Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Num-Tao-Hoo, Soy Milk

When I was a little girl my aunt had to chase me around the house just to give me a glass of milk - I just don't like drinking it. One day we went to a restaurant, still trying to coax me to drink milk, she ordered a bottle of Vitamilk for me. As soon as I saw a white liquid in the bottle, my face turned into an Eeekkk face. She said, " It is not a kind of milk you don't like, this one you will like it." and yes I like it because it is soy milk.

Soy milk is a desert to me. I remember there is a lovely soy milk place in my home town, Chumporn province, where we go to have a bowl of warm soy milk. In Thailand, soy milk is served hot with tapioca, Thai barley seeds, fuzzy melon candy, red beans, plain jello, eggs in one bowl - or you just tell them what you want, what you don't want. Simple syrup is added to sweeten soy milk right when it's served, so that you can tell them what sweet level you want for your bowl. Somebody loves having a bowl of warm, plain soy milk to drink along with fried bread sticks called pa-tong-goh or Youtiao in Chinese.

A bowl of warm soy milk is easy to find in Chinatown, but, since my usual place closed down I started to make it myself. It is SOOOOOO easy to make and the best thing is you know exactly what it is in your soy milk.

Start with soy beans

note: I don't really measure the recipes. You can just test it as you go, nothing's complicated.

- 2 bags of 12oz soy beans
- warm water
- sugar
- a pinch of salt

Get set, Go ¡

- Rinse all soy beans a few times.
- bring soy beans to the heat, toast them till they are dry, but, not burn though. You will see the paper thin skin start to bubble up and a nutty smell touches your nose. Take them off the heat.
- Soak them in warm water up to two-four hour.

- Rub soy beans with your hands in water to loosen up the skins. Fetch the thin skins off. (don't have to beat yourself up to get rid off all skins, you will end up blend them eventually.)

- In a pot used for boiling soy milk - cover the pot with cheese cloth.
- In a blender put soy beans with some water just to cover the beans, and blend them well.

- Pour the blended bean into a preparing pot - repeat until you finish all soy beans.
- Close the cheese cloth, twist and squeeze to get the juice out off blended soy beans as much as you can.
- Add more water to the pot - be careful not to add too much otherwise you will thin out the milk.

- Bring it to the heat at 210F for 15-30 minutes. Heat through, but do not let them reach the boiling point - stir it constantly to prevent a cake-on at the bottom of the pot and keep skimming out the foam as the milk getting hot.

Panden leaves

- To cover up the natural soy smell, I put Panden leaves into it. Panden leaves have a sweet scent to give foods a yummy smell, just like vanilla.
- Add a pinch of salt and sugar (starts with a heap of table spoon and test it, now you can season the milk as you like - add more sugar if you like)

Monday, October 13, 2008

limes Talk.

If you ask me, one thing I would choose to always have it in my kitchen, that thing has to be limes. Since I have been cooking for myself, I've noticed that I never leave my kitchen to be without limes.

Lime is a common ingredient for Thai cooking, so that most Thai houses with a bit of land are more likely growing them in their own properties. As far as I remember there are two lime trees and many more of kaffir lime trees in my mom' s edible garden. I asked her once why she grew so many of them, she said, "for sharing with other people so they don't have to buy it." She doesn't believe in buying things that can be grown in one own backyard, and yes, we never have to buy these kind of things.

In the US, especially here in New York, kaffir limes and leaves are S*O* expensive. From the fact that they can't grow in the cold weather condition, they have to be shipped from the West, and are not always available which makes me sad sometimes. That is not the case for limes, limes are everywhere. I recently found that I can buy four limes for one dollar at a nearby Asian super market in my neighborhood. I am happy about it already, but if I converted the price to Thai Baht and told my mom about it, she would call me back home.

Smooth skin is juicer than pore skin.
Choosing right limes is the key for getting the most juice out of them. I think it would be wise sharing this in my blog since this is a Thai kitchen - we use a lot of limes in Thai food. Look for limes that have smooth skin - smooth skin tells you that these limes have very thin skin and when they have thin skin, more juice will come out, and you can leave the bad limes for those who doesn't read this blog...what?...too mean of ME?...alright you can share it with them later.

The "bad" limes, limes that I will leave them there in the basket forever are limes that have visible pores on the skin - dedicates the hard, thick skin - just by squeezing a little, thick skin limes produce less juice or, like my mom would say, they are not ripe enough to fully produce juice.

Now that you know, at least, how to get juicy limes, be prepare for an extreme taste of my foods.

Egg noodle (ba-mee-hang), Eating Noodle Like Thai

My favorite noodle dish, ever. I can eat it every days, and I am not exaggerated.Oh well, I am actually a noodle girl who is addicted to all kind of noodles, but this one is at the top of them all. When I was little, my aunt knew exactly that to have me eating lunch without a bit of whining, the only choice I would jump on was, and still is, these yummy Ba-Mee-Hang. (ba-mee = egg noodle, hang = dry) So, ba-mee-hang is referable as egg noodle without soup.

Even though ba-mee-hang can be found in every noodle places or noodle stalls in Thailand, my yummy ba-mee-hang is still from the noodle place in a small town I grew up, Chumporn province. Though I can't remember the name of the place, whenever I go back to Chumporn, still, I know exactly where to go for ba-mee-hang.

Since I am now living far away from my favorite ba-mee-hang place, I have to do it myself. OK, you might say, "Just go to Chinatown - tons of Chinese restaurants serving egg noodle." Did I mention I am a noodle girl?.....I have not yet found egg noodle that is prepared like my ba-mee-hang - well, not really mind , just the Thai way of preparing them.

But I do have a favorite noodle place in Chinatown, Manhattan, when I have a sudden urge of noodles and don't want to make it myself, I would go to the noodle place called New Chow Cho on Mott St between Canal St. and Hester St. where I can season the noodle myself right there at the table. In Thailand, a condiment set which is included fish-sauce and chili (num-pla-prick), granulated sugar, dry chili power and vinegar with chili is offered for noodle seasoning at the tables - we season our noodle ourselves to suite each one taste buds - it is a common way of eating noodle in Thailand. Here, New Chow Cho makes it very kind for Thai noodle eaters and even the very best is I can sometimes order them in a Thai way because some of the waiters can speak a bit of Thai , and they understand what it means to eat noodle like Thai.

Like their reputations yield, Thai foods are spicy and strong in flavors, this noodle dish is no exception. The end result of seasoning, before putting them into your mouth is more like preparing a bowl of salad - every things in the bowl are tossed together to mix well before eating.

I am hungry already, and here is my version of making ba-mee-hang the way I like. Some ingredients are left out just to make my life more easier finding them, I get the taste I familiar with, still .

- fresh egg noodle - can be found in all Asian groceries.
- 1 tbs Lime juice
- 1 tbs fish sauce
- 1/2 tbs granulated sugar
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp. black soy sauce (optional)
- Garlic oil

- 2 tbsp. chopped scallion
- 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp. ground peanuts (optional)
- vegetable of choice

- fish balls, beef balls
- 1/4 cup grounded pork
- dried shrimps (optional)

The only thing called for cooking is boiling the water.

1. seasoning ground pork with a bit of soy sauce and let it sit.
2. prepare a noodle bowl, in go lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and dried shrimps (0ptional), mix well and let it sit.
3. In a pot, bring water to boil.
4. fast boil vegetable, fetch them out, let it sit
5. boil all fish balls, beef balls for two minutes, take them out, let it sit
6. boil grounded pork till it is thoroughly cooked and put them into the preparing noodle bowl( with mixing sauces in it)
7. goes in the last, fresh egg noodle, (if you know how to boil spaghetti, you're good to go) boil them about two minutes - these noodles are fresh, so they are already soft and don't need to be dancing in boiling water for very long, fetch them out and put into the preparing noodle bowl.
8. right away, toss the noodle with garlic oil for thoroughly coated.
9. in a noodle bowl, put all boiled ingredients and later chopped cilantro, scallion, and ground peanuts (optional).
10. drizzling with black soy sauce

Before eating

like fixing salad, every things in the bowl need to be tossed so that all taste will be blended together. Now you test for the taste you like, and that you can season them as you go - love more sour - squeeze a wedge of lime, more salty - add a little bit of fish sauce, prefer slightly sweet - add a tiny bit of sugar, can't leave without spicy me me - add a little of dried chili powder, and, again, toss them to mix before eating.

Now, you can make it your own personal ba-mee-hang.

For ingredients, you can choose all ingredients you like, besides fish balls, beef balls, ground pork - make it with whatever kind of meats you like (boil it if it's needed, don't do it if it's ready cooked) - roasted pork, chicken, turkey, beef etc.

The only foundation for these yummy noodle dish is the mixing of lime juice, fish sauce and sugar - the balance taste of sour, salty and sweet which is also the foundation of cooking Thai food.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Crispy garilc in oil, kra teem jeew. A secret that need to be told.

In my last post I was talking about what I call "A jewel for Thai soup." I put in my Jok. It's called Kra Teem Jeew which is simply Crispy garlic in oil. Kra Teem means Garlic. We use this nutty smell, golden crispy garlic in oil, yes I said nutty smell, to bring the food to another level of taste and delicious smell. It really makes a different when you put these in.

It's basically kind of garlic infused with oil, but the difference is it is infused with high temperature oil - high enough to make garlic get golden and crispy.
We put it into the dish that have "almost" plain smell or very light in taste, for example clear soup(Kang Jed type), Jok, noodle and many more to complete Umami, if I can say. My kitchen never be with out it. It's SOO easy to make, but a little trick need to be told since garlic get burn easily once the oil get very hot...don't you blink.

Garlic in your hand?
- 1 big head of garlic
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- tiny pinch of salt

1. With a garlic press, press all garlic cloves.
2. Put pressed garlic into a small sauce pan, in goes the vegetable oil and salt.
3. Bring the pan to low heat, let the garlic and oil heat up together, stir often as they start to heat up, so there will be no lump of garlic stick at the bottom of the pan.


4. turn off the heat as soon as you see the color of the garlic starts to change to light golden then let them continue cooking in the hot oil with out the heat. If you let them bubbling in the pan with the heat still on till they turn golden right in the pan , it's too late - you will end up with burning garlic and a nasty, bitter garlic in oil.

let them cool down and pour them into clean little jar. I always clean and save up those little artichoke hearts jars after I finish them. These garlic in oil can be kept up to a month. Now you've got a jewel of Thai cooking - a little secret that need to be told.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jok Moo Sub, Thai Congee with ground pork balls

Cold weather is creeping in. It's time for me to hibernate under the blanket. Talking about comfort, there is nothing else to comfort my soul and body as good as Congee or Jok (Jook) in Thai. The word Jook is Chinese which is pronounced like Joke when it comes to Thai.

Jok is a real comfort food. It warms the body and lifts up the soul. It is the food I always turn to when I get sick in bed - with extra fresh julienne ginger, of course - or whenever I feel like....comforting! (roll my eyes all the way to the back of my head) It has a reputation as a breakfast in many Asian countries, but, practically, we eat it whenever we want to since it is made with rice and we commonly eat rice three times a day. It's very easy to make if you know how to boil thing with water because that what it is all about - boil the rice with water and let the rice do the magic.

It's made with long grain white rice - either steamed, plain rice or uncooked rice. I personally love to make them with uncooked rice from the fact that the starch from the uncooked rice makes it more yummy-ly creamy. On the other hand, making it with leftover, steamed rice give a little grainy since the starch is rinsed off before cooking, again, if you use the leftover steamed rice and want to get a creamy texture, just cook it a bit longer until you can see the rice break down in the water. More often that I make it from the leftover steamed rice - as we are living in The Rice Kingdom, we don't throw away leftover rice. I can still hear my mom say, "finish your rice. It's hard work for rice farmers to pick the grains, so that we can all have rice on our plates." So it's better not to make the queen of the kitchen get mad.

As for meat of choices, the more common Jok in Thailand is to add ground pork balls or boiled, shredded chicken.

Ready to cook?

Oh let me say this - I don't strictly measure the ingredients when it is not necessary - just follow the taste buds as I go.

- 1/2 cup long grain rice
- 2 1/2 cups plain water or broth
(if using cooked rice, I put just how much rice I have into the pot then put the water two time the rice or more - as the rice continue cooking the water will reduce - just to make sure it's not too thick and it shouldn't be too watery.)
- ground pork balls (How many balls you want is, again, your choice) Marinate ground pork with soy sauce or oyster sauce, a pinch of sugar (or omit it), ground pepper, a pinch of corn starch, mix it and let it sit.
- fish sauce or soy sauce
- salt (or omit it)
- julienne fresh ginger
- chopped green onion or a few cilantro leaves...or both.
- Crispy garlic in oil (NOOO...don't run if you don't have iiit. It's just a tiny luxury to make me happy. I'll tell you how to make it. It's a jewel for all Thai soups)

1. Put rice and water into a pot, bring it to the boil (stir as water starts to heat up to loosen up the lumps of rice which tend to stick at a bottom of the pot) then bring the heat down to simmer. Stir often as water is reducing - to this point, you can add more water if rice start to get too thick. The idea is to maintain a creamy consistency. While it is cooking, it is better to have more water than to have it less as the water will reduce and the rice will break down in the water create a creamy texture.

2. When rice start to break down and get very soft, ball up the marinated, ground pork - a size of your thumb - and add them to the pot.

3. seasoning with fish sauce or soy sauce, and test it. If it's too salty add more water a little at a time. A little bit of salt can give it more round taste. Turn the heat off when the ground pork balls are cooked.


Top it up with julienne fresh ginger, green onion, cilantro leaves and crispy garlic in oil. Sprinkle with ground pepper. Your stomach will thank you for these.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Flame Water Spinach

Pak Boong Fai Dang

When I was a little girl, I was a "meat-etariean", totally vegetable-free. When ever I saw some greens on my plate I would pick them out. I felt that fried chicken, beef or eggs was way tastier than vegetable. Aunt and mom were tired of me making a long face over my plate every times there were some tiny pieces of vegetable snugged under the rice.

My eating habit started to change when I went to the university. I was 1600 km. away from my family, living by myself - no body told me what to eat, what not to eat. My most influence during that times was friends. They all love to eat. They were always dragging me with them to try some now dishes they'd heard from somewhere else which, of course, involved with a lot of vegetable dishes, I went along and the next thing I knew, I enjoy eating vegetable more and more.

This dish is one of my favorite vegetable dishes. It's called Pak Boong Fai Dang, which is easily translated to Red Flame Water Spinach - Fai = Fire, Dang = Red. It gets the name from the way it's cooked. I love watching the cooking of this dish especially when we go out to a long line of street food stalls at night market where you can see foods are prepared and cooked in front of you. It is quite a show, if I can say.

A wok is heated till it's very hot - sometimes until the smoke starts to come up then Pak Boong is thrown into the wok, stirred and tossed, right away as they touch the wok, in a speed of moving hurricane. Now, Don't blink!...You are about to see the flame shooting into the wok and up to the air in a split second. How big the flame is depends on technique of each cook. It gives the dish a little smoky touch to your nose and preserves the crunchiness of vegetable. I never get to try this technique of bring the flame into the wok or into my kitchen and I don't think I will. My husband is a graphic designer not a hunk fire-fighter. I don't think he would like to deal with Fai-Dang kitchen.

Here is my non-Fai-Dang technique.

I got this technique from my best friend, Kung, who own the restaurant on Koh Panagn, a beautiful island in Aow Thai sea. She cooked this dish for my husband and I when we visited her and her family there.

After Pak Boong are rinsed and shaken off the water, she put them in a preparing bowl, followed with oyster sauce, bruised fresh chillies and a pinch of sugar - you can omit the sugar if you want to. The next thing is preparing the wok - heat it up with little oil till you can see a bit of smoke start to come up, throw in crushed garlics and all ingredients from the preparing bowl, and, again, stir and toss, right away as they hit the wok, in a speed of moving hurricane.....and turn the heat off.

You still get the crunchiness - the only thing you'll miss is a smoky touch, but, well...since I don't want to burn my bang, I rather cook this dish with non-Fai Dang technique. If I want a smoky taste, I'll go out to food stalls and enjoy their show and food.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kaw Moo Krorb, Crispy Pork Belly on Rice.

If you are a weight watcher, I suggest that you might need to stay miles away from this dish , and don't bother to count the calories because you might pass out, once you know it.

I consider myself a part-time weight watcher, so, there are still rooms for me to gorge myself on some, in my own word, "evil" foods. One thing I notice, most "evil" food taste SOOOO good. They always lure you to their empire with delicious appearances, heavenly smell and god sent taste even though you know it is not so good for your health, but you just can't resist is it not evil?

This dish call Kaw Moo Krorb in Thai which is directly translated as "Crispy Pork on Rice". It is an over-the-rice dish - means you put everything on top of the rice in one plate instead of A-la-carte style. As the name suggests, the leader role of this dish goes to Moo Krorb or Crispy Pork which is the belly part of the pig appears in three layers when it's sectioned - the top thick skin, fat in the middle and the red meat at last. It can be easily found in Chinese butcher stores - mostly are already cut into long strips.

How to make Moo Krorb?

1. The pork bellies are boiled with water until the thick skin get soft, take them out of the boiling water then poked the only thick skin with sharp knife or fork, make sure every inches of the thick skin are poked - if you are in the mood of killing somebody, this is a good time, instead of people, take it on the pork belly. Slash the red meat part a few times, but, don't slash it through the fat layer- the idea is - when they are fried, the oil can get into those tiny holes and make a thick skin get very crispy, otherwise you might need a hand saw when you eat it, and the red meat is cooked through.

2. Rub the white vinegar all over the already- soft and poked thick skin, rub the red meat with salt and hang them dry over night - let the oil drip until it dry.

3. The next morning, throw them in the oven with 380 F. Let them sit happily in there just about the thick skin starts to bubble under the heat releasing more oil through tiny holes you poked then pull them out, let them to cool down before putting them to deep-fry.

There you have it.
They can be kept for two or three days. Besides this dish, chop them up and stir-fry them with chines broccoli, bean-sprout or other vegetables ...YUM!

Ready? Set, Serve...

These dish is served with so-called Nam Moo Dang or Roasted Red Pork Sauce over the rice and Moo Krob, seasoning with white vinegar mixed with black soy sauce and fresh chili in it. No need to beat yourself up making this sauce from scratch. Last time my husband and I went back to Thailand, my mother in law suggested that the instant sauce that come in powder which can be found in Thai grocery store works well and is tasty equally making it from the scratch. I've tried, and yes it does work well and is taste right, but, since I have heavy taste buds, I still need a little seasoning....can't help it!

Besides the sauce on top, there are chunks of Chinese sausage, hard boiled eggs on the side. Cut the overwhelming taste with fresh spring onions....Evilly Yum!...and off I go, running round the blocks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Ladies of The Kingdom

I don't know if I am biting off more than I can chew to manage three blogs together. Well, call me crazy, I'll take a bow.

After long debating (between my right and left ears) whether or not to open another blog, I've decided to do so and would like to dedicate this blog to ladies of my heart - mom, aunt and grandma who has been cooking for me and feeding me since I know how to open my mouth for tasty food, until now, how to cook yummy foods.

Mom is an excellent cook, not only to our family, she is to others, too. She's been catering since I remember growing up. Her well-known Massaman Curry and Kanoom-Jeen-Nam-Ya is still to die for. As other Thai-Southerner, mom LOVEEEE spicy food and never shy about her spices when she cooks. Often that I automatically "cry" while scooping her Kanoom-Jeen-Mam-Ya into my burning mouth and that when a BIGGG tray of assorted, fresh vegetables comes to recuse.

Aunt whom I grew up with is a modern cook. She loves to try on new recipes from cookbooks by herself and have me as her personal Guinea Pig. I was such a good girl, back then, who always told the truth and it caused me to nibble more and more till she got it right....Now, I thank her for that because my taste buds are boot camp trained to pin point exactly the right taste.

Grandma, our kitchen CEO. She will make sure that there is always food in the kitchen when somebody whines "I'mmmmm hungryyyy." and if there is not enough food, she would use her magic wand, aka spatula, to bring out the food for just a split second. Though she is now ninety-two, she still loves making a delicious fish dish for everyone.

These are my big influences when it comes to my cooking. Even though I never cook for myself when I was with them, I was always eyeballing and nibbling around them in the kitchen.

These blog is truly dedicated to them, the ladies of my heart, who always makes sure I eat today.

Oh...and DAD....of course (feel like a beauty pageant), you are a man of my heart too, but these kitchen is ruled by the ladies of the kingdom. So, for now, you can just sit leisurely and enjoy our "royal" food.
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