Home   Blog   Classes   Trips   More   back

Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Salted Mackerel – Pla Kem

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Among highly salted fish, my personal favorite is salted mackerel – pla kem. If you like preserved anchovies, you will most likely fall for salted mackerel, too.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Salted Mackerel 1

Vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Salted Mackerel 2

More vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Look for narrow oval steaks of salted king mackerel either vacuum-packed in plastic and either frozen or in a refrigerator, or stuffed in glass jars covered with oil. Pan-fry in a small amount of oil for a couple of minutes on both sides until well-browned and flaky. Drain from oil and sprinkle with thinly sliced shallots, thin rounds of Thai chillies and fresh lime juice. Because it is very salty, only a small bit of the mackerel is mixed and eaten with plain steamed rice. My mother and I share a fondness for salted mackerel and just a tiny piece can help us polish up a big pot of rice, feeling very satisfied!

Salted Mackerel

Salted mackerel

Salted mackerel is also used as a flavoring ingredient, such as in the Chinese steamed chopped pork with salted fish. Use it as you would salted anchovies. It makes a particularly tasty flavoring for stir-fried Asian broccoli, or broccoli rabe (see recipe below). Flake the flesh of pan-fried salted mackerel and toss in with the greens. Instead of salted mackerel, small pieces of fried, dried salted mudfish may also be used.

When working with any kind of dried and salted fish, beware of the strong fishy odors likely to be released during cooking, especially frying. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the kitchen to disperse the lingering fumes.


Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)
Recipe by Kasma Loha-unchit

Prepared Asian Broccoli

Prepared Asian broccoli and garlic

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Asian or Chinese broccoli (ka-nah)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 small piece (about 2 oz.) salted mackerel (pla kem)
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tbs. Thai oyster sauce
  • 2-3 tsp. fish sauce (nam pla), to taste

Method

Starting from the stem-end, cut the Asian broccoli at a very sharp slanted angle 1/2 inch apart to make pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. Peel the bottom of the larger, more fibrous stems before cutting. For pieces with leaves attached, cut the leaves into 2-inch segments. Do not make it a point to detach the leaves from the stems; there should be pieces of stem with some leaf attached. Keep the pieces from the bottom half of the stems separate from the more leafy upper half.

Frying Mackerel

Frying salted mackerel in oil

Fried Salted Mackerel

Fried salted mackerel

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Fry the salted mackerel in the oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until well-browned. Remove from wok.

Stir-Frying

Stir-frying the Asian broccoli

Asian Broccoli Cooking

Continuing to stir-fry

Increase heat to high and swirl in the remaining oil. When it is smoking hot, add the chopped garlic, stir for 10-15 seconds, then toss in the bottom stem pieces. Stir-fry half to one minute before adding the leafy pieces. Continue to stir-fry until the leaves have mostly wilted. Sprinkle with oyster sauce and 1 tsp. of fish sauce, stir and mix well.

Broken Salted Mackerel

Salted mackerel in chunks

Adding Salted Mackerel

Adding salted mackerel to the stir-fry

Break the mackerel into small chunks and toss in with the vegetable.

Stir-fry a little while longer until the broccoli is tender, but still crisp, and a vibrant green color. Taste and add more fish sauce as needed to the desired saltiness. Stir well and transfer to a serving dish.

Serves 6 with rice and other dishes in a shared family-style meal.

Finished Dish

Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel

Close-up of Dish

The finished dish, up close

Notes and Pointers:

A very nutritious bitter green vegetable readily available from most Oriental produce markets, Asian or Chinese broccoli has insignificant flower buds and is prized for its deep green leaves and firm, crisp stems.

Select a bunch with small tender stems. If the stems are large, the bottom half may need to be peeled to remove the tough fibers. Cutting the stems at a very sharp slanted angle helps break up the fibers that run the length of the stalks, giving them a more tender texture. The sauce can also penetrate the vegetable better through the longer cut that exposes the interior of the stems.


Slideshow on Salted Mackerel

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Salted Mackerel 1
Salted Mackerel 2
Salted Mackerel
Prepared Asian Broccoli
Frying Mackerel
Fried Salted Mackerel
Stir-Frying
Asian Broccoli Cooking
Broken Salted Mackerel
Adding Salted Mackerel
Finished Dish
Close-up of Dish

Salted mackerel in a vacuum-pack, one variety

More vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Salted mackerel, removed from the package

Asian broccoli, cut at a slanted angle, plus chopped garlic

Frying salted mackerel in peanut oil until brown

Fried salted mackerel, browned and ready for the next step

Stir-frying the Asian broccoli and garlic

Continuing to stir-fry the Asian broccoli and garlic

The salted mackerel is broken into small chunks

Adding the chunks of salted mackerel to the stir-fry

Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)

A close up of Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)

Salted Mackerel 1 thumbnail
Salted Mackerel 2 thumbnail
Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Prepared Asian Broccoli thumbnail
Frying Mackerel thumbnail
Fried Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Stir-Frying thumbnail
Asian Broccoli Cooking thumbnail
Broken Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Adding Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Finished Dish thumbnail
Close-up of Dish thumbnail

Note: This blog originally appeared on pages 42 to 43 of Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. All text is Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit.

All photographs are Copyright © 2011 & 2013 Kasma Loha-unchit


Written By Kasma Loha-unchit, 2000

Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Of all the versions of the Thai dish Pad Kaprao (something stir-fried with Basil), my favorite is Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao. It’s one of the dishes I cook the most for myself (and Kasma) at home. People often think of Thai food as being a lot of work: well, this dish is relatively easy, especially considering how very delicious it is.

Basil Pork

Basil Pork

As mentioned in my blog on Basil Salmon, almost anything can be pad kaprao – stir-fried (pad) with holy basil (kaprao). You can make it with shrimp, chicken, fish, duck, squid – almost anything you can think of.

Ground pork seems to blend particularly well with the ingredients of the dish – the holy basil, fish sauce, garlic, black soy sauce and chillies. Often in Thailand you find this as a one-dish meal basil pork served with a Thai-style fried egg (fried in lots of oil until it’s crispy on the edges) served directly over rice.

Click on photos to see a larger image.

Basil Pork Ingredients

Ingredients for Basil Pork

I first took Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series in 1992. I had never cooked Thai food before or used a wok. One of the recipes in the second (of 4) classes in the series is Basil Chicken. When Kasma was cooking it and explaining what she was doing, it seemed so very easy. The first time I cooked it for myself at home, though, things sure happened fast! After I had cooked it a half-dozen times or so, it felt just as leisurely and easy a process as Kasma had made it look. (See my article on Learning to Cook Thai.)

The way I cook the dish is a variaton on Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Kaprao) recipe. Her recipe calls for three ingredients that I leave out: shallots, kaffir lime leaves (optional) and white pepper, though I’ll sometimes put in the pepper.

Stir-frying Garlic & Chillies

Stir-frying garlic & chillies

It’s really very simple to cook:

  1. Heat oil (I prefer lard) in a wok until it smokes.
  2. Add chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds, add in the Thai chillies (in thin rounds)
  3. After a short time, add in the ground pork
  4. When the pork has partially browned, season with black-soy sauce & fish sauce, to taste
  5. When the pork is nearly done, add in the holy basil and cook until wilted

You can check Kasma’s Basil Chicken recipe to get an idea of quantities.

Adding Pork

Then add pork

This is one dish that I like very, very hot. She calls for 12-20 Thai chillies (prik kee noo) in thin rounds for a pound of meat: I’ll add up to 25 so that the dish will sizzle in the mouth. I’ll also add more holy basil leaves – I don’t always measure, I usually add an entire bunch. It’s hard to imagine this dish with too much holy basil.

I suggest you give it a try. For me, it’s one of those dishes that I get to craving and just havo to make. Do serve over rice – they really compliment each other. And do make sure you use holy basil rather than Thai basil – it makes a big difference n this dish.

Holy Basil

Then add holy basil

Basil Pork in Wok

Holy basil is wilted


Check out Kasma’s Thai recipes for more delicious dishes.


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2012.

The Universal Vegetable Recipe

Michael Babcock, Monday, June 13th, 2011

One of Kasma’s recipes is what I think of as “The Universal Vegetable Recipe.” It can be used for nearly any vegetable of your choice and come out delicious. Let’s call it “Oyster Sauce Vegetables” because the most important ingredient is the oyster sauce. The important thing to remember is that you need a really good oyster sauce and a really good fish sauce; and the fresher the vegetables, the better!

Dragonfly Oyster Sauces

Premium & Super Premium Oyster Sauce

There’s only one brand of oyster sauce that Kasma recommends and it is the Dragonfly brand. We have no affiliation at all with this brand. We just like it. Dragonfly makes three different kinds: 1) Dragonfly Oyster Sauce; 2) Dragonfly Premium Flavored Oyster Sauce; and 3) Dragonfly Super Premium Flavored Oyster Sauce. We like the product for two reasons: 1) It has no additives or preservatives; 2) It is the best tasting brand we’ve found.

Click on photos to see a larger image.

Oyster Sauce Snap Peas

Oyster Sauce Snap Peas

A few years ago nearly all the Thai food manufacturers began adding preservatives and other additives to their products, which tasted and lasted just fine without them. Suddenly our Roasted Chili paste (nam prik pao) had food coloring and msg for no good reason – it was fine before. Our preferred oyster sauce suddenly had sodium benzoate. It was at that point that we decided to try the Dragonfly brand when we saw it in one of the local markets and it had no additives. The ingredients were (and are) oyster extract, sugar, soy sauce, salt and corn starch.

Initially we used the plain Dragonfly Oyster Sauce. Then we decided that we should try the Super Premium Flavored Oyster Sauce, though we had no intention of using it because it was more expensive. After we used it once we were sold – it’s the oyster sauce we recommend.

If you can’t use the Dragonfly brand, use the other Thai brand that’s readily available – Mae Krua. It, at least, doesn’t have msg. I don’t like the Chinese brands as well; they taste sweeter and less flavorful to me and most of them contain MSG.

For fish sauce, Kasma’s preferred brands are Golden Boy Fish sauce and Tra Chang. You can check out pictures of these fish sauces and information on Kasma’s other favorite brands on her favorite brands page.

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

This recipe comes from Kasma, of course. She teaches a version of it in the second class of her beginning Thai cooking series as Stir-fried Broccoli with Thai Oyster Sauce (Broccoli Pad Nam Man Hoi). Nam man hoi is Thai for oyster sauce.

By the way, this blog is my interpretation of Kasma’s recipe. All credit goes to her. Any shortcomings in this blog are mine alone.

First I’ll give the basic, 5-ingredient recipe (a 6th is optional) followed by a brief slide-show of the dish being cooked. Continue scrolling down to see the recipe with variations (adding ground pork/chicken, shrimp or mushrooms) with its own slideshow.


Universal Vegetable Recipe – The Short Version

Ingredients

  • Oil or fat of your choice; we recommend duck fat or lard
  • Garlic, chopped, as much as you like
  • Vegetable of your choice, as much as you like, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • Oyster sauce, to taste (Dragonfly Brand Super Premium Flavored brand is best)
  • Fish sauce, to taste (we recommend Golden Boy or Tra Chang brands)
  • Ground white pepper is optional

The Recipe

Heat wok until smoking hot, add oil/fat (let melt, if fat), add chopped garlic, stir briefly, add vegetable, cook for awhile, stirring occasionally, then add oyster sauce & fish sauce to taste; if necessary (to prevent burning) add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water; cook to desire degree of doneness. If desired, sprinkle in some ground white pepper at the end.

Notes

Oyster Sauce Cauliflower

Oyster Sauce Cauliflower

If you feel you must, you can use Kasma’s recipe Stir-fried Asparagus, Oyster Mushrooms and Shrimp in Oyster Sauce Recipe – Naw-mai Farang Pad Nam Man Hoi to get an idea of how much of each ingredient to use; or look at Stir-fried Chive Flower Buds with Shrimp and Oyster Mushrooms (Pad Dawk Goochai Gkoong Hed Hoi Nahnglom).

I recommend duck fat for stir-frying. It adds a very delicious flavor. Chicken fat or goose fat would work. Also lard. If you can’t get those, I’d recommend peanut oil. One reason I like duck fat is because if I use too much, I really don’t mind because it tastes so good without tasting greasy. The polyunsaturated oils such as soy, canola, corn and sunflower will tend to make it taste very oily if you use too much.

Cooking time can vary greatly depending on the vegetable. For instance, an Asian green such as bok choy or tat choi will cook very quickly – within a couple of minutes. Cauliflower might take up to 10 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the pieces. With the longer cooking vegetables, plan on splashing in a little bit of water if the mixture starts to burn or stick to the wok; you can also cover the wok to help it cook faster. Depending on how much water you put in, you can also add a bit more oyster sauce and fish sauce, to taste (of course).

Oil/Fat: I think most people tend to use a a bit too little fat or oil; be aware of that tendency. If the vegetable starts to stick to the pan or burn in the cooking process, you can splash in a bit of water. Don’t be afraid of the animal fats. They are the best for stir-frying. Remember that all fats and oils are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated fat (the predominant fat in olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats. Lard, for instance, contains a bit more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat and a small amount of polyunsaturated fats. For frying, saturated fats are actually preferred: monounsaturated fats and (especially) polyunsaturated fats tend to oxidize under high heat, causing free radicals that are implicated in aging. (See the article Fatty Acid Peroxidation & Free Radicals by Greg Watson.) For more information on fats and oils, see my previous blog on A “Healthy Diet”.

Oyster Sauce Vegetables

Made with Asian greens and mushrooms

Garlic: With garlic, try using a bit more than looks comfortable to you. Add an extra clove or two. I love lots of garlic. Give it a try.

Vegetable: What do you like? Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, snap peas, sugar peas, tat choi (an Asian vegetable), bok choi, Chinese broccoli (kanah in Thai), asparagus, green beans, chard, kale, collards, mustard greens . . .. Just about anything you like. Be aware that different vegetables have different cooking times. So maybe the first time, you overcook it a little. No problem, just remember what you’ve done: cook it less next time. With some longer-cooking vegetables you may need to add a little bit of water if the vegetables start to stick to the wok or burn – if that happens, just splash in some water. You can always add a bit more oyster sauce and make more of a sauce for the dish.

Oyster Sauce: How much you add will depend on a few things. Which brand are you using and how strong is it; whether you intend to eat “Thai-style” with a lot of rice, in which case you can make the dish more heavily flavored, and; personal taste preference. Taste as you go. Start out by adding a tablespoon or two; stir; taste. Add more if you’d like.

Fish Sauce: Has the same considerations as with oyster sauce, above. How salty do you like it?


Basic Recipe Slide Show

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Recipe Ingredients
Asian Greens
Garlic in Wok
Vegetables Added
Oyster Sauce Added
Stirring the Vegetables
Almost Done
Ready to Eat

These are the basic 5 ingredients for Oyster Sauce Vegetables

Asian greens, ready for stir-frying

Cooking the garlic briefly in heated oil

The vegetables have been added to the garlic & oil

The oyster sauce has been added to the dish

Stirring the oyster sauce into the vegetables

Oyster sauce and fish sauce are thoroughly mixed in

Oyster sauce Asian vegetables, ready to eat!

Recipe Ingredients thumbnail
Asian Greens thumbnail
Garlic in Wok thumbnail
Vegetables Added thumbnail
Oyster Sauce Added thumbnail
Stirring the Vegetables thumbnail
Almost Done thumbnail
Ready to Eat thumbnail

Universal Vegetable Recipe – Variations

Snap Peas & Shrimp

Snap peas, with shrimp and mushrooms

In addition to the basic 5 ingredients you can also add:

  • Ground pork or chicken: Add right after the garlic and cook it pretty much all the way through before adding the vegetables.
  • Shrimp: Add right after the garlic, stir-fry 15-20 seconds, or until the shrimp starts to turn pink, then add the vegetables.
  • Mushrooms: When to add depends on type of mushroom and how well you like them cooked. If you want the mushroom to absorb more oil and garlic flavor, add right after the garlic or after the meat. Otherwise, add them after the vegetables are partially cooked or even at the same time as the vegetables. For longer cooking vegetables, add a bit later.

Recipe with Variations Slide Show

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Note: This recipe uses an Asian green called “tat choi” with oyster mushrooms and ground pork.

Smoking Wok
Stir-frying Garlic
Adding Pork
Stirring the Pork
Cooking Pork
Adding the Mushrooms
Cooking the Dish
More Cooking
Adding the Greens
Stirring Everything Up
Continuing to Cook
Adding Oyster Sauce
Stirring in the Sauce
Continuing to Cook
Adding the Fish Sauce
Almost Complete
Dish Ready to Eat
Oyster Sauce Tat Choi
Oyster Sauce Tat Choi 2

This smoking-hot wok is ready to receive the lard

Adding the garlic to the hot lard

Next the ground pork is added

Next the pork is broken up for cooking

Continuing to cook the ground pork

Next the (oyster) mushrooms are added

Stir-frying the garlic, pork & mushrooms

Here the pork is getting nicely browned, ready for the next step

Here the tat choi (an Asian Green) has just been added

Here Kasma is stirring everything together

Continuing to cook the dish

Here Kasma adds the oyster sauce direct from the bottle

Stirring the oyster sauce so it's evenly distrbuted

Continuing to stir-fry the mixture

Kasma adds the (Golden Boy) fish sauce - to taste.

This dish is pretty much ready to serve

The Oyster Sauce Tat Choi, plated, ready to serve

Here's another view of the dish, ready to serve

One final close-up

Smoking Wok thumbnail
Stir-frying Garlic thumbnail
Adding Pork thumbnail
Stirring the Pork thumbnail
Cooking Pork thumbnail
Adding the Mushrooms thumbnail
Cooking the Dish thumbnail
More Cooking thumbnail
Adding the Greens thumbnail
Stirring Everything Up thumbnail
Continuing to Cook thumbnail
Adding Oyster Sauce thumbnail
Stirring in the Sauce thumbnail
Continuing to Cook thumbnail
Adding the Fish Sauce thumbnail
Almost Complete thumbnail
Dish Ready to Eat thumbnail
Oyster Sauce Tat Choi thumbnail
Oyster Sauce Tat Choi 2 thumbnail


Play with the recipe!

I’ve already written a couple times on cooking and Thai recipes.

Oyster Sauce Vegetables

Asparagus, mushrooms & shrimp

In this case, I’d encourage you play around with quantities and cooking times. The first time you cook the recipe, you might want to use Kasma’s more complicated variation of the recipe on our website as a guide for quantities- Stir-fried Asparagus, Oyster Mushrooms and Shrimp in Oyster Sauce Recipe – Naw-mai Farang Pad Nam Man Hoi. On the other hand, you don’t need it and I encourage you to try what you think might work. Make the recipe your own.


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2011

Green Mango

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Green Mangoes Make Mouth-Watering Salads

Green mangoes are an ingredient most westerners are not familiar with. One day last summer, while on a shopping trip to Asian markets near my home, I walked past two Caucasian women scrutinizing with disbelief a box of green mangoes, sitting next to another displaying perfectly ripe ones. One remarked to the other, “Why in the world would anyone pay $2.99 a pound for these hard green mangoes?” These words stopped me dead on my tracks and I couldn’t help but intrude: “Oh, but you don’t understand. It is a very Southeast Asian thing!”

Two Green Mangos

Two green mangos

Young green mangoes start appearing in early spring at Southeast Asian markets and a small, unpredictable supply trickles in through mid-summer. Whenever I come across a fresh-looking batch, I can’t resist picking up a few of these precious gems to take home.

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

They remind me of childhood days during the early weeks of the mango season, when I eagerly checked under the trees in our backyard daily for freshly fallen ones that the wind, birds or squirrels might have knocked down. These excesses of nature, thinned from the trees to make room for the remaining to grow into fat, luscious fruits, are never allowed to go to waste. Sliced or shredded, they make mouth-watering snacks, relishes and dipping sauces for fish, tasty pickles and wonderful salads

Peeled green mango

Peeled green mango

The best for salads are found early in the season, before the golden ripe fruits hit the market in profusion. At that time, they are most likely to be truly young and immature, with seeds still soft and undeveloped. I pick the smallest, the firmest and the greenest – the peel revealing no hint of ripening red or yellow. Large ones, though green, are close to maturity and lose the delicious sourness that adds character to spicy salads, while those soft to the touch are ripening from too many days in shipment and storage, losing their desirable crisp texture.

A good and easy recipe follows. It is very hot and spicy, though if you do not wish to set your mouth on fire, simply cut down on the number of chillies, or do entirely without. If you are not able to find young green mangoes, this recipe work well also with tart green apples; or try any tart, crisp young fruits, such as peaches and nectarines. I usually add lime juice when substituting with fruits that are not very sour. Sometimes, this goes for some green mangoes, too, when they are lacking in sourness.

Shredding a Green Mango

Shredding a green mango

The recipe is basically an easy way to enjoy my green mangoes by dipping the peeled slices in a sugar, salt and fresh chilli mixture. I pound cut-up small Thai chillies in a mortar, then add sugar and enough salt to make the mixture almost as salty as it is sweet. When entertaining guests unfamiliar with mangoes except in their soft, ripened state, I toss the hot sugar-and-salt dip with the crisp mango slices and serve as a meal opener or ender. Tart apples and very firm nectarines are good this way, too.

With a bit more effort, my green mangoes are shredded and mixed with chillies, sliced shallot, ground dried shrimp, fish sauce, lime juice and a little palm sugar to make a delicious relish to serve with crispy fried fish – one very common and favorite restaurant dish in central and southern Thailand.

Thai rice dish with green mango

Thai rice dish with green mango

One of my cooking students once asked whether I had any idea what her new Southeast Asian neighbors did with the unripe, green plums they liked to pick from her tree. After trying the green mango salads in class, she understood and began to enjoy the fruits from her plum tree earlier in the season than she had in the many years she had lived on her land.

I teach the following recipe in my weekend Series Set F (class 1) as “Sliced Crisp Green Mango with Chilli-Salt Dip.”

See our website for more in Thai recipes.


This recipe is also available on our website – Sliced Tart Crisp Green Mango with Chillies and Salt (with additional notes and pointers).


Sliced Tart Crisp Green Mango with Chillies and Salt – (Mamuang Yam Prik Gkap Gkleua)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups small, thin bite-size slices of crisp green unripe mango
  • 4-6 Thai chillies, cut into thin rounds
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2-3 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 to 1 lime)

The amount of sugar and lime juice to use will depend on how green and sour the mango is. The quantities suggested above is for a firm, crisp green mango that has started to yellow just a little.

Simply toss all the ingredients together well and enjoy!

Serves 3 to 4 as a snack.

Green Mango Salad

Green Mango Salad


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, June 2010.

Green Papaya

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Green, Unripe Papaya Makes Spicy Salad

In Thailand, green papayas are probably eaten more often than ripe papayas.

On the island of Samui in the Gulf of Thailand is a lovely family-run beach resort. Idyllic seaside bungalows are surrounded by some of the most beautiful papaya trees I have ever seen.

Green Papaya

A green papaya

The first time I stayed there, I was so charmed by the unusual stature of these trees with their majestic, deeply cut foliage. Clinging to the trunk of each tree must be at least a dozen large, emerald green fruits, soon to ripen in the tropical heat. I remarked to the owner that he must never need to worry about having enough sweet, luscious papayas to satisfy the steady stream of tourists who come and stay at his resort.

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

Peeled Green Papaya

Peeled green papaya

He chuckled and replied, “I have never seen a single fruit ripen on any of my trees. The papayas I serve my guests I have to order from the mainland. Papayas on this island never have the chance to ripen!”

I knew exactly what he meant. Papayas are more often than not picked by locals while still green to be made into a spicy salad, a favorite food among Thai, as well as Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese people. I wouldn’t be surprised if  more papayas are consumed green and crisp in Southeast Asia than golden orange and soft. A tribute has even been made to this fruit in its unripened form in the film “Scent of Green Papaya,” with a prominent scene showing green papaya being chopped and made into salad.

Shredded Green Papaya

Shredded green papaya

Green papaya has a very mild, almost bland, taste, but it is the medium through which robust flavor ingredients take body and form. It picks up the hot, sour, sweet and salty flavors, giving them a unique crisp and chewy texture unlike that of any other vegetable. When made into salad, you wouldn’t know that it was mild and timid; you remember it only as bold and spicy.

Unripe papayas are readily available in various sizes and shapes during the summer at many Asian markets. Select one that is very firm with shiny green peel suggesting that it is as freshly picked as possible. Even green fruits will eventually ripen and turn soft if allowed to sit around for some time.

Green Papaya Salad Ingredients

Fixings for Green Papaya Salad

There are many ways to make green papaya salads, with varying degrees of hotness, sourness and sweetness. The hottest salads are probably made in northeastern Thailand and Laos where they are eaten with barbecued chicken and sticky rice as a staple food of the populace. There, the salads are made by bruising julienned green papaya with garlic and very hot bird peppers in a large clay mortar with a wooden pestle, then seasoning with lime juice, fish sauce and other flavorings.

Give the green papaya salad recipe a try.

See our website for more Thai recipes and more Thai ingredients.

Green Papaya Salad Set-up

Green Papaya Salad Set-up


This recipe is also available on our website as: Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam).

Green Papaya Salad Recipe (Som Tam)

Ingredients

  • 6-8 large cloves garlic, cut each into 3-4 pieces
  • 8-15 Thai chillies (prik kee noo), to desired hotness – each cut crosswise into 3-4 segments with seeds
  • 1 cup long beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch segments
  • 2 tsp. small dried shrimp
  • 1 small whole salted crab (bpoo kem), cut into 6 pieces – optional
  • 1 Tbs. palm sugar, or to taste
  • Juice of 2-3 limes, to desired sourness
  • 1 medium (about 2 lb. size) very firm, unripe green papaya, peeled and julienned into long strips to yield about 4 cups
  • 2-3 Tbs. fish sauce (nahm bplah), to taste
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbs. chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

If you have an average-size Laos-style baked clay mortar with wooden pestle, you may need to make the salad in two separate batches. With an extra-large carved palm wood mortar and pestle, the salad can be made in a single batch as follows.

Pound the garlic and Thai chillies together until they are pasty. Add the dried shrimp and pound to crack. Follow with the salted crab (if using) and long beans and pound well to bruise.

Add the palm sugar, juice of two of the limes, and fish sauce and stir well. Add the julienned green papaya. Toss well with the seasonings. Then, pounding with one hand and stirring with the other, bruise the green papaya until it picks up all the flavorings and seasonings. Taste and adjust as needed with more fish sauce, lime juice or palm sugar to the desired flavor combination. Ideally, for a Thai, the salad should be very hot and sour with only a light sweetness at the back of the tongue.

Add the tomato pieces at the end, stir and bruise lightly to blend in with the rest of the salad. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with peanuts.

Serves 6 with a side plate of raw vegetables, as desired, in a multi-course family-style meal.

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, May 2010.

Kabocha Squash

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Golden Winter Squash Pairs with Coconut Milk to Make Colorful Sweet Treats

Numerous new varieties of colorful winter squashes are now available in the fall,  but I still favor the Japanese kabocha (which means “little pumpkin”) for my cooking. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, smooth and creamy texture, low water content that does not dilute flavorings in my dishes and none of the stringiness characteristic of many kinds of western pumpkins. Because of these attributes, many of my cooking students have found it to be exquisite for making pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

With kabocha, I don’t have to wait until fall to make my favorite pumpkin dishes. It is available most of the year round, from all kinds of markets, including many chain supermarkets. This is because it is a dry squash that grows easily and stores extremely well, sometimes for up to six months in a cool, well-ventilated room.

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

Cut Open Kabocha Squash

Cut Open Kabocha Squash

Smaller, flatter and more disc-shaped than the common pumpkin carved at Halloween, kabocha squashes average 2-5 pounds in size. They are eaten by Asians at various stages of maturity. Less-mature, deep green ones with light yellow flesh are cooked as vegetables in stir-fried dishes, curries and vegetable soups.(See Kasma’s recipe for Golden Pumpkin Coconut Soup.) As they ripen, the forest-green peel turns a paler grayish green, tinged with splotches of yellow and gold. Inside, the flesh becomes a brilliant shade of orange-gold, much more concentrated with flavor and natural sweetness. At this stage, these golden squashes make a perfect base for all kinds of irresistible and colorful desserts.

Sliced Kabocha Squash

Sliced Kabocha Squash

I am particularly fond of two sweet treats my mother frequently made while I was growing up in Southeast Asia. One recipe (Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk) is given below and the other Sangkaya is found on our recipe page. They are easy to make and delicious, combining the goodness of the “little pumpkins” with the rich flavors of coconut milk. Whenever I come across a beautiful ripe kabocha at the market, I couldn’t resist taking it home to turn into these tasty treats for friends and cooking students. They are delightful in cleaning the palate following a spicy meal.

Select a fully-ripened kabocha with good weight for its size – one splashed with golden hues on a grayish green exterior. But if you are not able to find a ripe one, substitute with any ripe golden winter squash, such as the tasty sweet dumpling, delicalata, kalabasa or buttercup.

See our website for more //www.thai recipes and more //www.thai ingredients. You might also enjoy our post on //www.thai (Sweet) SnacksKanom Wahn.


This recipe is also available on our website as Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk.

Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk Recipe (Gkaeng Buad Fak Tong)

Ingredients

Asian Pumpkin in Coconut Cream

Kabocha in Coconut Milk

  • 3 cups cut ripe kabocha squash
  • 2 cups or one can of unsweetened coconut milk (preferably Mae Ploy brand)
  • 2 Tbs. palm or coconut sugar (or substitute with brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Cut the kabocha squash in half, scoop out the seeds and peel off the greenish skin. Cut into strips about 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk with the two kinds of sugar and salt until well blended. (Salt brings out a rich, caramel flavor from coconut milk.) Bring to a boil, add the squash pieces and cook over low to medium heat until tender (about 7-10 minutes). Serve warm for best flavor.

Serves 6 to 8.


Another (sweet) recipe with coconut milk is Tapioca Black Bean Pudding.