I made this wonderful lunch with my boyfriend yesterday. We picked out some of the freshest vegetables from a farmer market. Together we made barbecue chicken, pico de gallo, sautéed kale, and yellow rice. So much yumminess! And look at the colors!

I made this wonderful lunch with my boyfriend yesterday. We picked out some of the freshest vegetables from a farmer market. Together we made barbecue chicken, pico de gallo, sautéed kale, and yellow rice. So much yumminess! And look at the colors!

Steamed Eggplant Sauté in Black Bean Sauce with Spring Green Onions and Garlic

Steamed Eggplant Sauté in Black Bean Sauce with Spring Green Onions and Garlic
The eggplant in this dish cost me a dollar. I got a bag of out-products eggplant from Berkeley Bowl, a supermarket in Berkeley, CA.  You can get this similar deal by start visiting local farmer markets and farms near you! You will be surprised how much fresh produce you can get for a few bucks. This dish is light; best to serve with something more flavorful, like a Thai curry.

3 long purple eggplant, diagonally cut into 1 inch thick pieces
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 stalk spring green onion, cut diagonally into small pieces
4 tablespoon black bean sauce
½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of black peppers
a pinch of sugar (optional)

Bring a steamer to rolling boil, steam the eggplant for about 10-15 minutes. Use a heatproof plate if you don’t own a steamer. Once the eggplant is tender, it will not hold its form very well; remove gently and set aside. Check if the eggplant is cooked by poking it with a fork. Cooked eggplant will change their color to faded purple and has a slight brown tone.
Meanwhile, prepare the seasoning sauce by mixing the black bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and black peppers in a small bowl.
Once the eggplant is ready, heat olive oil in medium low heat then add garlic. Maintain this heat consistently so that the garlic won’t burn, but still get cooked.  
Add the eggplant. Gently “fold” the eggplant into the sauce until well combined. As you will notice, steamed eggplant does not hold its shape, it will turn into a puree if stirs too often and too hard!  Add the green onions and let it simmer for about 2 more minutes. 
Serve!

Content:
All literary works and photos are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or appropriately mention of the source

"Geng Hang Lea," a Baby Pork Ribs Curry with Homemade Curry Paste. A dish commonly serve in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Geng Hang Lea,  a Baby Pork Ribs Curry. A dish commonly serve in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

I’m a nomad. I don’t own a cookbook. A good friend gave me an “Asian” cookbook for my twentieth birthday, and I read through it in one night, sucked out as much knowledge as I could and then gave the book away (to a friend who would take good care of it).  For the past few years, I have relied on friends and libraries for cookbooks. It makes sense for my life right now, and keeps me on my toes - always learning new recipes and tweaking old ones.

That said, I found a(nother) great Thai cookbook by David Thompson called Thai Foodduring my last library visit. I skipped most of his introduction and turned right to the recipes I have been eager to learn. One of them is this Geng Hang Lea. I also want to try out his recipes for pickled dishes, Chinese chive cakes, and bitter melon soup. The recipe here is revised and adapted from Thompson’s. Geng Hang Lea is a very popular dish in the north of Thailand, especially Chaing Mai. I lived in Chiang Mai for about five years but never learned how to make this dish so I was very excited to finally try this recipe out!

Thompson calls for pork belly and pork ribs, but my local butcher shop only had pork ribs. I also reduced the portion of many ingredients he calls for, as I often only cook for a few of my friends. My recipe makes 6 servings.

This dish takes a lot of time because we’re making two curry pastes from scratch and there’s about two hours of cooking time on top of that. But don’t be discouraged! Its summer and if you love to cook, picking out a few new dishes to make when you have more time is rewarding! Everyone in my house love this dish and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to throw out the leftover sauce!

         PREPARATION: 30 MINUTES         COOKING TIME: 1/5-2 HOURS

Curry Ingredients:

~1 lb pork ribs ~2 tablespoon vegetable oil ~2 shallots, chopped ~1/2 cup ginger, shredded ~1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional) ~3 tablespoon palm sugar, dissolved in hot water ~4 tablespoon fish sauce ~4 tablespoon tamarind concentrate ~1 cup stock or water

Curry Paste:

~10 dried chile de arbol or Thai chili, soaked and seeded ~1 tablespoon galangai, chopped ~6 tablespoon red shallot, chopped ~6 tablespoon garlic, chopped ~6 tablespoon lemongrass, chopped ~2 tablespoon ginger, chopped ~2 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground ~1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground ~3 star anise, roasted and ground ~1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, roasted ~5 cloves, roasted and ground ~2 cardamom pods, roasted and seeds ground ~1 tablespoon red or yellow turmeric powder

Garlic and Ginger Paste:

~4 garlic cloves, peeled ~1/2 teaspoon salt ~4 tablespoon ginger, peeled

Make the curry paste first, and then make the garlic and ginger paste. Preferably using a pestle and mortar, grind all the ingredients together until they produce a nice aroma and pasty texture (as in the picture). To reduce labor and time, a food processor would give you a good paste but it does not bring out the same fragrance because the blades basically only “cut” the herbs. Sometimes, I like to do the “initial” grinding with a food processor and then use my mortar and pestle to “mush” out the flavor.

Cut the pork into smaller pieces between each bone. I had the butcher cut the ribs into three vertical pieces (see the picture below) and then I cut them into small bite size pieces at home. Cold-blanch the pork ribs twice. According to Thompson, the longer the pork takes to reach boiling temperature, the more oiliness and pungency will be cleaned off (and I found this really worked!)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger paste until golden. Add the curry paste and pork and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, ginger, shallots, peanuts, palm sugar, and a cup of water or stock. Do not add a lot of water! This curry is saucy but not soupy like green or red curry. Stir until all ingredients are mixed well. Let it simmer for about one to two hours and stir occasionally.


Serve with white rice, brown rice, sticky rice, or basmali rice. Have some fresh or steamed vegetables as a side dish. I suggest fresh slices of cucumber, lettuces, snap peas, bell peppers,cabbages, steamed string beans, and steamed eggplant. The paste is strong and flavorful, you can use the vegetables to balance the flavor. The flavor of this dish improve overnight! 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Stir-Fry Asparagus and Ground Beef in Spicy Basil Sauce

Ingredients:

-1/2 lb ground beef

-1 bunch asparagus or about 3 cups, chopped into 1” pieces or julienned

-1 cup basil leaves 

-2 tablespoon bird eyes chili, jalapeños, or serraño, chopped finely

-2 tablespoon or about 5 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

-1/2 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

-2 tablespoon mushroom sauce or oyster sauce

-1 tablespoon light or dark soy sauce

-1 tablespoon fish sauce

-1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (optional) 

Instruction:

1) In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar together to be ready for the stir-fry. 

2) Heat the oil in medium heat in a wok or a skillet. Test the temperature of the oil by adding a tiny bit of garlic; the oil is ready when the garlic sizzles. Add the rest of the garlic and hot peppers and stir until fragrant.

3) Immediately add the beef before the garlic and the chili burn. Turn the heat to high. Add the sauces you previously mixed into the beef, it should take about 3 minutes until the beef is cooked.

4) Add the asparagus, stir-fry until it cooks, but keep it crispy.  Add the basil at the end and cook it lightly until wilted. Serve it on top of some warm jasmine rice or brown rice. 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Salmon Bath in Peanut-y Red Curry Sauce and Bell Peppers

Hello! As promised, I’m back with a recipe for the salmon dish that I made about three weeks ago. Because salmon tastes good by itself, I was worried that adding too much flavor to it would ruin the experience of eating it. It turned out that the flavor of the red curry paste and the peanut butter did not overwhelmed the flavor of the salmon. In fact, you will taste all of the three flavors as they melted away in your mount. 

Ingredients:

-1 piece salmon fillet

-1/2 tablespoon canola, vegetable, olive oil

-1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, shake the can before use

-1/2 cup bell peppers, thinly sliced

-1 tablespoon red curry paste

-1 tablespoon peanut butter

-1/3 tablespoon fish sauce

-1 tablespoon minced cilantro

- a wedge of lime

Cooking Instruction:

1) In a pan, warm canola or vegetable oil over medium heat, then add the curry paste. Stir until it fragrants. 

2) Once they are fragrant, add the coconut milk and peanut butter. Stir until they mix well and wait until the fat (which looks like oil from peanut butter, coconut milk, and canola oil) to settles on the surface. The fat should look like orange oily dots on the surface.

3) Add all the flavors and the salmon! Simmer the salmon in the sauce until cooked. 

Salmon with Penut-ty Curry Sauce

Its late (4:45am). I just spent an hour writing the recipe to a salmon curry dish that I made for lunch today and I forgot to save it! So I will leave you guys with two mouthwatering pictures for now, and I will come back with the recipe soon! 

Fried Rice with Shrimp, Zucchini, and Basil Leaves

Any household in Thailand would make fried rice when they found themselves having leftover rice in the fridge. At my house in Thailand, we never cook rice just to make fried rice, and we don’t reheat the rice that was left in the fridge for our meal. I follow the same practice under the mango tree.

Old rice is preferred when cooking Thai-style fried rice. This is because the rice loses some of its moisture (it gets dry!) when left in the fridge, so it absorbs the flavors fully when cooked in a new sauce without turning into “wet” fried rice! Dryer rice also helps to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The rice grains are looser so they won’t make sticky clumps like fresh cooked rice does. 

TIme: 25 minutes

Serving:  2

Ingredients:

-8 large frozen shrimp, defrost, washed, and deveined

-2 cups cooked rice

-1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

- about 15 basil leaves, roughly chopped

-4 garlic cloves, minced

-1 tablespoon finely chopped bird’s eye chili, jalapeno, basque fryer, or any suitable chili for stir fry, adjust accordingly

-1 small zucchini, diced

-1 tablespoon fish sauce, or adjust according to your liking

-1 tablespoon light or dark soy sauce or more, or adjust according to your liking

-2 tablespoon oyster sauce or mushroom sauce

-1 teaspoon paprika

-wedges of lime (optional)

Cooking Instruction:

1) Combine the fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and paprika into a small cup.

2) Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, then lightly cook the garlic and the chili for about 5 seconds until they are fragrant. Do not brown them because it will bring out more of the garlic flavor and that would reduce the basil fragrance. 

3) Add shrimp, zucchini, and the sauce that combined in #1. Slightly cook them together then add the cooked rice. Timing is really important in stir-fry dishes, do not try to cook the shrimp and the zucchini all the way now because they will be cooked more when the rice is added. 

4) Add the rice and stir continuously. Make sure there are no clumps. Add the basil leaves and stir until everything is cooked and the rice is heated thoroughly. Serve with fresh cut wedges of lime. 

Make You Go Crazy: Soba Salad

This effortless dish hides complex flavors of fresh ginger and toasty sesame oil.  Me and my boyfriend made this together during our midterm, it took us less than 20 minutes. 

Serving: 2-4 ( We eat a lot so it makes only two servings for us)

Ingredients:

1 pack soba buckwheat noodle ( about 8-9 oz)

2 bok choy, cut horizontally as in the picture (also see below for other varieties)

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 tablespoon scallion, minced (use cilantro if you don’t have scallion, or use both)

2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (optional)

2 tablespoon kikkoman soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon chili flake, jalapeno, or serrano, chopped finely  (optional)

How to:

1) To cook buckwheat noodles, it is best to follow the instructions from the back of the package. Bring water to a boil, then add the noodles. Uncover the pot. Allow the noodles to simmer in a low heat, for about 6 to 10 minutes.* Stir occasionally. Drain and rinse with cold water. 

2) *In this recipe, right before the soba is completely cooked, immerse bok choy in the same pot. Then drain and rinse them together. 

3) Chop your vegetables while you wait for the noodle. In a large salad bowl or a tableware, whisk together ginger, scallions, cilantro, rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili flakes, and sesame oil. 

3) Throughly combine the noodle and bok choy into the sauce.

Tips: Always simmer soba noodles over low heat after you bring the water to  a boil. Soba likes to be slow cooked for a tenderly firm texture. If you cook the soba noodle in boiling water throughout in the same way you prepare pasta your soba will be overcooked, sticky, and starchy. ( I made this mistakes twice because I didn’t read the instruction)

For Variety: Feel free to replace bok choy with your choice of vegetables such as asparagus, string beans, bell peppers, snow peas, bean sprouts, or eggplant. You can also grill the vegetables like eggplant, asparagus, bell peppers, and perhaps some portobello mushrooms. 

Nam Jim Thale ( seafood dipping sauce) on top of Duck from an Asian grocery store, Rum and Coke, and Family Guy

It was a boring Saturday afternoon. I was missing Thailand and I didn’t want to do any work. I started to watch Family Guy with my boyfriend and drank rum and coke (in a wine glass). I got hungry. It happened to be one of those days that there was not much in the fridge but some leftover duck. Happiness then came over me as I remembered street vendors in Thailand selling roasted duck along the road in a community where I used to live. They would come with watered down nam jim thale, so we have to make some of our own we got home. Nam Jim Thale means seafood dipping sauce; as the name has hinted, the sauce is often serve with seafood dishes such as steamed mussels and barbeque squids…the sauce is also excellent with roast duck!

Thai Nam Jim Thale

Servings: 5-10

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup bird’s eye chili, aka Thai prik kee nuu, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup garlic, roughly chopped 

1/4 cup lime juice (use fresh limes if you have them!) 

1/4 cup fish sauce 

1/4 teaspoon sugar

How to:

In a food processor, using chopping/mixing mode, chop the garlic and chili until very fine. Scoop them into a small bowl then add the reminding ingredient and mix well. Wow, ready to serve!

Tips: I grew up using a stone mortar and pestle instead of a food processor. I would highly recommend using that instead of a food processor if you have it. A mortar and pestle can break in-between skins and layers of garlic and chili, so that they give out different fragrances and more flavorful than when using a food processor. Food processors can only chop into smaller pieces, and do not penetrate the skins.  



Summer Send Off

     Dianne, who is like my best friend,and my mother, had offered me her home and all forms of support for the past five years of my stay in the United States. I admire Dianne’s skill in the kitchen because she can make big portions that are still healthy, tasty, simple, and they satisfy everyone’s needs. She is a mother of two, a wife, and has three jobs. The night before I left for my senior year at Wesleyan the weather was warm in Berkeley. We decided to do a barbecue night. Dianne grilled skirt steak, corn, vegetables, stuffed Portobello mushroom. And I offered my Thai barbeque chicken. Oh oh, she also made me some Tequila from scratch! 

     That day was like a fridge cleaning day. We grilled everything we found in the fridge; both fresh and wilted zucchini, onions, all kinds of chili peppers, and oyster mushrooms. We sprinkled some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper on them before grilling. The grilled oyster mushroom was the most interesting to me. I was paying little attention to the time (due to the beautiful California weather!) so the mushroom became very dry, and burnt on its edges. However, the oyster mushrooms turned out to be as thin as chips and they tasted like cheese (some sort of cheese I have had, I don’t know many cheeses by name)!

     Dianne made a vegan dish, stuffed Portobello mushrooms. On a pan with a little bit of olive oil, she cut the stems that had just pulled out from the mushrooms into small pieces, mixed them with cous cous, olive oil, salt, and pepper. After the mushroom was cleaned out, she fill them with the mix, topped with a slice of vegan cheese then it was ready for grilling!

     To make Thai barbecue chicken wings, I usually use fresh ginner, cilantro, garlic, and lemongrass for marinating. However, I had to modify the recipe on that day because I was still doing my last minute packing. Instead of fresh herbs, I used dry ginger powder, coriander seed, black pepper, and paprika. I didn’t have garlic powder at hand, but add some if you find some. Then I added fish sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. I marinated the wings for only 20 minutes this time, but they taste best when you marinate it overnight. The chicken wings cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes on medium heat with top on.

     The dinner turned out great! My favorite dish of the evening was grilled oyster mushroom and Dianne’s delicious stuffed Portobello mushroom!

Mango Tree in the Process...

I have never blogged before.  Before this blog got started, my friend from Berkeley, Veronica helped me plan out the blog and taught me different blogging tools. That night I also cooked a wonderful dinner for us, my sister, and her buddy. I made broiled stuffed green Anaheim peppers with marinated ground chicken, Haw Mok shrimps, fried quail eggs, and (heavenly) sweet beef jerky (pictures go from left to right).

The stuffed chili dish took me a long time to make (about 30 minutes). I should have kept the Anaheim chili whole and then stuffed the chicken instead of cutting it in small chucks. I used ground chicken thigh because it gives stronger flavor and it has more moisture so that the chicken doesn’t dry out after grilling. I marinated the chicken with minced fresh cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper.

For fried quail egg, much like most stir fry dishes in Thailand and China, I prefer to use high heat to get the bottom of the eggs golden and crispy quickly while the yoke uncooked. Before dinning, I lightly tossed some salt and pepper on top for flavor. Soy sauce would also give a nice taste.

The sweet beef jerky is best to prepare over night. I got the recipe from my favorite online Thai cooking website at thaitable.com, and I also found a another similar recipe at Chow!

In Thailand, you steam Haw Mok in banana leaf by making a little basket container for the dish. I find aluminum foil or metal baking pans to be a perfect substitute although it won’t give the same fragrance to the food. This time I used the recipe from The Original Thai Cookbook by Jennifer Brennan. I highly recommend this cookbook to anyone out there who is hungry for a real home cooked Thai meal. In this book, the author includes dishes that most Thai families would make at home and most of the time you cannot find them in the Thai restaurants here.

 After all the dishes were prepared, the kitchen was a mess. Veronica made an artistic move to capture some of the wonderful chaos.

");pageTracker._trackPageview()}catch(err){}