THAILAND. sigh. BRING ME BACK!!!!!
It is just the most amazing mix of beauty and culture. From the elephant studded jungles to the tropical, crystal blue ocean lined beaches, every inch of this country is absolutely remarkable. It’s the people, the history, the location, the agriculture, the culture, the smells and the food – oh my, the food- that all together contribute to the colorful backdrop of what makes Thailand so truly special.
The old ladies that sit on the side of a seemingly deserted road selling bananas, the proprietors of each stall at the random street long market places that pop-up any where from the middle of a train track to the inside of a series of gondola like canoes in a through fare of canals, to the barefooted buddhists monks, and even the punky, techno music obsessed teenagers, it is the people who make up and truly influence this great country. Each one with their own familial variations, traditions, and of course, recipes. There are a few staple base recipes, but from their each region, town and family ventures off to create their own version of these very Thai dishes.
Sometimes, the recipes vary between fish bases and meat bases depending on whether you lived in the hills and were surrounded by cattle or if you lived on the sea shore surrounded by the most amazing fish and shell fish. Which, aside from the fact that Thai people just so happen to be culturally the most accomodating, genuinely nice people, is why I think it was not difficult for them to help me come up with a way to kosherfy some of their most traditional recipes.
Each region we went to we got to take a private cooking class in. At the start of each class the chef, assuming that I just wanted to learn how to make some super fancy, Michelin star worthy dish came armed with a slew of extremely updated, over the top, beautifully plated dishes. As soon as I told them I did not want to learn how to make hotel food and was really there to cook something that their own grandmothers made for them the whole experience changed. Each chef, both women by the way (girl power), instantly relaxed, plastered a huge smile on their face and taught me to make the food that they truly like to eat.
It’s not fancy food and not difficult to make. It is however, complex in flavors and mind blowing-ly delicious. In the west we are used to very different types of herbs and spices. So, Thai food seems complicated as these ingredients are not as easily available as say, a carrot. However, once you have all the ingredients in your house, nothing actually takes more than a few minutes of active prep time to put together.
Over the course of the classes we made Tom yum soup, which is technically a spicy prawn soup, that we kosherfied by swapping salmon for the prawns. We made a fried flounder with a spicy thai mango salad, sticky rice (my fave!!!), Tom Kah Gai soup, which is basically Thailands version of a Jewish chicken soup, and a spicy, fresh hearts of palm (yup, thats right, NOT canned, meaning straight from the heart of a palm tree!) salad. Each recipe was bright, fresh, light enough to not weigh you down in the crazy heat but filling enough to leave you feeling totally satisfied!
I am so excited to be sharing these videos and giving you a small glimpse of all the amazing things I was privileged to learn and see there. I am going to release the videos one by one, each with a printable recipe so that you can recreate these recipes in your own kitchens.
Before I do though, I just want to share a few things I learned there.
- There are no rules. If you don’t like an ingredient, don’t worry, just swap it out for something you do like.
- Taste along the way. It was not easy writing down these recipes for you, because like any really good recipe handed down from parent to child, they included ” a little of this, a pinch of that and a handful of this”. So, trust your palettes and keep tasting to adjust the flavors till it tastes right to you!
- SWEET, SOUR, SPICY and SALTY. These are the flavors that are found in all Thai food. Every dish aims to incorporate all four regions of our tastebuds at the same time which is why each bite-ful of a Thai dish sets off a flavor party in you mouth.
- There is a Thai version of a mirepoix. It is their “holy trinity” and it is the base of all their soups and stews. Just like any good jewish neighborhood grocery store sells prepackages bundles of all the herb and veggies we need to make a good chicken soup, the Thai market vendors also sell their 3 traditional ingredients all bundled up. Their three ingredients are galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass.
- Limes are crucial. I knew I would love Thailand because we both share a deep rooted love for lime. It goes in and on everything. If you don’t live in a place where limes are always available (like I do 🙁 ), when they are in season, buy a extra, juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. This way you’ll have fresh lime juice all year long!
- They put sugar in everything. No joke. I don’t understand because everywhere we went I was clearly the ummmm, I’m trying to think of an elegant way to say this, lets just say they are tiny! The women and the men all have the tiniest waists and the most beautiful skin. Some of them say its from all the coconut they eat, some say its just in their genes (yes, I asked basically every Thai person I met. I mean how can you be 6o and not have a single wrinkle? Naturally?). Whatever it is, it is not because they are on some crazy sugar-free diet. It does however provide a flavor balance to their recipes and really should not be omitted.
- Use the freshest ingredients possible. If a recipe calls for flounder, but the flounder in your market doesn’t look amazing, no problem! Buy a different fish.
Now that you have all the building blocks to take the recipe I give you and make them your own I’m going to help you out by linking the names of some of the produce to websites where you can easily buy them (hint: starts with “ama” and ends with “zon”).
click here for fresh galangal
click here for dried galangal
KAFFIR LIME LEAVES:
click here for fresh kaffir lime leaves
click here for dried kaffir lime leaves
click here for fresh lemongrass
click here for dried lemongrass
THAI BIRD CHILES:
click here for fresh Thai bird chiles
click here for dried Thai bird chiles
BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWERS:
click here for dried butterfly pea flowers
click here for fresh pandan leaves
click here for dried pandan leaves
NOTE: These are raw ingredients. The links are for produce that is NOT grown in Israel and there for not subject to the laws the apply to produce grown in Israel. Consult with your own rabbi on how to check these vegetables appropriately.
For the full printable Tom Yum Soup recipe click here.