Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thai Street Food at home

Who said Asian food was easy?  In my view it is not.  It involves pastes, crushing, mashing, mincing,  cutting, chopping, measuring, layers, steps, braising, carefully testing,  going away for a while, coming back, testing again, making sure the separate flavours sing together, and then eating.

Nothing easy about that.  Maggi Noodles it ain't.

I wrote here about David Thompson, the technically perfect chef and protector of Thai food recipes and history in the English language.

I was given Thai Street Food for Christmas which is his second cookbook. My main complaint is that it is very large and thus falls perilously close to being a Coffee Table Cookbook, which I have A Thing about.    It barely fits in my recipe book holder which makes me wonder whether he really expected people to cook from it.  

Nevertheless, it has some wonderful images, which make me want, so desperately, to return to Thailand. 

This image, to me, is what Thailand is all about:  Saffron robed monks gathering at a laminex chair and table street cafe for the all important midday meal:

Anyway I had some time yesterday, so to save time I made dinner in the afternoon.   Yes, I am MADE of time.  And besides what is better than the smell of roasting spices like cloves and cardamom in the afternoon. 

I cooked this dish from the book:  Chicken with banana chillies and assam.  Assam is dried Asian woodruff.  You can substitute tamarind paste, which is just as well because my pantry was bereft of woodruff.

The reason I picked this dish is that I bought these wonderful lime green banana chillies yesterday morning.  They must be in season.

Firstly, assemble spices in little piles:

Then roast them (separately says David Thompson, all together says I)

Then chargrill the aromatics (chilli, garlic, turmeric, ginger):

Then bash and smash.
Then fry the paste in coconut milk and cream, add the chicken and some seasoning and roasted other bits like cassia bark.

Then eat, greedily.

There is something very therapeutic about the slow banging of a mortar and pestle, and the adding of a little bit of fish sauce here, and sprinkling of palm sugar there.   And that is why I love cooking so much. 

If you are feeling strong, and have the space, buy this book:


Jacqueline @ HOME said...

What a fabulous cookbook, Jane...and wonderful recipes and photographs. You are a very good cook and are willing to spend time on your recipes. It looks delicious. XXXX

Millie said...

DT is my hero. The most memorable meal of my life was at the old Darley Street Thai in Syd. with him in the kitchen. I love his Thai Food book with a passion, cook from it occasionally, but I think it's probably better reserved for my Retirement Village days when I have more time. I agree wholeheartedly with you about the size of this latest tome. I wish the Publishers had included a second smaller less salubrious book as a companion with just the recipes. Something that could sit on the kitchen bench easily & be used frequently & loved & enjoyed. Fabulous post Jane, & fabulous recipe.
Millie ^_^

Pinecone Camp said...

My husband really wants this cook book, and I would love for him to have it! Thai food really is the best, but can definitely be labour intensive. Well done Jane - looks delicious.

Jane said...

Millie - you are one lucky lady I have never eaten at any of his restaurants. Very good thought for the publishers - a small user friendly book and a big heavy one for the coffee table!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

WEll Jane
you are so clever.. doing all this from scratch... you know I usually find Thai food quite simple.. call the restaurant.. pay the delivery man!! but the other night my intercom broke so .. it did make it a little more difficult!!

Boy.. I'd love to go back to Thailand also... dreaming... xx Julie

Mise said...

I don't even own a mortar and pestle because there is never, ever any time. And I've never seen banana chillies in my life. Would you pop some in your son's suitcase when he sets off for here? I feel a bit like ringing a helpline now. That looks delicious, and the presentation is worthy of Donna Hay.

Laura said...

Oh I've never even heard of this book...I've always stuck with Hot Sour Salty Sweet, but clearly I ought to give this a try. I couldn't agree with you more about the time consuming nature of Thai cooking. I tend to make big batches of whatever curry pastes I use the most often and the store them in the freezer in ice cube trays. Somehow it all seems so much easier when you just have to throw a few frozen blocks into some coconut milk and simmer away. Those peppers are beautiful by the way, clearly at their peak!

Lorna said...

Wow, I am so impressed that people manage to take so many photos when cooking (speaks someone who struggles to follow a recipe!) - fab photos and the finished product looks great

Engracia said...

Yes, Darley Street Thai is the best, Thai food never tastes the same after you have eaten there, it all seems to disappoint. HAve wanted to get the book, but the size has really put me off, may reconsider again later in the year.

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