Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recipes from Central Thailand

I already cook a lot of Thai food. My husband loves pad Thai with chicken satay, and it's a regular meal in our house. I also have a super spicy Thai green curry recipe that I don't make often enough any more, because it would be borderline child abuse to try to make my kids eat it. So it was fun to do this meal from Central Thailand, since I'm already pretty familiar with the food. Also, it was easy. And that's always a plus on a weeknight.

Thailand is a nation in Southeast Asia, which is bordered by Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Now since two of my very favorite TbS meals were from Cambodia and Burma, it makes perfect sense that they are geographically close to Thailand, which has always been a favorite cuisine of mine.

Like the UK, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, which means that it has a electoral democracy but also maintains a hereditary monarch as its official head of state. In terms of land mass, Thailand is the 51st largest country in the world; in terms of population it's the 20th largest. Bangkok, Thailand's capital and hub city, is located in Central Thailand, where this week's recipes are from. So it's not really surprising that most of what we in Americans think of as Thai food actually comes from the central region.

For this meal I chose two pretty simple recipes. Actually I chose three, but school is back in session now so to be perfectly honest by the time I was done cooking the main meal I couldn't really be bothered to do the dessert. Here's a link to the recipe, though, in case you want to give it a try (just make sure you let me know how it turned out).

The two recipes I did do came from Here they are:

Kai Phat Khing (Ginger and Chicken Stir Fry)

(Fair warning: you really have to like ginger to enjoy this recipe. You really, really, really have to like ginger.)

  • 1 cup chicken breast meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup fresh ginger, julienned
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup dried, soaked wood ear mushrooms
Simple, right? Except for the part where you have to figure out where to find wood ear mushrooms.

Recipe the next:

Thai Fried Rice

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 thinly sliced tomato
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup diced, cooked pork (optional)
  • 3 Thai chili peppers (optional)
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 sprigs chopped cilantro
  • pinch ground white pepper
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
A few notes about this recipe: first, the original version also lists the garlic, onion, eggs, cilantro,  green onion and lime as "optional." I didn't include the "optional" disclaimer with any ingredient except the pork and chili peppers, because I wanted it to be clear how I personally chose to make this recipe. I left the pork and chili peppers as optional because those were the only two I didn't actually use myself, though it didn't seem fair to the recipe's author to leave them out entirely.

Both recipes cook up pretty quickly, but I started with the stir fry. Here's how to do it:

Soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in hot water for five minutes. When they are soft, tear them up into bite sized pieces. You should have about a cup (I had more, because I figured it would be a while before I found another recipe calling for wood ear mushrooms, and I thought I might as well use up the whole package).

Now cut the ginger up into matchstick sized pieces (aka julienne). Halve the onion and then slice so you get wedge shaped pieces of roughly uniform size.

Add the oil to a wok (a pan works fine, too) and heat over a medium to hot flame. Add the garlic and about 1/3 of the ginger and fry for one minute, stirring continuously. The garlic should start to turn golden, but take care that it doesn't burn.

Add the chicken to the pot and stir well so that the oil coats it thoroughly. Then add the onion, the rest of the ginger and the mushrooms.

Stir to incorporate everything and then mix in the sugar and fish sauce. Keep cooking until the onion becomes soft and the chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve hot.

Now for the fried rice:

Heat your wok (or pan) until it is really hot. Add the oil and garlic, stirring continually for a minute or so. Then add the rice and keep stirring until the oil coats each grain of rice.

Stir in the fish sauce and soy sauce, then add the onion and tomato.

Push everything to one side and add a little extra oil to the empty space. Pour in the egg and scramble it.

When the egg is cooked, mix it in with the rice and add the pork and the chili peppers (if using). Then add the green onions and white pepper.

Top the rice with cilantro and garnish with lime wedges and sliced cucumber.

The recipe also says to serve with a chili fish sauce, which you can either buy prepared or make from scratch. I didn't actually include this with my meal because as usual I didn't read the recipe all the way through before serving day, so I didn't know it was supposed to be included. Dang. One of these days, I'll learn. Though probably not by next week.

I love ginger so I thought the kai phat khing was delicious. So did Martin. My kids, of course, picked out all the ginger and mushrooms and just ate the chicken. They are so predictable.

The fried rice was very similar to the Chinese fried rice I usually make, with the exception of the fish sauce and the tomatoes. I'm sure it would have been livelier (and probably more authentic) if I'd actually known in advance that I was supposed to serve it with chili fish sauce. I made mine a bit more robust by adding soy sauce after it was on my plate.

I did find the dry stir fry to be unusual compared to the saucy Thai food I usually get in Thai restaurants, though I can't say for sure if the difference has to do with the Americanization of Thai food here in the states, or if I just happened to choose a drier dish. The recipe was definitely a lot lighter than Thai food usually is, and I can't say that was a bad thing.

Next week: Chad. Africa. Again.

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


  1. Yay! It's lovely to see some Thai dishes on your menu :)

    I am half Thai and this food makes me want to ring my mum and demand a banquet!

  2. Ah thank you! And feel free to send recipes if you have favorites. I've only scraped the surface of Thailand so far!


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