Tom Yam is a type of soup with distinct sharp hot and sour flavors, scented with pleasant citrusy aroma.
Tom Yam is known to seduce many westerners to fall in love with Thailand, its people and food. Many trips memories to Thailand were written in diaries, others are etched on film but all are stained by the Tom Yam charm.
I still remember with vivid colors my first bowl of Tom Yam, in the night market of the old neighborhood on a hot night in a ragged, unfashionable part of Bangkok. Where the smell of cooking and the glare of florescent lights decorated the alley where JeMoi used to own a restaurant, a very simple and very good one, decorated with cheap bamboo chairs and peeling orange walls. I would enjoy watching the streets of the early night turning into mornings, eating, drinking and sweating. It was hard to say if I was sweating from the hot and humid weather, the cheap whiskey or JeMoi’s spicy food. I still smile when I think of her, standing by my table with a winning smile, as if she knew how much I enjoy the food.
A quick and tasty dish from the hot mouth of the dragon with only three ingredients! Flowering Chives, Pork Liver and Garlic.
Flowering Chives are all year round favorites for their mild garlicky flavor, and can be purchased inexpensively at almost any Asian market.
In Thailand we like to fry them with pork, pork liver or shrimp. These flowering chives are actually the unopened bud stems of garlic chives, also known as Chinese chives.
Here is a quick, tasty dish that allows me to be genuinely emotional: from the tears I shed each time I chop the mountain of shallots…to my delighted grin when I behold the beautiful, deep amber color flaunted by the chicken after less than 15 minutes of preparation – a hue that one might expect to see only in a gourmet magazine photo…
Naem is a fermented sausage made with pork, pork skins, cooked sticky rice (glutinous), fresh garlic, salt, sugar and bird’s eye chilies. The sausage is wrapped in banana leaves or synthetic casings, and fermented for 3-5 days at about 30 degrees (C) and 50% humidity. The fermentation process enables the growth of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, mostly lactobacilli, which accounts for the sourness of the sausage. The salt acts as an inhibitor – preventing the meat from going rotten, allowing the lactic acid bacteria and yeasts to feed on the rice and sugar, and fermenting the meat to perfection.
Cured pork is made by fermenting a mixture pork meat, cooked pork skin julienne, salt, garlic and cooked sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. During the summer we leave the wraps unrefrigerated until a rich savory and slightly sour flavor develops. This method of preserving meat goes back to the days before refrigeration was widely used.
In this Northern style recipe I use homemade cured pork, though any commercial product from your local Asian store will do just fine.
Mixing finely chopped fresh chilies including their seeds with fish sauce and a splash of lime juice makes the staple sauce accompanying almost every Thai dish. Restaurants reserve it an honor place on the table, next to the tissue paper and the tooth picks. The debate is on. Some call it “phrik naam bplaa” other will insist on “naam bplaa phrik“. Whatever it’s called, every Thai will admit that some foods just do not taste right without it. It is unimaginable having hot and crispy Thai omelette over rice without it. So, make a batch of it. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge and will bring you closer to Thailand as it does to the millions of Thais abroad every day.
Most Thai curry dishes call for freshly prepared curry paste that is best used fresh just before cooking.
Here is a delicious and simple exception – Stir-fried crab meat in curry powder, milk and eggs – A popular Thai seafood recipe which is unique in its use of commercially available curry powder.
The dish was first created by Teochew Chinese chefs in the numerous Chinese restaurants in Bangkok who used to cater to the working class of Thai-Chinese immigrates, that came to the Kingdom from the Guangdong province in the southern coast of China.