Classes Cooking

Beginning Thai Cooking With Kasma, Class #3

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:

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.)

Soaking Brown Rice
Soaking brown rice
Sticky Rice Steamer
Sticky rice steamer

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.)

Cleaning Squid
Cleaning squid

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.

Students Prepping Food
Students prepping food
Cutting Lemon Grass
Cutting lemon grass

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.

Kasma Cooks
Kasma frying shrimp
Cooking Long beans
Cooking long beans

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.

Squid Salad
Plating Squid Salad
Meal Time
Students enjoying a feast

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
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 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!

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. 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.

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
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Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012 & May 2020

Food Markets Wednesday Photo

Loei Market Vendor (Wednesday Photo)

NE-Style Crispy Grilled Sticky Rice

Loei Market Vendor
Yummy grilled sticky rice in Loei

This picture of a smiling vendor selling grilled sticky rice was taken in the morning market at Loei. I’ve seen it sold at a street stall on Sukhumvit Road at Soi 55 (Thong Lo); presumably the vendor is from Isaan.

In Northeastern Thailand (Isaan or Isahn) the preferred rice is Sticky rice. For most meals it’s served in small baskets and one dips the hand directly in the basket and rolls the rice into a ball for eating.

This picture shows another alternative, seen is most Isaan markets is a crispy grilled sticky rice, on a stick. It’s really quite delicious, typically dipped in a mixture of beaten eggs, salt and pepper and then grilled until golden brown and lightly charred and crispy. In Thai it is called kao jee; Kasma calls it Northeastern-Style Crispy Grilled Sticky Rice.

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Food Markets

Thong Lo Mangos (and Sticky Rice)

Another great food treat that you can find at Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55) is White Sticky Rice with Mangoes.

Thong Lo Fruit Store
Look for the mangos!

My last blog on March 18 was on Thong Lo Duck Noodles; here’s one more blog on a Thong Lo stop. Thong Lo (pronounced “Tawng Law”) has its own skytrain stop. Kasma puts her small-group tours at a hotel there close to the mouth of the Soi. I’ve also written on its street food in One Soi’s Street Food Scene. I’ve enjoyed the chance to get to know one particular Thai neighborhood a bit better. Although Thong Lo is considered an upscale area, there are plenty of store fronts and street vendors that depend on un-trendy people (such as myself) to keep them in business.

Luscious mangoes!

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

One very strong candidate for “Favorite Thai Dish of All Time” would have to be Coconut-Flavored Sticky Rice with MangoesKao Niow Ma-muang. When Kasma taught it in her cooking classes (week 3 of the beginning series) it is one dish that seldom had any leftovers!

There’s a store on Thong Lo that does a very good version that you can purchase to go. It’s “Ma Varee Fruits Store” and is the first fruit store you come to as you walk from the skytrain down Thong Lo (on the same side as the sky train exits). You’ll recognize it by the display of mangoes in front.

Sticky Rice and Mango
Sticky Rice and Mango, to go

A quick word on Thai mangoes. They are heavenly. Mind you, I’ve never been in Thailand during the actual mango season when they are at their peak. Nevertheless, the ones I have eaten bear no resemblance to anything we get in the San Francisco Bay Area. My favorites are the yellow ones; even off-season when you get a good one, it melts in your mouth with sweetness – an “ah ha!” taste experience. Add the sticky rice, mixed with delicious, rich (fresh) coconut milk, slightly sweetened, and you have ambrosia.

As of February 2020, this store was still there.

Written by Michael Babcock, April 2010 & 2020

Food Markets Wednesday Photo

Yummy Thai Snacks (Wednesday Photo)

Yummy Thai Kanom

Six Sticky Rice Snacks
Four Sticky Rice Snacks

We seem to be blogging a lot about Thai (sweet) snacks (kanom wahn) lately so I’ll post one of my all-time favorite photos of snacks, this one taken at Bangkok’s Or Tor Kor Market back in 2004. I love the presentation (in banana leaf cups) of these artfully decorated sticky rice snacks with different toppings. The snacks on the top right and lower left have a custard (Sangkaya) on the sticky rice. The other ones are various sweet toppings. Too pretty to eat? Actually, too tasty to NOT eat!

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Classes Food Wednesday Photo

Making a Thai Snack (Wednesday Photo)

Making a Thai Kanom

Making a Thai Snack
Making a Thai Snack

I’m always astounded at the variety of Thai kanom (snacks) that you come across in any Thai market. Sticky rice is best known served plain with mangos, as in Kasma’s recipe Coconut-Flavored Sticky Rice with Mangoes (Kao Nio-ow Mamuang) but there are numerous other sticky rice recipes, including this one: Steamed or Grilled Banana Leaf-Wrapped Sticky Rice Stuffed with Banana and Black Beans (Kao Dtom Pad).

Banana leaves are used in making many kanom. Typically the snack is wrapped in the banana leaf and often grilled or steamed. The banana leaf serves two purposes: it encloses the snack and it adds a bit of flavor, as well. Walking in markets you’ll see various mysterious banana leaf  packages – they are usually worth a taste: they’ll only set you back a very few baht. Be warned: some of them will be savory.

Kasma taught this recipe in her Advanced Series Set D (class 2).

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand.

Food Thai Culture Travel

Thai New Year

Another New Year to Celebrate

While most Americans have long settled into the new year, there is a group of us Southeast Asians yet to celebrate our traditional New Year. The Hindu-Buddhist cultures of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand are gearing up for our approaching grand celebrations on April 13, 14 and 15.

Offerings at a Temple
Offerings at a Temple

This is a festive time of year, full of merriment and close family reunions. Young people visit elders, bearing gifts and scented water to anoint their hands in gestures of reverence. In return, they receive blessings and words of wisdom. Families gather and all take part in preparing elaborate offerings of food and flowers to present to monks in the temples in colorful merit-making ceremonies. Sacred Buddha images are brought out from their places in the chapels, ceremonially bathed and paraded among the people.

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

Thais Worshipping
Thais Worshipping

In the countryside, the New Year gives young men and women the opportunity to meet and play games together, usually in groups. They sing and dance traditional folk songs and dances. It is a time of courting and jestful playing. Being that this is the hottest time of year, water is thrown about at one another, both to cool off and as symbolic acts of bestowing blessings. It is a day when people dress in their finest, yet laugh and cheer as they get drenched by water coming from all those around them. 

Sticky Rice Snacks
Sticky Rice Snacks

Food stalls crowd temple and fair grounds with an extraordinary array of snack foods and sweetmeats to tempt every palate, while at home, extended families cook together exquisite feasts of seemingly endless courses. Special new year foods vary from region to region and country to country. In the heart of Thailand scorched by heat, a traditional food consists of a special rice, pounded and winnowed seven times before it is cooked, after which it is sifted into cold water, strained through seven layers of thin cloth, and finally soaked in cold water in an incensed earthenware pot and sprinkled with jasmine flowers. The scented rice is served with an assortment of dainty side dishes and condiments. 

Sticky Rice with Mango
Sticky Rice with Mango

For most cultures, the New Year would not be complete without its luxuriant spread of delectable sweetmeats. Some are delicately wrapped in banana, bamboo and pandan leaves in packages of varying shapes and sizes. A log-shaped bundle holds sticky rice stuffed with banana and a few grains of black beans, while a miniature bamboo leaf-wrapped pyramid hides a gooey rice confection, and so on and so forth. 

For me, all the abundance the New Year brings does not overshadow the glory of the hot season’s favorite treat – luscious ripe mangoes served with creamy coconut-flavored sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice). Though eaten throughout the mango season from March through May, the golden color, sweetness and fragrance of the heavenly fruits are hard to beat as symbols of prosperity, especially when paired with the rich taste of the rice, a grain that reflects the fertility of the land. Furthermore, it is easy to make and the ingredients readily available from Asian markets in the Bay Area.

Coconut-Flavored Sweet Rice with Mangoes Recipe

(Our website has a slightly different version of this recipe. Our recipe index contains many more dessert recipes, including one for Black Sticky Rice Pudding.)

  • 2 cups long-grain white sweet rice or glutinous rice
  • 2 cups, or 1 can, unsweetened creamy coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1-2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced

Rinse the rice, then cover with tap water 2-3 inches above the rice line and soakfour hours, or overnight. The rice will absorb much of the water, grow in size and soften, such that the grains easily break apart if pressed between the fingers.

Drain and spread grains loosely in a shallow heat-proof dish. Place on a steamer rack and steam dry (without water added to the rice) over a pot with at least two inches of water on the bottom. Steam over medium heat for half an hour, or until the grains are translucent, cooked through but chewy. Or you can use a stacked steamer.

Sticky Rice Steaming Basket
Cooking Apparatus for Sticky Rice

If you are making a large quantity, in order to cook the grains evenly, use the special woven bamboo, cone-shaped basket for steaming glutinous rice, which fits on the companion spitoon-shaped pot with a collar to hold the basket in place. Fill pot with water to a level at least 2 inches below the bottom of the basket, and the basket with the pre-soaked rice. Cover with any round lid that fits an inch or more over the rice level. The basket-and-pot set is available from Southeast Asian markets. Alternatively, a straw or wire mesh colander that fits inside a steamer pot works well as a substitute. Avoid steaming the rice on top of a piece of cloth lining a steamer rack as any moisture the cloth absorbs may turn the bottom layer of grains into mush rather than cooking them in whole grains.

While the rice is steaming, prepare the coconut sauce by heating the coconut milk, sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Warm the milk until the mixture is well blended and smooth.

Mix the cooked rice while it is hot out of the steamer with half the coconut sauce. Stir well with a spoon to coat all the grains evenly. The rice should be moist but not swimming with sauce. Add more of the sauce if needed, reserving the remainder for topping the rice before serving. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the grains to absorb the sauce.

When ready to serve, dish onto individual serving plates, dribble a small amount of reserved coconut sauce over each portion and arrange mango slices over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, April 2009.