Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thai food asea

 Three "starters" are common for the first course.

Thai food is unique and Thai recipes are not all as complicated as you might think as I discovered traveling from Chiang Mai in the north to Phuket in the south with a nice but not long enough stay in Bangkok in the central part of the country.

Thai meals are normally served family style with five courses or more. Thais will eat what they want of one before moving on to another while we Americans tend to put a little of each on our plate, taste it all and then go back for more of what we liked best.

My excursion aboard The Siam Junk provided recipes for favorite flavors that start and end a meal - Chilled Tom Ka Soup Shots with Poached Prawns and Mango and Sticky Rice.

Note: Spring rolls were another favorite but you can find them all over Asia so I'm sticking to dishes I've found only in Thailand.

Chilled Tom Ka Soup Shots with Poached Prawns

This is a popular soup which was served in shot glasses by the wonderful cooks on The Siam Junk.

 The number of red chilies can be varied to your tolerance for spicy, from one half per diner to as many as 8-10. They said a good average was 8-10 chilies total for this recipe. You definitely want the dish to retain a balance of flavors and not be overwhelmed by chilies.

4 oz finely chopped shrimp
16 fluid oz chicken stock
5-10 small red chilies lightly crushed
2 kaffir lime leaves (roll them until they crack to release the flavor but keep them whole)
2-inch piece lemon grass, bruised to release the flavor
1-inch cube galangal (kha), thinly sliced
4 TBS quality fish sauce
2 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice
5 fluid oz coconut milk
 enough lightly poached fresh whole shrimps for one per shot glass
Fresh cilantro leaves to garnish

Heat the stock, stir in the lime leaves, lemon grass, galangal, fish sauce and lime juice and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and coconut milk, return to the boil then lower heat to a simmer for about 2 minutes.

Allow to cool. When you cool it down the coconut milk and stock tends to separate so give it a good stir before serving.

Pour into individual shot glasses, add a whole shrimp to the edge of the glass and serve.

Although not intended as a main dish, this can be served as part of a meal with the shrimp in the soup and accompanied by steamed jasmine rice. Chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces or even mixed seafood could be substituted.

Mango and Sticky Rice

This is surprisingly light despite the calories I know it packs. It quickly became a favorite and I'm not the only fan. The stand serving sticky rice and mango at the Bangkok airport was one of the busiest.

1 1/4 cups raw Thai sticky rice
1 1/2 cups coconut cream
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 TBS salt
1/3 tsp. salt for the topping
1/4 tsp fine rice flour
6 mangoes, peeled and sliced

Thoroughly wash and rinse the sticky rice and put in an automatic rice cooker or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and cook according to directions. Leave for 20-25 minutes. Do not open until then - you need the steam to stay in the pot. Place cooked rice in a large bowl.

Take a small saucepan and gently heat half of the coconut cream. Add the sugar and half of the salt, stirring until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into the cooked rice. Mix thoroughly and allow to stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining coconut cream and add salt, stirring to make a simple yet delicious topping sauce.

Put sticky rice on a serving platter and arrange sliced mangoes around it. Add some mint leaves for garnish, top the rice with a few spoonfuls of the sauce, serving the remainder on the side.

Calories at sea don't count so dig in!

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