This is the second in a series of 4 blogs that talks about Kasma Loha-unchit’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. A series of 4 classes, it continued on from where her 4-session Beginning Thai Cooking Series left off. Having introduced students to the basics (including how to harmonize flavors to create Thai tastes), it was an opportunity for students to learn more Thai cooking techniques, ingredients and recipes. I’ll leave these blogs up as a record of what Kasma’s classes were like: she retired from teaching in 2020. I’ll include links to the other 3 blogs at the bottom of the page. This blog is about the second Intermediate Cooking Class.
I’ve already blogged on the first class in the series – Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #1 – and will include links to al6l the blogs (including the beginning classes) at the bottom of the page.
(Click images to see larger version.)
As always, the class began with a snack and with an explanation of the recipes.
Although most of the main ingredients were previously introduced in the 4-session Beginning Series, there were more to come in the intermediate classes. In this second class, students learned about roasted rice powder, kaffir lime peels (they had already been introduced to the leaves) and shrimp paste (kapi or gkabpi).
New ingredients were covered extensively. When introducing toasted rice powder, Kasma showed the students a couple of locally available packages and talked about where to buy them. In the picture above, the package shown to the left is an imported Vietnamese brand; that on the right is a more coarsely ground roasted rice powder that was made locally at a Cambodian market. The products were passed around so that students could taste them. She also went into how to make the powder, should you be unable to find it or should you want to do so. (You can read how in her article on Roasted Rice Flour – Kao Kua.)
In this class, dried chili peppers were an important ingredient in three of the recipes. Kasma explained the two types that were to be used this evening and explained how to prepare them: by seeding and soaking in one instance and by roasting stove-top in another.
Students used the mortar and pestle extensively in this series. Three of the recipes in this class, involved intensive pounding so Kasma went into the basics of how to go about it. The mortar and pestle are essential tools in Thai cooking: they crush the fibers of herbs and release the essential oils, giving a greater breadth and depth of flavor than can be obtained by using a food processor. You can read Kasma’s blog on The Mortar and Pestle.
After the recipes were explained, students volunteered (or were assigned) to one of the recipes and broke into teams to do the preparation. Kasma supervised making sure everything was done correctly.
In this class, dried galanga was used in the Northeastern Chicken Salad, after being roasted stovetop in a cast iron pan.
Once the ingredients were prepped, Kasma demonstrated new techniques. For instance, for the Fried Shrimp Cake recipe, there’s a certain way of forming the shrimp cakes and dropping them gently into the oil: although it may feel safer to drop them from a distance, because your hand is further away from the oil, doing that may cause a splash of hot oil whereas sliding the shrimp cake in from just above the oil is actually the safer method. (See slide show, below.)
Of course, there was always the feast at the end of the class.
And after the feast, everyone helped to clean up.
One thing I appreciated about Kasma’s classes was that you learned how to prepare the food in a manner similar to how you cook in your own kitchen. Many cooking classes in Thailand assign a cooking station to each student and have them cook their own individual portion from already prepared ingredients. In Kasma’s class, students did every aspect of the meal preparation, from chopping, roasting and pounding to cooking, eating and clean-up, just as you would do at home. Everyone got to watch the final assembly of every dish, learning how to prepare every dish in the class, rather than just the single dish they worked on.
Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #2
Spicy Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Green Beans (Tod Mon Goong)
I recently read in a cookbook by a famous Thai chef that said “Thais appear to remain ambivalent about [deep-fried foods].” They certainly have a strange way of showing this: you find fried foods everywhere in many forms – fried fish, chicken, duck, pork leg, bananas, other desserts and, of course, Tod Mon – fried fish (or shrimp) cakes. Thais even deep-fry herbs such as Thai basil (as in this dish). Certainly Fried Fish Cakes (Tod Mon) are among the most common and beloved of Thai snacks and appetizers: you see them frying in open-air markets and sidewalks everywhere in the country; they are also found in many restaurants as an appetizer. This class showcases Kasma’s version of Tod Mon; her recipe is really a Tod Mon Pla (Fish Cake) recipe that is made, instead, with shrimp (goong).
This is a recipe with lots of prep work (see the slide show at the bottom of the page) that produces a bouncy, tasty treat. It is served with:
Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Relish
This is a relish that accompanies the Fried Shrimp Cakes and is sweet, sour and salty. It has a refreshing taste that forms a nice contrast to the fried cakes.
Be sure to see our slideshow on Tod Mon Goong below.
Sour Tamarind Curry with Fish and Vegetable (Kaeng Som Pla)
You may be confused as to why this dish, without coconut milk, is called a “curry.” Actually, there are probably more Thai “curries” without coconut milk than with; for the Thais, the classification of what we translate as curry – kaeng – is really a broader classification. Read Kasma’s blog Thai Curries – Kaeng (or Gkaeng or Gaeng).
This is one of the classic Thai dishes, here in the central Thai version. Kasma’s version is thick from vegetables and broiled, flaked fish in the broth.
Kaeng Som is made in a different version in Southern Thailand and is often called Kaeng Leuang there: the students who worked their way through to Kasma’s Advanced Set G got to learn how to make her Southern version, delicious and spicy hot.
You may enjoy the Bangkok Post article ‘Kaeng Som’ A Thai culinary classic by Suthon Sukphisit (offsite, opens in new window).
Northeastern-Style Spicy Minced Chicken Salad with Mint and Toasted Rice (Laab Gai or Larb Kai)
Larb (often transliterated as laab and pronounced “lahb”) is one of the two main types of Thai “salads” prevalent in the West. (The other would be yum.) They typically involve chopped (or ground) meat flavored with fish sauce, limes, a bit of sugar (to balance flavors, mainly to bring out the sour of the limes), lots of ground, roasted chillies and roasted rice powder. It’s served with a vegetable platter: you eat the salad with the vegetables to cut the heat.
In Kasma’s classes you learned all about balancing flavors to create authentic Thai tastes. Ingredients such as fish sauce or limes (for instance) can vary brand to brand or batch to batch, so Kasma’s tasting exercises taught you how to work with different ingredients to get the correct Thai harmony of flavors.
You can try out Kasma’s recipe for Northeastern-Style Spicy Minced Chicken Salad (Laab Gai).
Stir-fried Eggplant with Chillies and Thai Basil (Makeua Yao Pad Prik Horapa)
I find Asian vegetables so very much more interesting that American vegetables. Thais do wonderful things with eggplants and I love this stir-fried dish. It’s a simple dish, flavored with oyster sauce and fish sauce with just a bit of vinegar added to the end to provide a bit of sour. It’s a wonderful dish and relatively easy to prepare.
Slideshow – Spicy Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Green Beans (Tod Mon Goong)
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.
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Here are the other Intermediate Class Blogs:
- Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #1
- Intermediate Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #3
- Intermediate Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #4
And here are the blogs on Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series:
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #1
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #2
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #3
- Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #4
Written by Michael Babcock, May 2013 & May 2020