Home   Blog   Classes   Trips   More   back

Archive for July, 2014

Favorite One-dish Meals in Thailand

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

One of the best things about Thailand is the ready availability of delicious one-dish meals, both as street food and in restaurants. This blog looks at 5 of my very favorite non-noodle dishes. I’ll reserve noodles for another time. You can also look at my blog Thai Noodles – An Amazing Variety.

Of course, almost any dish can be a “one-dish meal.” Green Curry over Rice, for instance provides a protein from meat or seafood, vegetables (usually Thai eggplants and pea eggplants) over a starch (rice). Four of the dishes here, though, are often thought of as stand-alone dishes and eaten most often by themselves as a quick breakfast, lunch or (even) dinner.

Several of these dishes are Chinese-influenced; these are the one-dish meals I order the most in Thailand. I’ll save the more “Thai” one-dish meals for another blog.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Basil Pork with Fried Egg over Rice – Moo Pad Kaprao Khai Dao

Pork Dish

Stir-fried Pork dish

I’ll start with one of the most popular dishes in Thailand (and an authentically Thai dish) – Basil Pork with Fried Egg served over Rice.

The picture shows the dish – Moo Pad Kaprao Khai Dao Rad Khao – as it was served in a no-name restaurant in Bo Klua in eastern Nan province in northern Thailand. It comes with a typical Thai-style fried egg – ไข่ดาว (Khai Dao) – literally a “star egg” – with its crisp-fried edges. The dish here is made with larger pieces of pork; I see it more often with ground pork.

Kasma teaches a Spicy Basil Chicken recipe in the 3rd class of her Beginning Evening Series and in the 2nd class of her Beginning/Intermediate Weeklong Cooking Class. You can easily adapt the recipe for pork and add a crispy-fried egg at the end.

Pork Leg Rice – Khao Ka Moo

Pork Leg Rice

Pork Leg Rice

This just might be the one-dish meal that I order the most in Thailand: it’s Stewed Spiced Pork Leg Rice with Pickled Mustard Greens, Blanched Asian Broccoli and Hot-Sour Sauce – Khao Ka Moo. The picture to the left is from the food court at Imperial World Shopping Center in Samut Prakan.

Although it’s a Chinese-influenced dish, you find it all over Thailand, though not so much in the Southern provinces that have a larger Muslim population. It is predominantly a street food or found at food courts (which are, basically, street food brought inside). In restaurants you’ll see stewed pork leg (or fried stewed pork leg) mainly as a dish to be served over rice, family style (as in the picture below right).

This dish has an incredibly rich mouth feel – the pork leg is stewed with the skin on, which means it includes the fat in-between the skin and meat as well. You don’t really need to eat very much of this: the rich fat will fill you up. The richness is balanced by the pickled mustard greens and by the hot-sour sauce that you put on top. When you order, you have the option of getting it with a hard-boiled duck egg or without; I always get it with the egg, which typically has been cooked first and then stewed a while with the rest of the ingredients. Yum!

Stewing Pork Leg

Stewing Pork Leg

Stewed Pork Leg

Stewed Pork Leg

The picture above left shows the stew pot in one of Kasma’s classes just after the pickled mustard has been added. The right-side picture shows how she serves it in class – more as it would be served in a restaurant. It does need to be eaten with rice though: it’s such a rich dish.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 2nd session of her evening Advanced Set E Class and on the 2nd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2C class.

Poached Chicken Rice – Khao Man Gai

Chicken Rice Shop

Chicken Rice Shop

Another Chinese-inspired dish, perhaps more famous in its Singapore version, is Poached Chicken Rice with Melon Soup and Hot Fermented Soybean and Ginger Sauce (Khao Man Gai). It is often found as a street food and probably just as often at shops which specialize in the dish. It’s pretty easy to find a place that serves it: just look for the plump, hanging chickens such as in the picture to the left, taken at the Imperial World Food court in Samut Prakan.

What makes this dish special is the rice, which is cooked with chicken broth and also chicken fat, a bit like making a risotto; the rice by itself is rich and tasty. The stewed chicken is succulent and juicy. This dish is invariably served with a spicy fermented soybean-chilli sauce and accompanied by a light, chicken-broth based melon soup.

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Poached Chicken Rice

Here are two versions of the dish. To the upper left is the dish as Kasma had it last year at the food court at the Imperial World Shopping Center near her Samut Prakan townhouse. The rightmost version is from one of Kasma’s Advanced Cooking Classes.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 3rd session of her evening Advanced Set D Class and on the 3rd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2B class.

Black Olive Rice – (Kao Pad Nam Liap)

Salted Black Olive Fried Rice (Kao Pad Nam Liap or Kao Ohb Nam Liap) is another Chinese-influenced dish. It’s not a dish that you see very often in Thailand. The main ingredient is a Chinese salted black olive, which is mixed with shrimp, dried shrimp, green mango, Thai chillies and ground pork. It’s a marvelous dish, full of several different types of flavors and anchored by the black olive.

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Black Olive Rice

Here are two versions of the dish. Kasma’s version, above left, presents it more like a composed salad; before eating, all the ingredients are mixed together. The above right version is from My Choice Restaurant in Bangkok. It’s a rare trip to Thailand when I don’t make it by My Choice at least once or twice to get this dish for lunch.

Kasma teaches this dish during the 4th session of her evening Advanced Set D Class and on the 2nd day of her Advanced Weeklong Set 2B class.

Bitter Melon Stir-fried with Egg – Mara Pad Kai

Bitter Melon & Egg

Bitter Melon & Egg

This is a recipe that is very easy to cook and very healthy. Bitter melon is a vegetable that is said to help regulate the blood sugar and here it is served with eggs, still one of the healthiest foods you can eat. This is a dish that I cook often at home, particularly when I’m on my own. Start to finish, including prep time, is about 10 minutes or less. Serve it over rice and you’ve got a satisfying, healthy meal.

Try it yourself using Kasma’s Bitter Melon & Egg Recipe. Or try my variation – Bitter Melon, Chorizo and Egg – for some extra pizzaz. (You also can substitute Thai sour sausage for the Chorizo.)

Kasma teaches this dish in her Beginning/Intermediate Weeklong Class as an add-on on the 5th day.


Check out Kasma’s Menus for Evening Advanced Classes and her Weeklong Class Menus to see the full range of what she offers in her cooking classes.


Written by Michael Babcock, July 2014

Wat Phumin in Nan – The Murals

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Perhaps the most famous temple murals in Thailand are at Wat Phumin in Nan in the North. This is a quick look at the history and at some of the enticing scenes that can be found there, taken on our visit to Nan in January of 2014.

The temple murals were one of the features of Northern Thailand temples that most intrigued me when we visited there this past January. Most temples had murals and some of them were quite fascinating (as were the murals at Wat Phumin).

(Click images to see larger version.)

Mural #1

The artist & his lady

Much of the information in this blog comes from the book Reading Thai Murals by David K. Wyatt; copyright 2004 and published by Silkworm Books in Chiang Mai. (Reading Thai Murals, Amazon) Rather than being comprehensive (you can read Wyatt for that), I’m going to quickly go over some of the history and then include a slideshow of images that caught my eye as I wandered around the interior of the temple (for quite some time).

Seen here, to the left, is, perhaps, the most famous of all the images from Wat Phumin. Anyone who has visited Nan has seen it on any number of souvenirs, t-shirts and posters. Local tradition has it that this image shows the artist, Thit Buaphan, himself with a female companion.

Wat Phumin #1

Wat Phumin exterior

Wat Phumin #2

Wat Phumin exterior

The main building at Wat Phumin is both the “ubosot” (ordination hall) and the “viharn” (meeting hall). (At some temples these will be two separate buildings.) It’s in the shape of a cross (cruciform) built on the back of two giant nagas (the naga is a mythical serpent, much like a water dragon). The main entrance is guarded by two “singh” (mythical lions).

Buddha Image

Main Buddha image

In the center of the building there is a 4-sided Buddha statue, with a Buddha facing in each of the 4 directions (towards the doors). The statue is in a posture known as “Subduing Mara” or “Calling Earth to Witness” and represents the Buddha at the moment of his enlightenment. At that moment, Mara mocks Buddha and asks how he can claim to be enlightened, who is there to witness his enlightenment? The Buddha takes one hand and points to the earth, indicating that the Earth Mother Goddess will bear witness.

Murals

A wall of murals

Really, though, the main attraction in this temple is provided by the murals. The picture to the right shows how entire walls are completely covered with murals. These murals were painted beginning in 1894 by a Thai Lue artist named Thit Buaphan, who was well known for painting the murals at Wat Nong Bua (also in Nan Province). He had many assistants and the work continued into the 20th century.

The main story represented here is a story of one of the Buddha’s past lives – one of the so-called Jâtaka stories. There are roughly 550 “official” stories and, in addition, another 50 or so stories about previous lives that are included in a collection called the Paññâsajâtaka, known mainly in Burma, Northern Thailand & Laos.

Mural #2

Mural of the main story

At the time the murals were painted, Nan was a separate kingdom that was a vassal-state to the Kingdom of Siam. In 1893, Siam made Nan give half of its kingdom to the French to become part of French Indochina, in order to appease the French. One of the reasons that Thailand was never colonized was because, on several occasions, they made gestures such as this to appease the western powers. Obviously, this move was not popular in Nan.

The main story depicted at Wat Phumin is a story that (according to David Wyatt) is found in just a few manuscripts and most likely only published in Laos. Wyatt knows of no other temple where this story is portrayed. The story concerns an orphan, Gaddhana, who went searching for his absent father (said to be the god Indra, disguised at an Elephant). As Wyatt says (on page 21):

. . .The theme of orphanhood thus is repeated, acted out in the panels of the mural at Wat Phumin, though the orphanhood is the condition of lacking a father and not lacking a mother.

The message that viewers were reading off the walls was from a cautionary tale of persistence through adversity, in a world suffused with evil in which virtue was rewarded eventually.

Mural #3

Woman weaving

Wyatt says the story was chosen as a subtle criticism of Siam’s actions in giving Nan’s land away, chosen because more overt criticism was impossible.

Along with another Jâtaka story on the walls, and interwoven as part of the stories, we see the portrayal of ordinary, day-to-day life in the late 19th century; it is these depictions that set the murals apart and account for their fame. Amongst numerous individuals in the midst of daily activities, we also see representations of Europeans, hill tribe people, animals and lovers, both heterosexual and transgender. It is a marvelous celebration of life.

Slideshow – Murals at Wat Phumin in Nan

Rather than point out slides and themes, I’m going to insert below a slideshow of some of the wonderful images that you can see at Wat Phumin. Where I’m able, I will point out what is being portrayed (often relying on David Wyatt); otherwise, I’ll let the slide speak for itself.

Rather than setting the slideshow to run by itself, you may want to simply click on each picture to see the next image, so that you can go as slowly as you might like to enjoy the images.

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Mural #1
Mural #2
wat-phumin-08
wat-phumin-09
wat-phumin-10
wat-phumin-11
wat-phumin-12
wat-phumin-13
Mural #3
wat-phumin-14
wat-phumin-15
wat-phumin-16
wat-phumin-17
wat-phumin-18
wat-phumin-19
wat-phumin-20
wat-phumin-21
wat-phumin-23
wat-phumin-24
wat-phumin-25
wat-phumin-26
wat-phumin-27
wat-phumin-28
wat-phumin-29
wat-phumin-22
wat-phumin-30
wat-phumin-31
wat-phumin-32
wat-phumin-33
wat-phumin-34
wat-phumin-36
wat-phumin-37

According to local tradition, the rightmost figure is the artist, Thit Buaphan

Gaddhana asking his mother who was his father

Gaddhana and his mother. The 2 boys above are playing a game

Close-up of Gaddhana and his mother

Transgender couple

Women going to market

Men & women flirting

Woman at spinning wheel and an aggressive musician

Mural showing a woman weaving

Hilltribe people with a dog barking at them

Elephant and soldiers

The Buddha and disciples

The artist, Thit Buaphan, and his lady companion

Europeans at a dock

According to Wyatt, a Nan monk

"Helping seek the Lord Buddha" (Wyatt)

Serpents; perhaps a depiction of the Buddhist hell realm

Europeans unloading a ship with (apparently) 4 London bobbies

Close-up of Europeans unloading a ship

"People entering a city" (caption says)

"Escalator" picture; caption says they are on their way to heaven

Mural #1 thumbnail
Mural #2 thumbnail
wat-phumin-08 thumbnail
wat-phumin-09 thumbnail
wat-phumin-10 thumbnail
wat-phumin-11 thumbnail
wat-phumin-12 thumbnail
wat-phumin-13 thumbnail
Mural #3 thumbnail
wat-phumin-14 thumbnail
wat-phumin-15 thumbnail
wat-phumin-16 thumbnail
wat-phumin-17 thumbnail
wat-phumin-18 thumbnail
wat-phumin-19 thumbnail
wat-phumin-20 thumbnail
wat-phumin-21 thumbnail
wat-phumin-23 thumbnail
wat-phumin-24 thumbnail
wat-phumin-25 thumbnail
wat-phumin-26 thumbnail
wat-phumin-27 thumbnail
wat-phumin-28 thumbnail
wat-phumin-29 thumbnail
wat-phumin-22 thumbnail
wat-phumin-30 thumbnail
wat-phumin-31 thumbnail
wat-phumin-32 thumbnail
wat-phumin-33 thumbnail
wat-phumin-34 thumbnail
wat-phumin-36 thumbnail
wat-phumin-37 thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, July 2014