Monday, March 31, 2014

My Thai Food Journey Continues

I took a cooking class while I was in Koh Samui, Thailand, and it was one of the few times I was in the country where I felt like I was actually connecting with the culture. Most of the places I traveled to were overrun with tourism, so it was difficult to find ways to push aside the fake and get to the heart of Thailand. I felt as though I was able to begin to do this through the food.

One of the disappointments about coming home from a trip is that there are things, little nuggets of deliciousness that you just can't find in the states. In Greece it was the tzaziki, France, the pain au chocolat, Peru, the pisco sours, you get the picture. It was really important for me this time around to attempt to bring some of the flavors back with me.

Lots of ingredients!
Thus begins my first attempt at real Thai cooking. I must say that I was incredibly excited because this time I actually had recipes in hand. I went to three grocery stories in search of all of the necessary ingredients, finding most, but still unable to find a couple things on the list. But I found, in my opinion, items that would be good substitutes.

I decided to do all of the chopping and prep in the afternoon. This was a very good idea because it took me a couple of hours to get everything they way it was for my class. I painstakingly cut up the pineapple in just the right way, peeled and chopped the ginger ever so finely, measured all the ingredients just right and neatly placed everything just the way it was in the photos I had taken. My back was beginning to ache as I pounded the spices and herbs in the coffee mug with the honey stick to make the curry paste (stone mortar and pestle were not to be found in my sparse kitchen). At this point it was getting close to dinner time, and the sun was starting to set.
Prepped and ready to go

I took a short break, and soon it was time to heat some oil in a pasta pot because I didn't have a wok either. The oil was hot, and it was time to begin adding the vegetables slowly and in the right order. I followed the directions to the letter. The kitchen began to fill with familiar smells which brought Tim out of his work room to find out what was brewing. There was only one small casualty with some oil splatter while frying tofu, but that's what happens when you get too close to the cook. The sweet and sour sauce was added and all the ingredients were tossed together. With a couple sprigs of cilantro and some fried garlic, the first dish was complete.

Sweet and Sour Tofu with Veggies
After transferring the completed dish to one of my new plates purchased while in Bangkok, I had to move on quickly to the green curry. As soon as the green paste hit the pan it was as if I had been transported right back to the cooking school. Within minutes, the curry was finished and plated and we sat down to feast. I was worried that it wouldn't be the way it was from the class. Everything had happened so fast I wondered if I had remembered everything correctly. Turns out I had. The first reaction from my official taste- tester was "wow." And it was a good wow, not the sarcastic kind of wow. Success. Even though it took me the entire afternoon to prep and chop it was worth all the effort. I still have one more dish to try, the noodle salad, but I'm sure that will go off without a hitch too. The Thai food obsession shall continue.
Green Curry with chicken and potatoes

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