Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone. I'm relatively new on this section of eGullet but I have just returned from a trip to Thailand. I'm still reflecting on some of the things that piqued my interest and some things I saw, I'm hoping to get some clairification on.

For instance...I was in Chiang Mai and I went to the Chinatown market. The air inside was so pungent...I could smell it before I could see it. Stacks and stacks of dried and what I assumed was fermented fish. The thing is, I have a couple Thai cookbooks now and I don't see any recipes including the fish. At the market they had a massive variety of different shapes and sizes. I'm just wondering what they're used for?

Also, there's a fruit I had when I was there that I never caught the name of. I have a picture of it but it's not handy at the moment. It's an oblong fruit kind of shapped like a small (2-3") football. The dark brown exterior is easily penetrated and peeled away. The flesh is a firmer white type that was sweet and sour with a, I believe, round pit in the middle. Does this ring any bells for anyone? I had it a couple times and just fell in love with it!

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll remember more questions as I slog through the massive amount of photos I took!

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the time the dried fish is a side dish, eaten on its own in company with the other dishes. Sometimes I've seen the meat shredded off and pounded into pastes and other dishes, but that's always appeared to be more of a seat of the pants thing.

Referencing Thai Cuisine in Rattanakosin Era by Wandee Na Songkhla, their only comment is:

Phlaa khem - to save partially eaten large salted fish for a long period of time, hang it in a well-ventilated area within the reach of soft sunlight. For smaller fish, keep them in a loosely woven basket, sun-dry periodically.

I hope that helps a little. At least this way, if you've got some you've already been gnawing on, you'll know how to make them last.

Link to post
Share on other sites

scarlett: As you mentioned, there were lots of different kinds of fish, which means they are all used in many different ways. Salted fish (typically plaa insee, Spanish mackerel) is often deep-fried until crispy and used in stir fries, or simply served with a squeeze of lime and some chilies. Dried fish (there are many, many kinds, but plaa chon, snakehead fish, is common up north) is used in many ways, ranging from being roasted and then smashed up in chili paste (such as the northern Thai dish naam phrik taa daeng), or roasted and used in soups.

Especially considering that you saw this in Chiang Mai, I think dried fish is a throwback to the days when there was no refrigeration, and dodgy transport between the sea and northern Thailand. If people in Chiang Mai wanted to eat seafood, it probably had to be the dried stuff! Nowadays people have access to all manner of fresh seafood, and I think dried seafood might be falling out of favor, except in certain recipes where it's necessary.

The fruit you ate sounds like lamut, which in English is known as sapodilla. Look familiar? If you post the pic I'll bet we can identify it.

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites
The fruit you ate sounds like lamut, which in English is known as sapodilla. Look familiar? If you post the pic I'll bet we can identify it.

Austin and Peter...thanks so much for your replies. I'm still slogging through my photos but I found the fruit photos. It's not a sapodilla. I've consulted the book "Asian Ingredients" and the Southeast Asian Culinaria...still haven't been able to identify what it is. They're so tasty, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

I haven't quite figured out how to upload photos on eGullet, but here's a link on my Flickr account:

Fruit 1

Fruit 2

The photo I had of the inside was kind of crappy, so I'll just say that the seed was black.

Ring any bells?

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites
The fruit you ate sounds like lamut, which in English is known as sapodilla. Look familiar? If you post the pic I'll bet we can identify it.

Austin and Peter...thanks so much for your replies. I'm still slogging through my photos but I found the fruit photos. It's not a sapodilla. I've consulted the book "Asian Ingredients" and the Southeast Asian Culinaria...still haven't been able to identify what it is. They're so tasty, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

I haven't quite figured out how to upload photos on eGullet, but here's a link on my Flickr account:

Fruit 1

Fruit 2

The photo I had of the inside was kind of crappy, so I'll just say that the seed was black.

Ring any bells?

Looks like what's called buah salak in Malay and Indonesian. Have a look:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salak

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yep, it's called salak in Thai as well. Very interesting flavor and texture, that one.

Austin

I didn't think that much of it when I had some in Sumatra, but I was 11 at the time, so who knows whether I'd like it more now?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yep, it's called salak in Thai as well. Very interesting flavor and texture, that one.

Austin

I didn't think that much of it when I had some in Sumatra, but I was 11 at the time, so who knows whether I'd like it more now?

Oh thank you everyone for cracking the mystery for me! I really enjoyed those salak so much. I did have them a couple times and I think they can vary quite a bit with quality/flavor/freshness. I bought a bag of them down in the islands. The first few were really good, then I hit a dud. The one that was a dud was really bad. But the ones that were fresh had this sweet/tart profile that I really enjoyed.

Okay, next up for cracking the mystery...does anyone know what this is? What is it used for? I saw several different vendors carrying this product at the Chinese Market in Chiang Mai. It looked to me to be quite common but none of my books mention it.

I was just looking through my photos. I'm not quite sure what this is either. Is it part of the hull of a coconut? What is it used for? If it is from a coconut, does it have any flavor? It was in the culinary section of the market, but it doesn't look to me like an edible kind of thing.

Edited by scarlett (log)

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites

Re. your latest post, the first pic is of something called thua nao khaep. These are soybeans that have been fermented and pressed and dried into the hard disks you see there. You'll only find them in northern Thailand, and they're used in much the same was as shrimp paste is used elsewhere, ie in curry pastes or with chili dips. They are especially prevalent in Shan/Thai Yai cooking. You can see more about thua nao and here about Shan food here.

The second pic is a form of cheap and rather frightening looking tobacco!

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites
The second pic is a form of cheap and rather frightening looking tobacco!

Austin...you're my hero! I love that you not only mention what it is, but what it's used for. Do I understand you're working on a guide book?

Okay, so frightening tobacoo makes sense. Based on that, I'm still trying to figure out what all the components are here. What is that slice of fruit used for? And it looks to me like this bundle is some hand rolled cigarettes (aged, maybe?), and then the components to make your own. Does that sound right? The fruit is a mystery. I'm curious to know what it might be used for and what type of a fruit it is.

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites

Scarlett: I'm working on several things, one of which is a the food and drink chapter of a guidebook!

The bundle of things shown there is used as an offering to a spirit house or something similar. Those are hand-rolled Burmese cheroots, and the "fruit" you see there is actually betelnut, a stimulant that people in Asia like to chew, and which turns their mouths red!

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites
Scarlett: I'm working on several things, one of which is a the food and drink chapter of a guidebook!

Austin

Austin...thanks again! Please let me know when the guidebook is released with your food and drink content. I'd love to check it out.

One thing that frustrated me on my search for information is that most sources I found give just an overview. "Here's what you will most commonly encounter"....kind of thing. While I can appreciate that, I'd love to see a book that encompasses the foods in Thailand or even SE Asia that are more uncommon, regional, or seasonal. I'm sure, like all things, economics plays a significant factor. I'm not sure how much of a market there would be for that kind of book, but personally, I'd love it!

In the meantime, I appreciate your willingness to crack the mystery on some of these things. Are you currently based out of Thailand?

Edited by scarlett (log)

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Austin, Peter, anyone:

I bought a bag of Thai eggplant, those little green fellas that look like a green tomato or oversized gooseberry. I want to make a vegetarian curry for a student of mine. I've never used these before, so when I cut one open today, I noticed there were a lot of seeds in that little itsy bitsy eggplant.

My question is - do I scoop out the seeds? What do I do with them? Do I salt them like regular eggplant? Do I slice them? Do I cut them in half?

I want to make this dish sometime next week, so any help would be greatly appreciated!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

No, you don't need to seed them, and yes you should cut them (probably into quarters), but be sure to put them in a bowl of water w/ vinegar, otherwise they'll brown. They'll also turn an unnatractive brown if you add them directly to the hot curry. To avoid this, add them to the curry when the curry liquid is still cool, then bring it to a simmer.

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites

Austin,

While we're on eggplants, do you have any special handling tips for the tiny green eggplants, the ones that look like peas?

I generally just stem them and toss them in early to get the flavour worked in. Any alternatives?

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got a pot of Thai eggplant curry cooking on the stove. Used a recipe from importfood.com, and another recipe to make my own red curry paste.

The recipe called for 3 tbsp. palm sugar. Tasting it, I found it a bit too sweet for me. Next time, I may reduce the sugar as there was a tbsp of brown sugar in the red curry paste. There is way too much broth: 3 cups vegetable stock and 3 cups coconut milk. I think I may also reduce that next time, or I might use a bit of slurry just so the broth will coat the rice rather than drowning it.

The heat is just there. I thought it would be quite hot with 1/4 cup of chopped chilis, and 4 sliced chilis. The dish is suppose to get better after a couple of days. I'm taking it to Duleeka tomorrow with some jasmine rice.

Took pictures of the ingredients, and I'll take pics of the finished product tomorrow.

For ourselves, I may add some chicken.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

Our main computer crashed last week. New mother board, etc and now we're back up and running.

Here are the pictures of the Thai eggplant curry I made.

gallery_13838_3834_39368.jpggallery_13838_3834_9158.jpg

gallery_13838_3834_37315.jpg

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not Austin, but you're right, those pea eggplants should be added earlier so they can soften and thicken the curry.

Dejah, some curries can be plenty thin, but if you prefer yours thick, besides adding less liquid you can cook down the fatty part of the coconut milk until the oil separates and then fry your paste in it. This will give you a thicker and more creamy texture.

I always add any sugar close to the end, because I tend to prefer very little. A nice trick is to melt the palm sugar into a syrup with a little water. This makes adding it and mixing it in easier.

regards,

trillium

Link to post
Share on other sites
Dejah, some curries can be plenty thin, but if you prefer yours thick, besides adding less liquid you can cook down the fatty part of the coconut milk until the oil separates and then fry your paste in it.  This will give you a thicker and more creamy texture. 

I always add any sugar close to the end, because I tend to prefer very little.  A nice trick is to melt the palm sugar into a syrup with a little water.  This makes adding it and mixing it in easier.regards,

trillium

Thanks, Trillium. I've added your suggestions to the recipe. I'll try that, maybe tonight. :biggrin:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

RE: the pea sized eggplants...I found them quite bitter. Maybe when I had them (September) that wasn't the peak season. The outer skin is quite leathery and perhaps they would benefit from being thrown in the mix earlier. Based on the bitterness I experienced, I would want to leave them out of recipes. Have you all experienced those eggplants as being bitter? Just curious.

By the way, I've finally loaded up photos from my September trip to Thailand. Just in case you want to take a look, photos are here. There are a bunch of photos, but if you click on the Slideshow feature and adjust the speed faster, it should take about 10 minutes to view.

Many thanks to everyone for helping me decipher some of the food stuff post trip....

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites

scarlett: the pea eggplants (makhuea phuang) are supposed to be bitter! This flavour, along with salty, sour, sweet and spicy, is an important element in many Thai dishes. Not everybody likes it (I'm not a big fan of bitter myself), but there's often just of a hint of it. The eggplants should also be somewhat crispy, which is best accomplished by NOT overcooking them. Unfortunately, if you throw them in towards the end, they'll often turn an unattractive brown colour.

Re. how to make coconut-milk based curries, I would suggest taking a look at this recipe I posted on eGullet a long time ago, and this recipe posted at my blog.

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites
scarlett: the pea eggplants (makhuea phuang) are supposed to be bitter! This flavour, along with salty, sour, sweet and spicy, is an important element in many Thai dishes. Not everybody likes it (I'm not a big fan of bitter myself), but there's often just of a hint of it. The eggplants should also be somewhat crispy, which is best accomplished by NOT overcooking them.

Okay, I get it...salty, sour, sweet and spicy...and bitter. Good to know my experience was exactly how it should have been. Now I know I just don't like them. :)

Thanks also for the link to your blog and the curry recipe. I love curries, and I've enjoyed perusing through your blog. I appreciate the analysis and find there's a ton of useful content. Thanks Austin.

I fell in love with this "salad" while I was in Chiang Mai. It was fried morning glory vines. The dressing/sauce was served on the side and it was sweet, sour and spicy with bits of ground pork sausage. The two times I had it, one had a fried egg on top, the other time it didn't. I never did catch the name of that dish. Do you know that dish? Also, is the coating typically just flour? I was told in the US you can substitute deep fried spinach for the morning glory vines (I had no idea they were even edible). That dish was one of my favorites on my most recent trip. I only wish I could get a recipe. None of my Thai cookbooks feature that dish.

Edited by scarlett (log)

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites

scarlett: the salad you mentioned is called yam phak boong krob, "crispy morning glory salad", and is sort of a modern Thai dish that has become popular in recent years. The batter is probably just flour and egg, or perhaps it's the packaged tempura batter that you can buy everywhere these days. You could easily make it yourself; just deep-fry the battered morning glory, and serve with a sauce made of lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, ground pork, shallots and chilies.

By the way, just curious, is that photo from a restaurant in Sukhothai?

Austin

Link to post
Share on other sites
By the way, just curious, is that photo from a restaurant in Sukhothai? 

Thanks for the scoop about the salad. I'm going to play with that a bit and see if I can't get close...I loved it.

No, the restaurant was not in Sukhothai. It was just outside of Chiang Mai...along the pottery/umbrella/jewelry/Indian carpet trail (apparently there's a concentration of those on one road). The restaurant was about a half mile off that road, on a little lake. It was HUGE and nearly empty...I'm assuming mostly due to the low season. But given the size of the place, it looked like it accommodated tour groups. They easily had seating for 200. I hired a guide for the day and that was one of the places he took me to.

Traca

Seattle, WA

blog: Seattle Tall Poppy

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...