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Beginning Thai Cooking With Kasma, Class #4

Michael Babcock, Saturday, September 15th, 2012

This blog is about class #4 in a series of 4 evening classes previously taught by Kasma Loha-unchit. This final class focused on noodles and taught that American favorite – Pad Thai. In the class, Kasma, who taught for 34+ years before retiring in 2020, introduced 3 of the many varieties of noodles used in Thailand.

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

(Click images to see larger version.)

Thai Snack

Mochi, a snack

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

Rice Noodles

Wide rice noodles

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

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

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

Tianjin Vegetables

Tianjin vegetables

Roasting Chillies

Roasting chillies

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

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

Making Thai Coffee

Making Thai coffee & tea

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

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

Making Rad Nah

Making Rad Nah

Kasma Stir-fries

Kasma cooks Pad Thai

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

Beginning Thai Series Class #4 Menu

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

Rad Nah

Rad Nah Noodles

Balancing Flavors

Balancing flavors

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

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

Garlic Noodles

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles 2

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

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

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

Pad Thai

Pad Thai Noodles

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

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

Pad Thai

Serving of Pad Thai

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

Check out:

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

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


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012 & May 2020