Monday, April 5, 2010

Thai food

We often relegate Thai food to meals in restaurants, rarely adding Thai cuisine to the cooking we do at home. Thai cooking classes abound, but the best Thai food often requires ingredients not readily available in our neighborhood grocery stores.

Enter the Four Seasons Cooking School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and its exemplary chef and chief instructor, Pitak Srichan.  

Chef Pitak has lived and worked in the U. S. and knows about substituting our ingredients when his native ones can't be found.

Having made our offerings of incense and left our wishes at the spirit house, we five foodies sat in a semi-circle around chef's range in the handsome, Lanna-styled pavilion. On our laps were clipboards and three recipes and in our hands were pencils for making notes and cameras for capturing images.

After watching him prepare the three dishes - Gaeng Kiew Warn Kai (Green Curry with Chicken in Coconut Milk), Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) and Thom Yum Goong (Spicy Prawn Soup with Lemongrass) - and asking questions then tasting the results, we each went to our prep stations to cook them to our own tastes.

Then our dishes were swiftly taken to the adjacent dining pavilion where rice and icy cold Chang beer were provided and we settled down to what we later decided was just about the best Thai food we ate during more than two weeks in that beautiful country.

Here is the first recipe from this memorable experience. The other two will follow in future posts as will recipes from other special meals we enjoyed from Chaing Mai to Bangkok to Phuket.

Gaeng Kiew Warn Kai (Green Curry with Chicken in Coconut Milk)
Serves 1
Note: I have included Thai translation of ingredients where it might help you find them in an Asian market.

1 TBS. vegetable oil (peanut, soy or canola)
1 TBS. green curry paste (Prig Gaeng Kiew - Maesri brand is best or Khun Chai - if chicken changes color during cooking, curry paste is not good. Amount can be cut in half to make less spicy)
1 1/2 cup coconut mile (Kati - fresh is best but canned may be substituted)
1 pc Kaffir lime leaf julienned (Bai Ma Grood)
100 grams chicken tenderloin, sliced (beef and pork can also be used)
4 TBS. chicken stock, optional
1 TBS fish sauce (Narm Pla - provides 90 percent of salty taste in Thai food)
1 tsp sugar
3 TBS pea eggplant (Ma Kua Puang)
1 pc bamboo shoot, thinly sliced (Nor Mai - packaged or canned OK)
2 TBS Chaopaya egplant, sliced (Ma Kua Chaopaya - use the long skinny eggplant if you can't find this)

2 TBS Sweet Basil leaves (Bai Hora Pha - most important, never use Italian basil!)
1 pc each red and green chili (Prig Daeng & Kiew - jalapenos will do, it's for color rather than flavor)

1. Heat wok then add vegetable oil for 10 seconds.
2. Combine green curry paste and kaffir lime leaf in the wok and immediately lower heat. Stir to release fragrance.
3. Add the coconut milk (if from a can, shake well).
4. Raise the heat, bring to a boil and add sliced chicken, stirring.
5. Add pea eggplant, chaopaya eggplant and bamboo shoots. Bring to a boil over medium heat until cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
6.  Season with fish sauce and sugar, simmering and adding chicken stock if necessary.
7. Add sweet basil leaves and chilies quick stirring for 10 seconds.

Serve with steamed rice.

I know this, like all Thai food, looks impossibly complicated but if you prep ingredients first, cutting and measuring into separate containers, it isn't all that hard. Yes, you'll have a frazzled moment or two, but the dish will be good and no one but you will know.

NOTE: For more about Chiang Mai and the Four Seasons, g to this post on my other blog, Travel on the Level.


  1. I took this class as well. This green curry was my favorite of the recipes. I loved the open-air kitchen, dining room, and restroom. What a wonderful memory!

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