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Archive for September, 2009

Curried Noodles (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Chiang Mai Curried Noodles (Kao Soi)

Curried Noodles

Curried Noodles

The best Thai food I’ve ever had outside of Thailand is in my own kitchen. This delectable-looking bowl of Chiang Mai Style Curried Noodles was produced by Kasma’s cooking students in her weeklong Advanced Set A class, this past July. It’s as good as any kao soi I’ve ever eaten in Thailand. I do recognize that I’m a very lucky man.

Check out Kasma’s recipe for Chiang Mai-Style Curried Noodles as well as her article on Northern-Style noodles.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Garlic Chives and Flowering Chives

Kasma Loha-unchit, Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Garlic chives and flowering chives are vegetables found in Asian markets that may not be familiar to westerners.

Garlic Chives

Garlic chives

Members of the onion and garlic family are indispensable in my cooking. Crushed garlic, diced onions, chopped shallots and sliced green onions are routinely added to salads, soups, stir-fried dishes, marinades for grilled foods, dipping sauces, and curries and stews. They provide the background foundation upon which other flavors are layered to bring about the depth and complexity of flavor typical of many exquisite Southeast Asian dishes.

In the early spring, I also look for green garlic and various types of leeks at local farmer’s markets, which not only make wonderful companions in stewed meat dishes, but star as the main attraction in vegetable dishes. Come the warm and sunny months of late spring, summer and autumn, luscious bundles of green and yellow garlic chives (also called “Chinese chives”) and irresistible bunches of long-stemmed chive flower buds draw my attention at Asian markets.

Chopping Garlic Chives

Chopping garlic chives

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

The garlic chives cherished by many Southeast Asians are not the green leaves of garlic plants, but are a kind of leafy chives with a distinct garlic flavor. Not at all like the skinny, fragile-looking, round-and-hollow stemmed chives sold in tiny bundles in western supermarkets and used sparingly as a seasoning herb in western cuisine, garlic chives are long (8 to 15 inches), flat and rather wide (1/4 inch) in comparison, and are usually sold in large bunches as they are frequently cooked as a vegetable on their own right (indeed, in parts of China, they are known as “jewels among vegetables”).

Garlic chives, ready to cook

Garlic chives, ready to cook

Of course, they also serve as a flavor-enhancing herb in a wide variety of dishes, from soups and salads to fish, meat and egg dishes. They are sometimes eaten raw, cut into inch-long segments, in salads and noodle dishes; or stuffed into dough mixtures to make chive cakes for snacks and appetizers.

Garlic chives come deep green in color, as well as white or yellow. They are one and the same, the latter grown in the dark, preventing chlorophyll from developing. This growing method, called “blanching”, weakens the stems and causes them to grow a bit more curly than straight. Because it also inevitably weakens the plants, blanching is done only once or twice a season following healthy harvests of green chives, thus, limiting the availability of yellow chives.

Stir-frying Garlic Chives

Stir-frying garlic chives

The Chinese prize yellow chives for their pretty color, succulent texture and subtle flavor; but because they are more fragile and perishable and their supply more limited, they command a rather high price. The more common green variety, on the other hand, is abundantly available almost year-round in most Asian markets at inexpensive prices. Unlike the curly, fleshy and limp yellow chives, which are not bundled, they can be recognized by their distinctly flat, straight, fairly stiff, deep green leaves tied together in hefty bunches.

Garlic Chives in Wok

Garlic chives in wok

Much more precious than either green or yellow garlic chives are flowering chives – oval unopened buds borne on long, stiff,  angular green stems. This is reflected in the price, from $2.50 per pound and up, but in most instances, just about the entire stems are edible, not just the buds. The buds  have a pungent garlic flavor, while the stems are delectably sweet and crisp. If the stems are unusually long (more than 8 inches), the bottom inch or two can be a bit fibrous and should be trimmed off and discarded. Otherwise, the entire stems can be cut into one-and-a-half-inch segments and stir-fried quickly with oyster sauce, by themselves, or with mushrooms and shrimp to make a quick-and-easy, delicious and nutritious one-dish meal.

See our website for more in Thai recipes and information on more Thai ingredients.


This recipe is also available on our website (Stir-fried Chive Flower Buds with Shrimp and Oyster Mushrooms).

Stir-fried Chive Flower Buds with Shrimp and Oyster Mushrooms

(Pad Dawk Goochai Gkoong Hed Hoi Nahnglom)

  • 1 bunch chive flower buds on long stems – about 3/4 to 1 lb., or substitute green garlic chives
  • 1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms
  • 1/3 lb. small shrimp, shelled and butterflied
  • 3 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 3-4 Tbs. oyster sauce*
  • 2-3 tsp. fish sauce*, to taste

If the bunch of chive flower buds you bought has thick stems at the bottom, cut and discard the bottom 2 to 3 inches that seem tough and fibrous. Cut the remaining stems into 1 1/2-inch segments.

Separate the oyster mushrooms into individual caps. Cut the larger ones in halves or thirds, so that they are bite-size pieces.

Heat a wok until its surface is smoking hot. Add the oil and let heat 10 to 15 seconds. When hot, toss in the shrimp and stir-fry until they begin to turn pink on the outside. Follow with the chive bud-and-stem pieces and stir-fry another minute or so, or until they are partially wilted. Add the mushrooms and toss to mix them in with the chives and shrimp. Sprinkle in enough oyster sauce to lightly coat the vegetables. Stir-well. Salt to taste with fish sauce. Stir-fry another minute or so, or until the chives are cooked but still crisp. (If you are substituting green garlic chives for the chive flower buds, the cooking time will be much shorter as they wilt faster.)

Serves 6 to 8 with rice and other dishes in a shared family-style meal.

*Recommended brand of oyster sauce is “Dragonfly Super Premium”; recommended brands of fish sauce are “Golden Boy” and “Tra Chang”, both from Thailand.

The Finished Dish

The finished dish


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, September 2009.

Pepper Sign (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Benefits of Black Pepper

Benefits of Black Pepper

Benefits of Black Pepper

And here all this time you thought you were eating black pepper just for the flavor! This was taken at a market in Bangkok.

We’ve got plenty more Thailand market photos. Or check out Kasma’s information on peppercorns (prik thai).


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Thai Baby (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Thai Baby

Thai Baby

Thai Baby

On Kasma’s off-the-beaten track trips to Thailand you’ll see many cute babies, such as this one taken on a trip on 2003. Up until recently you rarely saw a baby in a stroller and, even now, you’ll see strollers mostly in Bangkok. Traditionally, a child is carried on the back of the mother or in the arms on front. Once the child is old enough to walk, the adult slows her pace to accommodate the child.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Aw Taw Kaw (Or Tor Kor) Market in Bangkok

Michael Babcock, Sunday, September 13th, 2009

For many years, one of our favorite markets in Bangkok has been the Or Or Tor Kor (pronounced “Aw Taw Kaw”) market that is out by Chatuchak market (the weekend market, sometimes called “J.J. Market”). If it were translatable to English, it would be the “ATK Market” because aw, taw & kaw are Thai alphabet letters. It’s usually transliterated from Thai to English as Talaat Or Tor Kor; an alternate transliteration is Dtalaat Aw Taw Kaw.

Front Aisle at Aw Taw Kaw

Front Aisle at Aw Taw Kaw

(Note: you may want to read our article A Note on Thai Spelling & Pronunciation. In many instances, such as this one, the official Thai transliteration – Or Tor Kor – will lead to wrong pronunciation by westerners. Although Aw Taw Kaw is more phonetically correct, you’ll probably have more luck finding information on it using the official spelling of Or Tor Kor. I’m using both interchangeably in this blog.)

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

You can get there via the MRT subway – get off at the Kamphaengpetch Road station. If you’re going by cab, make sure they take you to the correct Aw Taw Kaw – there’s also one out on Sukhumvit Soi 105 (Soi La Salle) that we’ve heard is not as interesting.

Prepared food at Or Tor Kor

Prepared food at Or Tor Kor

As Thai markets go, it’s a little more upscale. By American standards, it’s still a great bargain compared to what we have here in the states. It’s actually housed indoors, under a large roof (with open walls) and is very clean and somewhat orderly. I say somewhat orderly, because it’s a very popular market with Thais and it can get very crowded, particularly on weekends. Kasma says that it’s a place that many Thai movie stars like to shop and that you can sometimes see them going through, fashionably-dressed with their entourages.

Fruit vendor at Aw Taw Kaw

Fruit vendor at Aw Taw Kaw

What do I like about Or Tor Kor? Perhaps it’s just that every stall seems to have their wares displayed immaculately and in mouth-watering fashion. We always start by walking down the first aisle at the front of the market and it’s a challenge not to buy something at most of the stalls: there are luscious grilled prawns, roasted pork with dipping sauce, shrimp cakes, sticky rice treats in banana leaves, tropical fruit of all varieties, grilled sausage, and on and on. There are stalls with pot after pot of prepared food, some familiar, some not and nearly all appetizing.

Sausage at Or Tor Kor

Sausage at Or Tor Kor

Although Kasma and I go every year, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as I would like. Why? Because after about 5 minutes, we’ve bought so many items that I’ve got so much to carry that I can’t get to my camera easily. This is a dilemma not easily solved because I find that when we buy something from a vendor, it’s more of an even exchange; and they are generally happier to have their picture taken if you’ve made a purchase, as well. As with the other markets we visit, Kasma often brings pictures that we’ve taken the previous visit to give to the vendors: their astonishment that someone would do this and their happiness to receive the pictures is ample reward for our efforts.

Crabs at Aw Taw Kaw

Crabs at Aw Taw Kaw

One excellent reason to visit Or Tor Kor is to try the Durian. Or Tor Kor vendors tend to get top-of-the-line fruit of all varieties and durians are no different. I’ve already posted a couple Wednesday Photos about durian at Or Tor Kor that will guide you in your tasting. See

Food area at back of Aw Taw Kaw

Food area at back of Aw Taw Kaw

In addition to the mouth-watering prepared food that makes grazing down the aisles so irresistible, Or Tor Kor also offers basic ingredients of all kinds from vegetables and herbs to fresh, fresh seafood of all kinds, meats, any sauce you might need to cook a Thai meal, mounds of fresh curry pastes and (in the very back), rice of all varieties. The fruit can be fairly pricey; but if you are wanting to get a fruit out-of-season, it’s either pay a bit more or don’t get to taste it. Everything is top of the line.

Where we get Basil Duck

Where we get Basil Duck

We always plan our visit to include lunch time. There’s a section in the back with many stands that cook food to order (assuming you aren’t too stuffed from all the good things you’ve grazed on). We’ve already written about the stand that sells delicious pad Thai and mussel omelets (Pad Thai at Aw Taw Kaw Market). My other favorite dish is called (in Thai) Pad Gkaprao Bped – Basil Duck; it’s your basic stir-fried with basil recipe, such as Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken (Gkai Pad Gkaprao), made with roast duck and served (of course) over rice. I’ve included a picture of the stall that sells this so you can give it a try.

For drinks, look for one of the stalls that have the plastic bottles filled with many colorful-liquids; particularly good is the slightly yellow passion fruit juice, but the fresh-squeezed orange juice and the young coconut are really good as well.

Look for these colored bottles for good things to drink

Good things to drink

Next time you’re in Bangkok plan a visit to Aw Taw Kaw. It’s well worth the visit. As you wander the aisles you may wish you had your own kitchen, the fresh ingredients look so good, but all the prepared food will compensate you many-fold.


For more pictures of Or Tor Kor (and other markets), check out our markets pictures. There’s another good blog entry at She Simmers – Or Tor Kor Market. You can also see Austin Bush’s photographs on his blog. There’s also some photos on this Travellerspoint blog.

Grilled chicken at Aw Taw Kaw

Grilled chicken at Aw Taw Kaw


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2009.

Pigs Heads (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Pig Head with Extra

Pigs Head Plus

Pigs Head Plus

It’s a truism that Asians like to eat every part of an animal. As they say about pigs, “Everything but the squeal. This picture, taken from a market in Chantaburi in the Southeast of Thailand shows pig heads for sale.

Yes, that is a penis on top of each pig head.

We’ve got plenty more Thailand market photos.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.