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Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #2

Michael Babcock, August 1st, 2012

Kasma Loha-unchit teaches a beginning series of 4 Thai cooking classes several times a year. This is my blog on the second 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.

Kasma Teaching

Kasma goes over recipes

I’ve already blogged about the first class – Beginning Thai Cooking with Kasma, Class #1. The second session has another 4 recipes, picked in part to allow Kasma to introduce more essential Thai ingredients. Like all classes, this one began with Kasma going over the recipes and introducing any new ingredients or techniques in the recipes. This class includes 4 very popular Thai dishes so there is lots to discuss.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Prepping Food

Students prepping ingredients

Students at Work

Cutting banana leaves

For the next part of the session, students are divided into teams to work on the individual recipes. They chop and mince, pluck basil leaves and do all of the prep work for the recipe they are working on. This class also includes Haw Mok, the popular fish curry dish that is served in banana leaf baskets, so Kasma spends some time demonstrating how to cut the banana leaves and then how to fold them into the basket; then each student makes their own basket, to be filled later. (See slide show, below.)

Adding Lard

Adding lard to season a wok

Seasoning Wok

Seasoning a wok

In this second session, Kasma also goes over the process of how to season a wok. Kasma’s preferred woks are round-bottom, spun steel woks of a reasonably heavy gauge; carbon steel woks are an acceptable substitute. She prefers the kind with two metal “ears,” finding that the woks with a single long wooden handle are too unstable. Just as with cast iron, spun steel woks have to be “seasoned” before use. After the machine coating on a new wok is removed, Kasma heats the wok on high heat and then spreads it with lard (the absolute best fat for seasoning a wok), which is baked into the steel and provides a protective covering. Kasma’s classes are filled with practical demonstrations and information of this type.

Student Stir-fries

Student stir-frying vegetables

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat

The last part of the class is taken up with cooking the prepped recipes and (of course!) eating. Kasma’s class are set up so that everyone can watch the final food cooking. The cooking is done sometimes by Kasma and often by students, under her supervision. She often asks for volunteers: if you take a class, don’t be shy! You have the chance to have a master cook show you how to cook delicious Thai food.

Of course, the best part of the class is the feast at the end. Unlike many cooking classes, here you get a full meal, not just a small tasting of each dish.

Beginning Thai Series Class #2 Menu

Hot & Sour Soup

Hot & Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Prawn Soup – ต้มยำกุ้ง (Tom Yum Goong): Hot & Sour Soup (Tom Yum) is one the best known Thai soups. In Thailand you can get a tom yum based soup with many things: from shrimp to crispy-fried fish. Kasma’s version uses shrimp and is just as described – hot (spicy) and sour;  the heat is from chillies and the sour is from lime juice  with lemon grass and galanga providing an herbal background. Delicious!

You can see Kasma’s recipe here: Hot and Sour Prawn Soup – (Tom Yum Goong)

How Mok Pla

Red Curried Fish Mousse

Curried Mousse of Red Snapper in Banana Leaf Cups – ห่อหมกปลา (How Mok Pla): Haw Mok is another quintessential Thai dish, though other countries (such as Cambodia) have their own versions. In some restaurants they have mixed seafood Haw Mok, sometimes served in hollowed-out young coconuts but it is more usual to see this dish steamed in banana-leaf baskets, such as we see here. This is a dish that, in Thailand, you’ll find both in the markets, where people buy them as “take-out,” and in restaurants. Kasma’s version here uses fresh red snapper. As you can see, it’s a dish that presents very well. Another advantage is that you can prepare it in advance and then re-heat it prior to serving. In planning a Thai meal, it’s good to have some dishes like this so you don’t have too many stir-fries right before the meal.

Basil Chicken

Basil Chicken

Spicy Basil Chicken – ผัดกะเพราหไก่ (Pad Kaprao Gai): Anything cooked pad kaprao (stir-fried with holy basil) is another essential Thai dish. In Thailand this dish is often served as a one-dish meal over rice, sometimes with a (crispy) fried egg on top. Kasma’s version uses ground chicken, for convenience: in Thailand, often chicken meat would be cut into very small pieces, nearly the equivalent of ground meat. Personally, I prefer this dish using pork and cooked very, very spicy/hot. The recipe as taught here in class is infinitely variable: you can make it with nearly any meat or seafood.

Kasma’s recipe from this class is available online as Spicy Basil Chicken – Gai Pad Kaprao. For variations on the recipe, see the following two blogs:

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

Oyster Sauce Broccoli

Stir-fried Broccoli with Thai Oyster Sauce – บรอคโคลี่ผัดน้ำมันหอย (Broccoli Pad Nam Man Hoi): I find that Asian cuisines are miles ahead of us when it comes to vegetables. Walking through Asian markets I always see a plethora of fresh greens, previously unknown to me (before meeting Kasma, that is). This recipe is what I think of as The Universal Vegetable Recipe. A deceptively easy dish, the main ingredient is Thai oyster sauce; it can be adapted to virtually any vegetable you desire. In class, Kasma makes it with broccoli; it’s the one way I like broccoli. This recipe also got me enjoying cauliflower for the first time in my life.

Also see Michael’s blog on The Universal Vegetable Recipe.


Slideshow – Curried Mousse of Red Snapper

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Kasma Teaching
Cutting Banana Leaf
Making Basket
Finished Baskets
Mixing the Curry
Student Mixing
Adding the Eggs
Curry to Basket
Ready to Steam
Haw Mok Pla

Kasma shows students how to cut banana leaves for the baskets

A bowl is used as a guide to cut a circle in the banana leaf

Here students are assembling the banana leaf baskets

These banana leaf baskets are ready to receive the curry mixture

Here the curry-fish filling is being mixed together

A student finishes off the mixing process

Kasma adds the eggs to the curry mixture

A ladle is used to pour the curry mixture into the banana leaf basket

The Haw Mok are shown in the steamer basket, ready to steam

Here are the Haw Mok, ready to eat served over rice

Kasma Teaching thumbnail
Cutting Banana Leaf thumbnail
Making Basket thumbnail
Finished Baskets thumbnail
Mixing the Curry thumbnail
Student Mixing thumbnail
Adding the Eggs thumbnail
Curry to Basket thumbnail
Ready to Steam thumbnail
Haw Mok Pla thumbnail

See Michael’s blogs on the other three classes in this series:


Written by Michael Babcock, August 2012

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