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Archive for June, 2010

Khon Kaen Buddha (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Buddha Image in NE Thailand

Green Buddha Statue

Buddha statue from Khon Kaen

Kasma took this picture of a Buddha statue at Wat That, the first temple by the lake by Beung Kaen Nakhon in Khon Kaen Province in Northeastern Thailand.

I like that there are so many different types of Buddha statues in Thailand: it’s almost as if there’s one for everyone. The diversity is a reminder to me to not get too tied up in appearances: each different image is a pointer to the same teaching, the same dhamma.


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 Food To Go

Michael Babcock, Saturday, June 26th, 2010

One of the best parts about Thailand is the ready availability of street food. And one of the best parts about Thai street food is that you can get anything you want “to go.” There’s such a wide availability of delicious-looking fresh food at reasonable prices that I sometimes wonder why Thai people ever cook at home. (See Kasma’s Delights of Thai Street Food.)

Pork Satay

Pork Satay "to go"

The usual method of packaging food to go is to simply put the  hot food into a plastic bags and to seal it up with a rubber band.

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

Satay To Go

Satay, ready to carry home

Our first picture shows pork satay from Talaat Sahmrong (Sahmrong Market) in Samut Prakahn (just north of Bangkok). The satay, bagged when it’s piping hot from the grill, has it’s own bag. If a dish requires condiments or side dishes, it’s no problem: they each get their own little plastic bag. In this case there’s a separate bag for the fiery, hot dipping sauce, one for the cucumber salad and one for the vinegar dressing for the cucumber salad. So here there are four plastic bags in all, which are then put in a fifth bag for carrying. Most vendors will have the smaller bags prepared in advance. In this case the vendor only had to bag the satay, wrap it with a rubber band (see below) and toss the other three smaller bags into the carry bag.

Rubber Band To Go

Rubber banded to go package

For another example of a dish with condiments packaged up in plastic bags, see Michael’s blog Street Food Congee (Jook, or Johk).

Plastic bags to go are nearly universally sealed with rubber bands. The only exception I’ve seen was a time last year when we received some Thai salt and pepper (prik nahm bplah) in a zip lock bag. There’s a picture on our blog entry on Thai Salt & Pepper. Rubber bands are the far superior method: I’ve never seen them leak whereas the zip locked prik nahm bplah leaked all over.

A word is certainly in order on these rubber-banded bags. It’s startling how quickly a vendor will twist the rubber band multiple times and then secure it in some mysterious fashion that creates a seal so tight that there’s nary a leak. Twist, twist, twist, done. It’s a matter of seconds, or less. It can also be startling how difficult some of these bags are to un-band! If you don’t believe me, check out some of the posts at this Nation (an English newspaper in Thailand) Forum on Those Freaking Rubber Bands. I also found a video on how it’s done (Thailand Survival Skills: Dealing with Rubber Bands); I’ve never been able to unwind them as easily is this video shows!

Sticky Rice and Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango, to go

Another option for to go food is a styrofoam container. I’ll include a couple of pictures here; the first one is from our blog on Thong Lo Mangos (and Sticky Rice). In this case, the sweet coconut cream sauce is placed in a rubber-banded plastic bag, to be poured over the sticky rice only when you are ready to eat. Our favorite duck noodle shop (Thong Lo Duck Noodles) also uses a combination of styrofoam, in this case for roasted duck, with the accoutrements of two kinds of sauces and pickles in the plastic bags. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen styrofoam containers from a street food vendor: these seem to come from store fronts, who have more space for styrofoam containers (which take up far more room than a plastic bag).

Roast Duck To Go

Roast duck and accoutrements


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2010

Natural Springs (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Krabi Hot Springs

Hot Spring Sign

Sign at a Krabi hot spring

A fun thing to do is Krabi province (in the South) is to visit a mineral hot springs outside of town. It’s got several pools that work their way down to a cool river, perfect for a cooling dive after soaking for awhile.

I’ve always gotten a kick out of this sign found on the walkway to the hot springs. There is something poetic, even Zen-like, about the phrase “Natural mineral water naturally spring up.”


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

Green Mango

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Green Mangoes Make Mouth-Watering Salads

Green mangoes are an ingredient most westerners are not familiar with. One day last summer, while on a shopping trip to Asian markets near my home, I walked past two Caucasian women scrutinizing with disbelief a box of green mangoes, sitting next to another displaying perfectly ripe ones. One remarked to the other, “Why in the world would anyone pay $2.99 a pound for these hard green mangoes?” These words stopped me dead on my tracks and I couldn’t help but intrude: “Oh, but you don’t understand. It is a very Southeast Asian thing!”

Two Green Mangos

Two green mangos

Young green mangoes start appearing in early spring at Southeast Asian markets and a small, unpredictable supply trickles in through mid-summer. Whenever I come across a fresh-looking batch, I can’t resist picking up a few of these precious gems to take home.

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

They remind me of childhood days during the early weeks of the mango season, when I eagerly checked under the trees in our backyard daily for freshly fallen ones that the wind, birds or squirrels might have knocked down. These excesses of nature, thinned from the trees to make room for the remaining to grow into fat, luscious fruits, are never allowed to go to waste. Sliced or shredded, they make mouth-watering snacks, relishes and dipping sauces for fish, tasty pickles and wonderful salads

Peeled green mango

Peeled green mango

The best for salads are found early in the season, before the golden ripe fruits hit the market in profusion. At that time, they are most likely to be truly young and immature, with seeds still soft and undeveloped. I pick the smallest, the firmest and the greenest – the peel revealing no hint of ripening red or yellow. Large ones, though green, are close to maturity and lose the delicious sourness that adds character to spicy salads, while those soft to the touch are ripening from too many days in shipment and storage, losing their desirable crisp texture.

A good and easy recipe follows. It is very hot and spicy, though if you do not wish to set your mouth on fire, simply cut down on the number of chillies, or do entirely without. If you are not able to find young green mangoes, this recipe work well also with tart green apples; or try any tart, crisp young fruits, such as peaches and nectarines. I usually add lime juice when substituting with fruits that are not very sour. Sometimes, this goes for some green mangoes, too, when they are lacking in sourness.

Shredding a Green Mango

Shredding a green mango

The recipe is basically an easy way to enjoy my green mangoes by dipping the peeled slices in a sugar, salt and fresh chilli mixture. I pound cut-up small Thai chillies in a mortar, then add sugar and enough salt to make the mixture almost as salty as it is sweet. When entertaining guests unfamiliar with mangoes except in their soft, ripened state, I toss the hot sugar-and-salt dip with the crisp mango slices and serve as a meal opener or ender. Tart apples and very firm nectarines are good this way, too.

With a bit more effort, my green mangoes are shredded and mixed with chillies, sliced shallot, ground dried shrimp, fish sauce, lime juice and a little palm sugar to make a delicious relish to serve with crispy fried fish – one very common and favorite restaurant dish in central and southern Thailand.

Thai rice dish with green mango

Thai rice dish with green mango

One of my cooking students once asked whether I had any idea what her new Southeast Asian neighbors did with the unripe, green plums they liked to pick from her tree. After trying the green mango salads in class, she understood and began to enjoy the fruits from her plum tree earlier in the season than she had in the many years she had lived on her land.

I teach the following recipe in my evening Series Set F (class 1) and Weeklong Set C (day 1, as “Hot and Sour Green Mango Snack”).

See our website for more in Thai recipes.


This recipe is also available on our website – Sliced Tart Crisp Green Mango with Chillies and Salt (with additional notes and pointers).


Sliced Tart Crisp Green Mango with Chillies and Salt – (Mamuang Yam Prik Gkap Gkleua)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups small, thin bite-size slices of crisp green unripe mango
  • 4-6 Thai chillies, cut into thin rounds
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2-3 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 to 1 lime)

The amount of sugar and lime juice to use will depend on how green and sour the mango is. The quantities suggested above is for a firm, crisp green mango that has started to yellow just a little.

Simply toss all the ingredients together well and enjoy!

Serves 3 to 4 as a snack.

Green Mango Salad

Green Mango Salad


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, June 2010.

Krachai (or Gkrachai) (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Lesser Ginger or “Rhizome”

Lesser Ginger

Lesser Ginger – Krachai (or Gkrachai)

Lesser Ginger, sometimes labeled “Rhizome” and called krachai (or gkrachai), in Thai, is one of the lesser-known Thai ingredients and can be hard to find.

We’re very lucky in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly in Oakland. We have fabulous Southeast Asian markets where we can get nearly any Thai ingredient we want. There are, however, a few that we simply can not obtain fresh.

We can this rhizome frozen (Kasma’s second preferred form) or in brine but not fresh. It’s an essential ingredient is many Thai salads and the occasional stir-fry (such as Sizzling Stir-fried Squid (Bplah Meuk Pad Chah)).

Contrast this with nearly any open-air Thai market, where you come across fabulously fresh krachai, such as the picture above, which was taken in the morning market in Sukhothai.

The other ingredient I regret the most is fresh green peppercorns: it’s not used in a lot of Thai dishes but makes such a difference in those dishes! (For instance, see Spicy Southern-Style Stir-Fried Shrimp with Sataw or Fava Beans (Gung Pad Sataw)).

Check out Kasma’s Lesser Ginger – (gkrachai).

Looking for a Thai market in the S.F. Bay Area? Check out our S.F. Bay Area Market Listing.


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

Steamed Pumpkin Cakes (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Kanom Faktong – Steamed Pumpkin Cakes

Steamed Pumpkin Cakes

A delectable Thai treat

This is a picture of Kanom Faktong – Steamed Pumpkin Cakes in Banana Leaf Cups. I love it when Kasma has her advanced students make one of my favorite kanom from Thailand: it reminds me of being there. She teaches this one in her Advanced Set F class. The banana leaf cups are essential: they add a distinct flavor that’s part of the snack.

Readers of this blog know that I have a fondness for Thai kanom (or snacks). One of the pleasures of market walking is to see the huge variety of snacks that are available: every year I see things I’ve never seen before.

Check out my blog entry on Thai Sweet Snacks – Kanom Wahn.

Here’s a previous photo of Kasma making a Thai snack.


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