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Friday, January 15, 2010

Snake Head Fish Hot and Sour Soup

Gaeng Som Pae Sa Pla Chon - Snake Head Fish hot and Sour Soup


Gaeng Som means sour soup/stew/curry - the word "Gaeng" (แกง) refers to the act of simmering ingredients in a soupy liquid - in English we would call curry, soup, and stew all what Thais call "Gaeng". Gaeng Som has three main types - one from the south which is a Yellow Curry soup and extremely spicy (one of the hottest dishes you can find in Thailand, along with "Kua Kling"), Southern Gaeng Som is usually made with sea bass, or shrims, with and green papaya, or bamboo. Sometimes it is also made with pineapple too. Then there is the reddish tomatoe-soup-like version of Gaeng Som used in Central Thailand, which is a lot milder, normally served with crispy fried catfish, shrimps, or or snakehead fish, and sometimes also with pork, or even tinned sardines or pilchards. This type is also often served with fried Cha-Om omelette

See my other post on the various kinds of Gaeng Som


Below Pic - Gaeng Som Pla Chon




Lastly there is the speciality of Gaeng Som Pae Sa Pla Chon (or Pla Krapong, Pla Tap Tim, and other fish - Pla means fish). This version is the recipe dealt with in this post. Pla Chon (ปลาช่อน) is the snake head fish, known as "striped snake-head fish" (Channidae - latin Name) in the West. The Pla Chon fish is a very hard skulled agressive fish, similar in appearance and family lineage to the Pla Duk (catfish) but has a much more agressive look to it as far as the head is concerned. Pla Chon can grow extremely large, which then gets a name change to "Pla Chon yaks" (ปลาช่อนยักษ์), meaning "Giant Pla Chon". The word Pla means fish, but the word "Chon" does not mean Snake Head - it is just a name for the fish.


Picture left; Pla Chon - Snake Head fish

The meat is more dry and tasty with less fat on it than Pla Duk, and is more expensive to buy. It tastes best fried to a crispy golden color and texture. Pla Chon Tord (fried Snakehead fish) is my favourite freshwater fish of all, and Ganeg Som Pae Sae is always my choice (and that ofmost Thais) when going out to a "Suan Aharn" (a suan aharn is an open air garden restaurant , of which there are thousands in Thailand - Suan Aharn is the preferred place for Thais to go when treating their family or loved ones to a meal, or socializing). A Thai suan aharn is not only wonderful atmosphere, but is also generally better food than any tourist orientated five star restaurant and serves Thai specialities which you will not find in Tourist orientated restaurants. These are served in an attractive and special manner.

Here is a video of a live example of the Pla Chon Yaks



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Anyway back to Pla Chon Pae Sa Hot and Sour soup and how to make it;

Traditonally, Gaeng Som Pla Chon is served in a fish shaped hotpot placed on a clay coal fire, which is portable and served individually on the table. You can buy these in Thailand in any general store, and probably in Asian supermarkets close to where you live too. If not you will have to improvise and finde a decent alternative container and do it on the gas flame, which will also work, but it's not as fun to eat and also cannot refill the vegetables whilst it is simmeriing. This is due to the fact that the fish shaped container will be constantly cooking over the coals as you eat, and the act of adding more veg as replacement to that which you have already eaten will thicken the soup and give it an ever increasing tanginess as you go along!
I love to go for the fish whilst still crispy and keep adding veg which softens up as it cooks; The soup is ladled into small personal bowls and refilled time after time. The main vegetable used are "Pak Grached" ( ผักกระเฉด Water Mimosa) (click on link to read my article on this vegetable), White Chinese cabbage, carrots and cauliflower.

Ingredients and preparation method;


Pic Left - Gaang Som paste.
Ingredients;
One Snakehead fish big enough to fill the fish shaped container (about a 500 gram fish)
a few handfuls of Water Mimosa (you can substitute this for other veg such as celery, but i really recommend to use water mimosa if you can find it, as it is an essential part of the authentic Pae Sa soup), Some white Chinese cabbage, sliced carrot,and cauliflower, and perhaps some green beans. For the curry mixture; Tamarind paste (2 tbspn), 5 cups of water, 3 tbspn of Nam Pla (Thai Fish sauce), 1 tbspn of granulated sugar (or 1 tbspn palm sugar paste), 2 or 3 tablespoons of Gaeng Som curry paste (3 better). The you need some dried chillis (3 to 4), which you should then soak in water. 8 peppercorns, 5 shallots, 3 garlic cloves, some krachai root otherwise known as " Boesenbergia" (Scientific Name:Boesenbergia Rotunda).

If you cant get gaeng Som curry paste you can use red curry paste solong as you can find the Krachai root, but i have found the product already for you on amazon dot com (ad left)
In addition you need a tablespoon of "kapi" (Thai shrimp paste) which you can buy from amazon on below link. Shrimp paste is used in most Curry pastes in Thai cookery, so it is worth buying and keeping in stock. Actually if you have a pestle and mortar, you don't really need the curry paste as the above ingredients can be enough for your own home made curry paste.
If you take this option then mash the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar and use as the curry paste.
Pantainorasingh brand Thai Shrimp Paste - 13 oz

How to Cook;
I assume that you have the clay coal roaster and hot pot, if not then you will have to use a fondue pot or the like, which also works. A mongolian hotpot or sukiyaki plate is also adequate, as seen in the below pic. You will notice that in the below pic, the fish has been already sliced. It simply isnt as much fun as when eating in the Suan Aharn outdoor garden restaurant where everyone demolishes the whole fish. But in truth it tastes just as delicious either way.


.

Gut and scale the fish, slice along the back fin and remove, then slice it along where the dorsal fin was, slice the sides of the fish diagonally (not too deep) and fry it until it is golden and crisp (you can rub salt on it and leave it for an hour first and it will be tastier).
Then take the shallots,krachai, garlic, tamarind paste, palm or granulated sugar and Nam Pla (fish seasoning sauce) and soaked chilis and mix them together, and put on the heat a little. Add the Gaeng Som, and/or shrimp past,e and mix water in (use a little stock cube if you wish, if not use salt) and bring to simmer.Add some kaffir lime juice. (lemon juice can also be used but it is a bit acrid)
In the below pic you can see that another vegtable has been used - Dork Kae (ดอกแค) , which is a flower.




Then pour the Gaeng Som soup into the hotpot or fish shaped tray on the clay coal roaster and place the fried fish in - the soup will then begin to simmer. place some of the ray water mimosa, chinese cabbage and other veg in the soup around the fish, and serve the rest of the vegetables on a plate for your guests to rip up and refill the soup as the veg gets cooked and eaten up. You will see how the vegetables take up a lot of space when still raw but as they steam in the soup, they reduce and submerge.

Squid Brand Fish Sauce


Suan Aharn (สวนอาหาร)- Open Air Garden restaurants are the best way to eat out in Thailand, and the place to get the best Gaeng Som Pae Sa Pla Chon!

Here is a pic of a typical arrray of dishes eaten by Thai people when out to dinner at a Suan Aharn





If you are in Thailand and wish to try this and other dishes like those in the pic above first hand in a "Suan Aharn Thai" then here are some adresses for you
Bangkok Nontaburi Suan Aharn Thai Isan (this is where the above pic came from)
31/123 Thanon Liang Mueang Nontaburi, Talad Khwan, Ampher Mueang Nontaburi.
31/123 ถ.เลี่ยงเมืองนนทบุรี ต.ตลาดขวัญ อ.เมือง จ.นนทบุรี





Adress for ban Ton Sung; 458 Soi Lad Praw 94 Thanon Lad Praw, Kwaeng Wang Tong Hlang bangkok 10310
458 ซอยลาดพร้าว 94 ถนนลาดพร้าว แขวงวังทองหลาง เขตวังทองหลาง กทม.10310 โทร 0-2530-4060-4

Duen Yee looks very nice and homely and has many different areas with varied atmospheres.









More Links;




Country side home style;

Suan Aharn Klang Na
Proprietor - Kun Winay 089535 5836, 08 7066 087
Sapan Sung District, Bangkok
คุณวินัย 08-9535-5836, 08-7066-087
เขตสะพานสูง, BKK, Thailand
ถ้าไปไม่ถูกโทรสอบถามเส้นทางได้ที่ เบอร์ คุณวินัย 08-9535-5836, 08-7066-0873


Anywhere you are in Thailand will have a Suan Aharn nearby - love riding on my motorbike in the provinces and stopping by the wayside in the country and eating at the endless number of small country outdoor restaurants known as Suan Aharn - beautiful bouganville trees and flowers around you, to sit at a hand made wooden table made from tree stumps and eat real fresh home made classic Thai garden restaurant food.
You can't beat it.

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Tom Pak Gaad Dong - Sour Mustard green soup

ต้มผักกาดดอง Preserved Sour green Mustard broth


Tom Pak Gaad Dong is normally made with Pork - belly pork (called Hmoo Saam Chan หมูสามชั้น in Thai, which means "three storied pork") or Pork Ribs (called See Krong Hmoo ซี่โครงหมู in Thai).It is a very tangy soup with a salty sour taste; easily paired with either boiled rice or rice soup (ข้าวต้ม). It is ideal for when you have a hangover too or a bad stomach (i.e. constipated) , as the sour taste will liven the taste buds of the person hung over and also loosens any food blocking the intestine. This soup is perhaps also an interesting alternative for those visiting Thailand who do not like spicy food. Thai food is in general very hot and spicy, but there are many recipes which are not spicy (not all Thai people like spicy food either, so even Thailand has mild food alternatives).It can also be made with mince, or as a vegetarian alternative with bamboo or bitter gourd.


Left pic; Mustard green in the Galamang. 

Ingredients;
You can vary the ingredients according to taste
Pickled sour mustard greens 500 grams
Porkribs and belly pork 250 grams
Light soya sauce (3tbspn) or stock cube
Garlic cloves (5 cloves - optional)
Ground peppercorns (1 tbspn)
Sugar to taste(about 1 tbspn)
water (2 liters)

Methods of Preparation;
Tom Pak Gaad is very easy to make - the simplest methos uses just mustard green, light soya sauce, pork, sugar and water. The second variation uses  stock cube, garlic and peppercorns too.


The Mustard Green; You can either buy this on the fresh markets where you will find it in plastic tubs (called "Galamang" - กะละมัง in Thai), or you can buy the more hygienic looking one packed in factory sealed plastic bags as seen in the below pic.


So, lets begin now to prepare the Soup; Take the mustard green and rinse it by putting it in a bowl of fresh water - repeat this twice in order to remove any eventual unwanted things (such as grit or small snails, don't forget this veg is like lettuce which sometimes gets little creatures stuck between the leaves).

Modern Thai Food: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes from Sydney's Famous Longrain Restaurant   Vatch's Thai Street Food  Thai Food  Lemongrass & Limes: Thai Flavors with Naam Pruitt 




Don't take any notice of the lemons on the side of the tray - they were used for another purpose (to make Nam Prik). Once you have cleaned the mustard green you can slice it into shreds.

In this recipe we will use both hmoo sam chan (belly pork), AND see krong (ribs); Arrange them in preparation for cooking.



Remember that the garlic and pepper in the previous pic or the onion in the above pic are optional - use them if you wish, or not if you don't wish to. I personally like to add the garlic and the pepper, but not the onion. Add the garlic and pepper at the same time as the pork meat if you wish to use these ingredients.

Bring the water to boil in a pan (add a stock cube if you wish to, if not then use three tablespoons of light soya sauce), and  simmer the pork ribs first  on a medium flame, until the meat becomes tight around the bone.



Then add the belly pork and simmer a little longer, lowering the flame.



Whilst the meat is simmering, a froth will gather on the surface; clean this off with a skillet or spoon, as it doesn't look nice and will also make the soup bitter. Once the pork meat is cooked and tender, add the sour pickled mustard greens




Simmer for a while and taste the broth - it should be nice and salty, with a slightly oily film from the pork fat and the ribs, and have a slight sweetness too - now would be time to add a little sugar if needed.
Some people like to add some bacon meat to this dish whilst cooking (recommended) .
Now you can serve it. This soup is often used as a mild accompaniment to dry fried spicy dishes as a cooling agent and to balance out the dryness of fried food on rice.




If you have a hangover and can't taste your food it is a great remedy; the sourness and saltiness will give you a real zing on your tongue, and bring back your appetite. The sourness will help to get rid of the headache due to dehydration. The Chinese in Singapore and malaysia have a very similar dish to this called "Bakuteh" The origins of Tom Pak Gaad actually come from Thai Chinese too. This is the reason for its non spiciness, as Thai Chinese food is milder than Thai food in general. I hope to soon publish some more less spicy Thai Food recipes for those who wish to enjoy Thai food but cannot withstand the chilli.
Image source; nangkatik-club.com
Notes; Pak Gaad refers to many kinds of cabbage or lettuce, such as; Pak Gaad Khaw ( ผักกาดขาวChinese white cabbage), Pak Gaad Khaw Plee ( ผักกาดขาวปลี Pak Choi),  Pak Gaad Khiaw Gwang Dtung ( ผักกาดกวางตุ้ง a sweet spinachy cabbage) and Pak Gaad  Farang ( ผักกาดฝรั่ง lettuce)






Saturday, January 2, 2010

Phad Thai noodles


Phad Thai Noodles are immensely popular with tourists in Thailand and is also a staple fastfood on the street with Thai people.
Traditionally, Phad Thai is served either with dried shrimp or fresh tiger prawns, but can also be served as a vegetarian dish or with meat or mixed seafood. The classic option is with rice flour band noodles, but it is also served as a speciality with glassnoodles, which has a wonderfully chewy texture. Phad Thai has a sweet taste and is garnished with beansprouts, spring onions and a slice of kaffir lime. Roasted ground peanuts are spriinkled on the top too as well as some sugar and chilli powder, which you then mix in yourself.

Ingredients for Phad Thai


red schallots (one tbspn)
crushed garlic (one tbspn)
vegetable oil
dried flat rice noodles (soak for five minutes in tepid water)
half cup of dried shrimps
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 tbspn of Nam Pla Thai Fish Sauce
1/4 cup of Tamarind juice or palm sugar
50 grams of fresh shrimps,mixed seafood, pork or chicken (depending on which type of ingredient you prefer)
3 tbspn shredded preserved chinese vegetable (Sai Po, or Tai Po)
a block of tofu chopped into small cubes
some chilli powder
a couple of handfuls of fresh beansprouts (about 250grams)


50 grams of Guy Chai (กุยช่าย) vegetable - this is a flowering stalk like vegetable - i know it also as "Dork Mai Gwaad" - meaning "Broom flower" - this is because a bushel of it looks like a traditional Thai sweeping broom. You can use chives instead if you like but use the dark green bases of the stems too, not just the tips.
Half a cup of roasted ground peanuts



also you will need some fresh crude vegetables for garnish, such as banana flower (Hua Plee), beansprouts, Land Lotus leaf, spring onion or chives, and some Kaffir Lime.


Left Pic; Phad Thai Wun Sen (glass noodle phad Thai).
Put the schallots and garlic in the skillet (wok) along with 3 tbspn of vegetable oil and sautee them until golden - then add the noodles which have been soaked already for a while,along with the little bit of water left in the bowl they soaked in, and fry until the water evaporates , and the noodles have softened. Add the sugar/ and tamarind juice, Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce), dry shrimps, and stir fry until it has a nice aroma.

Add 3 tbspn of oil once more, and add the meat, shrimps or vegetables (whichever you have chosen as your ingredient). add the egg and beat it lightly so that it is a half beaten omelette. Do not mix them in with the noodles, rather sautee them on one side of the pan until they are nearly cooked. The start to mix them together with the skillet whilst stir frying. Add the beansprouts and preserved shredded vegetable and mix them in whilst frying.

Please note that Phad Thai uses quite a bit of ooil, but that you should use your feel with it and make sure you dont over do it either.. This means that if you see that the noodles are frying without sticking and have a nice gloss to them without adding all the oil stated in the ingredients, then you dont have to add it all. If you add the oil whilst the noodles are still a little dry then you may get away with adding less oil. The fresh crude vegetables used as a side garnish serve to break down the oil, which will help digestion if you are sensitive to fatty foods.


Watch Video fromLobo Thai food products of How to Make Phad Thai.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tom Kha Gai - Thai Coconut Soup

(Thai Coconut and Galangal Soup with Chicken and Oyster mushrooms)



                          Ingredients;

  • 2 Chicken legs with thigh attached
  • 150 grams Oyster mushrooms
  • 100 grams Dton Kha (Galangal)
  • 3 Lemon grass stalks
  • 2 bushels of Coriander (Cilantro)
  • 2 coriander roots (use the root of the bushels)
  • 5-6 Kaffir Lime leaves
  • 3 or 4 Kaffir Limes
  • 20 Prik Khee Hnuu (Thai chilies)
  • 1 cup of Hua Kati (Coconut juice)
  • 1 cup of Hang Gati (Coconut cream)
(NB some canned coconut juice had the cream and the watery part which means dont shake the can - if not then youll need fresh green coconut which you remove the water from and then liquidize the soft flesh for the cream - some Thai food stores will have Gati in sealed bags which has both parts in it. Alternatively you can use cream coconut and add water, stock, or milk instead).
a little fine grain sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 1 cup of Water to dilute the coconut when cooking



Alternatives;
Some people like to add tomatoes to the soup too, which works quite well, giving a more acrid and acidic tinge to the taste of the coconut milk.
Instead of Oyster mushrooms, you could add Straw mushrooms or dried Chinese or Shiitake mushrooms to the soup instead. In such a case you must soak the dried mushroom in hot water for about 20 minutes first before adding them.

Canned coconut milk can be solid on opening th...Image via Wikipedia

This soup works with Chicken, Fish and Seafood such as Crab, Squid or Shrimp (or even all three) too.
I suppose you can make it with Pork but i have never seen Thais use Pork for this recipe, nor Beef for that matter. White meats are of course milder which doesn't overpower the soft flavours of the Coconut and Galangal

Preparation Method;

Take the Chicken thighs, clean and chop them into smaller pieces on the bone (if you don't like Chicken on the bone you can fillet it, but Thai people prefer meat on the bone as it has more taste).




Clean the Oyster mushrooms and slice them coarsely, chop off the base of the stalks.

Listen to a Thai song as you read ;




ฟังวิทยุออนไลน์ ที่ izeemusic


Take the Galangal (Kha - ต้นข่า) and slice it into oval slices,  pound the Coriander root (Raak Pak Chee - รากผักชี) a little to bruise it, which releases the flavour. The take the Kaffir Lime leaves and tear them in half, removing the thread in the middle, which is not needed. 



Then take the Lemon Grass (Thakrai - ตะไคร้), and slice it diagonally, after pounding it slightly in the same way as the Coriander (Pak Chee - ผักชี).


6 Fresh Lemon Grass

Left pic - Product from Amazon.com 
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Slice the Coriander leaves into 1 centimeter sprigs.




Pour the Coconut milk into the saucepan and add the Coriander, along with 2 teaspoons of salt. Add one to two cups of water and bring slowly to the boil.

Buy now;  Instant Coconut Soup (Tom Kha) Makes 4 Cups or 2 Bowls

Then lower the heat for it to simmer lightly. keep stirring all the time to prevent the Coconut milk from becoming lumpy. Once it has begun to simmer, add the Chicken meat and bring back to simmering point.




Then add the Hang Gati (rest of the coconut juice), and one or two cups more of water, and bring to boiliing point and simmer.
Taste the soup to check how salty it is, and add some Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla - น้ำปลา)  to taste (perhaps one tablespoon might suffice).
Now is the time to add the Oyster mushrooms; Please check and taste the soup a few minutes after they have simmered a little in the soup, as Oyster mushrooms tend to release water when they are cooked, which may cause the soup to lose some saltiness. Add more fish sauce or salt if necessary if this is the case.



Now add the Kaffir Lime leaves, Coriander, and some of the Coriander leaves, leaving some Coriander for decoration to sprinkle on the top at the end when the soup is ready. Close the lid of the pan and simmer.





Squeeze the kaffir Limes to extract the juice and keep in a aucer or small bowl with the chillies (point the chillies slightly in a pestle and mortar or with a meat hammer, or even the base of a cup if you don't have these things). Some people will add the Lime juice and chillies before closing the lid of the pan and simmer along with the soup, but those in the know will not do this as it will make the soup bitter and even separate the coconut juice from the milk. So i recommend that you keep thie juice and chillies aside till the end and add it slightly before serving the soup
here is what the soup should look like now; serve in a bowl and sprinkle some Coriander on the top as an aromatic and colorful decoration to your Tom Kha Gai!

.
Alternative versions;
Here are some pics of the various alternative styles with varied ingredients made by different cooks, so you can see that in Thai cookery, no two people make things exactly the same. So you shouldn't worry too much about recreating an identical copy as far as appearance is concerned. The version above is however, what i would call the classic reference model for Tom Kha Gai.

Tom Kha Pla Kapong - Coconut soup with Snapper fish



Tom Kha With tomatoes and spring onions added



Thick and creamy - use less water



Tom Kha Kung (Coconut soup with Giant Shrimps)



With Pla Salid Krob (Crispy Pla Salid fish)




Tom Kha Pla Salid (ต้มข่าปลาสลิด) again but different style



Tom Kha Tale (with mixed Seafood)




Thanks to; Krua Klai Baan and Thai Cook Mae Slim , Cooking by May  for pics


Extra research info;
Pla Salid is called Damsel Fish or Snakeskin Gourami in English. In Thailand, we like to place the fish out to dry a few hours in the sun rubbed in salt, and then fry them. This fish is one of my favourites especially in "Yam Pla Salid" (Thai lemony salad with crispy fried Damsel Fish). I shall be posting this recipe with some mouthwatering pics in my next post soon.

 Left Pic; Damsel Fish, or Snakeskin Gourami
 (Trichogaster pectoralis)

PLA SALID (TRICHOGASTER PECTORALIS REGAN); A LIFE HISTORY AND MANUAL FOR CULTURE

Pla Salid Tord - Fried salted Damsel Fish



Pla Salid drying in the Sun



Interesting links;
Taxonomy link for Coriander
Taxonomy link for Lemon Grass










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