The Dazzling and Dramatic Food of Thailand

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Music – Long Mae Ping (Big Sound)
Pin Piah – Lanna Thai Instrumental

Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Ancient City of Ayutthaya, Thailand.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Ancient City of Ayutthaya, Thailand. Photo by Sue Jimenez

In 1986, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Thailand, on a trip, which also included visits to Singapore and Hong Kong. The hospitality in Thailand was outstanding, the scenery and history compelling, and the food, well, dazzling.

From my first meal at a five-pavilion floating restaurant in the heart of Bangkok, to food from street vendors in some of the villages along the route of a river-boat tour, I was enchanted by the lemongrass, Thai basil and the outrageously hot Thai chiles, which were ever present.

Street Vendor in Bangkok, Thailand, selling Rambutan.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Street Vendor in Bangkok, Thailand, selling Rambutan. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Street Vendor in Bangkok, Thailand.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Street Vendor in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.  For about 4 Baht (16 cents US), the lady would place the snake around your neck and take your picture.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. For about 4 Baht (16 cents US), the lady would place the snake around your neck and take your picture. I declined. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Many of the dishes we commonly find in Thai Restaurants in the US seem to concentrate on Pad Thai, which features rice stick noodles in a sweet, sour and salty sauce, and is often combined with other ingredients, including eggs, chiles, bean sprouts, and the like. From Isan, the Northeast part of Thailand, the dishes tend to use more of the chiles, lime, cilantro and lemon basil. Below is a wonderful recipe for “Crying Tiger” (Suer Roong Hai), which I found in Khamtane Signavong’s cookbook, “Lemongrass and Sweet Basil – Traditional Thai Cuisine”.

“Crying Tiger”, according to Signavong, originated from a legend and harkens to a time when the numerous tigers, which roamed the forests, would come into the villages in search of food, especially cattle. The first tiger took the best part of the meat. The second tiger would then discover this and cry loudly because it had missed out on the best part. Part of the legend says that the grilling of the meat makes noises like a crying tiger.

Crying Tiger

Marinade

2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Marinate the meat for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator

10 ounces of beef, such as sirloin
Lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, slices of chile, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and mint leaves, to serve
½ cup of Isan Chili Sauce (see recipe below)

Broil or grill the beef until medium rate, or to your taste, then slice into strips and serve with lettuce, cucumber, slices of chile, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, mint leaves, and the chile sauce on the side. Serves 4 as part of a Thai meal.

Isan Chili Sauce

2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground roasted rice
½ teaspoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro.

Mix all but the cilantro and shallots together until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle on the shallots and cilantro and serve

Note: ground roasted rice is rice that has been dry-fried in a wok with galangal until golden brown, and then ground to a fine powder. You might be able to find it in your local Asian themed market. (or if ambitious, you could make your own) Enjoy!

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 5,851. What next? More cookbooks, naturally (small ones !)
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