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Beginning Thai Cooking, Class #4

Michael Babcock, Saturday, September 15th, 2012

This blog is about class #4 in a series of 4 evening classes taught by Kasma Loha-unchit. This final class focuses on noodles and teaches that American favorite – Pad Thai. Kasma, who has been teaching since 1985, introduces 3 of the many varieties of noodles used in Thailand.

I’ve already blogged on the first three classes in the series:

(Click images to see larger version.)

Thai Snack

Mochi, a snack

When the classes were in the evening, beginning with the second class in the series, Kasma introduced the students to an Asian snack at the start of the class. Because the classes are now taught in the afternoon right after lunch, she no longer serves snacks.This particular snack, mochi with a black sesame seed filling, is a particular favorite. We only know of one place where we can purchase this snack: it’s at the Yuen Hop Noodle Company on Webster Street in Oakland’s Chinatown. Yuen Hop sells freshly made rice noodles, the wider variety called kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) – kway teow (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว) referring to the rice noodle itself, and sen yai (ส้นใหญ่) referring to the size. It’s the sort of noodle called chow fun by the Chinese. Their fresh noodles are amazing – Kasma uses them in all sorts of noodle dishes in this class and in her Advanced cooking classes.

Rice Noodles

Wide rice noodles

This is a package of kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) aka chow fun noodles. In this class, Kasma introduces three different type of noodles (there are many more) for use in the dishes. These particular noodles will be used in the Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles Topped with Chicken and Asian Broccoli Sauce – ก๋วยเตี๋ยวราดหน้า (Kway Teow Rad Nah). These noodles are added direct from the package to the wok.

She’ll also introduce the noodle known in Thai as ba mee (บะหมี่), a thin Chinese egg noodle made from wheat, used in the Garlic Noodles with Barbecued Red Pork (Thai-Style Pasta Salad) – บะหมี่แห้งหมูแดง (Bamee Haeng Moo Daeng). These noodles are cooked in boiling water.

The third type of noodle is the thin dried rice vermicelli called sen mee (ส้นหมี่) that Kasma uses in her “Thai-style” Stir-fried Noodles – ผัดไท (Pad Thai). She soaks the dried rice noodles in cold or lukewarm tap water for 40 minutes to one hour, or until the noodles are limp but still firm to the touch.

Tianjin Vegetables

Tianjin vegetables

Roasting Chillies

Roasting chillies

Kasma introduces other new ingredients in this class, one of which is Tianjin Vegetables – a type of pickled cabbage (basically cabbage fermented with salt) from China, though there is an equivalent version of preserved cabbage made in Thailand. Kasma uses this ingredient in her Garlic Noodles.

She teaches her students how to roast dried chillies in a cast iron skillet; they will subsequently be ground up to be used in Pad Thai and also to fill one of the dishes in a noodle condiment set. In Thailand, all noodles are accompanied by a condiment set, which typically includes sugar (for balancing flavors), green chillies soaked in vinegar (for sour), fish sauce (for salty) and roasted ground chillies. The diner uses the condiment set to balance the flavors to his or her liking. The chillies are roasted with salt in the pan to help mitigate the fumes.

Making Thai Coffee

Making Thai coffee & tea

In addition to the noodles (and cucumber salad), Kasma demonstrates how to make both Thai tea – ชาเย็น (cha yen) – and Thai coffee – โอเลี้ยง (oliang). In Thailand, both of these drinks are made using a “tea sock” – the tea or coffee is put in the “sock,” which has a metal handle, and then hot water is poured through and then steeped to the desired strength. Condensed and evaporated milk are added to finish them off. Thai tea and coffee are often available at noodle shops in Thailand.

We have instructions for making Thai tea elsewhere on the website.

Making Rad Nah

Making Rad Nah

Kasma Stir-fries

Kasma cooks Pad Thai

As with other classes, final cooking is done in front of the whole class. Sometimes a student does the cooking (as in the Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles) to the left; other times, Kasma does the cooking. She usually cooks the Pad Thai herself because there are a couple of tricky points: namely getting the eggs right and making sure the noodles are thoroughly mixed with everything else.

Beginning Thai Series Class #4 Menu

Pan-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles Topped with Chicken and Asian Broccoli Sauce – ก๋วยเตี๋ยวราดหน้า (Kway Teow Rad Nah):

Rad Nah

Rad Nah Noodles

Balancing Flavors

Balancing flavors

I think of this as rice noodles with sauce. It’s a somewhat soupy dish and I like it only if the noodles, the kway teow sen yai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวส้นใหญ่) are very, very fresh. It is best when eaten piping hot from the wok and is typically eaten with green chillies pickled in vinegar (as in the picture to the right), which provides a bit of sour to cut the gravy (sauce). Be sure to get both some (soaked) chillies and some of the vinegar.

Garlic Noodles with Barbecued Red Pork (Thai-Style Pasta Salad) – บะหมี่แห้งหมูแดง (Bamee Haeng Moo Daeng):

Garlic Noodles

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles 2

Kasma's Garlic Noodles

I’ve never had this particular dish in Thailand – it’s a recipe of Kasma’s creation. It’s the first noodle dish I ever made. I had been invited to a potluck soon after initially taking the Beginning Series (back in 1992 – 2 decades ago). I decided to bring this dish: it can be served cold or at room temperature and made in advance – perfect for a pot luck. It was the first dish to disappear; people loved it. As the name implies, it has a garlicky flavor – mildly addictive, I would say.

“Thai-style” Stir-fried Noodles – ผัดไท (Pad Thai):

Pad Thai

Pad Thai Noodles

Pad Thai. A whole blog could be written on this noodle. (Actually, Kasma already wrote one: The Origin and Making of Pad Thai.)

This picture of Kasma’s Pad Thai noodles shows the dish plated, and ready to serve. It’s surrounded by limes so that each student can take a lime to squeeze over their portion and add sour flavor. The next picture below shows one individual serving of Pad Thai. Often in Thailand this dish is served accompanied by green onions; the idea is to take a bite of the green onion along with the noodles to add an extra dimension of texture and flavor. They go surprisingly well together.

Pad Thai

Serving of Pad Thai

Many students tell Kasma her version is the best they’ve ever eaten. Often in U.S. restaurants the noodles are softer and mushier whereas in Kasma’s version, they are firm and chewy. She’ll tell students that if they prefer the version from U.S. restaurants, they can make the noodles softer, add ketchup and more sugar.

Check out:

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad – ยำแตงกวา (Yum Taeng Kua): In the United States, I’m not much of a cucumber eater. I find the vegetable not very interesting. The one exception I make is for Kasma’s Thai cucumber salads, such as this one. Add some shallots, serrano peppers, cilantro leaves, vinegar, lime, fish sauce and sugar to cucumbers and it makes them a lot more interesting!


Slideshow – Pad Thai Noodles
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

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Dried shrimp for Pad Thai noodles

"Sweet Radish" for Pad Thai noodles

Making tamarind water for Pad Thai noodles

Rice Vermicelli for Pad Thai noodles

Soaking noodles for Pad Thai

Cooking shrimp for the Pad Thai

Stir-frying ingredients for Pad Thai noodles

Adding dried, roasted chillies for Pad Thai noodles

Adding the noodles

Noodles are now mixed in with the other ingredients

Cracking an egg into the wok

Eggs have been added

Moving the other ingredients up the side of the wok

The eggs are sufficiently cooked

Adding the tamarind water

Mixing everything together

Kasma stir-fries the Pad Thai noodles

Everything is mixed and nearly finished

The bean sprouts have been added

Now the garlic chives are added

Peanuts have been added - very nearly done now!

The final mix in the wok

Pad Thai noodles, plated and ready to serve!

An individual serving of Pad Thai noodles

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Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012

Beginning Thai Cooking With Kasma, Class #3

Michael Babcock, Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Kasma Loha-unchit teaches a beginning series of 4 Thai cooking classes several times a year. This is my blog on the third of those four classes, exploring how the classes take place and what delicious Thai dishes are served. Kasma has been teaching Thai cooking to U.S. students since 1985.

I’ve also blogged on the other classes in the series:

Kasma’s initial series of 4 classes is designed as a sequence of classes to introduce the basics of Thai cooking. This, the third class, continues on from the first two, including more basic information about Thai ingredients and cooking techniques while introducing 5 new recipes.

Learning more about rice is an important part of the third class.

Soaking Brown Rice

Soaking brown rice

Sticky Rice Steamer

Sticky rice steamer

(Click images to see larger version.)

Having already covered cooking of jasmine rice (ข้าวหอมมะลิ – kao hom mali) in the first sessions, in class #3 Kasma introduces brown jasmine rice. Over the past few years, in part because of the support of the Royal Family, whole grain rice has been growing in popularity in Thailand. (See Kasma’s Blog Whole Grain Rice Makes a Comeback in Thailand.) To bring out maximum nutrition, whole-grain rice should be soaked for at least 22 hours prior to cooking. (For more details see Kasma’s blog How to Cook Brown Rice for Maximum Nutrition.) She also teaches how to cook white sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียว – Kao Niow) using the traditional bamboo basket that is found throughout northeastern Thailand (อีสาน – Isan), where, traditionally, it is the daily rice eaten with all meals. (See Kasma’s recipe for Steamed White Sticky Rice (ข้าวเหนียวนึ่ง – Kao Niow Neung.)

Cleaning Squid

Cleaning squid

Another thing that Kasma teaches in this class is how to clean whole squid; everyone gets an opportunity to clean a couple. It’s one thing I appreciate about the classes: Kasma teaches you to use ingredients (such as shrimp or squid) as you would purchase them in any Asian market, where they are more likely to be sold whole and not cleaned. It’s not difficult to do and the reward is that a whole squid, frozen or not, is likely to be more fresh than one that has been pre-cleaned.

Students Prepping Food

Students prepping food

Cutting Lemon Grass

Cutting lemon grass

As always, the students do all of the prep work themselves; the chopping, mincing and dicing, cleaning the squid and more. We’ve had students who have taken cooking classes in Thailand who tell us that typically, all of the ingredients are already prepped for them. Kasma has the students do the prep because when they cook at home, they’ll have to do it themselves. She teaches how to cook all of these dishes from start to finish by yourself.

Kasma Cooks

Kasma frying shrimp

Cooking Long beans

Cooking long beans

Final assembly and cooking of the dishes in the beginning series is done by Kasma and by the students. The picture to the left shows Kasma deep frying the Garlic Peppered Shrimp. This will be the first time that many students have deep fried anything at all, so she starts out by demonstrating what to do; after her initial demo, she’ll ask for volunteers and students will finish off the cooking. She’s already gone over stir-frying in previous sessions, so she has one of the students cook the Stir-Fried Long Beans with Roasted Chilli Sauce and Thai Basil. All of the students get to watch the final assembly/cooking so that they really do learn to cook every dish in the class and not just the one they have worked on.

Squid Salad

Plating Squid Salad

Meal Time

Students enjoying a feast

After the food is plated and ready to serve, we come to the very best part of class: the feast at the end. What’s best of all is knowing that you can go home and cook everything yourself.

Beginning Thai Series Class #3 Menu

Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Garlic-Peppered Shrimp – กุ้งกระเทียมพริกไทย (Goong Kratiem Prik Thai): Although this is a common item on Thai menus, both in Thailand and here in the U.S., I’ve never had a version quite like Kasma’s. Her recipe uses a lot of garlic (1-2 heads per pound of shrimp) and black pepper to coat the shrimp, which, with the shell still on, is deep-fried until crispy. It makes a crunchy, peppery, garlicky snack that is delicious, indeed. Some students are, at first, reluctant to eat a shrimp with the shell on: they soon find that it has been rendered crispy and that it adds a needed dimension to the dish. They usually come back for seconds. And thirds. And even fourths!

Squid Salad

Squid Salad

Hot and Sour Calamari Salad – ยำปลาหมึก (Yum Pla Meuk): The very first Thai dish I ever ate was a Squid Salad at Siam Cuisine on University Avenue in Berkeley (long out of business); this must have been back in the early 1980s. The salad has lots of fresh herbs (lemon grass, galanga, mint and cilantro) and a hot and sour dressing consisting of chillies, garlic, fish sauce and lime juice, with a bit of sugar to pull all the tastes together. Kasma’s version is as hot as I remember my first attempt but now I can eat spicy. This is a terrific, prototypical Thai salad.

Long Beans

Stir-Fried Long Beans

Stir-Fried Long Beans with Roasted Chilli Sauce and Thai Basil – ถั่วยาวผัดพริกเผา (Tua Yao Pad Prik Pow) : Vegetables is one area where Asian cooking excels. I can’t think of a single Western vegetable dish as interesting and tasty as this one dish. It uses “long beans” – ถั่วยาว (tua yao) – which are somewhat similar to green beans but thinner around – they can be dark green, light green or purple in color. Although they are cooked with garlic (of course), fish sauce and  Thai basil (ใบโหระพา – bai horapa), the defining taste of this dish comes from roasted chili paste – น้ำพริกเผา (nam prik pao). This paste is one of the most commonly used seafood-based pastes in Thai cooking; the roasted flavors give a fragrant backdrop to a paste that is hot and shrimpy as well as sweet and tangy. This is a flavorful, delicious vegetable dish. (Read Kasma’s information on Roasted Chilli Paste – (Nam Prik Pao).)

Sticky Rice & Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango – ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง (Kao Niao Mamuang):  This is perhaps the best known Thai dessert outside of Thailand, though in Thailand it is more of a snack (a kanom – ขนม) that would be eaten by itself at any time of the day. White sticky rice is given a sweet coconut sauce and then served with mangoes. In Thailand, it is also served with durian, in season. (See Michael’s blog on Thong Lo Mangos (and Sticky Rice).)

Kasma’s recipe for this delicious dish can be found here: Coconut-Flavored Sticky Rice with Mangoes (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง – Kao Niow Mamuang).

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

Black Sweet Rice Pudding – ข้าวเหนียวดำ (Kao Niow Dahm): Another sweet sticky rice dessert, topped with toasted coconut and sesame seeds. Some students like this even better than the White Sticky Rice and Mangos. The black sticky rice is a whole grain with a nutty flavor. See Kasma’s recipe Black Sticky Rice Pudding (ข้าวเหนียวดำ Kao Niow Dahm).


Slideshow – Garlic Peppered Shrimp
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Frying Shrimp
Kasma Cooks
Removing Shrimp
Fried Shrimp
Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Deep-frying shrimp for Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Kasma fries shrimp for Garlic Peppered Shrimp

Removing the deep-fried shrimp onto a drainer

Crispy-fried shrimp, removed from the wok

The finished dish: Garlic-Peppered Shrimp - กุ้งกระเทียมพริกไทย (Goong Kratiem Prik Thai)

Frying Shrimp thumbnail
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Removing Shrimp thumbnail
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Written by Michael Babcock, September 2012