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Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #3

Michael Babcock, Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Kasma Loha-unchit has been teaching Thai cooking in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1985. This blog looks at the third class in her 4-session Intermediate Thai Cooking Series, sequel to the Beginning Thai Series (also 4 classes).

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

Student Stir-Fries

A student stir-fries as Kasma watches

Kasma’s classes at their best are very much like a group of friends coming together to cook. By the 3rd intermediate class, people are getting to know each other and are more comfortable together. By this class they’ve gotten used to the class format of breaking into groups and taking a recipe from start to finish. If they’re not hooked on Thai food before this class (most people are), this class is bound to do so!

(Click images to see larger version.)

This class also mirrors what will happen in most advanced classes. One of the recipes is typically a snack (in this class it’s Miang Kam – Tasty Leaf-wrapped tidbits) and another recipe is a Thai dessert. I know no place in America other than by going through all of Kasma’s classes where you will get such a complete introduction to various Thai foods and desserts in particular. The food in this class is also trending to spicier than before.

Bai Cha Plu

Bai Cha Plu - Wild Pepper Leaf

One of the strengths of Kasma’s classes is 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 uses 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 introduces fresh water chestnut, used in the Tapioca Pudding. Most students have only tasted canned water chestnuts: the fresh one is fresher, crunchier with a natural sweetness.

Chopping Ingredients}

Chopping ingredients for a paste

Prepared Ingredients

Prepared ingredients (paste on right)

In the Intermediate and then Advanced classes, Kasma shows how the same ingredients can be combined in a multitude of ways to make different dishes. In this class, the students learn how to use the mortar & pestle to make a curry paste (Panaeng Curry) from scratch. They learn 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 get to learn Thai dishes that virtually can not be found in this country elsewhere; some classes will focus 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 get to sample a large number of that other 95%.

Fresh Water Chestnuts

Peeling fresh water chestnuts

Stir-frying

Stir-frying can be fun!


Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #2

Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits)

Miang Kam

Miang Kam - Tasty Tidbits

Assembling Miang Kam 1

Assembling Miang Kam 1

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.)

Assembling Miang Kam 2

Assembling Miang Kam 2

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 2

Assembled Tasty Tidbits

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 in his or her 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.

Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua)

Panaeng Beef Curry

Panaeng Beef Curry

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 goes 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)

Stir-frying in Wok

Preparing the dish

Seafood Dish

Spicy Stir-fried Shrimp & Squid

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)

Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding with Water Chestnuts

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.

Roasting Chillies
Roasting Coriander Seeds
Roasted Coriander Seeds
Grinding Spices
Toasten Oven
Shallots & Garlic
Shrimp Paste
Roasting Shrimp Paste
Roasted Shrimp Paste
Smelling Shrimp Paste
Pounding
Making a Paste
Paste with Chillies
Pounded Curry Paste
Cutting Meat
Meat Close-up
Heating Coconut Cream
Adding Paste
Cooking Paste
Cooked Curry Paste
Adding the Meat
Cooking the Meat
Adding Thai Basil
Panaeng Curry Cooking
Panaeng Curry Team
Panaeng Beef Curry
Close-up of Panaeng Curry

Roasting chillies, stove-top

Roasting coriander seeds in a iron skillet

Roasted coriander seeds - Panaeng Curry uses roasted spices

Grinding spices in the "coffee" grinder

Roasting shallots and garlic in a toaster oven

Roasted shallots and garlic, ready for pounding into a paste

Shrimp paste (kapi) is wrapped in a banana leaf

The shrimp paste (kapi) is then roasted over a flame

Roasted shrimp paste (kapi) - ready for pounding

Shrimp paste (kapi) is quite fragrant!

Beginning to make the curry paste with a stone mortar & pestle

The curry paste is progressing

The curry paste with pounded chillies, almost ready

Pounded Panaeng Curry paste, ready for cooking

Cutting the skirt steak for the Panaeng Curry

Close-up of cutting beef against the grain

Heating coconut cream for frying the curry paste

Adding the curry paste to the coconut cream

Cooking the curry paste in the coconut cream

The curry paste is cooked until it is aromatic

Adding the skirt steak to the curry paste & coconut cream mixture

The beef is lightly cooked in the paste mixture

Thai Basil and slivered kaffir lime leaves are added to the pot

The Thai basil has wilted: almost finished!

The 4 members of the Panaeng Curry team

Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua)

A close up of the Panaeng Curry, ready to eat

Roasting Chillies thumbnail
Roasting Coriander Seeds thumbnail
Roasted Coriander Seeds thumbnail
Grinding Spices thumbnail
Toaster Oven thumbnail
Shallots & Garlic thumbnail
Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Roasting Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Roasted Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Smelling Shrimp Paste thumbnail
Pounding thumbnail
Making a Paste thumbnail
Paste with Chillies thumbnail
Pounded Curry Paste thumbnail
Cutting Meat thumbnail
Meat Close-up thumbnail
Heating Coconut Cream thumbnail
Adding Paste thumbnail
Cooking Paste thumbnail
Cooked Curry Paste  thumbnail
Adding the Meat thumbnail
Cooking the Meat thumbnail
Adding Thai Basil thumbnail
Panaeng Curry Cooking thumbnail
Panaeng Curry Team thumbnail
Panaeng Beef Curry thumbnail
Close-up of Panaeng Curry thumbnail

Don’t miss:

Here is 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, June 2013

Beginning Thai Cooking With Kasma, Class #3

Michael Babcock, Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Kasma Loha-unchit teaches a beginning series of 4 Thai cooking classes several times a year. This is my blog on the third of those four classes, exploring how the classes take place and what delicious Thai dishes are served. Kasma has been teaching Thai cooking to U.S. students since 1985.

I’ve also blogged on the other classes in the series:

Kasma’s initial series of 4 classes is designed as a sequence of classes to introduce the basics of Thai cooking. This, the third class, continues on from the first two, including more basic information about Thai ingredients and cooking techniques while introducing 5 new recipes.

Learning more about rice is an important part of the third class.

Soaking Brown Rice

Soaking brown rice

Sticky Rice Steamer

Sticky rice steamer

(Click images to see larger version.)

Having already covered cooking of jasmine rice (ข้าวหอมมะลิ – kao hom mali) in the first sessions, in class #3 Kasma introduces brown jasmine rice. Over the past few years, in part because of the support of the Royal Family, whole grain rice has been growing in popularity in Thailand. (See Kasma’s Blog Whole Grain Rice Makes a Comeback in Thailand.) To bring out maximum nutrition, whole-grain rice should be soaked for at least 22 hours prior to cooking. (For more details see Kasma’s blog How to Cook Brown Rice for Maximum Nutrition.) She also teaches how to cook white sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียว – Kao Niow) using the traditional bamboo basket that is found throughout northeastern Thailand (อีสาน – Isan), where, traditionally, it is the daily rice eaten with all meals. (See Kasma’s recipe for Steamed White Sticky Rice (ข้าวเหนียวนึ่ง – Kao Niow Neung.)

Cleaning Squid

Cleaning squid

Another thing that Kasma teaches in this class is how to clean whole squid; everyone gets an opportunity to clean a couple. It’s one thing I appreciate about the classes: Kasma teaches you to use ingredients (such as shrimp or squid) as you would purchase them in any Asian market, where they are more likely to be sold whole and not cleaned. It’s not difficult to do and the reward is that a whole squid, frozen or not, is likely to be more fresh than one that has been pre-cleaned.

Students Prepping Food

Students prepping food

Cutting Lemon Grass

Cutting lemon grass

As always, the students do all of the prep work themselves; the chopping, mincing and dicing, cleaning the squid and more. We’ve had students who have taken cooking classes in Thailand who tell us that typically, all of the ingredients are already prepped for them. Kasma has the students do the prep because when they cook at home, they’ll have to do it themselves. She teaches how to cook all of these dishes from start to finish by yourself.

Kasma Cooks

Kasma frying shrimp

Cooking Long beans

Cooking long beans

Final assembly and cooking of the dishes in the beginning series is done by Kasma and by the students. The picture to the left shows Kasma deep frying the Garlic Peppered Shrimp. This will be the first time that many students have deep fried anything at all, so she starts out by demonstrating what to do; after her initial demo, she’ll ask for volunteers and students will finish off the cooking. She’s already gone over stir-frying in previous sessions, so she has one of the students cook the Stir-Fried Long Beans with Roasted Chilli Sauce and Thai Basil. All of the students get to watch the final assembly/cooking so that they really do learn to cook every dish in the class and not just the one they have worked on.

Squid Salad

Plating Squid Salad

Meal Time

Students enjoying a feast

After the food is plated and ready to serve, we come to the very best part of class: the feast at the end. What’s best of all is knowing that you can go home and cook everything yourself.

Beginning Thai Series Class #3 Menu

Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Garlic-Peppered Shrimp – กุ้งกระเทียมพริกไทย (Goong Kratiem Prik Thai): Although this is a common item on Thai menus, both in Thailand and here in the U.S., I’ve never had a version quite like Kasma’s. Her recipe uses a lot of garlic (1-2 heads per pound of shrimp) and black pepper to coat the shrimp, which, with the shell still on, is deep-fried until crispy. It makes a crunchy, peppery, garlicky snack that is delicious, indeed. Some students are, at first, reluctant to eat a shrimp with the shell on: they soon find that it has been rendered crispy and that it adds a needed dimension to the dish. They usually come back for seconds. And thirds. And even fourths!

Squid Salad

Squid Salad

Hot and Sour Calamari Salad – ยำปลาหมึก (Yum Pla Meuk): The very first Thai dish I ever ate was a Squid Salad at Siam Cuisine on University Avenue in Berkeley (long out of business); this must have been back in the early 1980s. The salad has lots of fresh herbs (lemon grass, galanga, mint and cilantro) and a hot and sour dressing consisting of chillies, garlic, fish sauce and lime juice, with a bit of sugar to pull all the tastes together. Kasma’s version is as hot as I remember my first attempt but now I can eat spicy. This is a terrific, prototypical Thai salad.

Long Beans

Stir-Fried Long Beans

Stir-Fried Long Beans with Roasted Chilli Sauce and Thai Basil – ถั่วยาวผัดพริกเผา (Tua Yao Pad Prik Pow) : Vegetables is one area where Asian cooking excels. I can’t think of a single Western vegetable dish as interesting and tasty as this one dish. It uses “long beans” – ถั่วยาว (tua yao) – which are somewhat similar to green beans but thinner around – they can be dark green, light green or purple in color. Although they are cooked with garlic (of course), fish sauce and  Thai basil (ใบโหระพา – bai horapa), the defining taste of this dish comes from roasted chili paste – น้ำพริกเผา (nam prik pao). This paste is one of the most commonly used seafood-based pastes in Thai cooking; the roasted flavors give a fragrant backdrop to a paste that is hot and shrimpy as well as sweet and tangy. This is a flavorful, delicious vegetable dish. (Read Kasma’s information on Roasted Chilli Paste – (Nam Prik Pao).)

Sticky Rice & Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango – ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง (Kao Niao Mamuang):  This is perhaps the best known Thai dessert outside of Thailand, though in Thailand it is more of a snack (a kanom – ขนม) that would be eaten by itself at any time of the day. White sticky rice is given a sweet coconut sauce and then served with mangoes. In Thailand, it is also served with durian, in season. (See Michael’s blog on Thong Lo Mangos (and Sticky Rice).)

Kasma’s recipe for this delicious dish can be found here: Coconut-Flavored Sticky Rice with Mangoes (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง – Kao Niow Mamuang).

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

Black Sweet Rice Pudding – ข้าวเหนียวดำ (Kao Niow Dahm): Another sweet sticky rice dessert, topped with toasted coconut and sesame seeds. Some students like this even better than the White Sticky Rice and Mangos. The black sticky rice is a whole grain with a nutty flavor. See Kasma’s recipe Black Sticky Rice Pudding (ข้าวเหนียวดำ Kao Niow Dahm).


Slideshow – Garlic Peppered Shrimp
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Frying Shrimp
Kasma Cooks
Removing Shrimp
Fried Shrimp
Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Deep-frying shrimp for Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Kasma fries shrimp for Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Removing the deep-fried shrimp onto a drainer

Crispy-fried shrimp, removed from the wok

The finished dish: Garlic-Peppered Shrimp - กุ้งกระเทียมพริกไทย (Goong Kratiem Prik Thai)

Frying Shrimp thumbnail
Kasma Cooks thumbnail
Removing Shrimp thumbnail
Fried Shrimp thumbnail
Garlic Peppered Shrimp thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012

The Best Thai Food in America?

Michael Babcock, Saturday, October 15th, 2011

A Most Satisfying Meal!

To find the absolute best Thai meal in America I recommend the Advanced Thai cooking classes of Kasma Loha-unchit in Oakland, California. Here, you will find authentic flavors and tastes as well as Thai dishes that you’ll be unable to find elsewhere once you leave Thailand.

Note: This blog chronicles a day in a weeklong Advanced Thai cooking class that Kasma no longer offers. All of the dishes are taught in her weekend advanced series.


Recently at one of her classes I had a meal that was very nearly a transcendental experience. Here is my blog on that meal.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Plate of Thai Food

A yummy Thai meal

Why is Thai food so popular? I’ve long thought (and read this echoed elsewhere) that Thai food is so good because it contains all of the four major flavor groupings, salty, sour, sweet and spicy hot, sometimes in one dish. (The bitter taste is also found but is less prevalent.) To eat a well-prepared Thai meal is to light up every taste bud on the tongue and palate. The food is also on the light (as opposed to heavy) side so you walk away from the table with a well-gruntled feeling.

We usually have at least one person taking every class because he or she traveled to Thailand, loved the food there and couldn’t find food to match it here in the States: they come to learn how to make those great flavors themselves. Many students tell us that after taking the classes they can no longer eat in Thai restaurants back home: they are disapponted by meals that emphasize the sweet and the rich, with not enough spicy-hot and or sour flavors.

Kasma's Cooking Class

Students preparing Thai food

Kasma’s food from the first Beginning class (and everyone starts with Beginning) is outstanding; the great food is why our Advanced classes are always waiting list only. It’s in the Advanced classes that you get to really explore the variety and depth of Thai food. It’s particularly in the Advanced classes that you get to experience many of the 95% of Thai dishes that Kasma estimates are never found on Stateside Thai restaurant menus. Kasma has 8 Advanced evening series and 4 weeklong Advanced classes. Once you’ve taken all of the classes Kasma offers, you’ll have well over 200 Thai dishes, many seldom found outside of Thailand.

What is my criteria for a great Thai meal? It’s understood that every taste bud will be lit up and dancing. There has to be a variety of dishes: some spicy, some not, different dishes accenting a different flavor or different type of food. Most of all, that I look for is a quality of amazement and regret: amazement comes from taking that first taste of a dish and being delighted at all of the flavors; and regret from the fact that everything is so good, there’s no way to eat as much of it as you’d like.

I’ve had great meals in many resaturants in Thailand, such as Ruen Mai in Krabi or My Choice in Bangkok. The only place I’ve had a great Thai meal in the U.S. has been at home, often at the end of an Advanced cooking class.

The Meal, Weeklong Advanced Set D, Day 2

I could have gladly made a meal of any single dish in the meal. (In the evening classes there are only 4 or 5 dishes.)


Cha-om

Stir-fried Cha-om

Stir-Fried Cha-om with Bean Thread and Eggs  (Cha-om Pad Woon Sen Kai):  This dish was actually served as an appetizer; it can also easily by served as a one-dish meal. This summer Kasma and I have eaten this dish for lunch once or twice a week. Cha-om is part of the acacia family; in this dish the tender leaves are stripped from the stem and then stir-fried with garlic, bean thread noodles and egg and seasoned with fish sauce and white pepper. It has a unique and alluring flavor and with the noodles and egg is a satisfying treat.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class G-3.

To find out more about cha-om, see Kasma’s blog Cha-om – A Delicious and Nutritious Tropical Acacia. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can often find it, especially during the summer months, at Sontepheap Market on International Boulevard in Oakland.


Wilted Green Salad

Wilted Green Salad

Wilted Greens Salad with Coconut-Lime Chilli Sauce, Fried Chinese Sausage, Crisped Garlic and Crisped Shallots (Yam Dtam Leung): Kasma first tasted this salad at the restaurant Bai Fern in Mae Hong Son. As with many of her recipes, she came up with her own version when she returned home. This salad has to be eaten to be believed – there is so much going on in the dish. Although Kasma has tried making it with spinach leaves, to experience it at its best you must have dtam leung greens. In the notes to her recipe for the class, Kasma says: “Dtam leung is a vine that grows readily during the rainy season throughout tropical Southeast Asia. Since its leaves look like ivy and the mature vines bear small gourd-like fruits, its common English name is ‘ivy gourd.'” In this salad, the tender leaves are blanched. We are fortunate to be able to get this vegetable on occasion at Sontepheap Market on International Boulevard in Oakland.

The dish is completed with small pieces of Chinese sausage, which adds a meaty, sweetness to the dish, a small amount of carrots for texture, thin rounds of green onions, shallots and a few peanuts. The sauce, made from fish sauce, lime juice, coconut cream, sugar and chillies, is equally salty and sour with a little background sweetness. It is topped with crisp-fried garlic and crisp-fried shallots.

The dish is a wonder of tastes – at one time you’ll get the sweetness from the sausage, then the sourness takes over with a bit of chilli heat. Different flavors come up: now coconut, now sausage, now the green, now everything’s blended together. It’s a wonder of textures – from the blanched vegetable, to the occasional carrot to the crispy shallots and chillies. I swear, I could have eaten the whole plate by myself! Except, that would have left no room for other equally delicious dishes.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class H-4.


Thai Muslim Goat Curry

Thai Muslim Goat Curry

Thai Muslim Goat Curry (Gkaeng Ped Pae): Goat curry is not your usual Thai dish. Goat, in Thailand, is eaten mainly by the Muslim population to the south. The first time I had goat curry was when we were snorkeling in Krabi province on a long-tail boat. The boat driver’s wife always provided lunch and one year Kasma asked if she could get goat. As it turned out, we had to buy the whole goat but it provided three meals worth of delicious food, including a goat curry.

This recipe makes the curry paste from scratch, pounded in a mortar and pestle, with the many of the usual ingredients: dried red chillies, salt, lemon grass, galanga, krachai (or gkrachai), turmeric, garlic, shallots and kapi (shrimp paste). It uses coconut milk (not all Thai curries do, see Kasma’s blog on Thai Curries – Gkaeng (or Gaeng).) It’s further seasoned with toasted coriander and cumin seeds and in addition to the goat meat includes pea eggplants, providing a bit of the bitter taste.

Kasma uses the goat as they do in Thailand, meat cut with the bone. It makes for a tastier, thicker and healthier curry.

People sometimes complain that goat has a strong taste: in this dish, it is not overpowering and blends in seamlessly with the somewhat spicy curry paste. A delicious dish.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class H-1.


Crispy Fried Catfish

Crispy Fried Catfish

Crispy Fried Catfish Coated with Red Curry Sauce (Pad Ped Bplah Doog Tawd Gkrawp):
This dish actually was in one of the very first advanced classes I took from Kasma back in the early 90’s. Because the evening classes are somewhat different than the weeklong classes, it just worked out that this dish ended up in her 4th advanced weeklong class.

In this dish, the catfish is fried in chunks until it is nice and crispy. Then the curry paste (which has 17 ingredients in it) is fried in a bit of coconut cream (1/2 to 1 cup of cream only for 2 pounds of fish), then thickened, used to just coat the fried catfish pieces and tossed with kaffir lime slivers, some krachai (or gkrachai) and young green peppercorns. There’s really no sauce to speak of – just the coated fish with all of the intense flavors from the curry paste and herbs.

Do click on the picture above to see a larger version.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class B-3.


Stir-Fried Prawns

Stir-Fried Prawns

Stir-Fried Prawns with Hot Garlic-Pepper Sauce (Gkoong Pad Gkratiem Prikthai): A deceptively simple group of ingredients, succulent prawns are mostly cooked, and then finished off in a sauce made from a paste made from garlic and fresh ground white peppercorns, Sriacha chilli sauce, fish sauce, thin soy sauce, vinegar and salt. This dish is made by the combination of flavors, the pungent pepper, the bright garlic and the salty-sour-just-a-bit-sweet sauce. Made right, the combination lights up your entire palate.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class G-4.


Stir-Fried Pork Belly

Stir-Fried Pork Belly

Stir-Fried Pork Belly with Fermented Tofu Sauce and Thai Chillies (Moo Sahm Chan Pad Dtow Hoo Yee): I have saved the best for last. Although we often joke than my list of top 5 Thai dishes has about 20 dishes on it, this is currently at the top of the list.

Probably more of a Chinese dish than Thai, it’s another hard dish to describe unless you’ve tried fermented tofu; in addition, this uses red fermented tofu rather than the more usual plain kind; the red color comes from wine. Fermented tofu is said to be an acquired taste: this was true for me: the first time I was offered fermented tofu I couldn’t eat it. Now, it’s one of my favorite things: it’s great in congee (jook). In this dish it is combined with another of my favorite foods: skin-on pork belly. Pork belly is the part of the pig used to make bacon; Asians often leave the skin on, providing another chewy texture to contrast with the layers of meat and fat.

The dish also contains chopped garlic, garlic cloves in large pieces, Thai chillies and some of the brine from red fermented tofu. The result is delicious, chewy, slightly sour chunks of multi-textured pork belly with the occasional chunk of garlic and Thai chilli as accents. Heavenly.

I first had this dish at our favorite Krabi restaurant, Ruen Mai. They make it slightly different: they deep fry the pork belly first to give it a bit of a crust. I prefer Kasma’s version.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class H-2.


 
Cassava Custard

Cassava Custard

Cassava Custard Topped with Coconut Cream (Dtakoh Man Sambpalang): This is more of a snack than what most people would consider a dessert. It’s an eggless cassava custard with a coconut cream topping. All that’s needed after such a delicious and complete meal is just a square to provide a bit of sweetness along with a bit of coconut to smooth away any residual heat.

This dish is taught in Kasma’s advanced class G-1.

You might enjoy my blog on
Thai Sweet Tracks – Kanom Wahn.

The Meal Summed Up

This meal is much more than the sum of it’s parts. I can single out one dish or another but the result was a meal that memory is a movement from one delicious taste, one delicious dish, to another. It’s one of those meals you wish would not end.

If there’s another place in America to get a meal like this, I have not come across it!

We recently blogged on our Weeklong Thai Cooking Classes.


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You can, of course, argue that I’m biased; after all, I’m married to Kasma. On the other hand, this makes me very well qualified on the subject as well, at least for a fahrang (the Thai word for a Caucasian). I’ve traveled to Thailand every year since I got together with Kasma in 1992. I’ve been all over the Kingdom and eaten in great Thai restaurants all over Thailand. I’ve gotten to listen to Kasma talk about her passion, Thai Food, at home, in restaurants in Thailand and sitting on the living room couch.

Menu for Weeklong Advanced D – Day 2

  • Stir-Fried Cha-om with Bean Thread and Eggs  (Cha-om Pad Woon Sen Kai) 
  • Wilted Greens Salad with Coconut-Lime Chilli Sauce, Fried Chinese Sausage, Crisped Garlic and Crisped Shallots (Yam Dtam Leung)
  • Sour Chopped Pork Salad with Slivered Ginger, Pork Skin and Fried Peanuts (Naem Sod)
  • Thai Muslim Goat Curry (Gkaeng Ped Pae)
  • Crispy Fried Catfish Coated with Red Curry Sauce (Pad Ped Bplah Doog Tawd Gkrawp)
  • Stir-Fried Prawns with Hot Garlic-Pepper Sauce (Gkoong Pad Gkratiem Prikthai)
  • Stir-Fried Pork Belly with Fermented Tofu Sauce and Thai Chillies (Moo Sahm Chan Pad Dtow Hoo Yee)
  • Cassava Custard Topped with Coconut Cream (Dtakoh Man Sambpalang) 

Written by Michael Babcock October, 2011