Home   Blog   Classes   Trips   More   back

Archive for April, 2009

Salted Crab – Boo Kem (or Bpoo Kem)

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Salted crabs (Boo Kem) are an ingredient foreign to many westerners.

Salted Crab

Salted Crab, 3-1/2 inches wide

In my childhood days, I was fascinated by the myriad moving, darting and crawling creatures inhabiting the edge of the pond that wrapped around two sides of my family’s property. Among them were these small black crabs, no larger than a small Louisiana crayfish; they scurry through the rushes and sometimes venture across the wide expanse of our lawn to the sedges at the edge of our neighbor’s pond. Their strange sideways movement always caught my curiosity, but whenever I approached one, it would come to a complete halt, raising its front pincers up toward me, its alarmed eyes protruding out from their sockets and moving side to side to study me closely. I had even come across ones that would foam around their mouths. A bit too ominous for a small child to touch!

Salted Crab Green Papaya Salad

Salted Crab in Green Papaya Salad

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

These small freshwater crabs are found in great numbers in and around ricefields and flatlands turned into wetlands during the rainy season. Though they do not have much meat, they are caught and fermented in salt water, making a briny crab sauce for seasoning. They are then called boo kem (or boo kem), salted crab. The best part, though, are the crabs themselves, which are cut up into chunks shell and all, and added to salads, including the delicious Salted Crab Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Boo Kem) – to this day my favorite rendition of this popular national dish. They are also cooked in saucy dishes to lend their flavor, and make a wonderful sauce with chopped pork, shrimp and coconut cream for serving with crisp vegetables, aromatic herbs and rice (see recipe,  below).

Since other Southeast Asian cultures also delight in the flavor of salted crabs, these small black crustaceans can occasionally be found among the unusual offerings of ethnic markets located near areas where large concentrations of Southeast Asians have settled. Look for them in small plastic pouches or containers in a refrigeration unit.


Crab Coconut Cream Sauce (Loen Boo Kem) Recipe

One Brand of  Salted Crab

One Brand of Salted Crab

 

Ingredients

  • 6 small salted crabs
  • 2 cups coconut cream
  • 1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled and chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup tamarind juice the thickness of fruit concentrate
  • 1/4 cup palm or coconut sugar
  • Sea salt as needed to taste
  • 2 small shallots, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly crosswise
  • 1 red or orange serrano pepper, cut into fine slivers with seeds
  • 1 green serrano pepper, cut into fine slivers with seeds
  • 4 red and green Thai chillies (prik kee noo), cut into 2 segments
  • Assortment of fresh firm and crisp vegetables, such as green or long beans, snap peas, cauliflower and cucumber; and sprigs of leafy aromatic herbs, such as mint and basil
Salted Crab Dip

Salted Crab Dip

Pull off the back shell of the salted crabs and discard. Remove the gills and cut each crab into four pieces, each piece with a few legs attached to a body part. Rinse and drain.

Heat the coconut cream in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Spoon out 2 tablespoons and reserve for later use. Add the ground pork and chopped shrimp, stirring to break into small bits as they cook. When most the pork has lost its raw pink color, add the crab pieces and return to a boil. Season sauce to taste with palm sugar and tamarind.

Simmer uncovered for ten to fifteen minutes. Taste, and if it is not salty or sweet enough, add a little salt and palm sugar. Stir in the sliced shallots and slivered red and green serrano peppers. Return to a boil, stir and transfer to a sauce dish. Let cool for ten to fifteen minutes. Top with the reserved coconut cream and garnish with the Thai chillies.

Vegetable Platter for Salted Crab Dip

Vegetable Platter for Salted Crab Dip

Arrange the vegetables on a platter and serve with the salted crab coconut sauce. The sauce may also be eaten with plain steamed rice. Suck on the crab pieces for a burst of salty crab flavor.

Serves 8-10 in a multi-course Thai meal.

Notes and Pointers:

Dip the vegetables and herbs into the sauce to eat, or place a few pieces at a time on the side of your dinner plate and spoon a little sauce over them. Dip and nibble-eat as you desire, rather than serve it as a course. The sauce may also be spooned a small amount at a time onto a little bit of rice and eaten to clear the palate after spicy bites from other dishes in the meal.

In addition to mint and basil, many other kinds of leafy aromatic herbs and strong-tasting vegetables found in Southeast Asian markets are delicious with this sauce, such as polygonum (called “rau ram” by the Vietnamese), sawleaf coriander (oblong leaves with serrated edges), rice paddy herb (rows of very small green leaves growing up soft, light green stems), lemon mint and edible chrysanthemum leaves. Bitter and astringent vegetables like bitter melon (warty, oblong squash) and fresh banana blossom also make good accompaniments, as the sauce softens their strong bite. Look for these unusual produce in Asian markets near you and give them a try, or substitute with strong-tasting salad greens, such as arugula, radicchio, endive, sorrel and parsley.

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

If you wish to try out the exotic banana blossom, it is available from time to time during the warmer months in Southeast Asian markets. The outer layers are a rich purplish red color, but the best parts for eating are the light ivory leaves in the center. Because the sap can blacken the heart and leaves, soak in salted water immediately after cutting. Banana blossom has an unpleasant astringent bite (an acquired taste) when eaten by itself, but this disappears when accompanied by the creamy sauce – a very unusual experience!

Note: This originally appeared in Kasma’s second cookbook, Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood (now out of print).

Kasma’s website includes information on many Thai ingredients.


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, April 2009.

Street Food Congee (Jook, or Johk)

Michael Babcock, Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Jook (really pronounced johk) is what the Thai people call congee: we’ll use that term interchangeably with congee and rice porridge. It can also be called khao tom, which literally means “boiled rice.” In general, jook is always made by boiling the rice grains in water from the start; khao tom is sometimes made by adding already cooked rice to boiling water and it can tend to be a bit lighter.

Nearly every neighborhood will have some place where you can get rice porridge, at least in the mornings and often, also, in the evening. As you walk down Sukhumvit Soi 105, which is known as Soi LaSalle (pronounced “La-Sahn“), as you approach Soi 10 . . . 

Soi LaSalle, Soi 10 Sign

Soi LaSalle, Soi 10 Sign

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

. . . you’ll pass a row of street food stalls under a roof. On the end you’ll notice a fairly typical-looking Thai street food stall.

Jook Shop on Soi LaSalle

Rice Porridge Shop on Soi LaSalle

The  shop  sells rice porridge, known in China as congee and in Thai as jook. If it’s morning-time or evening time, the shop is likely open; jook is eaten mainly as a breakfast food or, alternatively, in the evenings. Kasma says that it is considered a good cure for a hangover so after late night drinking, a jook shop is a popular destination. It is made with delicious, healing bone broths and this helps to account for it’s efficacy in helping ease the pain of too much booze. Kasma’s family owns a condominium in La Salle Park, right at Soi 10. We had noticed that the two tables here were often full and we also saw people lining up to get jook to go (more later). One morning we decided to give it a try. The proprietor, the paw krua (male cook, literally “father of the kitchen”), Noo (pronounced in Thai with a high tone), already recognized us from our many excursions out to graze the different food stalls on the street.

Assembling the Jook

Each bowl of jook is assembled to order. The first step is to move the boiled rice into a dish, as you see here:

Making Jook, Step 1

Assembling Rice Porridge, Step 1

This is really step 2 because the rice mixture he’s putting in the bowl has already been diluted. He’s previously boiled up a large pot of rice and water (the large pot to the left, above), which is very, very thick, and has cooled. He’s taken some of that mixture, diluted it with pork broth, and then heated it up on a burner at the front of the stall:

Heating Rice Porridge

Heating Boiled Rice for Congee

Now it’s time for the rest of the ingredients.

Jook Ingredients

Congee Ingredients

Here you see the view from the front of the stall. At the top are raw chicken eggs to the left and duck eggs (the pink are salted) to the right. The ingredients on the lower shelf, from the middle back and clockwise, are ground pork mini-meatballs, pork liver, shredded ginger, sauted mushrooms and chopped green onions. One other ingredient, fried wonton skin, is not visible. The sauted mushrooms are an ingredient I’ve not seen in jook before. It makes the bowl very tasty.

Adding Ingredients to Jook

Adding Ingredients

Noo quickly adds them all to the Bowl. Egg, by the way, is optional when you get jook. Depending on the shop, the egg will either be raw or partially boiled. The boiled rice mixture is fairly hot, so the idea is that the egg will cook further after it’s been added to the bowl. The eggs at this shop were partially soft-boiled, though the white was not yet cooked all the way through. So here’s the bowl as Noo served it. The yellow bits are deep-fried, crisp won-ton skin; they give a a crunchy texture to the bowl of jook.

Jook, Ready to Eat

Rice Porridge, Ready to Eat

Once a bowl is served, you have the option of balancing the flavors to fit your own tastes.

Condiments for <em>jook</em>

Condiments for Rice Porridge

The glass jars above contain, from (our) left to right: ground, dried chillies; sugar; chillies in vinegar; fish sauce. They can be used to make the jook spicier (hotter), sweeter, more sour or saltier, to the diner’s personal preference. Sugar can also be used to balance and bring out the flavors. These 4 condiments (or slight variations) are also served with noodle dishes – Thai people learn from a fairly early age how to balance and harmonize flavors, a skill that we westerners mostly have to learn later. (See Kasma’s article Creating Harmonies with Primary Flavors.) Then you mix up the bowl as below and dig in! The slightly yellow cast comes from the mixed in egg yolk.  You might also enjoy the blog entry on Thai Cooking with Jam, Sauce or No Sauce?

Mixed <em>Jook,</em> Ready to Eat

Mixed Congee, Ready to Eat

Jook To Go

Jook, like all other street foods, is also sold “to go.” 

Buying <em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Buying Rice Porridge 'To Go'

Assembly is much the same, except that the ingredients are mixed in a metal cylinder that will be used to pour the (steaming hot) mixture into a plastic bag, the container of choice for to go food. 

Assembling <em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Assembling Rice Porridge 'To Go'

Various other ingredients are placed in a separate plastic bag so that they won’t go soggy. Here’s the complete package that we took home for Kasma’s sister. There’s at least 5 plastic bags here – Thailand uses a lot of plastic bags!

<em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Rice Porridge 'To Go'

So if you’re ever happen by Soi Lasalle Soi 10 in the early morning, I highly recommend Noo’s Jook. It’s flavorful and delicious, with the mushrooms adding a wonderful flavor not usually found in rice porridge. You’ll get a nice smile from Noo as well!

<em>Noo,</em> Maker of <em>Jook</em>

Noo, Maker of Congee

You might also enjoy Kasma’s article Enjoy Congee (Rice Porridge) and can also try her recipe for Rice Congee with Pork (Kao Dtom Moo).


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2009.

Principles of Flavor Harmony

Kasma Loha-unchit, Sunday, April 19th, 2009

When working with strong flavors, like strong colors, it is important to keep them in balance with other flavors, so that one does not overpower another and cover up the more subtle flavors. Sharp sours, fiery spiciness and cutting bitterness can make peace and share the stage without conflict. Here is where the art of Thai cooking lies: the creation of flavor harmonies that bring together seemingly disparate flavors and integrate them into a unique and magnificent whole.

Fish Sauce, Source for Salty

Fish Sauce, Source for Salty

Your own cooking experience may have already revealed to you that the salty and sweet flavors balance each other. If something is too sweet, add a little salt; if it is too salty, add a little sugar. Taking this a step further, both the sweet and salty flavors balance the sour. For instance, if a dipping sauce is much too sour, determine first whether you can taste the salty flavor. If not, add a little salt (or fish sauce if the recipe uses fish sauce as the salty ingredient).

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Sour (Limey), Spicy & Salty Dressing

Sour (Limey), Spicy & Salty Dressing

When the sauce tastes equally salty and sour, the addition of a little sweet often helps pull these two flavors together, so that they do not stand alone as separate ingredients, but embrace each other as partners. At the same time, this will enable you to taste their distinctive sources, as well as the flavors of other ingredients that may be in the sauce. Therefore, instead of just sour, you may now notice that the sauce is limy, garlicky if there is garlic in it, and may even taste hotter than before since you are better able to taste the flavor of the chillies swimming in it. The sweet flavor, on the other hand, is also known to mellow out the heat of chillies, but usually, it tightens flavors first until you are able to taste a very faint sweetness in the back of your tongue. The harmony of the sauce peaks at this point and any further additions of sugar mellows out the heat as well as the sour and salty flavors.

Thai Chillies, for Spicy

Thai Chillies, for Spicy

When working with strong sour, salty and hot flavors, the sweet flavor serves an important balancing function. It harmonizes the disparate flavors, pulling them together into a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and opens up doorways for your taste buds to taste the multi-dimensional flavors of all the ingredients in the dish. The fresh bouquet of aromatic herbs, unique textural taste of vegetables, and the delicately sweet and luscious flavors of fresh seafood come through the strongly flavored sauce to the foreground and are not smothered by it. At the same time, the bitterness of pungent roots and roasted spices takes a seat in the background, adding its own virtues like bass in an orchestra.

Steamed Fish, Sour & Hot

Steamed Fish, Sour & Hot

Strong sour flavors, especially, benefit greatly from the balancing role of sweet. Frequently, a significant amount of sugar is required in order to bring about this balance. Just a small pinch may have little effect, and sometimes may even muddy up the waters – as if it has not yet convinced the strong players to cooperate. Keep adding a little more sugar until the faintest sweetness is noticeable in the back of your tongue. At this point, sugar is no longer needed as a peacemaker, but comes to the fore for its own sake, to be an equal player with the rest of the team. Whether or not more sugar should be added depends on whether the sweet component is an important feature of a particular savory dish. Its role varies from dish to dish and on the taste preference of the partakers of the meal.

Shrimp with Sataw, Spicy

Shrimp with Sataw, Spicy

Of course, not all Thai dishes contain all five flavors in their full intensity. Some are actually rather plain and simple, using one or two flavor ingredients; others in-between. The Thai love for variety and harmony is reflected in the balance of dishes in a meal. A typical meal consisting of five dishes would usually have one, or at most two, intensely hot dishes, accompanied by one or two of medium-range spiciness and the remaining mild and bland. If there is a sharply sour salad or soup, the rest of the dishes are not likely to contain the sour flavor to clash with it. If a rich curry is on the menu, the accompanying dishes can be expected to be light and coconut milk will not be used in any of them. And so on. In short, not only should flavors be in harmony within a dish, all the dishes in a meal should be in harmony with one another.
 
Note: Harmonizing flavors lies at the heart of Thai (or, indeed) any cuisine. Kasma emphasizes frequent tastings in her Thai cooking classes to help teach the principles. You might enjoy Kasma’s articles Creating Harmonies with Primary Flavors and Balancing Flavors: An Exercise.

We have recipes on our website for two of the above dishes, Mom’s Good & Easy Steamed Fish (Bplah Neung) and Stir-Fried Shrimp with Sadtaw or Fava Beans (Gkung Pad Sadtaw).

You might also enjoy the blog entry on Thai Cooking with Jam, Sauce or No Sauce?


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, April 2009.

Motor Scooters in Thailand

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Over the years traveling in Thailand I’ve always enjoyed the van rides around the country. I love seeing the scenery and watching life unfold by the side of the road. And then there are the motor scooters.

Scooter Dog

Dog on a Motor Scooter

In Thailand, you never know what you’re going to see go by on a motor scooter. Kasma took this picture of a dog balancing on a motor scooter as it shot past the van in Chiang Mai traffic. Apparently the pooch has great balance! She said it was one of many such scenes that she saw during her trips the past year.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

The most people I’ve ever seen on a scooter was 6 (one of them was a babe in arms) but it’s relatively common to see a family of 4 or 5 perched on a scooter, at least out in the countryside – you don’t see it as much in Bangkok.  I took the photo to the right in Hua Hin at a stop-light – presumably the three children are being “bussed” off to school.

Four on a Scooter

Motor Scooter as Family Transportation

On one of our travels in Thailand, Kasma and I ended up on an island where motor scooters were the only mechanized form of transportation. After getting off the ferry, there was only one guy on a motor scooter left to take us to the resort on the other side of the island, so the two of us, with a piece of luggage each, piled on behind the driver. At least he took it slow!

In Bangkok you’re likely to see motorcycle taxis that you notice primarily for the dare-devil antics past your window as you sit in traffic. I think of them as a thrill sport – the one ride I took (and it was on a relatively slow street) was enough for a lifetime! Young women in skirts usually ride side-saddle on the back.

Market Scooter

Motor Scooter as Pick-up Truck

Motor scooters also function as pick-up trucks. You’ll see almost anything being carried on the back, from television sets, to ladders (4 on one scooter), to produce, a Buddha statue,  piles of boxes . . . nearly anything you can think of.

Kasma took this picture at the (indoor) market in Hua Hin. It’s fairly common to have motor scooters inch past you in the crowded lanes of a market, often, as we see here, laden down with deliveries going to the vendors.


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2009.

Thai New Year

Kasma Loha-unchit, Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Another New Year to Celebrate

While most Americans have long settled into the new year, there is a group of us Southeast Asians yet to celebrate our traditional New Year. The Hindu-Buddhist cultures of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand are gearing up for our approaching grand celebrations on April 13, 14 and 15.

Offerings at a Temple

Offerings at a Temple

This is a festive time of year, full of merriment and close family reunions. Young people visit elders, bearing gifts and scented water to anoint their hands in gestures of reverence. In return, they receive blessings and words of wisdom. Families gather and all take part in preparing elaborate offerings of food and flowers to present to monks in the temples in colorful merit-making ceremonies. Sacred Buddha images are brought out from their places in the chapels, ceremonially bathed and paraded among the people.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Thais Worshipping

Thais Worshipping

In the countryside, the New Year gives young men and women the opportunity to meet and play games together, usually in groups. They sing and dance traditional folk songs and dances. It is a time of courting and jestful playing. Being that this is the hottest time of year, water is thrown about at one another, both to cool off and as symbolic acts of bestowing blessings. It is a day when people dress in their finest, yet laugh and cheer as they get drenched by water coming from all those around them. 

Sticky Rice Snacks

Sticky Rice Snacks

Food stalls crowd temple and fair grounds with an extraordinary array of snack foods and sweetmeats to tempt every palate, while at home, extended families cook together exquisite feasts of seemingly endless courses. Special new year foods vary from region to region and country to country. In the heart of Thailand scorched by heat, a traditional food consists of a special rice, pounded and winnowed seven times before it is cooked, after which it is sifted into cold water, strained through seven layers of thin cloth, and finally soaked in cold water in an incensed earthenware pot and sprinkled with jasmine flowers. The scented rice is served with an assortment of dainty side dishes and condiments. 

Sticky Rice with Mango

Sticky Rice with Mango

For most cultures, the New Year would not be complete without its luxuriant spread of delectable sweetmeats. Some are delicately wrapped in banana, bamboo and pandan leaves in packages of varying shapes and sizes. A log-shaped bundle holds sticky rice stuffed with banana and a few grains of black beans, while a miniature bamboo leaf-wrapped pyramid hides a gooey rice confection, and so on and so forth. 

For me, all the abundance the New Year brings does not overshadow the glory of the hot season’s favorite treat – luscious ripe mangoes served with creamy coconut-flavored sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice). Though eaten throughout the mango season from March through May, the golden color, sweetness and fragrance of the heavenly fruits are hard to beat as symbols of prosperity, especially when paired with the rich taste of the rice, a grain that reflects the fertility of the land. Furthermore, it is easy to make and the ingredients readily available from Asian markets in the Bay Area.


Coconut-Flavored Sweet Rice with Mangoes Recipe

(Our website has a slightly different version of this recipe. Our recipe index contains many more dessert recipes, including one for Black Sticky Rice Pudding.)

  • 2 cups long-grain white sweet rice or glutinous rice
  • 2 cups, or 1 can, unsweetened creamy coconut milk*
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1-2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced

Rinse the rice, then cover with tap water 2-3 inches above the rice line and soakfour hours, or overnight. The rice will absorb much of the water, grow in size and soften, such that the grains easily break apart if pressed between the fingers.

Drain and spread grains loosely in a shallow heat-proof dish. Place on a steamer rack and steam dry (without water added to the rice) over a pot with at least two inches of water on the bottom. Steam over medium heat for half an hour, or until the grains are translucent, cooked through but chewy. Or you can use a stacked steamer.

Sticky Rice Steaming Basket

Cooking Apparatus for Sticky Rice

If you are making a large quantity, in order to cook the grains evenly, use the special woven bamboo, cone-shaped basket for steaming glutinous rice, which fits on the companion spitoon-shaped pot with a collar to hold the basket in place. Fill pot with water to a level at least 2 inches below the bottom of the basket, and the basket with the pre-soaked rice. Cover with any round lid that fits an inch or more over the rice level. The basket-and-pot set is available from Southeast Asian markets. Alternatively, a straw or wire mesh colander that fits inside a steamer pot works well as a substitute. Avoid steaming the rice on top of a piece of cloth lining a steamer rack as any moisture the cloth absorbs may turn the bottom layer of grains into mush rather than cooking them in whole grains.

While the rice is steaming, prepare the coconut sauce by heating the coconut milk, sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Warm the milk until the mixture is well blended and smooth.

Mix the cooked rice while it is hot out of the steamer with half the coconut sauce. Stir well with a spoon to coat all the grains evenly. The rice should be moist but not swimming with sauce. Add more of the sauce if needed, reserving the remainder for topping the rice before serving. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the grains to absorb the sauce.

When ready to serve, dish onto individual serving plates, dribble a small amount of reserved coconut sauce over each portion and arrange mango slices over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*My preferred brands of coconut milk because of their creamy and rich flavor are Mae Ploy and Chao Koh, both from Thailand, and Natural Value (from the United States). (See my favorite brands page for information on buying coconut milk.)


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, April 2009.

Pad Thai at Aw Taw Kaw (Or Tor Kor) Market

Michael Babcock, Saturday, April 4th, 2009

IMG_3671.JPG

Outside of Or Tor Kor Market

Kasma always gets a chuckle when people talk about Pad Thai as “the signature dish of Thai cuisine.” In Thailand it is  just one of many noodle dishes, available mostly as a street food or at noodle shops and not particularly popular dish amongst Thais. It’s mainly a fast food. Kasma does have a very good recipe for Pad Thai and teaches it in her Thai cooking classes.

Note: The official Thai spelling for this market is Or Tor Kor. This, unfortunately, leads most westerners to the wrong pronunciation. Aw Taw Kaw is closer to correct for pronouncing but less recognized; so I’ve used both interchangeably here.

IMG_3678.JPG

Aisle at Aw Taw Kaw Market

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

The one place where I sometimes order Pad Thai for myself is at a stand at Or Tor Kor (or Aw Taw Kaw) Market (Talaat Or Tor Kor, in Thai) in Bangkok, which also happens to be one of our favorite markets in Thailand. Although Or Tor Kor is considered “high end” and the prices are higher than at other markets, the selection of food and the presentation makes it worth the extra few baht. I still find it very reasonable by United States standards. Our collection of Thailand market photos contains many pictures of this Aw Taw Kaw Market.

Pad Thai Stall at Aw Taw Kaw

Pad Thai Stall at Aw Taw Kaw

Or Tor Kor market is very near to the well-known Chatuchak Weekend Market. You can get there via the MRT subway – get off at the Kamphaengpetch Road station. The first picture above shows the outside of the market from the street. If you go on a weekend, you can also enjoy Chatuchak, with it’s estimated 8,000 vendors selling any and everything you can imagine. We usually go to Or Tor Kor on a weekday because it can get very crowded indeed on a weekend.

0304_thai_2230p.jpg

Pad Thai Cook at Aw Taw Kaw Market

If you’re going to Aw Taw Kaw, eat lightly beforehand. As you browse the aisles you’ll see pre-cooked food such as grilled prawns, satay, sour sausage, shrimp cakes as well as numerous kanom (snacks) such as sticky rice and kanom krok (rice pancakes) and it will be hard to resist grazing. There are, however, numerous food stalls that cook food to order in the back of the market and many of them are worth a taste.

The stand with the delicious Pad Thai is back in the eating area towards the outside edge of the market. The third picture shows the stand with the stall number (11/40) visible in the background. I actually had taken and delivered pictures of the woman making the dish many times before I actually ordered the dish, though Kasma had been ordering it for her trip members for many years.

IMG_3685.JPG

Pad Thai Ready to Eat

Most Pad Thai recipes call for egg, usually (as in Kasma’s Pad Thai recipe) scrambled lightly. This woman’s adds eggs in a different way – she uses them to make a covering for the noodles in the center, sort of a Pad Thai omelette, if you will. Kasma tells me that this presentation is relatively common in Thailand, particularly when Pad Thai is served in a restaurant. In fact, there are as many different Pad Thai recipes as there are cooks. (Kasma’s article on The Spirit of Thai Cooking talks a bit about how Thai dishes can vary a great deal depending on the cook.) It’s served (as you can see to the left) with a banana blossom, some scallions (underneath), fresh bean sprouts and a lime. The lime is squeezed over the noodles and the fresh ingredients are eaten along with it.

IMG_3688.JPG

Pad Thai with Outer Egg Opened Up

As you can see, once you open up noodles it looks very delicious indeed. It bears little resemblance to some of the Pad Thai noodles you find in the states – it is savory and tasty and completely without Ketchup!

For more information about the origins of Pad Thai, check out Kasma’s Pad Thai Notes and Pointers.

One other dish that the same woman makes is an mussel omelette. It is also very tasty (see picture below).

We’ve since done a whole blog post on Or Tor Kor Market. Austin Bush has some photographs of Aw Taw Kaw Market that are worth a look.

Note: When asking for directions or taking a cab to Or Tor Kor, be sure to refer to it as Dtalaht Aw Taw Kaw – the usual spelling is talaat, meaning market, but dtalaht is closer to the actual sound in Thai. (See our Note on Thai Spelling & Pronunciation.)

If you are taking a cab, make sure that the driver takes you to the correct market. There is also an Aw Taw Kaw Market (Dtalaat Aw Taw Kaw) on Sukhumvit Soi 105 (Soi Lasalle, pronounced Soi “La-sahn”) – it is not as interesting a market.

Mussel Omelette

Mussel Omelette On the Griddle


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2009.