Home   Blog   Classes   Trips   More   back

Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Kasma Makes Green Papaya Salad (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Kasma Pounds Som Tam

Kasma Makes Green Papaya Salad

Kasma pounds Green Papaya Salad

Although Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) (or Som Tam) is an Isaan (Northeastern Thailand) dish, it’s available all over Thailand, especially as street food or in markets (usually made by a transplanted Isaan vendor).

Here Kasma is showing the students in her weekend intermediate cooking class (class #4) how to make green papaya salad.


See also:


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Don Wai Market

Michael Babcock, Saturday, January 16th, 2010

One of our favorite markets in Thailand is Talat Don Wai – Don Wai Market – in in the Sam Phran district of Nakhon Pathom on the banks of the Nakhon Chaisi river.

Dried Fish

Dried Fish

The market remains largely undiscovered by westerners, although it’s a popular market for Thai tourists; usually when we visit at least one Thai tour group comes through. It’s It’s actually very close to Bangkok – about a 30 to 40 minute drive for us, most of the time. I have no idea how to get there by public transportation, although a Bangkok Post article says that there’s a BTS station slated for Bang Khae, apparently quite close. It’s associated with a temple, I believe of the same name, and located directly next to it, right on the river.

Mussels and shrimp, ready to eat

Mussels and shrimp, ready to eat

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

We visit at least once every year; we always bring Kasma’s mom along (which means I don’t get to take too many pictures, as I wheel her mom along in a wheel chair). I like that everything here is geared for Thai people; I’ve seldom seen another westerner here.

The market is noteworthy for a number of things. There’s a very good selection of dried fish and all kinds of prepared seafood, both fish, crustacean and mollusk: one of these consists of smaller, whole fish floating in a dark sauce called tom khem.

Cooking ducks

Cooking ducks

You’ll see a lot of duck here; from roast duck to a Chinese-style duck stew called ped phalo. On our visits we always eat at a restaurant on a deck by the river that sells great duck noodles; and we always get a serving of the fried fish cakes (tawd man) that’s found sizzling in the wok on the entryway in.

As you enter the market from the parking lot, you go through a section with fresh produce, some very good-looking fresh fruit. We’ve bought pomelo (som-oh) here as well as jack-fruit. You then enter a section that has dried fish, prepared food and vendors making various Thai kanom (snacks) right there. We always get some delectable kanom paeng jee (grilled coconut cakes). There’s a vendor in this section that has great bplah som (fermented fish) that we take home and fry up crispy.

Grilled coconut cakesGrilled coconut cakes

The next section has lots of dried fruits, snacks of various kinds, coconuts of various kinds, including some species that are considered medicinal, and  also a stall with lots (and I do mean LOTS) of stewed ducks. One year we came here around New Year’s and even with the huge pots they have, there were very few ducks left.

At the end of this section there’s the path to the restaurant we like – when we’ve gone there’s always been a young woman out front frying up the fish cakes.

I won’t say much more: I’ll let some photographs from our visits here give some sense of the color and variety, although there’s so much more to see than I can include here.The best thing to do is to go there yourself. Make sure you’re hungry because you will definitely be tempted! Be sure to click on the pictures to see a larger version.

Ready-to-eat food

Ready-to-eat food

More delicious cooked food

More delicious cooked food

These pictures show some of the delectable already-cooked food available at Don Wai. You never really need to cook in Thailand – there’s always something delicious available.

Crabs

Crabs

Fish Dish

Fish Dish

Seafood is one of the highlights of the market. On the left are some very fresh crabs. The left picture is of a ready-to-eat fish called tom khem.

Chilli Sauces

Chilli Sauces

Young Coconut

Young Coconut

There’s a well-kept secret in Thai cooking – nahm prik; on the left is a woman selling these pre-made chilli pastes (both wet and dry) that can transform simple ingredients into a one-dish meal. And no Thai market is complete without young coconut, a refreshing drink at all times.

Restaurant Sign

Restaurant Sign

Making fish cakes

Making fish cakes

Whenever we visit Don Wai market we eat duck noodles at this riverside restaurant. You’ll recognize it by the sign (it’s to the right, riverside, as you stroll the aisles) and also by the huge wok out front, usually with someone frying up delicious fish cakes.

Duck Noodles

Duck Noodles

A plate of fish cakes

A plate of fish cakes

These photos show what we often have for lunch at the riverside restaurant.

Sweets

Sweets

There are a wide variety of sweets (kanom wahn) available at Don Wai, as at all Thai markets. (See Michael’s blog on Thai sweet snacks.) They range from Thai coconut treats to Chinese sweets such as these.


Readers of this blog know that we love to visit markets in Thailand. We’ve blogged already on two of our favorites:


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2010

Faux Thai Recipes

Michael Babcock, Sunday, November 15th, 2009

One of the things I like to do is to collect recipes that I think of as “faux Thai.” They are called Thai but when I read them, it is unclear what it is that actually makes them Thai. In my opinion, they should not be labelled as Thai.

Here are my credentials: I’ve known Kasma since 1991 and we’ve been married since 1994. In that time I’ve taken many of her Thai cooking classes, shared countless Thai meals with her both in this country and in Thailand, where I’ve gone on 14 different occasions. I’ve had the great benefit of living and eating with a master Thai chef with a gift for teaching.

It is unavoidable to realize that food is an important part of Thai culture. In some ways, Thailand is like an open-air food market; there seems to be food everywhere. Their cuisine is complex involves many different ingredients, many of which are shared in common with other Southeast Asian cuisines. When I think of Thai food I think of the burst of flavors that explode in my mouth when I eat a good Thai meal: all of the various flavor groups are stimulated and the taste buds light up in the mouth. If I had to characterize Thai food in a few words I probably use flavorful, complex, bright, fresh.

In a faux Thai recipe, there often is the addition of one or two ingredients that are also used in Thai cooking. Never mind that nearly any ingredient found in Thai cuisine is found in other Southeast Asian cuisines as well!

Unfortunately, the most popular “Thai ingredient” in the minds of many people seems to be peanuts. Peanuts originally come from the Americas, from Brazil. They travelled to Africa, then to North America and then to the rest of the world. Peanut sauce originated in Indonesia. They are not used very often in Thai food.

Adding peanuts to a dish does not make it Thai. An even greater mistake is to use peanut butter and call it Thai. Peanut butter is American; you add peanut butter to a dish, you should call it American, not Thai. Thais always start with fresh roasted peanuts, which, when ground, will taste lighter and blend better with the other flavors. (See Kasma’s article Peanuts & Thai Cuisine.)

Now I’m not against fusion food. After all, Thai is pretty much the ultimate fusion food: they’ve incorporated so many ingredients into their cuisine while not losing their own flavors. One example would be the spicy, hot red chillies that so many associate with Thai cuisine; they were introduced by the Portuguese. The Thai’s, however, didn’t then go call a dish “Portuguese” because they added red chillies – they incorporated them into their own cuisine.

In 1996 Kasma gave a talk at a conference called “Pacific Influences on the 21st Century Table.” Here’s one thing she said:

A good chef should also know, too, that ingredients by themselves do not make a cuisine. It is the way of cooking that produces the unique flavor combinations that characterize the cuisine, be it French or Italian, Indian or Thai. Thai cuisine is a unique style of cooking that makes use of a wide range of ingredients, combining them in a way that produces flavor harmonies. A lot of these things are wildly conflicting and contrasting, chaotic flavors, these sharp, pungent flavors, and the Thai creativity is how to pull them together and create flavor harmonies that reflect the taste preferences of the people of our country, the people of Thailand. That’s what makes the food Thai.

I think that we should remember that the word Thai is the name of a people, and a very proud people. Personally, I think that we should be very careful about what we label as Thai and to err on the side of caution.


Without further ado, here are a few examples of what I call faux thai.

One of the best examples of faux Thai is a dish called “Thai Crockpot Chicken.” Although there are many variations out there, the first one I came across had these ingredients: skinless chicken thighs, salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger root, white pepper, chopped roasted peanuts. Salsa? Nothing remotely Thai about this recipe. Peanut butter is in most of the recipes, although it seems equally divided about whether creamy or crunchy is best; many other variations use salsa (hmm, I could have sworn that was Mexican) while one recipe uses Sambal Oelek, which is (of course) Indonesian. No one seems to have thought of using Sriracha sauce, which has the advantage of having originated in Thailand; perhaps they think it’s Vietnamese since the best known brand is manufactured by a Vietnamese. Regardless of the variation, every one of these recipes I looked at (and even with Sriracha sauce) could be served to a Thai person and he or she would never guess that they were allegedly eating “Thai food.”

One of the things that mystifies me about many faux Thai recipes is the inclusion of ingredients that are not remotely Thai; in fact, their inclusion means that pretty much by definition the dish can not be Thai (I would include peanut butter here). Kraft Foods is a company that has pretty much mastered the art of using non-Thai ingredients in a dish that they call “Thai.” Here are some of the ingredients found in their 20 so-called “Thai Dishes”: A-1 Thick & Hearty Steak Sauce, zesty, Italian dressing, Kraft Light Catalina Dressing, Asian Sesame Dressing, cream cheese (??), teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, mayonnaise, coleslaw dressing. In the words of Dave Barry, “I am not making this up.”

I once sent an email to Kraft asking what is it that made their “Thai Pepper Salad” Thai. The ingredients are grilled boneless beef steak, cooked rice, “1 small red pepper,” carrots, Miracle Whip dressing (it really does boggle the mind), soy sauce and Bull’s-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce.”

The recipe is called Thai Pepper Beef simply because we have tried to incorporate some of the aspects of Thai cooking into it.

Bordering on the ocean, Thai food generally includes a lot of fish. However, beef and pork are the main meats used. Rice is also widely used in Thai cooking. In addition, there is a wide array of stir-fry, spices and herbs used in Thai cooking.

We have tried to incorporate a few of these ideas into the recipe you are asking about.

Thank you for contacting us with your question.

In my opinion, the fact Thai people eat beef and rice does not make a recipe that includes those ingredients Thai.

Presumably including the word “Thai” in a recipe is good marketing for them.

What is discouraging is that people will make and eat these dishes and think that they like “Thai” food. They will end up being like the guy who went on one of Kasma’s trips in the early years; he complained that the food in Thailand was not what he ate at restaurants in Berkeley.

I’ll provide just one more example, one that a friend recently sent to me. It is Thai-Style Pork Stew. In addition to the ubiquitous peanut butter (creamy!), there’s pork, red bell pepper, teriyaki sauce, vinegar, crushed red pepper, cloves, basmati rice, green onions, peanuts and lime wedges. Just one thought here: Thailand has one of the tastiest rices in the world in jasmine rice; basmati rice comes from, well, India. Sigh.

[I’ve not added any images to this post. I thought about adding some but don’t want people to get confused about whether or not they are faux Thai.]


Here’s another good post on this topic: The green curry paste that got me seeing red! at the blog Chez Pim.


If you want to learn more about Thai cuisine, you could do worse than starting with some of  Kasma’s articles on Thai cuisine. Here are two to get you started:


Written by Michael Babcock, November 2009.

Aw Taw Kaw (Or Tor Kor) Market in Bangkok

Michael Babcock, Sunday, September 13th, 2009

For many years, one of our favorite markets in Bangkok has been the Or Or Tor Kor (pronounced “Aw Taw Kaw”) market that is out by Chatuchak market (the weekend market, sometimes called “J.J. Market”). If it were translatable to English, it would be the “ATK Market” because aw, taw & kaw are Thai alphabet letters. It’s usually transliterated from Thai to English as Talaat Or Tor Kor; an alternate transliteration is Dtalaat Aw Taw Kaw.

Front Aisle at Aw Taw Kaw

Front Aisle at Aw Taw Kaw

(Note: you may want to read our article A Note on Thai Spelling & Pronunciation. In many instances, such as this one, the official Thai transliteration – Or Tor Kor – will lead to wrong pronunciation by westerners. Although Aw Taw Kaw is more phonetically correct, you’ll probably have more luck finding information on it using the official spelling of Or Tor Kor. I’m using both interchangeably in this blog.)

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

You can get there via the MRT subway – get off at the Kamphaengpetch Road station. If you’re going by cab, make sure they take you to the correct Aw Taw Kaw – there’s also one out on Sukhumvit Soi 105 (Soi La Salle) that we’ve heard is not as interesting.

Prepared food at Or Tor Kor

Prepared food at Or Tor Kor

As Thai markets go, it’s a little more upscale. By American standards, it’s still a great bargain compared to what we have here in the states. It’s actually housed indoors, under a large roof (with open walls) and is very clean and somewhat orderly. I say somewhat orderly, because it’s a very popular market with Thais and it can get very crowded, particularly on weekends. Kasma says that it’s a place that many Thai movie stars like to shop and that you can sometimes see them going through, fashionably-dressed with their entourages.

Fruit vendor at Aw Taw Kaw

Fruit vendor at Aw Taw Kaw

What do I like about Or Tor Kor? Perhaps it’s just that every stall seems to have their wares displayed immaculately and in mouth-watering fashion. We always start by walking down the first aisle at the front of the market and it’s a challenge not to buy something at most of the stalls: there are luscious grilled prawns, roasted pork with dipping sauce, shrimp cakes, sticky rice treats in banana leaves, tropical fruit of all varieties, grilled sausage, and on and on. There are stalls with pot after pot of prepared food, some familiar, some not and nearly all appetizing.

Sausage at Or Tor Kor

Sausage at Or Tor Kor

Although Kasma and I go every year, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as I would like. Why? Because after about 5 minutes, we’ve bought so many items that I’ve got so much to carry that I can’t get to my camera easily. This is a dilemma not easily solved because I find that when we buy something from a vendor, it’s more of an even exchange; and they are generally happier to have their picture taken if you’ve made a purchase, as well. As with the other markets we visit, Kasma often brings pictures that we’ve taken the previous visit to give to the vendors: their astonishment that someone would do this and their happiness to receive the pictures is ample reward for our efforts.

Crabs at Aw Taw Kaw

Crabs at Aw Taw Kaw

One excellent reason to visit Or Tor Kor is to try the Durian. Or Tor Kor vendors tend to get top-of-the-line fruit of all varieties and durians are no different. I’ve already posted a couple Wednesday Photos about durian at Or Tor Kor that will guide you in your tasting. See

Food area at back of Aw Taw Kaw

Food area at back of Aw Taw Kaw

In addition to the mouth-watering prepared food that makes grazing down the aisles so irresistible, Or Tor Kor also offers basic ingredients of all kinds from vegetables and herbs to fresh, fresh seafood of all kinds, meats, any sauce you might need to cook a Thai meal, mounds of fresh curry pastes and (in the very back), rice of all varieties. The fruit can be fairly pricey; but if you are wanting to get a fruit out-of-season, it’s either pay a bit more or don’t get to taste it. Everything is top of the line.

Where we get Basil Duck

Where we get Basil Duck

We always plan our visit to include lunch time. There’s a section in the back with many stands that cook food to order (assuming you aren’t too stuffed from all the good things you’ve grazed on). We’ve already written about the stand that sells delicious pad Thai and mussel omelets (Pad Thai at Aw Taw Kaw Market). My other favorite dish is called (in Thai) Pad Gkaprao Bped – Basil Duck; it’s your basic stir-fried with basil recipe, such as Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken (Gkai Pad Gkaprao), made with roast duck and served (of course) over rice. I’ve included a picture of the stall that sells this so you can give it a try.

For drinks, look for one of the stalls that have the plastic bottles filled with many colorful-liquids; particularly good is the slightly yellow passion fruit juice, but the fresh-squeezed orange juice and the young coconut are really good as well.

Look for these colored bottles for good things to drink

Good things to drink

Next time you’re in Bangkok plan a visit to Aw Taw Kaw. It’s well worth the visit. As you wander the aisles you may wish you had your own kitchen, the fresh ingredients look so good, but all the prepared food will compensate you many-fold.


For more pictures of Or Tor Kor (and other markets), check out our markets pictures. There’s another good blog entry at She Simmers – Or Tor Kor Market. There’s also some photos on this Travellerspoint blog.

Grilled chicken at Aw Taw Kaw

Grilled chicken at Aw Taw Kaw


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2009.

Favorite Bangkok Restaurants

Michael Babcock, Saturday, June 6th, 2009

There are some very good Thai restaurants in Bangkok, as you might expect. Here are some of our favorites.

Roasted Eggplant Salad at My Choice

Roasted Eggplant Salad at My Choice

Kasma was once asked: “Do you have any suggestions for good eating places in Thailand? What do you think about the Baab Khanitha, Blue Elephant, Banjarong or Bussaracum restaurants?”  Kasma replied that she’s not very enthusiastic about any of those. They are basically upscale, Royal Cuisine type places that cater largely to tourists. She ate at a similar type of restaurant last year because her driver said he dropped a lot of people off there and it was terrible. These sorts of restaurants that cater to tourists and are given lots of coverage in the guidebooks are the ones she tends to avoid. She prefers the more modest places with good food. Many are holes in the wall where you need to be able to speak or read Thai to get good food. Here are a few of Kasma’s favorites.

My Choice

My Choice Chicken Curry

My Choice Southern Chicken Curry

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

One of our favorite restaurants in Bangkok is “My Choice” on Sukhumvit Soi 36 a fair ways into the Soi from Sukhumvit Road. Every group that Kasma leads to Thailand eats here at least once. It is not a “pretty” restaurant but we’ve never had an even merely good dish there – everything is great. The Southern Style Curry, Roasted Eggplant Salad, Duck with Greens, Bitter Melon Salad, and on and on and on. Terrific food. Address is: 19 Sukhumvit Soi 36 (Soi Napasap). Telephone: 02-258-6174. We have an blog on My Choice that includes numerous pictures of its surroundings and appetizing

A. Mallika

Ostrich <em>Pad Chah</em&gt at A. Mallika

Ostrich Pad Chah at A. Mallika

There are two restaurants run by the same company with the name Mallika. Our favorite, and where Kasma always takes her trips to Thailand is actually called A. Mallika. It is a large indoor and outdoor restaurant in the outskirts of town on one of the new highways where many large garden restaurants are located. It has a more extensive menu with unusual dishes not seen in any other restaurants; the food is also better and spicier since it caters mainly to Thai families with cars. Get the sour ribs. They also have a peppered ostrich dish that is good, as is the soft shell crab. Wonderful coconut ice cream. It’s address is 13/10 Moo 9, Kaset-Navamin Road, Boong Koom District, Bangkok 10230, Tel. 0-2946-1000. Check out the photos by a former trip member (click on the photos to see a larger version with caption). Also, check out Michael’s 2012 blog on the subject: A Mallika Restaurant in Bangkok.

Ruen Mallika

This is a fairly fancy restaurant, more so than A. Mallika, and a bit of a splurge (though still reasonable by US standards).  It’s found in the Sukhumvit area, not far from the tourist hotels, in a romantic setting in an old teak mansion with a lush garden. It’s more expensive than A. Mallika, catering to upscale Thais and tourists. The address is 189 Sukhumvit 22 Road, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110, Tel: 662 663 3211 2. It is a challenge for taxi drivers to find! Here’s the restaurant’s website — there’s a map you might want to print out to help you get there: www.ruenmallika.com.

Sorndaeng

Soft Shell Crab at A. Mallika

Soft Shell Crab at A. Mallika

One of Bangkok’s oldest Thai restaurants, located not far from the Democracy Monument on Radjadamnoen Blvd. is Sorndaeng (possibly spelled Sorn Dang). It’s upscate, expensive and has a stiff mixture of western colonial and Thai Royal ambience that may make the casual diner feel a little out of place, but the food is excellent and menu extensive. It’s stayed in business as long as it has because of its impeccable service and the high quality of its food.

Taling Pling

Another one we like is Taling Pling, at 60 Pan  (or Pun) Road, Silom – it is on one of the sois just off Silom road – I think it is Soi 20, but may be wrong: it is the Soi that has the Hindu temple at the corner. However, they tend to tone down the food for foreigners, so it’s best to go with a Thai or learn to communicate with the staff that you like really spicy, full-flavored authentic Thai food. One of their specialties is Miang Taling Plingtaling pling is the name of a tart fruit that gives the restaurant its name and is used in many of their dishes when it’s in season. Address: 60 Tanon Pun, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok. Phone: 02 236 4830, 02 234 4872.

You might enjoy seeing Kasma’s Thai food photo sampler. I’ve also written an article on Eating Out In Thailand.


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2009.

Stir-fried Pork with Holy Basil (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Basil Pork

Stir-fried Pork with Holy Basil

Stir-fried Pork with Holy Basil

I’ve borrowed one of Kasma’s photos for this Wednesday’s photo. It shows one of my favorite Thai dishes – Basil Pork (Moo Pad Gkaprao). It’s one of the earliest dishes I learned to cook by myself without a recipe, using Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken Recipe (Gkai Pad Gkaprao).

It’s actually the very first Thai dish I tried to cook by myself after watching Kasma cook it during class. She made it look so easy that I approached the dish with confidence. Then things started sizzling and I realized it was happening a LOT faster than I thought!

Almost anything can be made stir-fried with basil (pad gkaprao). Kasma’s recipe calls for chicken but you can do a straight substitution with pork. You can also adapt it for beef, shrimp, squid, lamb, fish of any kind or anything else you can think of. One of my favorite adaptation uses salmon – I cut the salmon into bite-sized pieces and add it later on in the recipe so that it will still be pink in the middle. When I use salmon I prefer to use Thai basil rather than holy basil – Thai basil tastes a better to me with salmon. If you can’t find the holy basil you can always substitute Thai basil with any of the variations, though I think pork tastes much better with holy basil.

This picture, taken in a restaurant on the way from Mae Hong Son to Pai, shows the dish served with a fried egg; this is fairly common in Thailand.

Basil anything is a common one-dish meal served over rice. A perfect lunch.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.