Mook Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices in Crispy Taro Basket (Naem Tod)

Crunchy Taro Fritters Served with Sweet-and-Sour Dipping Sauce (Peuak Tod)

Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad (Yum Cha-Om Krob)

Fried Soft-shell Crab with Fried Greens

Bitter Melon Salad - Yum Mara - with fried shallots & cashews

Roasted Eggplant Salad (Yum Makeua Yao)

Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad (Yum Naem Kao Tod)

Crispy Fried Fish with Roasted Chilli Sauce

Frying Dough Balls in Sukhothai

Fried Rice Cake Snacks in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Fried Shrimp in Batter from Takua Pa

Fried Fish Skin in Ayuthaya

Fried insects at the market in Nakhon Pathom

Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices (Naem Tawd)

Fried Fish Cakes - Tod Man Pla - at Don Wai Market

Fried Shrimp Cakes - Tod Man Goong - on Koh Poda in Krabi

Glazed Crispy Noodles - Mee Krob - from Kasma's Intermediate Thai Cooking Class

Crispy Shrimp Toast - Kanom Pang Na Goong - from Trang

Fried Won Ton with a sweet sauce from a restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani

Fried Fish Sausage from Kai Mook Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

Fried Bananas - Kluay Tod - from Mae Sa Resort

Fried Peanut Crunch (Tua Tod Paen)

Fried Foods thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish 1 thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish 2 thumbnail
Fish Appetizer thumbnail
Turmeric Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Sour Fish thumbnail
Choo Chee Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish Curry thumbnail
Crispy Catfish Salad thumbnail
Fried Pork Leg thumbnail
Fried Pork Ribs thumbnail
Fried Pork Skin thumbnail
Crispy Fried Duck thumbnail
Fried Chicken thumbnail
Fried Turmeric Chicken thumbnail
Fried Eggplant Salad thumbnail
Fried Greens Salad thumbnail
Fried Sausage thumbnail
Taro Fritters thumbnail
Cha Om Salad thumbnail
Fried Crab thumbnail
Bitter Melon Salad thumbnail
Roasted Eggplant Salad thumbnail
Crispy Rice Salad thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Dough thumbnail
Fried Rice Cake Snacks thumbnail
Fried Shrimp thumbnail
Fried Fish Skin thumbnail
Fried Insects thumbnail
Fried Naem Sausage thumbnail
Fish Cakes thumbnail
Shrimp Cakes thumbnail
Fried Noodles thumbnail
Shrimp Toast thumbnail
Fried Won Ton thumbnail
Fish Sausage thumbnail
Fried Bananas thumbnail
Fried Peanut Crunch thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, January 2014. The views of this blog are those of the author only. Any errors are his alone.

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #2

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

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:

You can find out all the necessary details about class times, dates and policies on our website.


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2013

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #1

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class, a weekend series of 4 classes, continues on from where her 4-session Beginning Thai Cooking Series leaves off. Once she’s introduced students to the basics (including how to harmonize flavors to create Thai tastes), it’s time to learn more Thai cooking techniques, ingredients and recipes.

Explaining Recipes

Kasma going over recipes

I repeated the Beginning Thai Cooking Series in October of 2011 when Kasma was still teaching in the evenings and was surprised at how much new information I gleaned from repeating the class. I also remembered just how much fun the classes are. This April, I repeated Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. This is my blog on class #1.

(Click images to see larger version.)

As with the Beginning series, class starts with Kasma going over the recipes. Much less time is needed for this in the Intermediate Series because so many of the main ingredients were covered in the Beginning Series. In the Intermediate Class there are still new ingredients, which need to be covered more extensively, and there are new cooking techniques to be introduced as well. For instance, when introducing an ingredient such as mussels, Kasma talks about the various kinds available and which are the best ones to use for a particular recipe, such as this evening’s Spicy Mussel Salad

Mussels

Mussels for the salad

The classes are filled with tips that make recipes come out better. For instance, Many recipes for Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Ka Gai) have you dump all the coconut milk in a pan and bring it to a boil; Kasma explains that when boiled, coconut milk has a tendency to curdle, so she begins the recipe using water or mild chicken broth and adds the coconut milk towards the end, right before she balances all the flavors.

Kasma imparted more inside knowledge when talking about the preparing the noodles for frying for the Mee Krob (Glazed Crispy Noodles). Rather than soaking the noodles, which would leave them soggy, she has the students rinse the noodles in cold tap water, drain in a colander and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes. This allows the noodles to absorb some water and soften while then allowing the surface to dry out so that you won’t get splattering when you put the noodles in the hot oil to fry. She explains that if you fry the noodles dry, they puff up more, which is undesirable in this recipe. As always, she shows the students the best brand available locally to use.

Frying Noodles

Frying noodles

The first intermediate class introduces two ingredients that are new to the students. Pickled garlic is used in the Crispy Fried Noodles and crispy fried shallots are used in the Spicy Mussel Salad. Kasma talks about what to look for when buying these ingredients, what brand of the fried shallots (often labelled “Fried Onions”) are best (see Kasma’s Favorite Brands) and how to make your own crispy shallots, should you be so inclined.

This class introduces methods for deep frying, both for the Mee Krob – Glazed Crispy Noodles – and for the Pla Rad Prik – Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce. I have long been an admirer of the way that Thais fry things: the fried foods in Thailand seldom taste greasy at all and their fried fish is always fried to a delightfully crispy and crunchy state that is both fun to eat and allows you to eat most of the fish. This class also has deep-fried noodles, also well-fried and not very greasy.

Making Noodles

Making Mee Krob

So I was somewhat startled to read in a cookbook by a famous Thai chef that “. . .Thais are not particularly good at deep-frying, opting to cook any piece of meat as much as possible – even fish.” He claims this comes from fear of worms from fresh-water fish. All the Thai people I know love crispy-fried fish: they cook it that way because they like it that way – they like the texture, it is non-greasy, it  tastes good and eats well.  I guess he’s never been to the North or the Northeast where they like to eat raw meat salads – odd behavior if they’re afraid of parasites.

Kasma fries her fish in her trusty 16-inch round-bottomed spun-steel wok: it’s the perfect piece of cookware for deep-frying. This is a great class for students who are afraid to fry – Kasma shows how to do it easily and safely.

Chopping

Students prepping ingredients

As with all classes, Kasma tells the students which local markets typically carry any specialty ingredients, such as fresh, whole fish (not readily available in most western supermarkets) or garlic chives (used in the Crispy Fried Noodles. She goes into which recipes can be prepared ahead of time and which parts of recipes can be done in advance to make the final assembly easier without losing and freshness or flavor.

In this class Kasma also goes over how to pick out a fresh, whole fish; it is something that many students have never done or even considered doing before. She gives 5 pointers (such as looking at the over-all luster of the fish and how the eyes and gills should appear) that will help even the novice choose a fresh fish. You can read Kasma’s article Selecting a Fresh Fish, excerpted from her Dancing Shrimp cookbook.

Mixing Ingredients

Mixing Ingredients

Making Sauce

Student making Mee Krob sauce

After the recipes are explained, the students divide up into groups: Kasma assigns a certain number of people for each recipe. Once the ingredients are prepped, all the students watch the members of the team do the cooking. When appropriate, as in frying a whole fish, Kasma starts the cooking process so that she can show how a particular technique is done: after that, the team members do the cooking. Kasma also oversees the final balancing process for the recipes: one of the great strengths of her classes is learning how the various ingredients interact to create a harmony of Thai flavors.

Of course, the best part of the evening is sitting down to eat a Thai feast at the end of class.

Eating Dinner

Eating dinner, the best part of class!

After dinner, everyone helps clean up before going home.


Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #1

Mee Krob (Glazed Crispy Noodles)

Noodles

Mee Krob Noodles

This is a noodle dish that is almost always too sweet at the local Thai restaurants. Kasma’s version is crispy, not greasy at all (despite the deep-fried noodles) and flavorful, with just a hint of sweetness. It could almost be called a fried salad, served as it is with bean sprouts and garlic chives. It’s a dish that must be eaten within an hour of cooking, otherwise it will turn somewhat soggy and uninteresting.

Chicken Coconut Soup with Galanga (Tom Ka Gai)

Soup

Chicken Coconut Soup

This is one of two soups that is found at virtually every Thai restaurant outside of Thailand. (The other is Hot & Sour Prawn Soup – Tom Yum Goong.) This, also, is a dish that I’ve been disappointed in when ordering out in the U.S. – too sweet, too rich: Kasma’s version is somewhat lighter with a bit of sour flavor. I once read a Westerner who claimed that this soup was just “Tom Yum Soup with Coconut.” This is absolutely not true. The main herbal flavor in a Tom Ka soup is galanga, with lemon grass in the supporting capacity: with Tom Yum soups, it’s just the opposite – the galanga supports the lemongrass.

You can try out Kasma’s variation on this recipe: Coconut Seafood Soup with Galanga (Tom Ka Talay)

Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik)

Fried Fish

Crispy Fried Whole Fish

(See slideshow below.)

This is a recipe that is very common in Thailand: on Kasma’s trips we’ll usually eat it at least a couple of times. I was so excited the first time I made this dish by myself (after I first took the Intermediate Series in 1992) – it looked just like the dishes in Thailand! However, in Thailand I often find it too sweet for my taste: in Kasma’s version the sauce is equally sour and salty with the sweetness (from palm sugar) in the background.

The best parts to eat of the fish are the crispy-crunchy parts. My personal favorite is the head: it’s full of interesting crunchy bits interspersed with softer textures. Before I met Kasma I would never have eaten a fish head: now I usually join this class at meal time because often no one in class knows how to eat the head – I like to help out.

Fish and seafood are an integral and important part of the Thai diet. See Kasma’s article The Thai Fish-Eating Tradition.

Spicy Mussel Salad with Aromatic Herbs and Crisped Shallots and Garlic (Yum Hoi Malaeng Poo)

Mussel Salad

Spicy Mussel Salad

Yum salads are a group of salads that are found all over Thailand and found all too seldom here in the U.S. They are sour and spicy-hot with some saltiness and sweetness: the level of sweetness will vary from one salad to the next, depending on the main ingredient, so it’s not really possible to give a generic yum dressing/sauce (although many cookbook authors do). Kasma’s dressing for this salad is interesting in that it uses three different ingredients for sour flavors – white vinegar, lime juice and tamarind juice: each provides a different layer of flavor. Sugar is used here to balance the flavors and to intensify the sourness: Kasma shows you how to do this without adding too much sweetness. (Check out Kasma’s Exercise in Balancing Flavors.)

Salad Ingredients

Mixing Mussel Salad

This dish is also an opportunity for Kasma to discuss the use of chillies in recipes. At the time of the year of this class (April), many of the chillies we get here in the San Francisco Bay Area come from South or Central America; because of the climate, they tend to be very hot. As chillies grown in California become available, the number of chillies may need to be adjusted: initially, the local chillies will be much milder. This is the sort of information that you get in Kasma’s classes: you’ll not commonly find it in Thai cookbooks, which usually give a specific number of chillies in a dish without going into how you may need to modify that number to get the level of heat the dish (or your tastebuds) require.


Slideshow – Crispy Fried Whole Fish

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Scoring Fish
Resting Fishes
Coating Fish
Coated Fish
Holding Fish
Sliding Fish
Fish in Oil
Ladling Oil
Student Cooking
Turning Fish
Frying Paste
Fried Fish
Ladling Sauce
Fried Whole Fish
Fish Close-up

Scoring the whole fish

Bringing the whole fish to room temperature

Coating the fish with tapioca flour prior to frying

This fish, coated with tapioca flour, is ready to fry

Kasma is just about to slide the fish into the hot oil

Sliding the fish into the hot oil in the wok

The fish's fin is waving from the hot oil

Hot oil is ladled over the fish so it will fry evenly

One of the students takes over ladling the hot oil over the fish

Kasma demonstrates how to turn the fish over in the wok

Frying the chilli-tamarind sauce for the fish

This crispy-fried fish is ready for the chilli-tamarind sauce

Ladling the chilli-tamarind sauce over the fish

Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik) - ready to eat

Close-up of Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik)

Scoring Fish thumbnail
Resting Fishes thumbnail
Coating Fish thumbnail
Coated Fish thumbnail
Holding Fish thumbnail
Sliding Fish thumbnail
Fish in Oil thumbnail
Ladling Oil thumbnail
Student Cooking thumbnail
Turning Fish thumbnail
Frying Paste thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Ladling Sauce thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish thumbnail
Fish Close-up thumbnail

Here are the next Intermediate Class Blogs:

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


You can find out all the necessary details about class times, dates and policies on our website.


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2013