This is the third in a series of 4 blogs that talks about Kasma Loha-unchit’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. A series of 4 classes, it continued on from where her 4-session Beginning Thai Cooking Series left off. Having introduced students to the basics (including how to harmonize flavors to create Thai tastes), it was an opportunity for students to learn more Thai cooking techniques, ingredients and recipes. I’ll leave these blogs up as a record of what Kasma’s classes were like: she retired from teaching in 2020. I’ll include links to the other 3 blogs at the bottom of the page. This blog is about the third Intermediate Cooking Class.
I’ve already blogged on the first two classes in the series:
Kasma’s classes at their best were very much like a group of friends coming together to cook. By the 3rd Intermediate Class, people were getting to know each other and were more comfortable together. By this class they had gotten used to the class format of breaking into groups and taking a recipe from start to finish. If they weren’t hooked on Thai food before this class (most people were), this class was bound to do so!
(Click images to see larger version.)
This class also mirrored what would happen in most advanced classes. One of the recipes was typically a snack (in this class it’s Miang Kam – Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits) and another recipe was a Thai dessert. I know no place in America other than by going through all of Kasma’s classes where you could get such a complete introduction to various Thai foods and desserts in particular. The food in this class was also trending to spicier than before.
One of the strengths of Kasma’s classes was 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 used 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 introduced fresh water chestnut, used in the Tapioca Pudding. Most students had only tasted canned water chestnuts: the fresh one is fresher, crunchier with a natural sweetness.
In the Intermediate and then Advanced classes, Kasma showed how the same ingredients can be combined in a multitude of ways to make different dishes. In this class, the students learned how to use the mortar & pestle to make a curry paste (Panaeng Curry) from scratch. They learned 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 got to learn Thai dishes that virtually can not be found elsewhere in this country; some classes focused 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 got to sample a large number of that other 95%.
Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #3
Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits)
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.)
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 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 into her or his 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. Check out Kasma’s recipe for Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits – Miang Kam.
Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua)
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 went 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)
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)
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.
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Here are the other Intermediate Class Blogs:
- Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #1
- Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #2
- Intermediate Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #4
And here are the blogs on Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series:
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #1
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #2
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #3
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #4
Written by Michael Babcock, June 2013 & May 2020