Bitter gourds have long been prized in Asia for a trait considered a defect in cucumbers: bitterness. We tend to believe that anything bitter is medicinal and, in this case, we could be correct. The bitter gourd is said to cure a wide range of ailments – from gastrointestinal conditions to cancers, and from diabetes to HIV. Also known as bitter melons, bitter gourds are pale green, with an irregular, warty surface. Typically, they are eaten following an initial treatment to remove some of the bitterness; often they are stuffed, to complement their somewhat eccentric bite.
Blessed are the Thais for their unique attention for details. They do no spare efforts in creating intricate work of arts and their cuisine harmonizes flavors of robust ingredients in ingenious recipes.
However, there will be days that even the Thais would crave for an easy, simple, cheap and tasty meal – a laid back, quick and down-to-earth menu – The Omelette, Usually served over rice, with Chili & Lime Fish Sauce (phrik naam bplaa) or as a side dish for a multi course meal.
Great Thai omelette must have crisp borders and soft center. Endless tips and tricks were born in the search for a foolproof method of making the perfect Thai Omelette. Some will secretly add lime juice or baking powder, a drop of water or even frying the egg whites separately.
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 dish with a modest name that has been part of Thai culture for at least couple of hundred years. Traditionally Thai salads are divided into three main categories based on the dressing type. The most popular salads are those with with clear dressings made of lime juice, fish sauce, crushed chilies and a touch of sugar.
A friend and a colleague, who used to live on a boat for 10 years in the British Virgin Islands, told me recently, that they had lots of tamarind trees over there and how much she loves the sauces and jellies made from tamarind.
In Thai cooking we love tamarind as well. anyone who is familiar with Thai cuisine knows that it is built on three basic tastes: Sour, salty and sweet. A sauce made from tamarind simmered with palm sugar and fish sauce is made to combine sweetness, sourness and saltiness into the old fashioned and still very popular “saam roht” or “three flavors” tamarind sauce. The sauce is poured over fish or shrimps.
To the dish success, as important as the “three flavors” are the chilies heat from roasted chili paste and the crisp & crunchy texture of the fried fish skin and its firm somewhat sweet meat.
Pad Thai is being sold all over the kingdom of Thailand and abroad. Variations to this dish are probably as many as the restaurants and food stalls that sell it. Here is a luxurious, well balanced and tasty version of this all time favorite, the famous Pad Thai Noodles.
The tastes here are sweet, sour, salty and spicy in that order, with an edge of freshly squeezed lime just before eating.