Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Good Time for Thai











My father’s side of the family comes from Laos and Thailand. And with them, they brought an interesting addition to the, already vast, world of Asian cuisine. My parents trained us to develop a Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese palate, and to this day, I’m still preparing myself for chicken feet at dim sum restaurants. Or even live octopus. Maybe if it was included in the final stage in one of those Fear Factor episodes with an open view of $5,000 in a briefcase, then… maybe.

It’s always interesting to visit other countries and see what they like to eat. Especially with snacks. When my sister and I were younger, we often got dumped off at the relatives while my parents ran errands. Because they were immigrants, they were obviously not going to be stocked with ‘safe’, American-made snacks for us to munch on. Not a single sight of Funyuns, Corn Nuts or candy. It was always something bizarre like, Calbee shrimp chips, cuttlefish jerky or dried salted prunes in a plastic, heart-shaped container. If you could just imagine the sour face I wore for a good amount of years. I actually grew to love these kind of snacks, but my elementary school classmates didn’t. My pack of seaweed, haw flakes, white rabbit candy, cuttlefish snacks and soy bean milk were never even considered for trade. I usually just got a lot of odd glares from them, as they lunched on Doritos, Fig Newtons and Capri-Sun. Bastards.

Well, when you’re stuck in a foreign land, you’ve gotta adjust somehow. Time to borrow MacGyver’s brain. A-ha. At my aunt’s house, there was an endless supply of Kung-Fu instant noodles – the ones that come with a beef-flavored packet that were strategically placed to give the noodles a ‘food-like’ taste. Brilliant. We’d then crunch up the noodles while the bag was still sealed and made sure the noodles were crushed into bite-sized morsels of crap. Sauce time. First went the food-flavored powder. Then the spicy powder. Shook it up and shared the wealth with everyone. I remember going thru a good three to four packs in one day.

Laos borders Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The languages are similar in tones, as with Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. Almost all Southeast Asian countries shared the same ingredients in the kitchen. Fish sauce and shrimp paste being the most common. And let me tell you, this stuff is STILL pungent in my opinion. My palate has definitely grown but nothing can prepare you for the dual potency of fish sauce and shrimp paste -- combined. And you’ll be glad to know it’s in the ever-so-popular Thai Papaya Salad.

It was only recently, that I started to eat more and more Laotian and Thai food. For 20 years I stared at my relatives in disbelief as they ate fish mixed with coconut milk, eggplant with shrimp paste, etc. You get the picture.

So now that I spend a good amount of the week cooking, I thought I’d cook a sympathetic meal for the ones I gawked at. The Chinese partake in a ritualof presenting actual dishes of food in the backyard, called "Bai-Sun", for the ancestors to eat, as a gesture of respect. I guess I’m doing the same, only I don’t have any incense sticks on me at this time. It’s my way of saying, “Oops, I’m sorry I disrespected your food. Maybe I should’ve tried the food when I had the chance, because now, I love it.”

I started out with Thai chicken curry. A great dish that leaves a spicy, yet satisfying coat of heat inside your stomach. I used regular chicken leg meat and marinated that with fish sauce, white pepper, sugar, corn starch and rice wine. After 30 minutes in the fridge, I fried the chicken and added Thai curry powder (available at all markets. You can even use Indian curry.) I threw in some garlic, Thai chilies, red bell pepper, basil leaves, onions and sautéed them till they still had some bite to it. Then I added some coconut milk and fish sauce and let it simmer for 30 minutes. That’s it.


This next one is a take on the popular Chinese dish, Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Chilies. In Cantonese, it’s ‘gon-bean-say-gwai-dao’ (sautéed, four-season green beans). I deep fried the beans for about 30 seconds, took them out and patted them dry. I then sautéed some ground pork, Thai chilies, garlic and green onions. Instead of just using salt, the Thai recipe calls for fish sauce. Warning: turn on your overhead fan. Heat and fish sauce are not good.


Almost every country in Asia will have soup noodles. Thai cuisine is big on beef ball noodle soup. In most Thai restaurants, you can find the Thai Boat noodle soup. It got its name from villagers that would make a living by providing a kitchen on water. If you’re hungry, you simply flag down your ‘restaurant’ and they’ll pull right up to you and serve it right there. Kind of like a roach coach that is at your mercy. Here, I simply made a broth with fish sauce, chicken bouillon, sugar, white pepper and fried shallots. I used Vietnamese ‘banh pho’ rice stick noodles.


For appetizers, I made two types of salad: Papaya salad and Thai beef salad. Both of which use the same ingredients pretty much. Luckily at my 99 Ranch Market in SGV, I can buy pre-grated papaya. Only $0.79/lb! I’m not about to buy a machete and hack my way at the papaya. I mixed micro-planed garlic (if you’re a regular on my blog, you’ll see that ‘micro-plane’ term a lot. I love this tool.), lime, chopped-up Thai chilies, crushed red pepper flakes, fish sauce, shrimp paste and white onions into the grated papaya. Mix it up and throw it in the fridge. I personally think it tastes better cold. For the Thai beef salad, I used all of the fore-mentioned ingredients EXCEPT garlic and shrimp paste, and added green onions. I used round steak and cooked it in the oven till it was pink in the very center. I sliced it up and let it cool off and hand-squeezed any remaining blood. Mix it up and chill as well.


My last dish is a simple pork mixture that has fish sauce, pickled vegetable and one egg on top. Simply steam that for 30-45 minutes and devour.

By the way, I used way too many chilies. My stomach is KILLING me. Thanks for reading. Thai noodles such as pad kee mow, pad thai and laat nah (raat nah) are next on my plate.

17 comments:

Kirk said...

Dylan - All in one meal? No wonder your stomach is killing you! Heat and fish sauce ain't bad - try frying up some harm-ha!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

kirk, what is harm-ha?

Kirk said...

Hey Dylan - Chinese fermented shrimp paste - great with ong choy!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

ohhhhh, that's stuff is great! hey you're pretty familiar with a lot of chinese food.

Eddie Lin said...

dylan,

nice walk down memory lane...sounds like my childhood but without the pig brains and chicken hearts. we did get twinkies...once...for christmas - wwaaahhh!!! *sob* now look what you made me do.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

eddie,

if you got twinkies, you were probably rich haha. you remember those coconut candies? or those chinese new year candies wrapped in red foil w/ gold type? kinda tasted like caramel w/ a pink center. those were what my parents handed out. you can imagine the customer volume we got on Halloween.

great writing on your blog.

yoony said...

wow so many dishes! everything looks so good. i especially want to try the green beans one.

elmomonster said...

My god man! Like Kirk, I'm in awe, but more on the fact you cooked that all for one meal. Are you a professional chef? Because the food and your description of how you executed it leads me to think that you've had years of training.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

elmo, thanks for the kind words. i actually did all of that on 2 separate occasions. i would've been cooking till midnight if i did all that in my mini-me kitchen. i've spent months watching cooking shows, reading books and watching my parents. And i'm always trying to decode any dish that i try. everyday i think about leaving advertising and pursuing a career in the culinary arts, but it's just way too expensive. besides, i think the best training you can get is in an actual 120 degree kitchen with hitler as your executive chef.

yoony said...

everyday i think about leaving my first out-of-college job and pursuing a career in culinary arts. the day goes by so slowly when i do that.

BoLA said...

Dylan! When's the next BBQ? ;)

Hmm...I'm not too familiar w/fish sauce. Didn't really have that in our spice rack growing up.

Are you going to Franz on Friday night???

eatdrinknbmerry said...

KN, i don't think there's time for a bbq this friday b/c we have to wait for our friend terry who's coming from HB. yes i can't wait for Franz. The openers are who i want to see mainly... Cut Copy and TV On the Radio. get your dancing shoes on, franz is gonna be a dance party.

Daily Gluttony said...

Agree with Elmo--you're always cooking some kick ass stuff! That's awesome. Hey, I say you invite all of us fellow food bloggers over for a taste test, whatdya say? LOL!

BTW, a total trip down memory lane with your comment on those chinese new year candies wrapped in the red/gold foil!!! We always had a ar of those lying around 'cause no one wanted to eat them. I think we handed them out on Halloween too. Too funny!!!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

pam, are you kidding me? i'd have a nervous breakdown if i had to dance for you guys. and i know everyone will be no less than critical about my food haha. i'd be down for a foodblog meetup though. i think it'd be nice to meet everyone. i really don't know much about you except that you like pink tshirts. and that i like to sit down on the ground w/ fuzzy lights behind me.

J said...

hi dylan, terrific site! so glad to have discovered it...

Alice said...

This looks great!! I can't believe you made it all. Can I come over for dinner sometime?! Urgh, too bad you live in Southern CA...

Renee said...

Dylan,
Maybe 'cuz I grew up for the first 8 years of my life in Vancouver (aka Hong-cover) and HK, but I've always been one to eat fish eyes and cheeks (they always gave me the head when I was young. Now I wonder if they tricked me to like it), trotters, jelly fish, cuttlefish (my fav!), the little marinated octopus (so yummy), preserved plums/lemons/figs (aka "bay see") and all that stuff. You can't deny that Singapore style pork or beef jerky are the best!! Anyway, I'm not going to challenge Eddie Lin in his gross scale dining, but I know that any of us Asian Asians would probably not hesitate to do the food challenge... I wonder if that's the reason why there aren't many Asians on Fear Factor. "Oh, you want us to eat cow tongue? Intestine (hopefully cooked)? Pshaw... so easy. Give me a bottle of soy sauce and I'm all good. So and so can't finish her portion? Oh good, all the more for me. Can I bring the leftovers home for my family too?"

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