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This is the Thai food thread.  We can allow tangential discussion of other SE Asian cuisine and food culture.  I do not want to hear about how you love Sriracha, you basic bitch.   

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This is the Thai food thread.  We can allow tangential discussion of other SE Asian cuisine and food culture.  I do not want to hear about how you love Sriracha, you basic bitch.   

I live in Thailand actually and this is still my favourite dish that is not so popular in Thailand. Worldwide it is simply called "Chicken with cashew nuts" but most of the thai people don't underst

I'm thinking of starting a YouTube cooking channel.  I'm going to call it Cooking with Kaka.

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On 11/30/2020 at 6:48 PM, kakapo said:

This involves a bit of prep but is pretty straightforward.

Make a thai dressing.  Start off with equal parts by volume: 

salty (fish sauce, soy at a push) 

sweet (palm sugar syrup, but white sugar will do, reduce amount) 

sour (lime juice, or maybe tamarind at a push) 

Pimp it with chile, ideally fresh but dried can work.  You could also add in finely sliced garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass or any combination.

Adjust seasoning to your own particular taste.  You can at this point give the dressing 20 seconds in a medium hot clean wok/pan to help bring the flavours together, but I usually miss this out, less washing up.  Also if you get the timing wrong your lime juice will go bitter.

Dress a salad.  Add in a protein.  Chopped up fried eggs or tinned tuna are both good, cheap and easy.  Garnish with coriander.

You've now made either Yam Khai Dao (eggs) or Yam 'Tuna'. 

Serve with rice.  This hits a sweet spot of just enough work to feel like you're not a slob, but is still quick and easy and will make any day feel a bit better.  It's also reasonably well balanced if you don't overdose on the rice.

 

On 11/30/2020 at 11:04 PM, kakapo said:

Stick some chiles and garlic under the grill until the skin is charred but not burnt to a crisp.  Larger chiles work best, but you can try a mixture and throw in some birds eye chiles if you like it extra hot.  Let them cool and take garlic out of skin.  Chiles are fine  leave the burnt skin on, but chop them up.  Mash up with pestle and mortar to a coarse paste.  Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of white sugar.  Add just enough vinegar, ideally coconut but any white Asian vinegar will work, to cover and mash all together.  You've now got burnt chile vinegar that is infinitely nicer than sriracha and works with just about any noodle dish as a condiment.  Also works well with Thai braised meat dishes like Pa Lo.

 

On 11/30/2020 at 11:21 PM, kakapo said:

Prik nam pla is the quintessential thai seasoning/dip and at its simplest its just diced chile soaked in fish sauce.  Adds an umami hit to just about anything, but dishes with fried eggs like pad krapow work well.  But you can take it further.  Tomatoes don't feature much in thai food but they do crop up in some mainly northern regional dishes.  If you soak them in fish sauce you get a double umami hit.  Slow roast or gently char first and then soak and you've got a triple hit.  Rice, fried eggs and these tomatoes makes a pretty great breakfast.

 

On 11/30/2020 at 11:27 PM, kakapo said:

If you can get it i recommend the megachef brand of fish sauce.  Its worth paying a little bit extra.  If not the ubiquitous squid brand will do.  Vietnamese fish sauce, although often more artisanal, is a different flavour profile, being generally sweeter and milder.  Will work at a push but you will need to taste and reseason carefully. 

 

2 hours ago, dingformung said:

I usually get the Healthy Boy one, it seems to be the most widely available brand of Thai seasonings outside of Thailand that is actually produced in Thailand. I think that fermented shrimp paste is an easy and fun way to add umami, too. Khao Klook Kapi is easy, quick and satisfying. Spend extra $€£ for this brand as it doesn't contain any additives:

mae-pranom-shrimp-paste-kapi-350g.jpg

 

 

13 minutes ago, kakapo said:

Healthy Boy is ubiquitous in the UK for thai soy and seasoning sauces, but I've never seen their fish sauce here.  It's nearly all Squid brand.  Shrimp paste is impossible to get really good quality in the UK (and I imagine everywhere else outside of Thailand), and the ones readily available are pretty much salty crap, ok for a curry paste, not great for a nam prik or khao klook kapi.  I can see I can get this one on line, will put in an order and give it a try.  I'm going to start a new thai food thread.  

 

2 minutes ago, dingformung said:

It's definitely more salty than it is umami, even if you don't get a rancid 40 year old one.

I order a lot of Asian stuff online because Asian shops or Asian sections in supermarkets in Germany are probably even worse than in the UK. Asian restaurants here offer tasty but extremely inauthentic food, made to fit the taste of people who can't stand spices and like to occupy public swimming pool loungers with towels.

 

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Just now, dingformung said:

Why is it that Galangal isn't available in my supermarket? Outrageous

I'm sure you know this, frozen is ok but never dried.  General rule that applies to all thai food ingredients.  Fresh is best, frozen is least worst alternative, never dried.  You'd be better off adding grass cuttings into a curry than dried kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal.

This leads to my next topic, substitutions in curry pastes.  This is not a question of authenticity, but of what does and does not work.  If you are new to thai curries or cannot get the ingredients, using thai brand curry pastes is fine, but be aware they tend to be very salty and you will need to adjust seasoning.

Green chili.  In a proper green curry this will be bird's eye.  You can substitute in the ubiquitous green finger chilies that are everywhere, usually from Kenya and sometimes mislabeled as bird's eye.  Remove seeds first, they're acrid.  If you want a less hot green curry but want it to be more on the green than khaki side then feel free to add in any of the larger green chilies as well, i.e. dutch or anaheim.  If I was using the green finger chilies I would look to add in some fruitier larger green chilies as well.

Red chili.  If we're talking a standard 'Red Curry' then it will be made with larger dried red chilies.  These are difficult to get outside of thailand and the big dried red chilies you find in chinese supermarkets are a poor substitute (also more difficult to work with when pounding the paste).  You're better off substituting out with Mexican dried chilies.  For a standard Red Curry Guajillo is probably your best bet.  Puya and Arbol have their uses, but feel free to experiment.  I've used Ancho in a mussaman for example.  Note that there is a distinction to be made between 'Red Curry', the iconic central plains/Bangkok curry that is on every menu and 'red curries', which is pretty much any curry using red chiles.  Here you will find more variation, including the use of fresh red chile and dried bird's eye chile, particularly in the south of the country.

Garlic.  Thai garlic is smaller than standard garlic, which is a perfectly ok substitute, but check which your recipe is using.  Use same weight/volume.

Lemongrass.  There is no substitute.  Do not try and use lemon peel/lemon juice.  I think I did this once about 20 years ago.

Galangal.  If your only option is ginger, so be it.  You're probably better off making a Malaysian curry, which can share many of the characteristics of a Thai curry, but will usually use ginger or a combination of ginger/galangal instead.

Kaffir lime peel.  Difficult to source, though frozen ones can usually be found by digging in the freezers in London's Chinatown.  New Loon Moon is best bet.  If I don't have any I will add a finely chopped kaffir leaf to the paste.

Coriander root.  Stalks are ok, the less green the better.  Don't use coriander leaf.  Important historical note.  You will find various 'farang' green curry recipes that include adding in lots of coriander leaves, sometimes even in the paste, sometimes in supermarket readymade sauces (which are invariably shit anyway).  These are remnants from the 90s when you couldn't get many of the ingredients.  You will find lots of thai food experts then deriding and mocking this as inauthentic.  However, one of the very earliest written recipes for green curry includes a reference to using chlorophyll rich herbs such as coriander to make the curry vibrantly green.  I'm not suggesting you try and replicate this but it highlights why calls for authenticity in food are often an appeal to their own authority, rather than historical accuracy.  See also Italians.

Thai shallots.  Equal amount by volume of banana shallot.

Shrimp paste.  Omit, but adjust seasoning.  Salt if none is already in the paste.  Fish sauce at end of cooking. 

Palm sugar.  Thai brand.  The better ones are soft enough to scoop with a spoon.  The hard pucks that you find in chinese supermarkets are ok, but avoid the darker coloured ones as this will be indonesian palm sugar.

Thai (sweet) basil.  Italian basil at a push.  Holy basil is used in some regional curries, but if you can get holy basil you'll be able to get thai basil.

Coconut milk/cream.  It's possible to make your own at home, but this is a whole other topic.  If not, you've got two options.  Most thai curries that use coconut milk require you to split or 'crack' the coconut milk, so that the paste fries in the coconut oil that is released.  Most tinned coconut, including thai brands, include a homogenising agent that prevents this or makes it very difficult.  That's why some recipes call for vegetable oil, which should be totally unnecessary.  Aroy D brand in a carton cracks reliably.  Most organic tinned coconut milk will crack as long as it doesn't have guar gum in it.        

      

 

 

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11 minutes ago, kakapo said:

I'm sure you know this, frozen is ok but never dried.  General rule that applies to all thai food ingredients.  Fresh is best, frozen is least worst alternative, never dried.  You'd be better off adding grass cuttings into a curry than dried kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal.

Can't really buy fresh - or even frozen (rare) - Kaffir leaves here. The dried ones work pretty well but you need a lot more of them. I just throw them in the spice grinder and make a powder from them. Good fragrance but of course not as good as fresh ones. Kaffir limes - forget it. 

Ginger and lemongrass are widely available. Lemongrass has a deeper aroma than lemon, extremely delicious. If you use lemon peel, only add it at the end when the meal isn't that hot anymore so it doesn't lose the freshness, but can't replace lemongrass. For some reason galangal isn't really sold here, even though it's grown in the same place as ginger and lemongrass. It's one of the reasons I like pre-made curry pastes, they contain lots of galangal (just don't get one with colouring agents and other additives).

 

20 minutes ago, kakapo said:

Coriander root.  Stalks are ok, the less green the better.  Don't use coriander leaf.  Important historical note.  You will find various 'farang' green curry recipes that include adding in lots of coriander leaves, sometimes even in the paste, sometimes in supermarket readymade sauces (which are invariably shit anyway).  These are remnants from the 90s when you couldn't get many of the ingredients.  You will find lots of thai food experts then deriding and mocking this as inauthentic.  However, one of the very earliest written recipes for green curry includes a reference to using chlorophyll rich herbs such as coriander to make the curry vibrantly green.  I'm not suggesting you try and replicate this but it highlights why calls for authenticity in food are often an appeal to their own authority, rather than historical accuracy.  See also Italians.

Cilantro/coriander root is rare here. I think that the dried powder (I know, you hate it) does have some of the earthiness that the roots also have - maybe combine that with some of the stalks to achieve good results? I only add fresh herbs at the end so they don't lose their taste, same goes for lime juice.

Generally, green curry doesn't really get most of its colour through the green chilis - it's the Thai basil that does that (added at the end when it's no longer boiling). If I don't have it I don't replace it with the Euro one - they just tastes very differently from each other in my perception and can't replace each other.

Sounds like a waste of fresh coriander to add it to the paste before cooking - it would lose a lot of its taste.

 

29 minutes ago, kakapo said:

Palm sugar.  Thai brand.  The better ones are soft enough to scoop with a spoon.  The hard pucks that you find in chinese supermarkets are ok, but avoid the darker coloured ones as this will be indonesian palm sugar.

I think in a curry it doesn't matter what kind of sugar you use because all the strong flavours will overpower it anyway. But for more simple dishes palm sugar is really nice, has a pleasant caramel flavour to it. I do have a pack of really powdery dark Bali palm sugar - totally different from the Thai one in that it has a strong malty taste, similar to whole cane sugar.

 

36 minutes ago, kakapo said:

Coconut milk/cream.  It's possible to make your own at home, but this is a whole other topic.  If not, you've got two options.  Most thai curries that use coconut milk require you to split or 'crack' the coconut milk, so that the paste fries in the coconut oil that is released.  Most tinned coconut, including thai brands, include a homogenising agent that prevents this or makes it very difficult.  That's why some recipes call for vegetable oil, which should be totally unnecessary.  Aroy D brand in a carton cracks reliably.  Most organic tinned coconut milk will crack as long as it doesn't have guar gum in it.        

I think some people use the coconut water you can buy in these carton containers rather than canned coconut milk and boil the paste in a bit of it until the oil separates from the liquids. I just use the canned stuff and use either plant oil or coconut fat 🤷‍♂️

 

3 minutes ago, sweepstakes said:

Is Thai food supposed to be sweet? I've heard conflicting reports on this.

It contains all flavours. It's not very salty, though. Generally sugar is like a natural flavour enhancer, just don't overdo it.

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the type of food where it seems like you absolutely must have authentic ingredients to make it taste good

ive still never been able to recreate thai red curry myself in the kitchen. idk what i'm doing wrong. 

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58 minutes ago, sweepstakes said:

Is Thai food supposed to be sweet? I've heard conflicting reports on this.

Thailand is a big country.  It's a lot bigger than it looks due to it being close to the equator and the whole Mercator distortion thing.  From the hills and jungles of the north to the beaches of the southern peninsula is the same distance as from the far north of Scotland to the south coast of France.  It's also surrounded and influenced by other big hitter cuisines like India/Burma to the west, Malaysia to the south, China to the north, with large immigrant communities as well.  So obviously you can only speak about it in generalisations.  But...

What most people think of Thai food is the curries and noodle dishes of the central plains and Bangkok.  When Thai expats set up the first restaurants and takeaways in the states and the UK they adjusted recipes to take into account less sophisticated palates and invariably this meant sweetening things up, while toning down some of the hotter and fishier elements.  I don't think it was a case of westerners having a sweeter palate per se, just that the Thai combination of spice and real chili heat with sourness and sugar is a total revelation if the most sophisticated thing you've eaten is lemon chicken. 

There is a cliche that thai food is a balance between sweet, sour, salty and hot.  This doesn't means that every dish has to have the same balance, just that these elements often exist in varying degrees in the same dish, e.g. Som Tam.  Sweet = palm sugar, sour = tamarind/lime, salty = fish sauce, hot = chilies.  The som tam up near the Lao border is going to be hotter, less sweet and more pungent than the one you get in Bangkok.  There's also an appreciation that people will want to adjust this balance to their own personal preferences.  This is why for certain meals you'll see the little plastic trays of condiments like white sugar, dried ground chilies, fish sauce, chilies in vinegar etc.  For certain street foods it's fine to ask for more or less chilie, or less sweet or whatever.  Thai's also have an appreciation of bitterness.  However the means of imparting this bitterness, such as bile in a northern laap salad of minced meat and blood, or certain wild growing herbs, mean that you are unlikely to see this end of the spectrum outside of Thailand.

So Thai food can be anywhere from achingly sweet to puckeringly bitter and sour and everywhere in between.  Most Thai food outside of Thailand is probably to the sweet end of the spectrum though. 

   

 

 

 

        

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56 minutes ago, mister miller said:

the type of food where it seems like you absolutely must have authentic ingredients to make it taste good

ive still never been able to recreate thai red curry myself in the kitchen. idk what i'm doing wrong. 

The most common mistake I've seen friends do is not cracking the coconut cream so the paste ends up boiling rather than frying.  See note above about what coconut milk/cream will work. The following video might be helpful.  David Thompson is the godfather of thai cookery and a massive influence on the wave of trendy thai restaurants both here and the States over the last decade, and presumably his native Australia too.  His other videos are worth a watch too.

Look at about 1.33 for what paste cooked in cracked coconut cream looks like.  Note that this is definitely towards the oilier, thicker end of curry sauces.  Also most recipes will call for the coconut to be cracked prior to the paste being added.  He's using fresh coconut milk and knows that it will crack quickly and easily, so just adds it straight in.  He's also using very good quality palm sugar which won't have been adulterated with refined sugar and additives, so he can get away with using a bit more than the stuff we can get our hands on.  The paste is freshly made so he's also pretty free with the fish sauce.

If you can't get fresh ingredients get a thai brand paste, a coconut milk that will reliably crack, fish sauce and palm sugar and just practice the seasoning until you get it right.  One thing I often do is cook the other ingredients separately, so I might braise some beef in coconut milk first before adding it to the curry.  This gives you more control over both the meat and the curry sauce.  There's very few thai curries that benefit from prolonged cooking.  

As with just about every cuisine, mise en place gets you most of the way to good cooking.

   

  

 

 

 

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29 minutes ago, kakapo said:

Thailand is a big country.  It's a lot bigger than it looks due to it being close to the equator and the whole Mercator distortion thing. 

Very well visible on the Narukawa map (which shows distances and proportions most accurately):

Narukawa-Laboratory-Keio-University-Graduate-School-of-Media-and-jpg.thumb.jpg.5dd1b0c7a688bfbba54d3211beafd3df.jpg

 

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I had the realization a while back that thai and mexican cuisine share a lot of similarities (mostly just due to being in the tropics). Spicy chiles, fresh veg, lime. Obviously different in even more ways (thai chiles are generally even more spicy) but my point is you can get 90% of the tropical vegetable ingredients cheap from markets here and then the specific stuff like fish sauces are also easily found in asian markets.

I have yet to fully exploit this realization into making dank thai food all the time at home (if you can't already tell I love thai food as well as mexican food) but the couple of dishes I tried turned out fantastic (papaya salad, pad thai)

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Thai food is the fucking best. I improvised a Thai soup the other day and I can barely remember what I added to it, but it turned out really great if I just say so myself. 
 

Red curry is my go-to dish and I’ve been making it and refining it over the past 13 years by switching out certain ingredients. It’s late now so I’ll post my current recipe tomorrow. It’s super easy and only takes about 15 min to actually make. It gets better the longer it simmers, but still...

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I love Thai food but don't know anything about making it. It's one of the easiest foods to get vegan (just avoid the fish sauces), so it's always a good choice for me.

Not Thai, but a friend gave me a jar of ginisang alamang and goddamn does it smell awful. Had to look it up and apparently it's shrimp based, so I can't eat it. Looks nice and spicy though.

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I love Thai food and chicken laab or laab gai is probably my favorite dish. I sometimes make it at home also but I cheat a bit and get the spices and grounded rice mix bag from an Asian grocery store instead of doing that myself. That makes it pretty easy and fast to do.

Something like this:

lobo-laabnamtok_381b3265b3a9731565ed3d30

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6 hours ago, Braintree said:

It's one of the easiest foods to get vegan (just avoid the fish sauces)

Thai cuisine is the worst cuisine to get vegan, if you stick to it. Almost all meals contain meat. What they call salad is usually mostly meat. You can replace fish sauce with thin soy sauce and oyster sauce with mushroom sauce. A mild vegetarian mushroom coconut soup sounds tempting (no button mushrooms, tho, they make it look Unasian).

Anyone ever tried to cook any insect Thai dishes? 

 

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Thai food is so special to me. My friends and I would go to this dirt cheap family run thai restaurant weekly from 2016-19. After a while the owner knew us all by name and would give us the best seats in the place, the beer garden had an amazing view and was so chill to hang out in in the summer. Hopefully government subsidies will ensure it, and other small restaurants survive covid ;(

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19 hours ago, dingformung said:

Why is it that Galangal isn't available in my supermarket? Outrageous

Does your area have an Asian market ?  Those are where I would go.  In addition to being more specialized, they're often crazy cheap.

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5 hours ago, dingformung said:

Thai cuisine is the worst cuisine to get vegan, if you stick to it. Almost all meals contain meat. What they call salad is usually mostly meat. You can replace fish sauce with thin soy sauce and oyster sauce with mushroom sauce. A mild vegetarian mushroom coconut soup sounds tempting (no button mushrooms, tho, they make it look Unasian).

Anyone ever tried to cook any insect Thai dishes? 

 

Maybe because it's been Americanized here, but you can get any dish without meat. I've had it from coast to coast and you always have to pick between meat, fish, tofu, or veggies. It's insanely easy to get vegetarian or vegan.

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I cook vegan and vegetarian thai from time to time.  Usually its a root veg substituted in if its a thicker oilier curry like a massaman or panang, any other veg if its a soupier curry, but be careful of brassicas.  Broccoli and cauliflower is fine, but I once added sprouts to a green curry and it was the worst thing I've ever made.  You have to be careful when using root veg too as the starch will come out and change the consistency of the curry and sometimes act as a homogeniser for the split coconut milk as well and you just end up with gloopy wallpaper paste.  Sometimes it's best to roast separately.  Used celeriac for first time over christmas and worked surprisingly well.

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first time I went to Thailand, I fell in love with goong che nam pa. it's an appetizer dish of raw prawns, served with the standard thai accompaniments of fresh chilis, lime, fish sauce, etc. it's a great side dish to snack on while drinking beer by a large body of water in a warm, tropical setting. normally in the US, I would never think of eating raw shrimp, but I was having a "when in Rome" moment, and so threw caution to the wind. 

there is a reason why consuming raw shellfish is not recommended. I learned my lesson. thank god I was able to hold it together on the plane ride back, because a day or so after getting back home, it was no bueno. some parasite hidden in one of those raw prawns must of laid some eggs somewhere inside me, as it was a good 1-2 days of staying as close to the toilet as possible. this was many years ago and I still remember it well. needless to say, on return trips to the kingdom, I stuck to the cooked fare.

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