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Jen Keenan

Thai Cooking at Home, 2007 – 2012

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Thanks Gabe. When I made the paste it had more of a consistancy of a Mae Ploy curry...dry, pasty but not smooth. Your paste looks well mashed/blended very much like tomato paste. It's good to see what you were trying to tell me.

I reviewed Austin's recipe for the dish you made and like most recipes volume of ingredients is up for interpretation. What is small garlic, what size shallots, how long is a stalk of LG, how long are the peppers are all good examples of how the size affects the overall flavor you're trying to acheive. Same goes for quality and type of ingredient (which chili to use). I understand experimentation each time you make it is a way to find out but if you have no basis for comparison it makes it hard to get the flavor the way it's intended. Am I over analyzing? Of course I am but I'm just trying to find that basis of comparison to judge all other versions I make...know what I mean?

Peppers seem to be one of those things that are completely going over my head. Austins recipe uses large and small dried chili's. What actual types is he referring to and what are allowable substitutes if any? When I made the curry past this last time, I used what looks like the same chili's as you. I remember you saying that they should be very dark in color. Well, I bought some chili's (new mexico or calif, can't remember right now) that are BIG and DARK. I think you said these were acceptable. Would these be the large chili's Austin is referring to?

Thanks for the great post.

Bob

ps where do you get Kaffir lime zest without finding the actual fruit anywhere?


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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jmolinari: Hmm, that's not a bad idea actually. It might work well, especially if you pounded it in small batches after the intial whiz in the process. I can't see any reason why using a food processor at first would eliminate what the pounding contributes. At the very least one could use the processor for some of the intial chopping up.

Gastro888: As jmolinari said, a sharp knife will do you well. I haven't had great sucess with my papaya salads, but I suspect that was as my strands were too thick, and I haven't tried it in a while. I think it was on Austin's blog that I read a good strategy is to use a vegetable peeler to take off wide thin strips, and then cut these into long thin shreds. David thompson suggests a mandoline for this too. You might also try the coarse grating side of a cheese grater. I have been meaning to try this for a while and when I do I was planning on making a few shreds with all of these methods and then selecting whichever one made for the best texture.

Austin gives a recipe and some theory here (about halfway down. And Kasma  Loha-Unchit's verison is here. I remember reading somewhere, I think it was Austin's blog, that there are actually two main types of green papaya salad; one closer to the original version from northern thailand and one adapted as a popular snack throughout the country. Aside from your ingredients I would say garlic is key, and cherry tomatoes, tamarind, peanuts, and dried shrimp are all common additions as well.

Thanks for your help, I appreciate it! Is there a particular type of tool I should use? I don't have a mandoline and currently my budget doesn't allow for such a nice toy. What do they use in Thailand?

In a pinch, can I get away without the tamarind? I forgot to purchase some! Oops!


Edited by Gastro888 (log)

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Bob: I understand completely, I am very prone to the same thing myself, especially as I have never been to thailand and don't feel like I have any good points of comparison. I think its important to note though that most thai cooks probably don't measure at all when making pastes, they simply adjust by taste as they go. One thing I've been trying to do is taste the paste as I make it, seeing how it changes after each ingredient. In addition to this I keep picture records of the curries I make. This way I can compare different recipes and compare them not just to each other, but compare their pastes as well. I am not very diligent about it yet, but I am thinking of taking some tasting notes too, so that I can build up my understanding of different curries.

I think there is a fair amount of leeway with the pastes though, and that unless you drastically alter the proportion of ingredients you'll be in good shape. Just use your best guess for the measurements, use recipes from reliable sources, and stick to them fairly rigidly until you begin to get an understand of the principles involved. Understanding the subtleties I think comes with lot of experience coupled with some guiding principles to build an understanding. After all, there are so many different elements working together in the more complicated pastes. If you are serious I'd highly recommend getting David Thompson's book, as he gives a detailed description of all the paste ingredients and how they contribute to the paste/interact with each other.

As for chilies, I found Austin's primer on thai chiles to be very helpful (about 1/4th down, incidentally anyone know how to link to a specific scroll-site on a page?). The two types of chiles he uses are dried red bird's eye chiles (phrik khii noo or thai) and dried long red chiles (phrik chii faa). Dried red thai chiles are pretty easy to find and are used primarly for heat. I haven't found anything similar to dried long red chiles, but I use new mexico or california dried red chiles as a substitute. In my experience, aside from some distinctive varieties most red and green chiles taste fairly similar, and new mexico/california match the description of dried phrik chii faa well (mild, fruity, colourful). They do seem to be a bit bigger than phrik chii faa though, so I usually count a big one (say 3" by 2" at the stem end) as 2 or 3 dried phrik chii faa. I mentioned the dark ones specifically, because darker chiles generally have more flavor, and they will give the best deep red colour to your curry. I soak dried red chiles in cold salted water before pounding, as per thompson's instructions (this seems to make a difference versus just plain cold water).

These are the long chilies I have found in montreal that I use in place of phrik chii faa, they look pretty similar but its hard to say for sure, they seem to match the taste descriptions though.

gallery_44574_4258_111043.jpg

If you can't find any fresh chiles like this, I would suggest for the long green jalapenos, serranos, or even green cayennes. For the red I'd suggest fresnoes or red cayennes.

One thing I forgot to mention is that small cloves of garlic/shallots seem to be favorable for pastes. I suspect this is for their stronger flavor/lower water content, but am not sure yet.

Kaffir limes are actually readily available here, I get about 3 golf ballish ones for 2$, and they keep forever in the fridge. I'm suprised you can't find them in california, especially considering you have a dwarf tree, maybe check out some different markets? I would subsitute regular lime zest with mince kaffir lime leaves if you can't find them.

Gastro888 You pre-empted me as I was typing, but your plan to use the vegetable peeler/julienne should work fine. As I said, you could also try the cheese grater. I can't weigh in on what they use exactly in thailand, but you can look around the net for lots of pictures to get you an idea of what the shreds are like (there is a good one in the link to austin's blog i provided). In a pinch you could probably go without the tamarind, but it does seem to feature in all the recipes I've seen for it. I think it adds a special fruity sour note and also helps to give some body to the dressing. There's always next time though!

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As for chilies, I found Austin's primer on thai chiles to be very helpful (about 1/4th down, incidentally anyone know how to link to a specific scroll-site on a page?). ...

Thai Chile Primer

(Typically in blog posts if you go to the end of the post there mgiht be something called a "permalink" that you can click on for specific post URL. In Austin's blog you can get the specific URL by clicking on the hypertexted date given at the bottom of the post.

Thanks for all the tips, insights and pictorial on making the Thai chile paste, Gabriel. It's really helpful!


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Gabriel: What an outstanding pictorial!

. . . an unruly coarse blob that resisted my best attempts to reduce it to a paste.
Yes, I have wrestled with a few of those. :rolleyes:
I like to have a bit of moist ingredient pounded before the lemongrass, as it has a strong tendency to fly out of the mortar, and something moist helps keep it in place (i.e. galangal).
That is an excellent suggestion - I'll try that next time.
And here if the finished curry, which was unbelievably good. I'd highly recommend it.

gallery_44574_3991_187439.jpg

Looks delicious!

Thanks for the pictorial. Have you tried maybe starting the paste in a blender/food processor and finishing it the mortar?
Jmolinari:I have tried that, and it seems to work pretty well. The mortar gives the best texture, but we usually take shortcuts on weeknights. Either way, making your own paste is a big step up from using canned curry paste.

Tonight we made stir-fried beef with chiles and basil (neua pat bai grapao), from David Thompson's Thai Food. Recipes in the "snacks and street food" section feed one person, so we scaled up. Last time I quadrupled the soy and dark soy – big mistake. This time, I barely doubled the salty ingredients. The fiery-red spice paste had nine garlic cloves, four long red chiles, and five bird chiles (we used the food processor). A little sugar moderated the heat, and lots of basil provided a wonderful fragrance.

gallery_42956_2536_13687.jpg

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Gastro88, you can always buy a "Benriner"! It is a plastic, Japanese-made mandolin that comes with three different julienne blades (or you can use it without for just plain slicing). They're usually available at most Asian markets...small ones are around $17 and large ones are around $25+. They're very affordable if you can splurge on a European style mandoline and they work great...so great I've julienned a thumb without feeling it until it was too late :blink: .

But your idea for the peeler and knife also sounds ingenious.

I rarely, if ever, use tamarind in my papaya salad and it comes out okay (but I don't always look for perfectly traditional or authentic tasting stuff...just cook to my tastes)

I recently watched a demo by a Thai chef named Chat Mingkwan and he gave a really cute tip, which I thought was a fun one. Forgive me if I'm reiterating something from further upthread or if it is so simple it is stupid...

You know how with asparagus, there's a point on the stalk that is right where the tough woody part becomes tender and you can snap off the ends very easily there? The same principle applies to lemongrass! You just bend the stalk around six inches or so (around that much) from the base and wherever it snaps off the easiest is where you should discard the top half. The rest, to the base should be decently tender and flavorful.

edited to add: link to benriner on amazon but don't buy from Amazon as all the purveyors are overpriced. Should be much cheaper at an Asian market. These are what professionals use in restaurants too...you'd be surprised.

here's another link to Korin Knife which is about the right price considering how expensive the rest of their stuff is!


Edited by alanamoana (log)

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Thank you for your kind words everyone.

Ludja: Ah, so that's how it's done. Many thanks for pointing that out, I'd been wondering how to do that forever.

. . . i've also quadrupled it, and it used WAY too much salt and garlic (if i remember quadrupled was 16 cloves of garlic) . . .

Way too much garlic - what's that? :biggrin:

My thoughts exactly. I've often been scared of adding too much garlic dish, but I have yet to encounter a dish I found too garlicky; I think the light browning more typical in asian recipes mitigates a lot of the strong raw garlic taste.

Bruce: The stickiness of pounded dried chiles also helps with the projectile nature of lemongrass. I have also tried making a ring or "cover" for my pestle out of aluminum foil or wax paper, and I sometimes cover the mortar with a cloth in one hand and pound with the other, but usually I just pound furiously in the middle of the table, return any big pieces that fly out, and wipe up thouroughly when I'm done.

I've had mixed experiences with the seasoning in Thompson's book. For some recipes, particularly curries, I find he takes far too light a hand, as I usually prefer much more paste (read all of the batch, rather than a few tbsps), and typically more fish sauce as well. For other things like soups, I find them sufficiently salty long before adding the proscribed amount. But I suppose this is to be expected with varying ingredients, and thus I always follow the cardinal rule: season to taste (with a balance in mind). I too have learned that salty ingredients don't tend to scale up linearly, and I now build up in small increments as overseasoning isn't easily remedied. Perfectly seasoned food is a sublime thing, and although paramount in any cooking, I think it especially difficult to master in Thai cooking, and oh-so-satisfying when finally achieved.

alanamoana: That is a neat trick, I'll have to try it soon. I have to admit though that I never quite got it with asparagus though. My mother showed it to me recently, but I couldn't seem to do it without a fair bit of waste. Lemongrass was another ingredient whose handling mystified me at first, but I have learned a few things. I tend to stop when the cross section rings cut from the stalk no longer show any purple, and make a particular shredding sound when cut. This is for yams and other preparations where the lemongrass is actually eaten; as an aromatic in soups and such I use more of the stalk, and generally leave a layer or two more on when peeling.

Tonight for dinner I had geng bpa pal sai (jungle curry of fish with deep-fried shallots):

gallery_44574_3991_16209.jpg

and pak bung fai dtaeng (stir-fried watercress with yellow beans, garlic, and chilies):

gallery_44574_3991_737529.jpg

I really enjoyed the jungle curry, and have enjoyed all the ones I have tried thus far. They are strongly flavoured; pungent and hot without the mitigating smoothness of coconut cream, but have a refreshing sharpness instead. They probably wouldn't appeal to as wide an audience as coconut curries do, but I think they hold their own quite nicely.

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alamonana, thanks for your hints, I appreciate it! Luckily, I'll be able to get some tamarind today and I'm going to try the recipe. I am thinking about getting a motar and pestle but unsure if I should invest. How much does one cost?

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alamonana, thanks for your hints, I appreciate it!  Luckily, I'll be able to get some tamarind today and I'm going to try the recipe.  I am thinking about getting a motar and pestle but unsure if I should invest.  How much does one cost?

A Thai mortar and pestle (made of inexpensive ceramic) is what you should use for light pounding and works very well for papaya salad as it is very tall. They are available at a lot of Asian markets and are dark brown with a wood pestle. They usually run about $11USD and up.

A stone/granite mortar and pestle set is what you want for curry pastes and other harder to grind items. These are a bit more expensive as they are much heavier and probably harder to carve. Again, available at Asian markets (and Latin markets). They run around $20+ depending on size.

All of you are making such great food!

Thai food and cookware online source. They have both kinds of mortar and pestle. They call the pottery one a Lao style mortar and pestle. They're asking about $18. I've never ordered from this site, but they look like they have a lot of good stuff.

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I enjoy very much cooking recipes from the Thompson book and feel like I learned so much specifically because of the scaling up of recipe which I do often. Like Gabriel mentioned, the cardinal rule should be taste, taste taste. I had a problem initially with the salt scaling up and the shallots since I think my shallots are bigger than the one he uses. So, now I go slow and I usually never use more than twice the shallots if I am quadrupeling the recipe.

As for the food processor, I am planning on giving it a shot to chop everything next time before pounding in my mortar and pestle and compare the result. It certainly is no substitute for the M&P though. After all if the Thai had a food processor a few hundred years ago...I'm thinking they would've used it :smile:.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thanks for all the advice, alamonana (I love the Alamonana Mall in Hawaii!). I was able to purchase some dried shrimp and tamarind concentrate for tonight's meal. Yay! I don't have the peanuts and I didn't want to include the string beans. (I have this thing against raw string beans...). So it's garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar, dried shrimp, tamarind, and chili flakes?

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...incidentally anyone know how to link to a specific scroll-site on a page?

Typically in blog posts if you go to the end of the post there mgiht be something called a "permalink" that you can click on for specific post URL. In Austin's blog you can get the specific URL by clicking on the hypertexted date given at the bottom of the post.

In the upper right-hand corner of every post there's a Post #. Left-click on it, and a box will open with a cut-and-paste-able link direct to the post. You have to allow scripting in your browser for this to work.


Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Gastro: Hope your papaya salad turned out well. The ingredients you mentioned plus lime juice, as alana helpfully noted, are in my experience the standard base for som dtam. It's usually fresh chiles rather than dried or chili flakes, but heat is the basic idea. Here is a fixed specific link for Austin's recipe, which is a laotian version (a long post, recipe at the bottom). I gather you've looked at the two links already, but if you haven't they should give some perspective.

As for buying a mortar and pestle I'd recommend it. They are an indispenable tool for many thai dishes, are relatively inexpensive, and have other applications as well. I use mine to grind small amounts of spices, bruise things like lemongrass, break up hardended brown or palm sugar, or grind my own superfine sugar. This is the heavy granite kind of course, the ceramic kind is great for som dtam, but I am unaware of other applications. I mentioned this before, but I'd like to emphasize it again: opt for a larger mortar (say 8-9" diameter or larger) if you do buy one. Those extra 10 or 15$ will be well worth it if you ever decide to try a more complicated paste.

HKdave: Ludja's suggestion seems to work well, I don't see a post # on the blog though. Thanks though.

Foodman: I too am skeptical of any real replacement for the M&P, but you never know. I too plan to try a similar experiment soon, and would love to hear about your results. The shallots used in thai coking are the smaller pink shallots rather than the more common monstrous gray shallots found in the west, thompson calls these "red shallots". See this thread for more info.

Tonight I had dtom jiw gai (hot and sour soup of shredded chicken and lemongrass):

gallery_44574_3991_566752.jpg

and yam gop gati tian (coconut chicken salad):

gallery_44574_3991_787350.jpghttp://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1175128769/gallery_44574_3991_787350.jpg

The soup was excellent, I love that particular combination of sour and hot with aromatics. Unfortunately, the lime juice ended up clouding the stock.

The yam was the perfect foil to my spicy leftover jungle curry, and was an interesting preparation. It seemed more akin to a lon to me, or even a curry to me in someways, but there is definite blurring between dish classifications.

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...incidentally anyone know how to link to a specific scroll-site on a page?

Typically in blog posts if you go to the end of the post there mgiht be something called a "permalink" that you can click on for specific post URL. In Austin's blog you can get the specific URL by clicking on the hypertexted date given at the bottom of the post.

In the upper right-hand corner of every post there's a Post #. Left-click on it, and a box will open with a cut-and-paste-able link direct to the post. You have to allow scripting in your browser for this to work.

HKDave's tip if for how to link to specific eGullet posts within a thread; also a good thing! My tip was how to link to specific posts on a webblog out on the general net.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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All of this delicious Thai food upthread inspired me to make the “quick” red chicken curry (gaeng ped gai from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. We made the curry paste in the Preethi grinder, adding a little of the chile soaking water to thin the paste. Without mechanical assistance, curry paste isn’t happening on a weeknight. :raz:

Fry the paste in thick coconut cream, add the chicken, toss to coat, and cook for a few minutes over high heat. Add the remaining coconut milk and quartered Thai eggplants, and simmer for a bit. Add torn lime leaves and fish sauce, and simmer some more.

gallery_42956_2536_18498.jpg

Just before serving, add slivered red bell peppers (or even better, red chiles). Adjust the seasoning with fish sauce, a touch of sugar, and lime juice. No basil in the house, so we garnished with cilantro. I will try to pick up some fresh basil for tomorrow’s leftovers.

The flavors were light but delicious. Next time I’ll use more curry paste.

gallery_42956_2536_22218.jpg

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Ludja Ah, saved again. Thanks for clarifying; I had been wondering how to do that too and can now thank HKdave knowing what I'm thanking him for.

Bruce: I generally save my curries for the weekends as well, except when fits of madness strike. Your curry looks great, but I might offer my new method for chicken curries with thai eggplants in them. I prefer to add the chicken after the eggplants have simmered for few minutes. This allows me to get the eggplants to to the soft consistency I prefer, without potentially overcooking the chicken. Of course, chicken suffers little from overcooking, but I had been overcooking it inadvertently so long that I now take special care. Thigh meat is amazingly tender when just barely, but adquately, cooked. I also recently learned while trying to help Bob recreate a dish, that a particular kind of red curry ("chuu chii", usually seafood) is typically garnished with coriander and shredded kaffir lime leaves.

A few questions for you if you don't mind.

I noticed you seasoned your curry with lime juice? I've seen this in other curries before, but never in coconut based ones. Is this a personal preference or something you picked up from elsewhere? What do you feel it adds? I think I'll have to try this.

Would you be willing to make some comments on the preethi grinder? What kind you have, what you use it for, where you got it, how much it cost etc. I've heard of these, and sort of looked into one as I also cook a lot of indian, but I don't know much them.

I'd like to a moment to plug for a new discovery of mine: vacuum packed coconut milk.

gallery_44574_4258_482846.jpg

I think a few people have mentioned frozen coconut milk before, but I hadn't heard of vacuum packed. I recently discovered this and did a side by side test with my favorite brand of canned coconut milk, Chaokoh. This was the clear winner, hands down. It had a slighlty stronger coconut flavor, and was fresher and cleaner tasting, without any metallic residue. At first only a local specialty store carried these, but now they seem to be popping up everywhere, and range from 1-1.75$ canadian for 500mL. Typically they contain about a cup of thick coconut cream, and they also come in 250mL and 1L sizes. I also compared this to frozen coconut milk, and they seemed pretty comparable. The frozen may be a bit cleaner/fresher, but its hard to say and I think I need to do some more comparing. At any rate I've only found one source for frozen and its quite a bit more expensive (2.50$ for 500mL). Additionally, it doesn't seem to have much cream and is seperated from the freezing, which limits its usefulness.

Today I made Kasma Loha Unchit's Naw-mai Farang Pad Nahm Man Hoi (asparagus stir-fried with oyster mushrooms and shrimp)

gallery_44574_3991_178928.jpg

and kanom jin sao nahm with jaeng lorm luk chin pla (pineapple and dried prawns thai noodles with fish dumplings simmered in coconut cream)

gallery_44574_3991_498865.jpg

(yes, there are noodles under all that stuff)

The asparagus was excellent, and I think this dish is a good example of how usually star ingredients often play a supporting role in thai cuisine. This dish includes both shrimp and mushrooms - normally star ingredients, but the focus is on the asparagus. This is fairly common from what I've seen, and I think is indicative of how asian food in general isn't as hung up on meat.

The noodles were really tasty. Thin rice noodles topped with slivers of raw garlic, shredded ginger, minced pineapple, ground dried prawns, and a hot-sour-sweet dressing. Add to this fish balls pounded with garlic in coriander simmered in lightly seaoned coconut cream and you have yourself a wonderful bowl of noodles. Unfortunately I overestimated my tolerance a bit, and went overboard with the chilies. I've been eating ridiculously hot lately, but I guess 12 thai chiles is still too much for one bowl of noodles. I haven't had my ass kicked this badly since I made Austin's Kaeng Som.

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Gabriel: We are getting ready to host a brunch party for 25 people today, so I will respond at greater length this evening. I have not seen vacuum-packed coconut milk locally, but I'll keep an eye out when we go to some of the larger Asian markets in the DC area.

I am jealous that you have one of Kasma Loha-Unchit's cookbooks. I missed my opportunity to buy them when they were in print, and they are now selling for some ridiculously high cost. :sad:

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I generally save my curries for the weekends as well, except when fits of madness strike.
Heh, fits of madness – I resemble that remark.
I prefer to add the chicken after the eggplants have simmered for few minutes. This allows me to get the eggplants to to the soft consistency I prefer, without potentially overcooking the chicken.
Interesting – I also like eggplants soft, but Mrs. C has a strong aversion to mushy anything so we keep the eggplants firm. I like your idea of adjusting cooking times for different ingredients, though. One of the things that I find most difficult is getting multiple ingredients to the desired state of doneness.
I noticed you seasoned your curry with lime juice? I've seen this in other curries before, but never in coconut based ones. Is this a personal preference or something you picked up from elsewhere? What do you feel it adds? I think I'll have to try this.
I probably got the idea of using lime juice from a green curry recipe. I have also tried Chinkiang vinegar, which is not traditional but has a mellow taste that works nicely. I usually start by adjusting the saltiness with fish sauce. If the curry still needs something, I will try adding a touch of sour (lime juice or vinegar) and/or sweet (sugar or palm sugar).

I am aiming for the point where the curry’s flavor seems more rich and complex, but before the sweet or sour taste is perceptible as such. This is mostly trial and error, so I often do a better job with leftovers because I have had a chance to practice.

Would you be willing to make some comments on the preethi grinder? What kind you have, what you use it for, where you got it, how much it cost etc. I've heard of these, and sort of looked into one as I also cook a lot of indian, but I don't know much them.
We have a Preethi Chefpro Plus heavy duty mixer grinder. The current price is $175 USD at Perfect Peninsula, Inc. The Preethi quickly makes a smooth paste from tough ingredients like chiles, lemongrass, and galangal. Perhaps the spice paste is not as smooth as one made in a mortar, but the process is substantially faster. For example, yesterday I made a very large volume of spice paste for potato rendang. Using the Preethi took five or ten minutes; using the mortar would have taken more than an hour. Without this time savings, curry paste would simply not be an option on weeknights.

The Preethi is very powerful, so it does have one drawback – it only works when the jar is filled about half-way or more. Otherwise, the blades immediately fling everything against the walls of the jar. For small to medium volumes, the food processor or mortar works better. The mortar is most efficient for small jobs like grinding dry spices or mashing chiles and garlic for nuoc cham.

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Bruce: I didn't know about Mrs. C's preference, so I gather your chicken was just fine. I was amazed at the difference myself initially. It makes so much sense now that bite size chicken needs only a minute or two in the hot curry paste, and then 3-4 minutes at a low simmer. I had never even considered this before I knew how to cook meat; little did I realize that chicken could be so tender.

I also struggle with getting the right amount of doneness in my curries, especially as I never eat them all in one sitting. I fret particularly about seafood, as I know tommorow's leftovers are overcooking while I sit down to enjoy my meal. I have resorted to cooking a meals worth of meat initially and parcooking the rest, or submerging the pot in a sink of cold water.

I will have to try playing with some of these souring agents. Lime juice in any coconut based curry doesn't strike me as traditional either, but I have hardly seen everything. I wouldn't say chinkiang vinegar is much more untraditional; Thompson has a number of recipes with it, and it seems to be an ingredient picked up from the chinese. I'd particularly recommend Stir-fried banana chiles (pg 465) with it. Another thing you might try is tamarind, which is typical of southern curries.

I also have been trying to nail the seasoning with my curries. I think it's rare that a coconut milk curry doesn't require atleast a little sugar to pull together and soften the flavors. Although, after reading Thompson's comments on sugar in green curries, I have been limiting my sugar with them to a teaspoon or less; I think I agree with him thus far. I think no perceptible sweetness for some curries is good, but not necessarily so for other ones. I have had to learn to restrain myself though, as sometimes the sugar doesn't seem to have the desired effect, or I don't perceive it, and I end up with an overly sweet curry. Do you follow his suggestion of briefly caramelizing the palm sugar for fried curries? I hadn't encountered this before from other authors, and am particularly fond of it now.

The preethi grinder sounds great, I think I will add it to the "list" (which is unfortunately, far too long already). I have heard great things about it for grinding idli and dosa batters as well.

Unfortunately, your jealousy is unmerited; I am in the same boat as you. Kasma is my hero, and probably my favorite thai cookery author. I think I've read every printed word on her site, and cooked about half its recipes. I hope to get the cookbooks someday when I am richer. In the meantime I scour used bookstores (I have heard of some people getting lucky), and I am planning on buying the e-book for Dancing Shrimp.

Today I made Geng guwa malayu (Southern-style curry of mud crab, T-323). Here is the prepared paste:

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The curry was very good. I didn't realize it at first, but I think this is more or less the exact same curry as Austin's earlier one, but with crab instead of mussels. They are southern style curries: seasoned with tamarind and coconut based, but are enriched with coconut cream at the end rather than fried. Thompson's recipe called for Mud Crab, but I substitued this guy:

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They were offering live crabs at the market, and I couldn't resist. This was my first time dealing with live crab, and I managed ok, a lot of work though. Thompson's directions said to break open the shell (after killing of course) and cut the crab meat into chunks. My guy seemed to be a bit too small for this, so I settled for parcooking him and scraping the meat out afterwards. I think next time I will try making crab balls, as the shredded crab meat was still very tasty, but somewhat diffuse when mixed into the curry. Here is the finished product:

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I also made Kao Niaow Ma- Muang (Coconut flavored sticky rice with mangoes, and in my case, strawberries).

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Sticky rice with mangoes is a favorite of mine. Most recipes, including Kasma's, recommend letting the rice rest for a bit after adding the sweetened coconut milk, so as to let it soak up the flavors. The flavors do seem to permeate more this way, but I really like the texture of just mixed hot sticky rice fresh coated in sweet, salty coconut milk. The strawberries aren't traditional of course, but I had some on hand and thought I'd try them. Not sure how I feel about them yet, I think the mango is a better pairing though.

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Malayu = Melayu = Malay. Just FYI. So it's not just southern Thai but actually Malay from the south of Thailand.

I have to say that it impresses me when people who have access to time-saving measures volunteer to pound things out with mortar and pestle, as untold generations of peasant housewives have (or at least did until recently, if not still) every day. It's hard labor!


Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan

 

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Gabriel, that is one scary looking crab. Hope he didn't cause that nasty crack in your block (I can give you tips on how to fix that). I'm loving the pics of the food so far. I should get Thompson's book as the recipes so far look great.


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

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