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Thai Cooking at Home, 2005 - 2006


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#1 Susan in FL

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 08:25 AM

We have developed quite an interest in cooking Thai at home, and are still very much in the learning stages. After discovering Larb Laab Larp, and larbing in general at eG, I quickly became eager to extend beyond.

I shopped locally and online and bought a supply of Thai ingredients and the traditional pot and steaming basket to make sticky rice. We had a pretty good experience with our dinner on Monday night. I have easily become hooked on preparing both sticky rice and Jasmine rice "authentically."

Naturally I am now eager to discuss this with you who are more experienced with Thai cuisine or who are also learning. What are some of your favorite recipes or ways that you fix certain dishes? Do you have good cookbooks or web sites to recommend? I adore my Hot Sour Salty Sweet book, and so far have gotten all my recipes and ideas from that book, eG, the Thai Recipes Kitchen from ImportFood.com, and the Temple of Thai website.

And a couple of specific questions... I wasn't thrilled with the red curry paste I made from scratch. Is there a brand you recommend? Even though we don't care for firey hot flavor, should I purchase fresh and/or whole dried Thai/birdseye chile peppers and use them in small amounts? I wondered if by not using them I am sacrificing a flavor I should try to become accustomed to. I do have a supply of ground dried Thai chilis and I've been throwing pinches in. We love the flavor of fresh galanga, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and of course Thai basil.
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#2 ScorchedPalate

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 09:06 AM

I would wholeheartedly recommend any recipes from Kasma Loha-unchit, including those on her Web site, Thai Food and Travel, and her two books: It Rains Fishes and Dancing Shrimp.

The website also features articles about the best brands of ingredients (Mae Ploy is her answer to your red curry question, and I agree) and a directory of markets that carry Thai ingredients.

Hope that helps,
~Anita
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#3 fifi

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 09:08 AM

You are in for a flavor adventure. I do some Thai cooking but I certainly wouldn't call myself an expert. My beginning book was True Thai by Victor Sodsook on the recommendation of a friend that learned from a Thai couple that owned a well known restaurant in North Carolina I believe. In retrospect, that was excellent advice for a beginner. There is also an interesting section on applying a Thai twist to American staples. That is a lot of fun.

I bought David Thompson's Thai Food last year and have to say that I haven't cooked anything from it yet. It is quite a tome and very "authentic," so much so that it can be a bit intimidating. However, there is a lot of cultural background and discussion in there and I am enjoying reading it from time to time.

Hot Sour Salty Sweet is definitely on my list. It has gotten great reviews here.

In my experience, I had a lot of luck chosing a particular dish and doing it several times to get the hang of the balance of flavor that is key to this cuisine. I chose Sodsook's Tom Kha Kai, chicken coconut soup. It is a basically simple soup, has most of the flavor notes, and it happens to be my favorite soup in the world. :raz: I always get it in restaurants and like comparing the various preparations.

I also got one of the stacked steamers and I love it. The sticky rice with coconut and mango is a favorite dessert at the big Thai dinners that my friend would have. But I do have a guilty secret that my friend discovered. She was running out of time, and cook top burners, for one of her dinners. We have the same rice cookers, one of those fancy fuzzy logic things, and she had borrowed mine. She dumped the sticky rice in those, chose the sticky rice setting, and it came out perfect.

My other guilty secret is Mae Ploy brand curry pastes. Yes, you should make the pastes yourself at least once. But, frankly, if I forced myself to do that all the time I would rarely cook Thai. I love a "project" but not everyday. With that stuff on hand and cans of coconut milk (I like Chaudoc brand) in the pantry, I have the makings of a really good Thai curry for fast everyday meals. They are a great way to use up leftover meat and otherwise clean out the fridge. :raz:

I am fortunate that we have some great Asian markets here and they are a good source for ingredients. You should check out what is in your area. You might be surprised.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#4 snowangel

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 10:19 AM

Susan, welcome to the world of Thai cooking. I grew up in Thailand, so know first hand just how wonderful the food is.

Don't know if you are aware of the ECI course Mamster and Pim did on Thai cooking at home. Do read it, and the accompanying Q & A.

Cookbooks. Go to the library and check out every Thai cookbook they have and see what strikes you, and then purchase accordingly. One of the books I have recently acquired is Crying Tiger. It's not fancy or huge, but has a tremendous section with great photos of all of the different ingredients, including all of those odd greens. It is worth the purchase price for this along.

Although I occasionally make my own curry paste, I have tubs (you can buy cans or tubs; the tubs are much more economical) of all sorts of curry pastes -- masaman, red, green, yellow, panang -- in the pantry at all times.

What's the asian market scene where you live? Have you experimented at all with noodles?
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#5 fifi

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 10:29 AM

*Whacking forehead with heal of hand.*

How could I have forgotten about the eGCI course?

Thanks for the book tip, Susan. Just what I need. Another book. :blink:

I would like to learn a lot more about noodles. I am a noodle newby.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#6 peppyre

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 12:15 PM

I would wholeheartedly recommend any recipes from Kasma Loha-unchit, including those on her Web site, Thai Food and Travel, and her two books: It Rains Fishes and Dancing Shrimp.

The website also features articles about the best brands of ingredients (Mae Ploy is her answer to your red curry question, and I agree) and a directory of markets that carry Thai ingredients.

Hope that helps,
~Anita

View Post


That is exactly the curry paste I was going to reccomend. I've been using it for several years now, and it's much easier to control the heat with the paste without sacrificing flavour. I've made my own paste before and I find the flavour is more complex when I use the pre-made and then supplement it with more garlic, ginger, chilies, lime leaves, etc. There is absolutely nothing more comforting than a hot thai curry...hmmm...dinner tonight maybe?

#7 peanutgirl

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 03:19 PM

Great topic Susan. The larb thread hooked me too :raz: .

I've been on all the sites mentioned... love my Hot Sour Salty Sweet and now... because of this I just ordered:



Classic Thai Cuisine
It Rains Fishes
Thai Food
and
The French Laundry Cookbook

:blink:

#8 MicBacchus

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 04:20 PM

I'm SO excited about this thread! I, too, am new to Thai food and now find it more interesting than Chinese (as a kid, we didn't eat out much, and Chinese was as 'adventurous' as my parents wanted to be). I recently purchased "Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet/B] and [B]Simply Thai Cooking and am (proudly) no longer a "Larb Virgin" :raz As a relative newbie to eGullet, I'm happy to have been directed to the eGCI course and as sure that I'll get lots of great ideas.
Burgundy makes you think silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them ---
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#9 Susan in FL

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 05:36 AM

I'm loving all this good information, and hopefully will get back after work this evening to post more specific comments. Looking forward to following everyone's progress in Thai cooking... thanks...
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#10 Behemoth

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 08:56 AM

I've made a bunch of things out of David Thompson's cookbook, and it is always phenominal, but since I'm in the midwest I have a hard time obtaining some of the fresh ingredients, eg the pea eggplants, fresh galangal -- I've been soaking a jarred-in-brine kind with okay results. I've managed to keep my basil plant alive, no mean feat considering how long we are out of town...Oh and of course it is hard to find good fish.

But the biggest problem is that it is such a huge time commitment. My housemate in Urbana is a Thai grad student, and makes great looking meals most nights, though he basically will make just one stir-fried dish (using pre-made curry paste) and some rice made the normal way. I wonder what the middle ground is -- what an ordinary urban-dwelling parent without a large extended family would make for dinner, I mean. Do they do the whole curry/condiment/rice/soup/stir fry setup every weeknight?

#11 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:07 PM

Nice thread -- thanks!

Here's another recommendation for Hot, Sour... and Thompson's Thai Food, the latter of which is a great read, especially the first hundred pages or so on food, culture, and the meaning of rice.

I think it's worth making batches of the stuff you use regularly, like the toasted rice powder (I use the aromatic powder in HSSS, which adds lemon grass and Kaffir lime leaves). As for pastes....

I made two pastes this weekend from TF -- the duck curry paste (used chicken thigh meat -- excellent!) and the lobster curry paste (used shrimp -- excellent again!). I wish that I could tell you that the new, big, granite mortar and pestle that I got didn't make a noticeable difference in the texture or flavor of the paste, but, as Thompson and many others said it would, it did. The pounding really produced a very different (better, that is) thing altogether.

So it got me thinking about making lots of paste and freezing it. Does anyone do that?

edited for formatting -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault, 13 January 2005 - 12:11 PM.

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#12 fifi

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:14 PM

. . . . .

But the biggest problem is that it is such a huge time commitment. My housemate in Urbana is a Thai grad student, and makes great looking meals most nights, though he basically will make just one stir-fried dish (using pre-made curry paste) and some rice made the normal way. I wonder what the middle ground is -- what an ordinary urban-dwelling parent without a large extended family would make for dinner, I mean. Do they do the whole curry/condiment/rice/soup/stir fry setup every weeknight?

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Good question. I know that when my Thai cooking friend would plan a dinner party, it took her two days. :blink: About the best I have been able to do is the coconut chicken soup out of the freezer, a curry using the paste from the bucket, and rice out of the rice cooker.

And another question . . . Does anyone here like to serve curries and such with the short grain brown rice? One of my favorite restaurants here does this. They pack it into a butterfly shaped mold and turn it out onto the middle of the plate. It has a wonderful flavor and texture but the short grain can be hard to find if you don't have an Asian grocery handy.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#13 vinelady

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:18 PM

The classes that I help teach we do 3 dishes from beginning to finish in two hours. That includes making the curry paste. One thing that i would recommend is that if you find a curry paste recipe that you like. Make a large batch and then freeze it.

#14 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:29 PM

The classes that I help teach we do 3 dishes from beginning to finish in two hours.  That includes making the curry paste.  One thing that i would recommend is that if you find a curry paste recipe that you like.  Make a large batch and then freeze it.

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Do you notice any degredation in the taste or consistency of the paste? The paste I've had from cans lacks that depth of flavor and velvety consistency that I got with the mortar and pestle, and I'd hate to lose it....
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#15 vinelady

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:33 PM

Do you notice any degredation in the taste or consistency of the paste? The paste I've had from cans lacks that depth of flavor and velvety consistency that I got with the mortar and pestle, and I'd hate to lose it....

View Post


No I think that the taste and consistency stays high. I would just recommend that if you do this don't make more than you would use up in a few months. Also we sometimes use the kitchen-aid instead of the mortar (you have to love modern equipment)

#16 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:42 PM


Do you notice any degredation in the taste or consistency of the paste? The paste I've had from cans lacks that depth of flavor and velvety consistency that I got with the mortar and pestle, and I'd hate to lose it....

View Post


No I think that the taste and consistency stays high. I would just recommend that if you do this don't make more than you would use up in a few months. Also we sometimes use the kitchen-aid instead of the mortar (you have to love modern equipment)

View Post


Thanks for the reply. Does it stay somewhat soft in the freezer or does it freeze hard? I'm wondering about portioning it out before hand or having it as a big lump.

Also, when you say that you use the KA, do you mean a chopping food processor or the beater or something else? I'm intrigued.....
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#17 =Mark

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 12:50 PM

There was a gentleman who used to post thai recipes to the Chileheads list. He passed away many years ago but there are still collections of his recipes online. Check out Colonel Ian's recipes at:

http://www.geocities...425/colian.html
=Mark

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#18 peanutgirl

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 02:00 PM

I made another cook book purchase thanks to snowangel. Yesterday I ordered Crying Tiger ( here's a link to the author's website) as well as a bunch of other items (including the rice steaming basket & pot) from the Temple of Thai website.

Feeling slightly guilty, I had to take a trip to the closet Asian mkt, to justify the online purchases. Guilt asuaged... they didn't have most of the things I ordered anyway.

Does anyone make their own Thai Tea? My husband loves it when we go out, and the stuff in cans tastes, well.. tinny. I bought a bag of loose tea mix ( ordered the tea steeper bag)... now if someone could please tell me what the tea to water ratio is , I'd appreciate it. My plan is to make a half gallon of the tea (minus the sweetener + cream).

Larbing tonight.

#19 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 03:15 PM

Does anyone make their own Thai Tea? My husband loves it when we go out, and the stuff in cans tastes, well.. tinny. I bought a bag of loose tea mix ( ordered the tea steeper bag)... now if someone could please tell me what the tea to water ratio is , I'd appreciate it. My plan is to make a half gallon of the tea (minus the sweetener + cream).

View Post

I think it's best to try a few different options, as the strength of the tea seems to vary a lot -- plus of course there's your taste. It's very inexpensive, though, so you can run a few experiments and let us know!

Larbing tonight.

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Oooh! Give details.... [Homer]Laarrrb... (drool)[/Homer]
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#20 vinelady

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the reply. Does it stay somewhat soft in the freezer or does it freeze hard? I'm wondering about portioning it out before hand or having it as a big lump.

Also, when you say that you use the KA, do you mean a chopping food processor or the beater or something else? I'm intrigued.....

View Post


I would portion it out. Sorry about not being more clear. I use a food processor. You loss a bit of quality, but if you are under time constrains it is worth it.

#21 snowangel

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 07:41 PM

Several comments:

As a bit of background, I lived in Thailand for many years, until I graduated from High School in Thailand almost 30 years ago. (Not a PX kid, but private foundation, so Thai food was what we ate.)

While I often use packaged curry paste, I find the stuff in the tubs to be superior to the stuff in the cans. I go for Maesri or May Ploy. Perhaps someting in the canning process?

When I make my own, I make a lot of it, using the mortar and pestle purchased in THailand. When I make it myself, I measure pretty carefully how much I put in the curry, and freeze those amounts in ice cube trays and transfer to a ziplock.

Thai and holy basil. They do not dry well. But, if you process them in the FP with some oil (ala pesto), you can freeze and not lose much.

I have just had an e-mail discussion with my friend Gordon, who is an expat in Thailand, married to a Thai woman, and dividing time between Bangkok and a place north of Bangkok, remote, rural and agricultural.

He confirmed that although many things have changed, some have not, in regards to an "average" Thai meal.

A poor family on a farm probably has a brothy (bones with a little meat and quite a lot of veg) soup for dinner at night with rice. Lots of rice.

A city family in which mom stays home probably has a curry, a stirfry veg and rice for dinner. The curry paste is likely purchased from a market, where a memeber of the stall is busy pounding paste.

A family that has both mom and dad working outside the house is likely to buy the curry ready made, have rice, and perhaps a stirfry. Or a soup with lots of rice.

Noodle dishes are primarily eaten off carts or at stalls.

Things like roti, fried bananas, kanom krop (sp?), larb, etc. are more likely eaten from a stand, stall or cart.

Multi-course meals are more likely eaten at a restaurant outside the home.

And, Gordon agreed. While the U. S. has become an increasingly restaurant-oriented culture, the Thais, outside of the rural/agricultural/poot, have been this way for years.

I remember well the days in Bangkok. My sister and I loved the nights when my parents went out. We listened for the ding of the bell on the noodle cart. Out we ran, bowls in hand, for our version of Fast Food. Ba Me (sp?). A basket of noodles, odd meat parts, veg. Dipped into a vat of fatty broth for a couple of minutes. Dumped into our bowls. Ladled with the broth. A plethora of condiments. Some hot, some sour, and a bowl of sugar. Chopsticks in hand, we were in heaven.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#22 BettyK

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 11:36 PM

I like Kasma's books and David Thompson and another author worth mentioning is Su-Mei Yu Cracking the Coconut. I just made Kho Op Maw Din (claypot rice) for dinner tonight. Yum. Great comfort food.

Snowangel, what's the deal with palm sugar? Do they only come in blocks?
They are so hard to grate. I use a microplane but it still takes forever.
I don't think it would go well in a food processor, would it?

Edit: Hope the amazon link works now :rolleyes:

Edited by BettyK, 14 January 2005 - 11:41 PM.


#23 fifi

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 11:57 PM

My palm sugar is in a jar. Here's a tip. I put the jar in hot water to warm the sugar. Then you can spoon it out.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#24 patti

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 02:49 AM

I'm not very experienced in cooking Thai food, nor am I experienced in eating much of it. I've had shrimp pad thai a few times, lemongrass soup with coconut, and spring rolls. But a few months ago I became determined to learn more about curry dishes, having only tasted it a few times and being overwhelmed by the strong taste (in hindsight, I really think I tasted poor examples). A thread here at eGullet got me interested in giving it a try.

I started out VERY timidly by getting some of Penzey's sweet curry powder (they describe it as a good starter curry) and using it to season chicken pieces before roasting in the oven. I was surprised by how much I liked it. It wasn't overpowering, just nice and tasty.

A friend recommended Maesri curry paste and now I've tried their yellow, red, and green. Red is by far my favorite. I followed her general instructions for making a simple, easy curry, using one can of curry paste, one can of coconut milk, assorted veggies (diced red, yellow, and green peppers, and sliced mushrooms) and my meat of choice. I've used chicken most often, but my very favorite was with leftover pork tenderloin; leftover roast beef wasn't as good. I've become so enamored of this dish (and the heat) that I can't seem to move on to the next step of trying something more complicated or varied. (However, it's still a nice move away from starting every single dish I cook with the trinity and Tony Chachere's.)

I've never seen curry paste in tubs, but will look for it after I use up the six or so cans currently in my pantry. I also look forward to more information on this thread.

Here's a nice little eGullet article about Thai Curry, written by mamster:

Thai Curry
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#25 Susan in FL

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 08:54 AM

All week I looked forward to settling down to read this thread and all the links more thoroughly! It contains wonderful information. It is especially helpful and interesting to read your first-hand experience, Snowangel-Susan, and the info from your friend Gordon.

Kasma Loha-unchit's site is one I will certainlly frequent. I was just reading through the brands she recommends and making a list for when my current supply is diminishing. However, before that shopping I will need to try some canned coconut cream. For our last dinner, we used the liquid from a fresh coconut. Do any of you use fresh? Is canned actually preferable?

Fifi, I understand what you mean about making a particular dish several times to get the hang of the balance of flavors. I did that with Larb and we talked about needing to do it with a couple of these new-to-us dishes. Upon your recommendation, I want to try Chicken Coconut Soup soon, at home and/or in restaurants. About the Asian markets in our area, I was surprised.

These mentions of coconut are reminding me that coconut has been one of very, very few foods that I have always disliked, so I need to incorporate that into my cooking carefully. I was amazed when I took a little drink from the inside of the coconut, and thought it tasted good! I don't yet like the meat of the coconut, though.

We have some very ripe mangoes on hand and I want to make the mango and sticky rice dessert if they haven't gotten over-ripe. I intended to use them this week, but work was too busy this week to do much of anything else.

What's the asian market scene where you live? Have you experimented at all with noodles?

I have not experimented with any Thai noodle dishes, but I certainly want to. Please share any of your favorite recipes. I have eaten Pad Thai out a few times, and learned that apparently there are as many different recipes for that dish as there are cooks. So in that regard, I'm not sure where to begin.
I have found two Asian markets in our area and was very pleasantly surprised to find everything we were looking for. Once my husband went in to one looking for Kaffir lime leaves. She was out of them in her store and so she picked a few off of her own plant and gave them to him. That made a very good impression!

Does anyone make their own Thai Tea?

What is Thai Tea? I'm wondering if I saw it served in a Thai restaurant I recently found, and if so, I wonder if it was typical... it looked like a glass of iced tea with whipped cream on top?

Peanutgirl, how did your larbing go?

Now I'm on my way to the eGCI course.
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#26 Chef Metcalf

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 12:20 PM

Here is a great website you may want to check out Susan.
They have a recipe section for Thai dishes that are all very authentic and Steve and Trish give you a lot of cooking tips for using ingredients from SE Asia.


cm

Edited by Chef Metcalf, 15 January 2005 - 12:21 PM.


#27 bbq4meanytime

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 03:57 PM

I spent one summer making curries every which way, using all the differnet pastes , panang, red, green, yellow and massaman, both homemade (from Thompsons book) and store bought (mae ploy).

I'd highly recommend doing that until you've found your balance. It was a ton of fun too. Keep notes on proportions, you'll find some recipes better than others. And buy coconut cream too (as opposed to coconut milk). Some recipes call for higher amounts of coconut cream and you can only scrape off about 1/2c from a can of coconut milk.

#28 fifi

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 05:20 PM

I like to have coconut cream on hand as well as the milk. Oddly enough, it is sometimes hard to find here. Whereas, they will have cases of the milk stacked up at the ends of the aisles.

My nephew ran into some large cans at the dollar store, of all places, and brought them home. He wanted to make coconut ice cream. Following a recipe that called for coconut cream that I found for him he made a batch. What he neglected to notice was that the coconut cream that he bought was the sweetened stuff for mixing drinks, sort of like Coco Lopez. That ice cream was so sweet it was almost inedible. :biggrin:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#29 snowangel

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 07:08 PM

The coconut cream vs. milk discussion revolves more around whether you like a thinner curry (which I do) or a thicker curry.

Edited by snowangel, 15 January 2005 - 07:08 PM.

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#30 fifi

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 05:56 AM

I also tend toward a thinner curry. I do have to say that the Chaudoc brand that I use typically yields more than a quarter cup of cream. I get at least a half cup, maybe more, per can. It might be worthwhile mentioning here since it may not be obvious. To be sure you can get some cream off when you open the can, let it sit in the pantry for a good long time. I have no idea what that means. I just get one of the cans from the back of the shelf that I know has been sitting around undisturbed for who knows how long. I carefully move it to the fridge so as to not shake it up. Then I open it and lift the cream off. I have noticed that some brands separate more than others. One of the "grocery store" brands I have used in a pinch never would separate. Maybe some brands are "homogenized" somehow.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose