My husband and I just attended a vegetarian Thai cooking class at our local food co-op, PCC Natural Markets. (PCC stands for Puget Consumers Co-op. Started in 1953 as a food-buying club of 15 families, today it is the largest consumer-owned natural food cooperative in the US, with about 40,000 members.) The class started at 11 a.m., and I didn't eat anything before I went, which turned out to be a good thing, as there was much fabulous food to consume.
The class was taught by Pranee Halvorsen, who first learned to cook in her mother's kitchen in Phuket, Thailand. She started with Tom Kha Ja, or Coconut-Ginger Vegetable Soup, and she gave me permission to print her recipe. The soup, according to Pranee, was about two stars in the heat category — it was a little spicy, but perfect for me.
The next dish was Gaeng Pa, or Jungle Curry with Mixed Vegetables. This dish was rated about four or five stars on the heat scale because Pranee was trying to give us an example of what traditional Thai food would taste like, and also demonstrating the cleansing properties of red chili flakes and black pepper. After one bite, I started to sweat (I mean cleanse) and by the time I was finished, it seemed like my inner ears were burning a little. There were some members of the class who needed a shot of coconut milk added to their food so they could finish it, but not me. I admit it may have been a tad too spicy, but not so hot that I didn't enjoy it. Looking around the room, though, my classmates looked like they had just gone for a run, or eaten a small plate of fire — flushed faces, damp hairlines, steam rising from collars.
While I can't pass along the recipe for the curry, I did find a recipe for Gaeng Pa Curry Paste on Pranee's blog, if you want to try your hand at creating a curry dish. The blog isn't vegetarian, but the recipes can be adapted. For example, the curry paste on the blog uses shrimp paste, but in class she used white miso. She also added oil to create the paste rather than water, and said the oil preserves the paste and makes it easily freezable, if you want to make a large quantity. She used a spice mill to grind the peppercorns before adding to the curry paste.
The last dish from our class was Phad Thai. We learned the correct way to prepare rice noodles so they would be al dente in the final dish, and we learned how to make a phad Thai sauce with western ingredients that closely approximates the flavor of a traditional Thai sauce.
Pranee has quite a few Youtube cooking-related videos and I've chosen two to present here. The first is a tutorial on how to prepare lemongrass for use in recipes. First she shows how to prepare it for recipes where it will be ground into a paste, then how to cut it for use in stir-fries, and finally how to prepare it to use in making soup, where it will be removed when the soup is finished. She used the last method when she made Tom Ka Ja in class.
The second video shows how coconut palm sugar is made. In my last two posts I highlighted jaggery, which can be made from various sources of raw sweet nectar. Here you can see where coconut palm sugar comes from and exactly how it's made in Thailand. This is the sugar that would be used in traditional Thai cooking, though you can substitute evaporated cane juice or another type of palm sugar.
Tom Kha Ja, (Coconut-Ginger Vegetable Soup) reprinted with permission from Pranee Halvorsen
Servings: 6 dinner-size portions, 12 sides
- 5 tablespoons canola oil (or other high-heat oil)
- 8 ounces tofu, 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 carrot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 8 button mushrooms, diced
- 3 cups water
- 3 Thai or serrano chile peppers, smashed*
- 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and smashed* (see video)
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into 8 pieces and smashed*
- 8 kaffir lime leaves, or peel of 1 lime (in class she used both as part of the demo)
- 4 shallots, trimmed, peeled and smashed*
- 1 small zucchini, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 jalapeño pepper, peeled and diced
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)*
- 1/4 cup coconut milk (or as much as you like)
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves*
- 2 tablespoons coconut cream for garnish
- Heat a wok and add 3 tablespoons of oil. Fry tofu until all sides have a golden crust. Remove tofu and set aside.
- In the same wok with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, sauté carrot, onion and mushrooms for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add all the vegetables and tofu to a large pot with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- When boiling, stir in chile peppers, lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves or peel, and shallots. Let boil for 5 minutes, then add zucchini, corn and jalapeño, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in salt (to taste), coconut milk and lime juice. Remove the lemongrass with tongs.
- To serve the soup, place tofu equally into 6 soup bowls, then garnish with cilantro and coconut cream.
A few weeks ago I was kindly awarded a blog honor by Raw Girl, writer of the beautiful blog Rawk Me! Raw Girl is a writer and food blogger living in Mumbai, India, and if you're not already familiar with her tempting food and great photos, pay her a visit. I'm supposed to link back to the award-giver, share seven things about myself, and pass the award on to 15 newly discovered bloggers.
I've had a lot on my mind lately, and have been kind of slacking in the blog-writing, blog-reading area of my life, and I think I'm going to take a pass on writing more about me at the moment. I've got responses to other awards posted on the about me page of this blog, and I'm not feeling quite up to adding anything new right now. Please forgive me if I sound cranky. As for passing the award on, I'm selecting eight blogs I've relatively recently discovered. Check them out, and I think you'll agree they deserve to be awarded!
In no particular order:
1. It's a Great Vegan Life
2. Cadry's Kitchen
4. The Vegan Manifesto
5. Mehitable Days
6. Welcome to Flavoropolis
7. Lima's vegan Kitchen