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FEATURING HER 'TIMPLA'T TIKIM' (Manila Bulletin)
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PERANAKAN + ROYAL THAI CUISINE: RARE TREATS AT 'RED GINGER'
SEPTEMBER 29 -THAI FLAVORS (From left)Spicy herbal shrimp salad (pla kung); Rice crackers with peanut sauce (kao tang na tang) and Coconut sticky rice with mango (kao naew mamuang) (Manila Bulletin) Even people I have known for ages still ask if I am Chinese. Relatives say I look like my Hakka great grandmother, who introduced unusual dishes that continue to appear on my family’s dining table.Growing up, my favorite soup had pork tail and backbone simmered in ginger, radish, and Chinese parsley (kinchay). Another dish I continue to long for is rice soup (lugaw or congee) flavored with ginger, dried mussels, and clams. In the 1950s when the pristine Parañaque shore teemed with mussels and clams, my father would take us kids to gather the shell fish, steam them open, shuck them, and dry the meat under the sun. The dried shellfish were strung like leis and hung from the kitchen ceiling directly above the wooden stove, where smoke flavored and preserved them. On rainy days, the dried seafood would be thrown into the rice pot with whatever else there was in the cupboard: leftover sausages, dried pork, pork fat, onions, dried mushrooms, soy sauce. The resulting meal tasted very much like clay pot rice on today’s five-star Chinese menus. READ MORE...
ALSO: Thai cuisine
FROM WIKIPEDIA: Yam wun sen kung: a spicy Thai salad with glass noodles and prawns Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Balance, detail, and variety are of paramount significance to Thai chefs. In his 2010 book The Principles of Thai Cookery, celebrity chef, writer, and authority on Thai cuisine McDang writes:
"What is Thai food? Every country in the world has its own food profile. It reflects its culture, environment, ingenuity and values. In the case of Thailand, these words come to mind: intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor.We not only pay attention to how a dish tastes: we are also concerned about how it looks, how it smells, and how it fits in with the rest of the meal. We think of all parts of the meal as a whole - sum rap Thai (the way Thais eat), is the term we use for the unique components that make up a characteristically Thai meal." Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. It is known for its complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Australian chef David Thompson, a prolific chef and expert on Thai food, observed that unlike many other cuisines: "Thai food ain't about simplicity. It's about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it's got to have a smooth surface but it doesn't matter what's happening underneath. Simplicity isn't the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it's a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that's important, it's the complexity they delight in." READ MORE...
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Peranakan + Royal Thai cuisine: Rare treats at Red Ginger
Chef Aek Charttrakul serves royal cuisine from Thailand; Steamed fish fouffle (hor mok pla)(Manila Bulletin)
MANILA, OCTOBER 3, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Sol Vanzi September 29, 2016 - Even people I have known for ages still ask if I am Chinese.
Relatives say I look like my Hakka great grandmother, who introduced unusual dishes that continue to appear on my family’s dining table.
Growing up, my favorite soup had pork tail and backbone simmered in ginger, radish, and Chinese parsley (kinchay). Another dish I continue to long for is rice soup (lugaw or congee) flavored with ginger, dried mussels, and clams.
In the 1950s when the pristine Parañaque shore teemed with mussels and clams, my father would take us kids to gather the shell fish, steam them open, shuck them, and dry the meat under the sun.
The dried shellfish were strung like leis and hung from the kitchen ceiling directly above the wooden stove, where smoke flavored and preserved them. On rainy days, the dried seafood would be thrown into the rice pot with whatever else there was in the cupboard: leftover sausages, dried pork, pork fat, onions, dried mushrooms, soy sauce.
The resulting meal tasted very much like clay pot rice on today’s five-star Chinese menus.
The migration of Chinese people’s from all parts of the mainland and the islands around it enriched not just the blood stock of the region but also the culinary heritage of every place they settled in.
THAI FLAVORS (From left)Spicy herbal shrimp salad (pla kung); Rice crackers with peanut sauce (kao tang na tang) and Coconut sticky rice with mango (kao naew mamuang) (Manila Bulletin)
In Southeast Asia, Peranakan cuisine is finally being discovered and appreciated by travelers and food enthusiasts.
The Baba Nyonya people, also known as Peranakan or Straits Chinese, were originally from Fujian Province in Southeastern China.
They settled along the coast of Malaysia, mainly in Penang and Melaka as well as parts of Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, inevitably intermarrying with the local inhabitants while retaining their own heritage.
Due to its close proximity to Thailand, Penang’s Baba Nyonya cuisine has been influenced by Thai cuisine as well as local Malay and Fujian ingredients and cooking methods.
THAI FLAVORS (From left) Crispy vermicelli tossed in sweet and sour sauce (mee krob); Steamed fish fouffle (hor mok pla) and Stir-fried crab with egg and yellow curry (poo pad kong karee) (Manila Bulletin)
Peranakan cuisine stars in a food festival at the Red Ginger, the Southeast Asian restaurant of The City of Dreams, which offers an all-day a la carte menu until Oct. 31.
Dishes include Nyonya fried chicken marinated in shrimp paste and fermented bean curd with pineapple acar (Indonesian pickle) and curry mayonnaise; Lam mee noodles in rich prawn gravy, char siu (Chinese barbecued pork), fish cake, and hard-boiled egg served with homemade sambal; Babi asam pork belly stew with tamarind, sticky turmeric rice, and prawn crackers; And Bubur cha cha sweet potato with taro and sago in pandan coconut milk.
The restaurant also featured awardwinning Thai Chef Aek Charttrakul as the Southeast Asian restaurant’s guest chef, serving royal cuisine from Thailand, which highlights the balance between different flavors including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.
A unique facet of Thai cuisine is the use of fresh herbs and spices as well as the inclusion of fermented fish sauce in some of its dishes.
Big hits were appetizers such as crispy vermicelli tossed in sweet and sour sauce (mee krob), rice cracker with peanut sauce (kao tang na tang), spicy herbal shrimp salad (pla kung), and spicy pork rib soup (tom klong kradook moo).
Entrées included green curry with chicken (kaeng kew wan gai), deep-fried fish with sweet and sour sauce (pla rad prik), roasted pork neck with spicy Thai dipping sauce (kor moo yang), stir-fried crab with egg and yellow curry (poo pad pong karee), steamed fish souffle (hor mok pla), stir-fried beef with hot basil (pad kaprao nua), and stir-fried Thai noodle (pad thai), while desserts offered are coconut sticky rice with mango (kao naewmamuang) and rice flour ball dumpling in coconut milk (bua loy).
Yam wun sen kung: a spicy Thai salad with glass noodles and prawns
Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Balance, detail, and variety are of paramount significance to Thai chefs. In his 2010 book The Principles of Thai Cookery, celebrity chef, writer, and authority on Thai cuisine McDang writes:
"What is Thai food? Every country in the world has its own food profile. It reflects its culture, environment, ingenuity and values. In the case of Thailand, these words come to mind: intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor.
We not only pay attention to how a dish tastes: we are also concerned about how it looks, how it smells, and how it fits in with the rest of the meal. We think of all parts of the meal as a whole - sum rap Thai (the way Thais eat), is the term we use for the unique components that make up a characteristically Thai meal."
Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. It is known for its complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Australian chef David Thompson, a prolific chef and expert on Thai food, observed that unlike many other cuisines:
"Thai food ain't about simplicity. It's about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it's got to have a smooth surface but it doesn't matter what's happening underneath. Simplicity isn't the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it's a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that's important, it's the complexity they delight in."
Thai cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
In 2011, seven of Thailand's popular dishes appeared on the list of the "World's 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers' Pick)"— a worldwide online poll of 35,000 people by CNN Travel. Thailand had more dishes on the list than any other country. They were: tom yam goong (4th), pad Thai (5th), som tam (6th), massaman curry (10th), green curry (19th), Thai fried rice (24th) and moo nam tok (36th).
Regional cuisines and historical influences
The art of vegetable carving is said to have originated in the Sukhothai Kingdom nearly 700 years ago
Chili peppers, originally from the Americas, were introduced to Thailand by the Portuguese and Spanish
Thai cuisine is more accurately described as four regional cuisines, corresponding to the four main regions of the country:
•Central Thai cuisine of the flat and wet central rice-growing plains and of Bangkok, site of the former Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, and the Dvaravati culture of the Mon people from before the arrival of Tai groups in the area.
•Isan or northeastern Thai cuisine of the more arid Khorat Plateau, similar in culture to Laos and also influenced by Khmer cuisine to its south, as evidenced by the temple ruins from the time of the Khmer Empire.
•Northern Thai cuisine of the verdant valleys and cool, forested mountains of the Thai highlands, once ruled by the former Lanna Kingdom and home to the majority of the ethnic groups of Thailand.
•Southern Thai cuisine of the Kra Isthmus which is bordered on two sides by tropical seas, with its many islands and including the ethnic Malay, former Sultanate of Pattani in the deep south.
Thai cuisine and the culinary traditions and cuisines of Thailand's neighbors have mutually influenced one another over the course of many centuries. Regional variations tend to correlate to neighboring states (often sharing the same cultural background and ethnicity on both sides of the border) as well as climate and geography. Northern Thai cuisine shares dishes with Shan State in Burma, northern Laos, and also with Yunnan Province in China, whereas the cuisine of Isan (northeastern Thailand) is similar to that of southern Laos, and is also influenced by Khmer cuisine from Cambodia to its south, and by Vietnamese cuisine to its east.
Southern Thailand, with many dishes that contain liberal amounts of coconut milk and fresh turmeric, has that in common with Indian, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisine. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai royal cuisine which can trace its history back to the cosmopolitan palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351–1767 CE). Its refinement, cooking techniques, presentation, and use of ingredients were of great influence to the cuisine of the central Thai plains.
Many dishes that are now popular in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes. They were introduced to Thailand by the Hokkien people starting in the 15th century, and by the Teochew people who started settling in larger numbers from the late 18th century CE onward, mainly in the towns and cities, and now form the majority of the Thai Chinese.
Such dishes include chok Thai: โจ๊ก (rice porridge), salapao (steamed buns), kuaitiao rat na (fried rice-noodles) and khao kha mu (stewed pork with rice).
The Chinese also introduced the use of a wok for cooking, the technique of deep-frying and stir frying dishes, several types of noodles, taochiao (fermented bean paste), soy sauces, and tofu.
The cuisines of India and Persia, brought first by traders, and later settlers from these regions, with their use of dried spices, gave rise to Thai adaptations and dishes such as kaeng kari (yellow curry) and kaeng matsaman (massaman curry).
Ayutthaya, have created dishes such as foi thong, the Thai adaptation of the Portuguese fios de ovos, and sangkhaya, where coconut milk replaces unavailable cow's milk in making a custard. These dishes were said to have been brought to Thailand in the 17th century by Maria Guyomar de Pinha, a woman of mixed Japanese-Portuguese-Bengali ancestry who was born in Ayutthaya, and became the wife of Constantine Phaulkon, the Greek adviser of King Narai.
The most notable influence from the West must be the introduction of the chili pepper from the Americas in the 16th or 17th century. It, and rice, are now two of the most important ingredients in Thai cuisine. During the Columbian Exchange, Portuguese and Spanish ships brought new crops from the Americas including tomatoes, corn, papaya, pea eggplants, pineapple, pumpkins, culantro, cashews, and peanuts.
Phat thai kung, accompanied with a spoon
A plate of raw vegetables and herbs, together with nam phrik kapi, is often served as a free complimentary dish at southern
Thai food was traditionally eaten with the right hand while seated on mats or carpets on the floor, customs still found in the more traditional households. Today, however, most Thais eat with a fork and spoon. Tables and chairs were introduced as part of a broader Westernization drive during the reign of King Mongkut, Rama IV. The fork and spoon were introduced by King Chulalongkorn after his return from a tour of Europe in 1897 CE.
Important to Thai dining is the practice of khluk, mixing the flavors and textures of different dishes with the rice from one's plate. The food is pushed by the fork, held in the left hand, into the spoon held in the right hand, which is then brought to the mouth. A traditional ceramic spoon is sometimes used for soup, and knives are not generally used at the table.
It is common practice for both the Thais and the hill tribe peoples who live in Lanna and Isan to use sticky rice as an edible implement by shaping it into small, and sometimes flattened, balls by hand (and only the right hand by custom) which are then dipped into side dishes and eaten.
EAT WITH THEIR HANDS RATHER THAN CHINESE CHOPOSTICKS
Chopsticks were foreign utensils to most ethnic groups in Thailand with the exception of the Thai Chinese, and a few other cultures such as the Akha people, who are recent arrivals from Yunnan Province, China. Traditionally, the majority of ethnic Thai people ate with their hands like the people of India. Chopsticks are mainly used in Thailand for eating Chinese-style noodle soups, or at Chinese, Japanese, or Korean restaurants. Stir fried noodle dishes such as pad Thai, and curry-noodle dishes such as khanom chin nam ngiao, are also eaten with a fork and spoon in the Thai fashion.
Thai meals typically consist of rice (khao in Thai) with many complementary dishes shared by all. The dishes are all served at the same time, including the soups, and it is also customary to provide more dishes than there are guests at a table. A Thai family meal would normally consist of rice with several dishes which should form a harmonious contrast of flavors and textures as well as preparation methods.
Traditionally, a meal would have at least five elements: a dip or relish for raw or cooked vegetables (khrueang chim) is the most crucial component of any Thai meal. Khrueang chim, considered a building block of Thai food by Chef McDang, may come in the form of a spicy chili sauce or relish called nam phrik (made of raw or cooked chilies and other ingredients, which are then mashed together), or a type of dip enriched with coconut milk called lon.
The other elements would include a clear soup (perhaps a spicy tom yam or a mellow tom chuet), a curry or stew (essentially any dish identified with the kaeng prefix), a deep-fried dish and a stir fried dish of meat, fish, seafood, or vegetables.
In most Thai restaurants, diners will have access to a selection of Thai sauces (nam chim) and condiments, either brought to the table by wait staff or present at the table in small containers.
These may include: phrik nam pla/nam pla phrik (fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilies and garlic), dried chili flakes, sweet chili sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce, and even sugar.
With certain dishes, such as khao kha mu (pork trotter stewed in soy sauce and served with rice), whole Thai peppers and raw garlic are served in addition to the sour chili sauce. Cucumber is sometimes eaten to cool the mouth with particularly spicy dishes. They often feature as a garnish, especially with one-dish meals. The plain rice, sticky rice or the khanom chin (Thai rice noodles) served alongside a spicy Thai curry or stir fry, tends to counteract the spiciness.
When time is limited or when eating alone, single dishes, such as fried rice or noodle soups, are quick and filling. An alternative is to have one or smaller helpings of curry, stir fries and other dishes served together on one plate with a portion of rice. This style of serving food is called khao rat kaeng (lit., "rice covered with curry"), or for short khao kaeng (lit., "rice curry").
Eateries and shops that specialize in pre-made food are the usual place to go to for having a meal this way. These venues have a large display showing the different dishes one can choose. When placing their order at these places, Thais will state if they want their food served as separate dishes, or together on one plate with rice (rat khao).
Very often, regular restaurants will also feature a selection of freshly made "rice curry" dishes on their menu for single customers.
Ingredients, green curry paste
Thailand has about the same land area as Spain and a length of approximately 1,650 kilometers or 1,025 miles (Italy, in comparison, is about 1,250 kilometers or 775 miles long), with foothills of the Himalayas in the north, a high plateau in the northeast, a verdant river basin in the center, and tropical rainforests and islands in the south.
With over 40 distinct ethnic groups each with its own culture and even more languages, it comes as no surprise that Thai cuisine, as a whole, features many different ingredients (suan phasom; Thai: ส่วนผสม), and ways of preparing food.
Thai food is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices.
Common flavors in Thai food come from garlic, galangal, coriander/cilantro, lemon grass, shallots, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and chilies. Palm sugar, made from the sap of certain Borassus palms, is used to sweeten dishes while lime and tamarind contribute sour notes.
Meats used in Thai cuisine are usually pork and chicken, and also duck, beef, and water buffalo. Goat and mutton are rarely eaten except by Muslim Thais. Game, such as wild boar, deer and wild birds, are now less common due to loss of habitat, the introduction of modern methods of intensive animal farming in the 1960s, and the rise of agribusinesses, such as Thai Charoen Pokphand Foods, in the 1980s.
Traditionally, fish, crustaceans, and shellfish play an important role in the diet of Thai people. Anna Leonowens (of The King and I fame) observed in her book The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870):
"The stream is rich in fish of excellent quality and flavour, such as is found in most of the great rivers of Asia; and is especially noted for its platoo, a kind of sardine, so abundant and cheap that it forms a common seasoning to the labourer's bowl of rice."
Freshwater varieties come from the many rivers, lakes, ponds, and paddy fields inland, and seafood from the tropical seas of the southern half of the country. Some species, such as the giant river prawn, need brackish water as juveniles but live out their lives in freshwater once mature. Aquaculture of species such as Nile tilapia, catfish, tiger prawns, and blood cockles, now generates a large portion of the seafood sold in, and exported from Thailand.
Rice, noodles and starches
Khanom chin, freshly made Thai rice noodles
Khao niao (sticky rice), served with som tam (papaya salad) and kai yang (grilled chicken) as part of a typical Isan meal
Like most other Asian cuisines, rice is the staple grain of Thai cuisine.
According to Thai food expert McDang, rice is the first and most important part of any meal, and the words for rice and food are the same: khao. As in many other rice eating cultures, to say "eat rice" (in Thai "kin khao"; pronounced as "keen cow") means to eat food. Rice is such an integral part of the diet that a common Thai greeting is "kin khao reu yang?" which literally translates as "Have you eaten rice yet?".
Thai farmers historically have cultivated tens of thousands of rice varieties. The traditional recipe for a rice dish could include as many as 30 varieties of rice. That number has been drastically reduced due to genetic modifications.
Non-glutinous rice (Oryza sativa) is called khao chao (lit., "princely rice"). One type, which is indigenous to Thailand, is the highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice (khao hom Mali). This naturally aromatic long-grained rice grows in abundance in the patchwork of paddy fields that blanket Thailand's central plains. Once the rice is steamed or cooked, it is called khao suai (lit., "beautiful rice").
Non-glutinous rice is used for making fried rice dishes, and for congee, of which there are three main varieties: khao tom (a thin rice soup, most often with minced pork or fish), khao tom kui (a thick, unflavored rice porridge that is served with side dishes), or chok (a thick rice porridge that is flavored with broth and minced meat).
Other varieties of rice eaten in Thailand include: sticky rice (khao niao), a unique variety of rice which contains an unusual balance of the starches present in all rice, causing it to cook up to a sticky texture. Sticky rice, not jasmine rice, is a staple food in the local cuisines of northern Thailand and of Isan (northeastern Thailand), both regions of Thailand directly adjacent to Laos with which they share many cultural traits.
Thai Red Cargo rice, an unpolished long grain rice with an outer deep reddish-brown color and a white center, has a nutty taste and slightly chewy compared to the soft and gummy texture of jasmine rice. Only the husks of the red rice grains are removed which allows it to retain all its nutrients and vitamins, but unlike brown rice, its red color comes from antioxidants in the bran. Black sticky rice is a type of sticky rice with a deep purple-red color that may appear black.
Another unpolished grain, black sticky rice has a rich nutty flavor that is most often used in desserts.
Noodles are usually made from either rice flour, wheat flour or mung bean flour. Khanom chin is fresh rice vermicelli made from fermented rice, and eaten with spicy curries such as green chicken curry (khanom chin kaeng khiao wan kai) or with salads such as som tam.
Other rice noodles, adapted from Chinese cuisine to suit Thai taste, are called kuaitiao in Thailand and come in three varieties: sen yai are wide flat noodles, sen lek are thin flat rice noodles, and sen mi (also known as rice vermicelli in the West) are round and thin.
Bami is made from egg and wheat flour and usually sold fresh. They are similar to the Teochew mee pok. Wun sen, called cellophane noodles in English, are extremely thin noodles made from mung bean flour which are sold dried. Thai noodle dishes, whether stir fried like phat Thai or in the form of a noodle soup, usually come as an individual serving and are not meant to be shared and eaten communally.
Rice flour (paeng khao chao) and tapioca flour (paeng man sampalang) are often used in desserts or as thickening agents.
Pastes and sauces
Nam pla phrik, a table sauce most often eaten with rice dishes, is made from fish sauce and sliced chilies, and often also includes garlic and lime
Nam phrik pla chi (a chili paste from northern Thailand made with grilled fish) is served with raw and steamed vegetables as one of the dishes in a communal meal
An ingredient found in many Thai dishes and used in every region of the country is nam pla, a clear fish sauce that is very aromatic. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Thai cuisine and imparts a unique character to Thai food.
Fish sauce is prepared with fermented fish that is made into a fragrant condiment and provides a salty flavor. There are many varieties of fish sauce and many variations in the way it is prepared. Some fish may be fermented with shrimp or spices.
Another type of sauce made from fermented fish is pla ra. It is more pungent than nam pla, and, in contrast to nam pla, which is a clear liquid, pla ra is opaque and often contains pieces of fish.
To add this sauce to a som tam (spicy papaya salad) is a matter of choice. Kapi, Thai shrimp paste, is a combination of fermented ground shrimp and salt. It is used in the famous chili paste called nam phrik kapi, in rice dishes such as khao khluk kapi and it is indispensable for making Thai curry pastes. Tai pla is a pungent sauce used in the southern Thai cuisine, that is made from the fermented innards of the shortbodied mackerel (pla thu).
It is one of the main condiments of kaeng tai pla curry and is also used to make nam phrik tai pla. Far removed from the nearest sea, from northern Thailand comes nam pu, a thick, black paste made by boiling mashed rice-paddy crabs for hours. It is used as an ingredient for certain northern Thai salads, curries, and chili pastes. It too has a strong and pungent flavor.
Nam phrik are Thai chili pastes, similar to the Indonesian and Malaysian sambals. Each region has its own special versions. The words "nam phrik" are used by Thais to describe many pastes containing chilies used for dipping, although the more watery versions tend to be called nam chim. Thai curry pastes are normally called phrik kaeng or khrueang kaeng (lit. curry ingredients), but some people also use the word nam phrik to designate a curry paste.
Red curry paste, for instance, could be called phrik kaeng phet or khrueang kaeng phet in Thai, but also nam phrik kaeng phet. Both nam phrik and phrik kaeng are prepared by crushing together chilies with various ingredients such as garlic and shrimp paste using a mortar and pestle. Some nam phrik are served as a dip with vegetables such as cucumbers, cabbage and yard-long beans, either raw or blanched.
One such paste is nam phrik num, a paste of pounded fresh green chilies, shallots, garlic and coriander leaves. The sweet roasted chili paste called nam phrik phao is often used as an ingredient in tom yam or when frying meat or seafood, and it is also popular as a spicy "jam" on bread, or served as a dip with prawn crackers.
The dry nam phrik kung, made with pounded dried shrimp (kung haeng), is often eaten plain with rice and a few slices of cucumber. French diplomat Simon de la Loubère observed that chili pastes were vital for the way Thai people eat. He provides us with a recipe for nam phrik with pla ra and onions in Du Royaume de Siam, an account of his mission to Thailand published in 1691.
The soy sauces which are used in Thai cuisine are of Chinese origin, and the Thai names for them are (wholly or partially) loanwords from the Teochew dialect: si-io dam (dark soy sauce), si-io khao (light soy sauce), si-io wan (sweet soy sauce), and taochiao (fermented whole soy beans). Namman hoi (oyster sauce) is also of Chinese origin. It is used extensively in vegetable and meat stir fries.
Vegetables, herbs and spices
A vegetable stall, Chiang Mai.
The elaborate spice mix needed for northern Thai larb
Thai dishes use a wide variety of herbs, spices and leaves rarely found in the West. The characteristic flavor of kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut) appears in many Thai soups (e.g., the hot and sour tom yam) or curry from the southern and central areas of Thailand.
The Thai lime (manao) is smaller, darker and sweeter than the kaffir lime, which has a rough looking skin with a stronger lime flavor. Kaffir lime leaves or rind is frequently combined with galangal (kha) and lemongrass (takhrai), either kept whole in simmered dishes or blended together with liberal amounts of chilies and other aromatics to make curry paste.
Fresh Thai basil, redolent with a distinctive scent reminiscent of cloves and stems which are often tinged with a purple color, are used to add fragrance in certain dishes such as green curry. Other commonly used herbs in Thai cuisine include phak chi, (coriander or cilantro leaves), rak phak chi (cilantro/coriander roots), spearmint (saranae), holy basil (kraphao), ginger (khing), turmeric (khamin), fingerroot (krachai), culantro (phak chi farang), pandanus leaves (bai toei), and Thai lemon basil (maenglak). Spices and spice mixtures used in Thai cuisine include phong phalo (five-spice powder), phong kari (curry powder), and fresh and dried peppercorns (phrik thai).
Northern Thai larb uses a very elaborate spice mix, called phrik lap, which includes ingredients such as cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, prickly ash seeds and cinnamon.
Besides kaffir lime leaves, several other tree leaves are used in Thai cuisine such as cha-om, the young feathery leaves of the Acacia pennata tree. These leaves can be cooked in omelettes, soups and curries or eaten raw in northern Thai salads.
Banana leaves are often used as packaging for ready-made food or as steamer cups such as in ho mok pla, a spicy steamed pâté or soufflé made with fish and coconut milk.
Banana flowers are also used in Thai salads or as a vegetable ingredient for certain curries. The leaves and flowers of the neem tree (sadao) are also eaten blanched. Phak lueat (leaves from the Ficus virens) are cooked in curries, and bai makok (from the Spondias mombin) can be eaten raw with a chili paste.
Five main chilies are generally used as ingredients in Thai food. One chili is very small (about 1.25 centimetres (0.49 in)) and is known as the hottest chili: phrik khi nu suan ("garden mouse-dropping chili"). The slightly larger chili phrik khi nu ("mouse-dropping chili") is the next hottest.
The green or red phrik chi fa ("sky pointing chili") is slightly less spicy than the smaller chilies. The very large phrik yuak, which is pale green in color, is the least spicy and used more as a vegetable. Lastly, the dried chilies: phrik haeng are spicier than the two largest chilies and dried to a dark red color.
Other typical ingredients are the several types of eggplant (makhuea) used in Thai cuisine, such as the pea-sized makhuea phuang and the egg-sized makhuea suai, often also eaten raw. Although broccoli is often used in Asian restaurants in the west in phat phak ruam (stir fried mixed vegetables) and rat na (rice noodles served in gravy), it was never used in any traditional Thai food in Thailand and is still rarely seen in Thailand.
Usually in Thailand, khana is used, for which broccoli is a substitute. Other vegetables which are often eaten in Thailand are thua fak yao (yardlong beans), thua ngok (bean sprouts), no mai (bamboo shoots), tomatoes, cucumbers, phak tam lueng (Coccinia grandis), phak kha na (Chinese kale), phak kwangtung (choy sum), sweet potatoes (both the tuber and leaves), a few types of squash, phak krathin (Leucaena leucocephala), sato (Parkia speciosa), tua phū (winged beans) and khaophot (corn).
Among the green, leafy vegetables and herbs that are usually eaten raw in a meal or as a side dish in Thailand, the most important are: phak bung (morning glory), horapha (Thai basil), bai bua bok (Asian pennywort), phak kachet (water mimosa), phak kat khao (Chinese cabbage), phak phai (praew leaves), phak kayang (rice paddy herb), phak chi farang (culantro), phak tiu (Cratoxylum formosum), phak "phaai" (yellow burr head) and kalamplī (cabbage). Some of these leaves are highly perishable and must be used within a couple of days.
Several types of mushroom (het) also feature in Thai cuisine such as straw mushrooms (het fang), shiitake (het hom), and white jelly fungus (het hu nu khao).
Flowers are also commonly used ingredients in many Thai dishes, either as a vegetable, such as dok khae (Sesbania grandiflora) and huapli (the flower bud of the banana), or as a food coloring, such as with the blue-colored dok anchan (the flowers of the Clitoria ternatea, which can also be eaten raw or fried).
Durians at a Thai market
Fresh fruit forms a large part of the Thai diet, and are customarily served after a meal as dessert. The Scottish author John Crawfurd, sent on an embassy to Bangkok in 1822, writes in his account of the journey:
"The fruits of Siam, or at least of the neighbourhood of Bangkok, are excellent and various, surpassing, according to the experience of our party (...) those of all other parts of India."
The Siamese themselves consume great quantities of fruit, and the whole neighbourhood of Bangkok is one forest of fruit trees.
Fruit is not only eaten on its own, but often served with spicy dips made from sugar, salt, and chilies. Fruits feature in spicy salads such as som tam (green papaya salad) and yam som-o (pomelo salad), in soups with tamarind juice such as tom khlong and kaeng som, and in Thai curries such as kaeng kanun (jackfruit curry), kaeng pet phet yang (grilled duck curry with pineapple or grapes), and kaeng pla sapparot (fish and pineapple curry). Fruits are also used in certain Thai chili pastes, such as in nam phrik long rue made with madan (a close relative of the mangosteen), and nam phrik luk nam liap, made with the fruit of the Chinese olive.
Although many of the exotic fruits of Thailand may have been sometimes unavailable in Western countries, Asian markets now import such fruits as rambutan and lychees.
In Thailand one can find papaya, jackfruit, mango, mangosteen, langsat, longan, pomelo, pineapple, rose apples, durian, Burmese grapes and other native fruits. Chantaburi in Thailand each year holds the World Durian Festival in early May. This single province is responsible for half of the durian production of Thailand and a quarter of the world production.
The Langsat Festival is held each year in Uttaradit on weekends in September. The langsat (Lansium parasiticum), for which Uttaradit is famous, is a fruit that is similar in taste to the longan.
From the coconut comes coconut milk, used both in curries and desserts, and coconut oil. The juice of a green coconut can be served as a drink and the young flesh is eaten in either sweet or savory dishes. The grated flesh of a mature coconut is used raw or toasted in sweets, salads and snacks such as miang kham. Thais not only consume products derived from the nut (actually a drupe), but they also make use of the growth bud of the palm tree as a vegetable.
From the stalk of the flowers comes a sap that can be used to make coconut vinegar, alcoholic beverages, and sugar. Coconut milk and other coconut-derived ingredients feature heavily in the cuisines of central and southern Thailand. In contrast to these regions, coconut palms do not grow as well in northern and northeastern Thailand, where in wintertime the temperatures are lower and where there is a dry season that can last five to six months.
In northern Thai cuisine, only a few dishes, most notably the noodle soup khao soi, use coconut milk. In the southern parts of northeastern Thailand, where the region borders Cambodia, one can again find dishes containing coconut. It is also here that the people eat non-glutinous rice, just as in central and southern Thailand, and not glutinous rice as they do in northern Thailand and in the rest of northeastern Thailand.
Apples, pears, peaches, grapes, and strawberries, which do not traditionally grow in Thailand and in the past had to be imported, have become increasingly popular in the last few decades since they were introduced to Thai farmers by the Thai Royal Projects, starting in 1969, and the Doi Tung Project since 1988. These temperate fruit grow especially well in the cooler, northern Thai highlands, where they were initially introduced as a replacement for the cultivation of opium, together with other crops such as cabbages, tea, and aribica coffee.
SOL JOSE VANZI's PHNO PAGE
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Lifestyle/Food and Arts & Culture columnist of the Manila Daily Bulletin.
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Sol in 1997 Photo: PHNO Editor/Travel & Leisure page
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