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Monday, July 28, 2008

Tom Kloeng Pla Grorb - Crispy fish soup

Tom Kloeng Pla Grorb - Spicy Sour soup with crispy fish.
I thought i would introduce one of the lesser known recipes now that the blog is beginning to take shape

Tom Kloeng Pla Grorb is a spicy, sour-tasting soup, some recipes prefer to use young tamarind leaf, others use the flower of the Tamarind tree.This assists in lending a more sour taste and special aroma to the soup.Th crispy fish adds a sweet taste and a smoky aroma to the dish. If you cant find Pla Grorb (a kind of fried or smoked dried fish), you can use some other kind of fish if you like. ( i recommend a smoked fish as this is part of the taste of the soup.
Pla Grorb 8 units (8 dried fish)
6 Tomatoes
6 hom daeng (red small Thai shallots)
200gms straw mushrooms
3 lemongrass stalks
6 Kaffir lime leaves
4 pieces of Galangal root, sliced into oval slices
8 small dried chillies
1/2 a cup of fresh coriander leaves
1 teaspoon of sugar
4 tablespoons of lemon juice (lime juice if you can)
6 tablespoons of Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
3 cups of stock
save some coriander for decoration when serving.

Preparation method;

1.Roast the pla grorb on the stove for a few minutes to give them aroma, and place to one side.(you can roast them in a dry fryingpan/wok, or even grill or in the oven. In Thailand, most households have an earthen barbeque pot for making charcoal barbeque with.This is what is used to roast the fish with.
2.wash and chop the tomatoes, likewise wash the straw mushrooms thoroughly and slice into halves
3.take the shallots and dried chillies and dry-roast them in the "grata" (grata is the name for the wok-like frying pan used) with a little salt, and place to one side for the moment.
4.put the stock in a saucepan along with the Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal root, chillies and hom daeng shallots, mushrooms and coriander.
5. once boiling, add the pla grorb and tomatoes, sugar, fish sauce. Switch the heat of and add the lemon/lime juice, whilst stirring continually to make sure the mixture binds.
Serve with some fresh coriander to garnish.
(if you don't like coriander leaf, then you can use parsley as a substitute).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mama! The world of Instant Noodles

Thai Instant Noodles

Mamais the colloquial phrase used to mean instant noodles. In fact, "Mama" is the name of maybe the most successful brand of instant noodle in Thailand, and has become such an institution here, that people say "Mama", even if they mean "Wai Wai" or "Quik" brand! - whatever the case, instant noodles are as common as Coca Cola here. I must admit that i spent the first few years here only tryuing the "Mama" brand, thinking that they must be the best, as they seemed so popular and well known. These days, i have different brands for different recipes that i like.If i want to eat white vermicelli (bamee sen Mee) in clear soup, then i go for the Mama brand, but if i wish to eat "Phad Chaa" ( a dry noodle, with chili and basil leaf, quite spicy), then i go for Wai Wai Noodles

Mama brand Thai instant chan clear soup - 10 packs

The importance of Instant Noodles in Southeast Asia

When flooding is rife, when people are stuck on an island because boats can't take the people off in the storm, when poverty strikes - so many situations depend on the existence of "Mama" noodles, as well as a few other not so important seeming, but equally necessary for survival items (such as "Pla Grapong - tinned mackerel). When no fresh food is available for whatever reason, instant noodles are distributed to the affected parties , along with of course fresh water, candles, lighters and tinned fish (Canned mackerel in tomatoe sauce), rice.I myself have experienced poverty here ( i lived for ten days with 300 baht once which is less than 10 dollars!). If there were no instant noodles, i could not have lived so cheaply. A packet of instant noodles here costs only 6 baht (written July 2008). so in principle if you aren't too fat (i am slim), you can live on 3 bowls a day, which adds up to 18 baht! Poor people in the country rely on these products to fill their bellies every day. if you have 2 dollars a day to live on then you aren't going to spend it on one mean in an "Aharn Dtam Sang" shop (food made to order street restaurant), where it will cost you anything from 20 to 50 baht, depending on how you order.

Apart from the Cultural and economical facets of the story of Instant noodles in Thailand, and the fact that they are so dirt cheap, it is also true to say that instant noodles are absolutely delicious! There are so many different flavours now, maybe 100 or more - and about 5 main brand names. In this article i shall try to cover all the pssible brands and flavours i can find over the next weeks - meaning that you must return to this post to see the new info i add as i go along (as i do with most posts actually.)

Buy Instant Noodles Online Now!

Mama Clear soup Vermicelli! this has a real authentic texture to the noodle, they are almost the same as fresh noodles! the clear soup is a porky taste and apart from the stock powder provided, has garlic oil in the sachets inside the packet, which add a really fantastic tang to the taste of the soup. It also has some white pepper in the mixture, so be prepared for a peppery taste, but it isn't so hot that you break out in a sweat.This is one of my favourites when i am a bit low on power and feel a little ill, this clear soup really boosts my energy when i feel weak, and helps me to get my appetite back. Mama Sen Mee Nam sai(clear soup vermicelli) , is a meal that you can eat Instant noodles are quick and easy to make, and are perfect for that in-between-meal snack to keep you going until dinner time,. without leaving you so full that you can't eat later. The massive array of flavours and brands available boggles the mind, leaving one indecisive about which of them one should eat this time !

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Another of my favourite flavours is "Namtok" flavour. Namtok means "waterfall" in Thai, but actually is used to refer to noodle recipe, and also a grilled meat recipe from Isan country (Northeast). "Namtok" noodles, if freshly made, get some fresh blood poured into the soup at he end to lend a brownish colour to the soup, and add an amazingly tangy flavour to the dish. In the West, some people have an aversion to blood, but actually it gets cooked in the first seconds that it is poured into the boiling soup, and has a fantastic flavor and aroma! The instant Namtok noodle variety has an amazingly similar taste to the authentic fresh variety. If you have some mint leaves at home then you can garnish the soup with a couple of leaves, this will add a wonderful aroma to the soup, and increase the authenticity of the flavor. I often buy the "look chin" (fish or meatballs) and add them to the soup to make it a bit more "beefed up" - just adding on ore two of your favourite ingrediants makes the soup so much more luxurious. you can add a spoon of mincemeat or some fine shreds of chicken whatever you like, a few shrimps in the tom yam kung makes the dish come to life. But even if you just go for the purist way and eat them as they are, they are delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gaeng Som - Sour Curry - many styles

Pic Left; "Gaeng Som Dork Kae" - Sour Curry with Dork Kae Flowers.
Sour Curry, or "Gaeng Som" as the Thais call it, is one of my favourite recipes.Some people call it yellow curry, but actually if you buy yellow curry paste it is more like the indian curry powder taste than that of gaeng som. Ganeg Som is made from an "orange" paste that can be bought in most markets, or as in some of the recipes below, be made freshly oneself. As I was new to Thailand, i found it hard to stomach Gaeng Som, (which was difficult at that time, as i got my food from the factory next door and ate free with the workers - we were in the South, in Surat Thani, and Gaeng Som was on the menu about 4 times a week). But strangely, after a while of being fed it often enough, i develped an aquired taste for it, and sometimes even moaned when we hadn't had Gaeng Som for a few days already.

If you can manage to keep at it, or if you like sour stuff anyway, then give Gaeng Som sour curry soup a few tries and see if you get the bug.
There are many different variations, not all of which everybody likes, which is the problem. It may take a few tries of the different variations before you find the one that is your special favourite.
Gaeng Som Kung Dork Kae - Shrimp Sour Curry soup with Dork Kae flowers

Shrimps - 1/2 Kilo
Canned Fish (in tomatoe sauce) - 1 can (155 gram pla yim brand)
Dry Chilli (big size) - 5 chillies
Dry Chilli (small size) - 10 chillies
pumpkin or gourd vegetable - 1/2 a fruit.
Tamarind Syrup 4 ladlefuls/cups
Galangal Root (sliced in diagonal thin slices - this root is a natural medicine, good for bladder, liver and kidneys - also good for stomach problems and bad digestion).
Lemongrass (this is also a medicinal herb - good for everything including colds and hangovers)
Dork Kae (Sesbania grandiflora - a kind of flowering plant in Thailand) , preferably with pollen.
(dork kae is easily planted and is used on roadsides and in fields to regenerate the nutritional values of the earth)
Shrimp Paste - one soup spoon

Fresh Orange juice (of the choo variety)
Fish sauce (Nam Pla)

Gaeng Som Cha-Om Tord - Sour Curry with fried Cha-Om

Another version is to use the rather smelly but extremely tasty (in the same way that garlic is smelly and tasty - it hangs on your breath), "Cha-Om".
Cha Om is a fern-like plant that grows on the roadsides and forms the hedgerow of many a rural farmhouse.
Cha - Om is a fern-like plant that grows easily all over Thailand. In the North, the Thais prefer to eat Cha-Om in the dry season, as they believe that in the monsoon, Cha-Om takes on a smelly, rancid, sour taste to it, whereas in the dry season it has more of a toasted aroma, when fried. Cha-Om is usuall eaten fried with omelette and shrimp paste dip (Nam Prik Gapi), as it is seen to have been prepared prior to having been added to this Sour Curry soup too.
Gang Som Kung Cha-Om Tord (sour shrimp curry with fried Cha-Om) is a real super-tasty suop which we might refer to as a "Hot and Sour Soup".
Tangy is definitely the word for this recipe..

Cha-Om (Acacia pennata subsp. insuavis)
is one of thirteen Acacia species native to Thailand. This thorny multipurpose shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall grows extensively throughout the country in homestead. However, small plantations for commercial harvest of edible leaves can be also found.

Gaeng Som Chaom Khai Het Khaem Tong

Sour Curry with Goldneedle mushrooms, egg and Cha-Om
This is a real special kind of Ganeg som - the reason i didn't explain the method for preparing the gaeng Som Kung Cha-Om tord above this is because the method is almost the same as the one i am about to explain below.
Preparation Method;

Clean, prepare and lay out all your ingredients first. You will need;
Ingredients -
Cha-Om - one large bushel (it is sold in bushels), or 2 smaller bushels
Goldneedle mushrooms 100 grams
3 chicken eggs
Shrimps - 200 grams
Fish (for mixing in the curry paste) - one fish (you can substitute the fishmeat for 10 shrimps instead if no fish available).
Dry chillies (BIG SIZE) - 8-10 pieces
Thai schallots - 8-10
tamarind paste one tablespoon or more
shrimp paste, one tablespoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
cane sugar paste
fish seasoning sauce (nam pla)
oil for frying the cha-om omellete.

Step one; Soak the chillies a bit first to release the aroma. Whilst the chillies are softening up, you can set a small saucepan on the stove and boil a bit of water in it, this is for the fish to cook the meat, which will later be separated from the bones and skin etc, and mixed in to the "Prik Gaeng (พริกแกง - curry paste). The prik gaeng is the heart and soul of any Thai curry, whose making methods should be learnt in order to master the art of Thai Currymaking. The other essential thing to have well practised is the use of the pestle and mortar to bash the seasoning ingredients together into pastes and mixtures.
This is called "Tham" (the act of hitting the mortar with the pestle to grind up things with.Tham means to grind, basically. If you make the pastes with the "krok" (mortar), then you will achieve the authentic Thai touch that so often is missing when eating out in Thai restaurants in the Western world.

simply boil the fish in the saucepan until it is cooked thoroughly.

Whilst the fish is boiling, we can use the time to just zip over here for a minute, and see to the dried chillies (that aren't so dry anymore).We have to do that movement now with the pestle and mortar and grind the chillies and salt into a paste. Throw the chillies into the mortar along with some salt, and start grinding with a spiralling sideways movement.

The salt helps to liquidize the chillies, which are now softened from the soaking in water.Add the Hua Horm red shallot onions and grind into the mixture.

As you can see in the picture, the chillies have now become a thick paste, due to the roasting and grinding with salt.You should then add some "Gapi" - salted shrimp paste and mix it in until you get a creamy texture.After this, the fish should be cooked already. We can then take the fish and remove all the bones and inedible parts out and separate the fine flaky fishmeat. This also added to the "Prik Gaeng". Once pounded into a fine, creamy paste, the prik gaeng takes on a lovely warm orangey-saffron colour - which is, of course what lends the name of "Gaeng Som" to the dish ("som" means orange). I find it strange how we call it sour yellow curry, and not "orange curry". It is more orange than yellow, after all.

Once the fish is mixed into the paste it takes on a really thick bright orange texture and colour .

Follow the pictures, which leave no explanation necessary, and i shall continue to explain when we get a bit further down the page.

Add the Prik Gaeng to the water in the pan and bring to the boil.

Then take the tamarind sauce that you already placed to one side.....
And add it to the simmering soup.

Then add the following....

Fish Sauce (Nam Pla) - i recomment Tipros (tiparosa) or Pla Muek brand (squid brand). The brand with the chef carrying a giant shrimp is not to be is mainly salted water, and has little fish taste to it.

Add the palm sugar, and simmer the soup for 5 minutes
The soup will have taken on a thicker consistency and an more opaque - this is part of what makes a gaeng som so tasty - the reducing of liquid along with the fish meat mixed into the prik gaeng paste makes this soup a very defty dish. A well known secret is that gaeng som tastes better after it has been left for some hours, or even on the next morning (yes, gaeng som is one of the few curries that do not go putrid quickly in Thailand - coconut milk ones last only half a day unless you reboil them constantly)
Take the Cha-Om leaf......................and beaten eggs

And mix them together

Heat some oil in the "Grata", and fry the chaom with egg, as if it was an omelette.
Once fried to a crispy consistency, the Cha-Om is then cut up into square dice-shaped pieces, and should look like the picture below.

Take the shrimps and add them to the soup - let it boil for 3 -5 minutes

Add the golden needle mushrooms and stir.......

Add the crispy cubes of Cha-Om Tord Khai, and the gaeng Som is Ready to serve!

อาหารทะเลแห้งครบวงจรCha-Om Tord Khai is a recipe that can be eaten alone too. Normally with "Nam Prik Gapi" (shrimp paste dip), and "Pla Tu" (a kind of fish, the word covering several species), normally steamed in baskets.

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