For 34+ years, Kasma Loha-unchit taught 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 took place and what delicious Thai dishes were served. Kasma retired from the classes in 2020
I’ve also blogged on the other classes in the series:
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #1.
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #2.
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #4.
Kasma’s initial series of 4 classes was designed as a sequence of classes to introduce the basics of Thai cooking. This, the third class, continued on from the first two, including more basic information about Thai ingredients and cooking techniques while introducing 5 new recipes.
Learning more about rice was an important part of the third class.
(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 introduced 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 taught 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.)
Another thing that Kasma taught in this class was how to clean whole squid; everyone got an opportunity to clean a couple. It’s one thing I appreciated about the classes: Kasma taught 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. Cleaning squid is 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.
As always, the students did all of the prep work themselves; the chopping, mincing and dicing, cleaning the squid and more. We had students who had taken cooking classes in Thailand who told us that typically, all of the ingredients were already prepped for them. Kasma had the students do the prep because when they cook at home, they would have to do it themselves. She taught how to cook all of these dishes from start to finish by oneself.
Final assembly and cooking of the dishes in the beginning series was done by Kasma and by the students. The picture to the above left shows Kasma deep frying the Garlic Peppered Shrimp. This would have been the first time that many students had deep fried anything at all, so she started out by demonstrating what to do; after her initial demo, she would ask for volunteers and students finished off the cooking. She had already gone over stir-frying in previous sessions, so she had one of the students cook the Stir-Fried Long Beans with Roasted Chilli Sauce and Thai Basil. All of the students watched the final assembly/cooking so that they could learn how to cook every dish in the class and not just the one they worked on.
After the food was plated and ready to serve, we came to the very best part of class: the feast at the end. What’s best of all was knowing that you could go home and cook everything yourself.
Beginning Thai Series Class #3 Menu
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 were, at first, reluctant to eat a shrimp with the shell on: they soon found that it had been rendered crispy and that it added a needed dimension to the dish. They usually came back for seconds. And thirds. And even fourths!
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. This 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.
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 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 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
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Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012 & May 2020