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.
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