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Q&A -- Thai Cooking


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#1 eGCI Team

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 10:12 PM

Post your questions for the Thai Cooking course here.

#2 Jason Perlow

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 07:57 AM

Great job, guys. That curry (and everything else) looks wonderful.

I noticed though in this Mussamun recipe there's no potatoes. Why's that?
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#3 mamster

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:10 AM

It's pim's relative's recipe, so she'll have to answer that. I can report that I've made it a couple of times now, once with potatoes, and it's great either way.
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#4 engberson

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 10:48 AM

Mamster -- a while back you wrote a nice piece on Thai curries, in which you said you thought one was better off buying prefab Mae Ploy curry paste than pounding one's own (for reasons that seemed legitimate, for Americans, at least). Do you still feel that way?

#5 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 11:21 AM

Great job, guys. That curry (and everything else) looks wonderful.

I noticed though in this Mussamun recipe there's no potatoes. Why's that?

The potato is optional. I should have put that in the recipe. My personal preference is without any potato, just becuase that's how it was done in my family.

If you want to add potato, I suggest partially-cooking the potato in a separate pot, otherwise the starch will change the texture of the curry.

Potato away Jason. :smile:

Pim
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#6 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 11:31 AM

Mamster -- a while back you wrote a nice piece on Thai curries, in which you said you thought one was better off buying prefab Mae Ploy curry paste than pounding one's own (for reasons that seemed legitimate, for Americans, at least). Do you still feel that way?

I can't really speak for Mamster (but that's not going to stop me :laugh:), but I rather doubt he would suggest such a thing.

The pre-fab curry paste is definitely acceptable, but I don't think it will be better than the fresh made ones. I guess a case could be made that if you couldn't get all the required ingredients, or if they were in questionable shape (as in frozen or old), perhaps you would be better off using pre-fab.

It is really easy these days to find these ingredients in any big city in the US or even Europe. Yes it requires a bit of patience, perhaps tenacity, to pound your own curry paste, but you will be amply rewarded.
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#7 mamster

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 11:32 AM

engberson, thanks for bringing that up. THANKS A LOT.

Seriously, I have gotten a lot better at making curry paste, and the ingredients are getting ever easier to find in major metro areas. Certain curries benefit more from homemade than others. I still think the Mae Ploy red curry paste is an excellent product, as good as I've made at home. For the massaman curry we offer in the article, definitely make your own--I haven't been very satisfied with the commercial massaman pastes, and pim's recipe is superb.
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#8 FoodMan

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 12:11 PM

that looks wonderful folks, cannot wait to try that curry and salad.

My question is, how many cans of coconut milk do I need to get enough milk and cream to make the curry recipe?? I guess I can summarize by asking, What is the percentage of cream Vs. Milk in a coconut can??

I'm glad someone brought up the bought Vs. homemade paste to mamster :biggrin: . I was going to ask the same thing.

Thanks
Elie

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#9 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:03 PM

that looks wonderful folks, cannot wait to try that curry and salad.

My question is, how many cans of coconut milk do I need to get enough milk and cream to make the curry recipe?? I guess I can summarize by asking, What is the percentage of cream Vs. Milk in a coconut can??

I'm glad someone brought up the bought Vs. homemade paste to mamster  :biggrin: . I was going to ask the same thing.

Thanks
Elie

Thank you. :biggrin:

About the coconut milk question, it's kind of difficult to say because it depends on which brand coconut milk you use. The Thai brands, like Chao Koh and Mae Ploy are the ones that separate into cream and milk. The other ones don't always do that. The fancy brand you get at Whole Foods definitely don't. The Mae Plaoy and Chao Koh are about half and half milk and cream, give or take.

Whatever you do, don't even think about-- gasp-- low fat coconut milk!:blink: Coconut oil is good fat, why bother with the low fat variety?

I'm not near my kitchen (in a hotel room in London) so I can't tell you the exact size of the can, but I say three regular size cans or two large cans will do. I can be more specific when I get home, or perhaps Mamster can help us out here.
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#10 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:07 PM

I'm glad someone brought up the bought Vs. homemade paste to mamster  :biggrin: . I was going to ask the same thing.

If the only thing standing in the way of making your own curry is the problem with pounding your own curry paste, by all means use the pre-fab variety. Doing so with care would still likely be better than what you get at most Thai restaurants (which btw largely use pre-made paste anyway).
chez pim
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#11 Jason Perlow

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:09 PM

Guys, whats the difference between a mexican molcajete and the thai mortar thats used to make curry pastes?

Can you use either?
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#12 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:17 PM

Guys, whats the difference between a mexican molcajete and the thai mortar thats used to make curry pastes?

The Molcajetes I’ve seen are usually shallower than the Thai Krok. Also, I think the Molcajete is made for grinding rather than pounding, so I would be careful with using the pestle part of the Molcajete to pound on things. It might not stand up for such abuse.

Another problem is that the shallow receptacle would allow the curry paste ingredients to fly around easily—this would be dangerous for your eyes.

Honestly I don’t actually know since I haven’t really tried. I’m just conjecturing here. Why don’t you give it a try and let us know how it turns out, Jason?
chez pim
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#13 mamster

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:20 PM

One 14 oz can of Chaokoh is a little less than two cups (one of milk, one of cream), and a 19 oz can of Mae Ploy is a little more than two cups. Mae Ploy has a higher cream to milk ratio. In other words, the answer is two cans, and if you're using the large cans of Mae Ploy you might have a little extra.
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#14 trillium

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:24 PM

I wouldn't recommend it, unless it wasn't porus. Molcajetes are frequently made from basalt (lava) and are used more for salsas and sauces, not grinding thick stuff like curry pastes. I'm guessing a molcajete would make grinding a curry much more difficult then it needs to be because you don't have a nice hard surface, but a pitted, softer one, and you wouldn't be able to pound the same way (like pim says). I'd say molcajetes fall closer to the catagory of clay and wood mortar and pestles used in SE Asia to make salads, then the granite ones used to pound pastes.

regards,
trillium

#15 FoodMan

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:52 PM

I'm glad someone brought up the bought Vs. homemade paste to mamster  :biggrin: . I was going to ask the same thing.

If the only thing standing in the way of making your own curry is the problem with pounding your own curry paste, by all means use the pre-fab variety. Doing so with care would still likely be better than what you get at most Thai restaurants (which btw largely use pre-made paste anyway).

not at all, I would love to make my own curry, whether pounded or processed. I was just curious.

Elie

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Houston, TX

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contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#16 snowangel

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 02:35 PM

Pim, could you please describe an average meal when you were growing up?
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#17 mags

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 02:47 PM

The Thai restaurant in my neighborhood used to make an incredible dish they called Ped Krapaw -- which was basically very crisp and unbelievably garlicky shreds of duck. Not being a rice-eater these days, I used to order that with a salad, and then toss the duck on the salad like little protein-n-fat croutons. Then the restaurant disappeared overnight, and I am in Ped withdrawal. I only have a couple of Thai cookbooks, and they don't seem to have recipes for anything similar. Any ideas?

#18 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 03:56 PM

Pim, could you please describe an average meal when you were growing up?

Lunch was usually a simple meal. Sometimes it was a noodle dish, or a fried rice. These single plates were always served with a little something else to go with, perhaps a snack or a soup, followed by a small plate of fruit or cold fruit cocktail. Sometimes, especially on the weekends we had more elaborate lunch of a set meal. They were considered one-dish meal in Thailand but they should have been called a one-theme meal instead because they usually comprised more than just one thing. These “one-dish” meals were more like a set, like Kao Chae (Iced fragrant rice soup set). The iced-cold rice soup was fragrant with jasmine and other flowers, and was served with many things on the side, such as Kapi-Kua, Nuea Wan, Prik-yuak Sod Sai, and vegetables. Kao Chae was, and is, my favorite thing to eat in the summer. Another example for a lunch set was Kanom Jeen Nam-ya, a dish of fermented noodle and spicy fish curry.

Dinner was more elaborate. We always had a curry of one kind or another. The type of curry then dictated a few side dishes to go with it. For example, a Chicken Green Curry was always served with Crispy Fish (Pla Salid) and Five Spice Egg Stew (Kai Palo). Also, there was usually a Nam-prik (relish), again depending on which type of Nam-prik there would be other side things. Nam-prik Long Ruea, for example, was always served with sweetened pork stew. There was always a soup, sometimes bland, sometimes spicy such as a Tom Yum or Tom Som. There was also a vegetable of some sort, either stir fried, stewed with coconut milk, or served fresh (cut up and sometimes carved) with relishes. We normally had 7-10 things on the dinner table. After dinner we had fruits or perhaps desserts, but mostly fruits. Grandfather preferred sweet things in the afternoon more than at dinner time.

The meals I had growing up are improbable by today’s standard. They were possible then because of the social situation in Thailand. When I was little I lived in my maternal grandfather’s house. My parents occupied another house in the same compound, as did my two aunts. Everyone had meals together most of the time. The meals were cooked in a large communal kitchen. My Aunt Chawiwan supervised the kitchen, with a full time cook. Other servants helped in the kitchen before meal time. This was why the meals could be elaborate, my aunt had all the help she needed.

This fact was never more evident to me than when I tried to use Aunt Chawiwan’s recipe for roasted chilli paste. The instruction had me slicing 1 kilo, each, of garlic and shallots by hand! My aunt insisted that the garlic and shallots must be sliced, as chopping would bruise them, giving them a bitter taste. An hour after I started, I was still there, in the kitchen, obediently slicing, only one more kilo to go…..
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#19 pim

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 04:04 PM

The Thai restaurant in my neighborhood used to make an incredible dish they called Ped Krapaw -- which was basically very crisp and unbelievably garlicky shreds of duck.  Not being a rice-eater these days, I used to order that with a salad, and then toss the duck on the salad like little protein-n-fat croutons.  Then the restaurant disappeared overnight, and I am in Ped withdrawal.  I only have a couple of Thai cookbooks, and they don't seem to have recipes for anything similar.  Any ideas?

I do have some idea. Pad Krapow is a simple dish that can be made with different types of protein, chicken, pork, shrimp, duck, etc.

I think the dish you were addicted to was made of roasted duck, which was then stir fried with garlic, chilli, and Bai Krapow (Holy Basil). Sometimes a few leaves of holy basil are also deep fried and strewn on top of the dish.

I can try to make the dish when I get a chance. I promise I will send you the recipe when I'm done.

Edited by pim, 14 October 2003 - 02:44 AM.

chez pim
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#20 mags

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 05:19 PM

Thank you so much, Pim. I must tell you, I recently finished writing a report on the Thai economy, which involved reading a huge amount about the country, and I am now dying to visit Thailand. It sounds like just an extraordinary country, in so many ways. At any rate, thank you again for the recipe help.

#21 IrishCream

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 12:37 AM

Thank you for an excellent course, Pim and Mamster. A few questions: how long does galangal paste last and how should it be stored? The same for Thai ginger and shrimp paste. Does the paste come roasted? Can one substitute Kaffir Lime leaves for zest? If not, what would a good zest substitute be?

My fave Thai dish ever is a sour sausage and crispy rice dish served at Lotus of Siam in Vegas. Any ideas about how to make it? The server said they deep-fry cooked rice, but that is all I know.

Any suggestions for a grocery that would supply all the ingredients in the Bay Area? :smile:
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#22 Tepee

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 01:55 AM

Thank you so much for the superb course. Any sequel?

This is just perfect for me bcos I love Thai food but have to avoid partaking in public as its fiery nature reduces me to a scene, let's not go into details.

Although I'm a Malaysian, I have failed to train my tongue to take on the spicy blasts. Does anyone know if this (training) is possible?
TPcal!
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#23 blackduff

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 01:59 AM

It's a great lesson on the Thai foods. I hope that there are others coming this way.

I have a few quick questions.

In using the Mae Ploy pastes, there are several variations. What does the differences between the yellow, red, green and massaman pastes? I find most of these very similar when I use them but I'm not why I should do any variation.

Another question is about the Pad Thai recipes. I've found them to have too much sugar. I didn't find this particular recipe but it's a some what too sweet too. I don't restaurants to be too sweet in Pad Thai food but I'm not sure what has thought in the recipes.

My last question is about "Dok Pfak Pene" which I buy often in the Asian stores. I am not sure if it's a Thai, Vietnamen, or Chinese ingredient. This is great in many recipes and fits nicely into Thai food, so I use it a lot but I'm not sure if it's normal. This has a lightly garlic sound and kinds of looks like chives too.

If there is going to be a second lesson, how about having a shot at Kai Phad Kaphrao. My current recipe is in German and is okay but could be helped. It came out okay but not spectacular.

Great job.

Blackduff

#24 pim

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 02:58 AM

Thank you for an excellent course, Pim and Mamster.  A few questions:  how long does galangal paste last and how should it be stored?  The same for Thai ginger and shrimp paste.  Does the paste come roasted?  Can one substitute Kaffir Lime leaves for zest?  If not, what would a good zest substitute be?


You're welcome, Maureen. :biggrin:

I'm not sure what the pastes you refered to are specifically, as they are so many different types of pastes that it would be difficult for me to identify each one without the Thai names. The pastes in general can be stored at room temperature, or even in the fridge, but never in the freezer.

Kaffir lime leaves and zest are different. You can substitute regular lime zest, or mandarin zest for the kaffir zest.

My fave Thai dish ever is a sour sausage and crispy rice dish served at Lotus of Siam in Vegas.  Any ideas about how to make it?  The server said they deep-fry cooked rice, but that is all I know. 


The sour sausage is probably from the Isan (northeast) region of Thailand. I've never made it myself as I am from Bangkok, but I bet I could look up a recipe for you when I get home.

The crispy rice is actually a clever way of using left over rice. In the old days, rice was cooked in large quantity in a giant wok like pan. After the rice was cooked and served there would be a layer of rice crust that was stuck to the pan. The crust would be taken out of the pan, air dried, and subsequently broken into smaller pieces and deep fried to be served with other dishes. One of my favorite snacks is a sort of relish of shrimps, minced pork, shallots, peanuts cooked in coconut milk (Na Tung). The sweet/salty relish is served with Kao Tang, or crispy rice cakes.

I remember seeing rice cooked in those giant woks at my granfather's company when I was little . Back in those days we fed the workers for free. In fact one of my earliest food memories had to do with those woks, I remember thinking that the Kitchen Mother (a Thai equivelent of "cook") could deep fry me in one of those things!! A tad morbid I'd say, especially for a 4-5 yr-old. :blink:

Any suggestions for a grocery that would supply all the ingredients in the Bay Area?  :smile:


I go to Ranch 99 (in Milpitas near my office) and the New May Wah on Clement st. I find that between these two places I usually find pretty much everything I need.

Edited by pim, 14 October 2003 - 03:06 AM.

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#25 pim

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 03:12 AM

This is just perfect for me bcos I love Thai food but have to avoid partaking in public as its fiery nature reduces me to a scene, let's not go into details.

Although I'm a Malaysian, I have failed to train my tongue to take on the spicy blasts. Does anyone know if this (training) is possible?

Thank you so much for the superb course. Any sequel?

Hmm...well if there's enough request we may be compelled to have one.

About the fiery nature of Thai food. I think it's a bit of a misunderstanding about Thai food being so very hot. Though it is true that certain dishes are fiery in nature, but a Thai meal is a balancing act of all flavors. A few things may be hot, but there are always other milder or even sweet dishes to accompany them. This is so that you can take a bite of something hot, then something mild, and so on. This way the meal is much more pleasant and less resembles a game of dare!
chez pim
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#26 hildi

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 03:26 AM

Hi,I'm wondering if I should increase the amount of lemongrass/galangal if
they've been frozen? I made the Massaman Curry in the article and missed the
'citrusy undertones' that I find so appealing in Thai food - the same goes for
a red curry paste I've made from Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Then again that could
be my personal preference speaking;)

I was unable to find cardamom leaves from my Asian grocery or at an online store,looks like a rare find.

Thanks for a great article,next up Pad Thai!

#27 pim

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 03:27 AM

In using the Mae Ploy pastes, there are several variations. What does the differences between the yellow, red, green and massaman pastes? I find most of these very similar when I use them but I'm not why I should do any variation.

Yes there are definitely differences between the different color pastes. The yellow paste is much more mellow than the other ones. The main use for the yellow paste (Nam-prik Gank Kari) is to make a Gang Kari Gai, chicken in mild yellow curry, which is served with Ajad (cucumber relish). The Massaman paste has more of an "Indian" flavoring in it, betraying its provenance. The red curry paste (Gang Dang/Gang Ped) has a bit stronger citrus quality than the green, and is used for different type of curries. The Gang Dang or Gang Ped curries are sometimes garnished with julienned lime leaves, to accentuate the citrus flavor in certain seafood curries.

Another question is about the Pad Thai recipes. I've found them to have too much sugar. I didn't find this particular recipe but it's a some what too sweet too. I don't restaurants to be too sweet in Pad Thai food but I'm not sure what has thought in the recipes.

I have the same problem you do about Pad Thai in Thai restaurants outside of Thailand being too sweet too. The recipe in this class was Mamster's, I haven't made it myself. But you can easily control the sweetness of your padthai by adjusting the taste of the sauce. You don't have to put as much sugar as asked for in the recipe. Just trust your own taste.

My last question is about "Dok Pfak Pene" which I buy often in the Asian stores. I am not sure if it's a Thai, Vietnamen, or Chinese ingredient. This is great in many recipes and fits nicely into Thai food, so I use it a lot but I'm not sure if it's normal. This has a lightly garlic sound and kinds of looks like chives too. 

I'm not sure what that is. The name sounds Vietnamese, I wouldn't be able to tell what it is unless I either see it or know the Thai name. Next time I go to the market I will look for it. Most vegetables are labeled in both the Chinese and Vietnames names around here. I'll tell you what it's for if I could find it.

If there is going to be a second lesson, how about having a shot at Kai Phad Kaphrao. My current recipe is in German and is okay but could be helped. It came out okay but not spectacular.

When I get around to making Mag's Ped Krapow and write down the recipe I will send it to you as well. The basic Pad Krapow recipe can be adapted for Duck (Ped) or Chicken (Gai).
chez pim
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#28 pim

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 03:32 AM

Hi,I'm wondering if I should increase the amount of lemongrass/galangal  if
they've been frozen? I made the Massaman Curry in the article and missed the
'citrusy undertones' that I find so appealing in Thai food - the same goes for
a red curry paste I've made from Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Then again that could
be my personal preference speaking;)

I was unable to find cardamom leaves from my Asian grocery or at an online store,looks like a rare find.

Thanks for a great article,next up Pad Thai!

Perhaps you should give it a try. I don't think Galangal would be very good after having been frozen though.

The Massaman curry is not supposed to have a very strong citrusy undertone at all. The red curry, on the other hand should have a much stronger citrus taste compared to the Massaman.

Cardamom leaves are not essential. They are nice to have but you could easily skip it and just add a pinch of cardamom to the finished curry, just a pinch though.
chez pim
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#29 mamster

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 07:12 AM

I grew up on sweet phad thai (well, grew up since 1996 or so) and still like it that way. The recipe I gave uses a lot of sugar, but also a lot of acid, and they tend to balance each other. By all means reduce the sugar if you prefer, of course.

If you're using frozen galangal, you might actually start with less. I haven't bought prepackaged frozen galangal, but I often put fresh galangal in the freezer, and it freezes well, but it tends to dry out a bit and this concentrates the flavor. Shrimp paste lasts a long time in the refrigerator. Put the jar in a Ziploc bag or the smell will permeate your fridge.

I couldn't find cardamom leaves either.

Isaan sour sausage is one of my favorite things. It's very simple, really. You make sticky rice and mix it with ground pork, lots of garlic, and salt or fish sauce. Then you let it ferment at room temperature until sour. Traditionally it's made into one-inch links, but you can also just make a log and wrap it in plastic. There is a very small but real risk of botulism with any home-fermented sausage product that doesn't use curing salts, and at some point I'm planning to see if I can develop a version of sai krok that uses nitrates without adversely affecting the flavor. Basically, if you try sai krok and end up in the hospital, you didn't hear about it from me.
Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"
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#30 mamster

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Posted 14 October 2003 - 07:13 AM

I should add that I told pim I'd be on question duty for most of today, so ask away--just don't ask me about my childhood in Bangkok!
Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"
Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May