Practical and kitchen-tested recipes with a mix of theory, history, psychology, and Siamese culture tidbits.

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The Art of Siamese Duck Curries – Theory and Practice (แกงเป็ด – ศิลปะ ทฤษฎี และ การปฏิบัติ)

Duck meat is flavorful, hearty and full-bodied but, to create sumptuous curries, Siamese cooks first had to master the art of deodorizing the meat’s fatty, gamey aroma. In traditional Siamese cuisine, gaaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด) and gaaeng khuaa sohm (แกงคั่วส้ม) are two coconut-based curry styles that frequently include duck as the main protein. Each cooking style complements the duck meat differently: gaaeng khuaa sohm pairs the duck with sweet and sour fruits, while gaaeng phet uses a blend of carefully chosen dry spices.

This masterclass presents a unique opportunity to delve into the taste awareness and culinary trends of a bygone era, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of traditional Siamese duck curries. By studying recipes found in some of the most reputable and trustworthy Siamese cookbooks from the early 1900s and by drawing on the teachings and personal cooking style of the authors – some of the greatest culinary masters of their time – participants will gain insight into the history and flavors of these dishes. As the culinary world continues to evolve, it is important for anyone who cooks Thai food to be attentive to the broader, more nuanced aromatic patterns conveyed by these recipes, so they may cook and imbue these dishes with a sense of longing for what their creators had envisioned.

The Golden Trails of Curry Powder – เรื่องราวของผงกะหรี่

The Golden Trails of Curry Powder – เรื่องราวของผงกะหรี่

Over the centuries, the Siamese culinary identity was shaped by foreign influences, absorbing and reflecting the culinary codes and gastronomy cultures of neighboring countries with more sophisticated gastronomic traditions such as Jambudvipa (India) and China. Then, on April 18, 1855, the Bowring Treaty was signed. This agreement between the British Empire and the Kingdom of Siam liberalized foreign trade in the Kingdom, opening Siam to the western world, Indian labor, opium – and curry powder.

Siamese cuisine is precise in terms of the aromatic profile of its curries, relying on complex pastes that contain a large number of aromatics, both fresh and dried. The culinary literature is rife with efforts to understand how to gauge the magical ratios for Siamese curry pastes, which are the secret behind the complexity of the curries.

Conversely, the Anglo-Indian cuisine favored dishes with a low body of heat, diluted broths, and a washed, singular aromatic profile. The curry powder condensed the entire diversity of the Indian subcontinent's cuisine into a single blend of spices that could be stored in a bottle – a one-stop solution for the curry needs of the English. Their growing infatuation with curry powder-based curries, along with the flourishing foreign trade and the importance of Indian labor in the empire economy, resulted in the introduction of curry powder worldwide. Curry powder eventually became a timeless symbol of Anglo-Indian cuisine, much like the Taj Mahal was the symbol of undying love.

The Siamese aristocracy also hurried to embrace the curry powder; after all, it was a spice mix said to be imbued with the most authentic fragrances of Indian curries, transported directly from the civilized world. This chapter examines the dishes created along this culinary suture line, where the two different cooking styles interact.

into the woods

Into The Woods – The Story of Jungle Curry (แกงป่า; gaaeng bpaa)

Printable recipes

For the Siamese aristocracy of the 19th century, leaving behind the safety of the city's picturesque gardens, lively canals, and bustling streets to venture into the vast plains – beyond the mountains and into uncleared forests and dense jungles – was a risky affair that few were willing to undertake. They did not enjoy the untamed wilderness nor did they wish to cook outdoors, like hunters, near a stream or a river, and these nobles preferred to use gold-patterned porcelain rather than bamboo or banana leaf utensils.

This Masterclass explores the path of Jungle dishes from their first appearance in Siamese culinary literature and investigates the emergence and culture of jungle restaurants.


Old-Fashioned Phat Phrik Khing, Yesteryear’s Travel Food (ผัดพริกขิง อาหารคนเดินทาง)

Phat phrik khing (ผัดพริกขิง) is a dried, fried dish made by frying curry paste in pork lard. It is seasoned with fish sauce and sugar and contains no additional ingredients. As the dish evolved, however, other ingredients such as pork fat cracklings, dried shrimp, smoke-dried fish or fried, fluffy, crispy fish were added. Other examples include the addition of crunchy elements such as fried lotus seeds and fried golden beans; crispy vegetables like morning glory and yardlong beans are also common.

Made to last, an old-fashioned phat phrik khing uses only common pantry ingredients and is relatively simple to prepare. Furthermore, similar to relishes and condiments, it is an adequate accompaniment for rice since it is flavorful and satisfying even in small quantities.

These characteristics – and the fact that it can be stored for many days – make phat phrik khing the perfect food for a long journey. In fact, we learn from the writings of ML Neuuang Ninrat (หม่อมหลวงเนื่อง นิลรัตน์), that the dish was an essential component in the royal travel gear, ensuring that the King and his entourage would not sacrifice a great dining experience, even while traveling.

Phat phrik khing no longer serves as a travel companion nor is it associated with royal cuisine. Instead, the dish has settled into the national food consciousness as a wet, stir-fried dish, similar to phat phrik gaaeng (ผัดพริกแกง), with slices of meat cooked in a curry sauce and yardlong beans, served in curry shops and fast-fry-to-order restaurants across the Kingdom.

This Masterclass follows the path of phat phrik khing from the era of its royal glory and explores its contemporary assimilation into stir-fries and street food.

the story of chuu chee

The Narratives of Aesthetics and Patterns in Chuu Chee Dishes (เรื่องฉู่ฉี่)

An ancient Siamese dish, the chuu chee (ฉู่ฉี่) on today’s menus is typically represented as a crisp, fried fish covered in a delightfully thick, warming and flavorful coconut-based curry. While this portrayal is certainly alluring to diners, it may surprise you to learn that chuu chee is not always prepared as a coconut-based dish and is not even considered a proper curry.

Rather, chuu chee is served in consistencies ranging from a thick, wet broth made with coconut cream to a dryer, stir-fry-like dish, in which the paste is fried in pork lard. Moreover, although fish is often the meat of choice, shrimp, chicken and pork were also popular in the past.

This Masterclass explores the path of chuu chee dishes from their first appearance in Siamese culinary literature, and investigates the dish’s narratives of aesthetics and patterns, as described by the cooks of the past.

Turtle Curry

The complete story of turtle curries in Siamese cuisine (เจาะลึกประวัติศาสตร์เรื่องแกงตะพาบน้ำ)

Printable recipe

This masterclass examines the exalted position once held by turtle curry, and follows through – using turtle meat substitutes – to recreate the venerable charm of a dish that slowly aged into obscurity.

Faux turtle curry recipes are common in old Siamese food textbooks; similarly, the objective of this masterclass is not to advocate for the consumption of turtle meat but rather to resurrect this dish using substitutes, as generations of Siamese cooking masters have done in the past.

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Have a look at some of our favorite articles and recipes.

Southern Thai Ancient Fermented Fish Innards Curry with Grilled Catfish ; แกงไตปลาปลาดุกย่างโบราณ
ม้งกรคาบแก้ว กับ ม้าฮ่อ ; mohng gaawn khaap gaaeo + maa haaw
gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน)
Fat Horse - A Thai appetizer with an amusing name: (ม้าอ้วน ; maa uaan)
ไตปลาทรงเครื่อง ; Spicy Salad of Grilled Tiger Prawns, Mackerel, Lemongrass and Aromatics with Infused Fermented Fish Innards Dressing
ต้มข่าเป็ดแบบโบราณ ; An ancient Siamese recipe of Tom Kha Bpet (duck)

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